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Point Given Will Be the Derby Darling

It's the first Saturday in May and that can mean only one thing for horse-racing fans: It's time for the Kentucky Derby. This year is the 127th running, and for the first time in a long while, I have a strong opinion.

Of course, having a strong opinion in horse racing is different than having a strong opinion about a football game. In a football game, there are only two teams and you have to bet $11 to win $10. But as any veteran bettor knows, there are a hundred ways to lose a horse race. The most appropriately named bar in the land is at Del Mar Racetrack outside of San Diego. It's known as the "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Bar." That's where losing horseplayers gather to commiserate and lament the luck that led to their losses.

There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed turned the trick in 1978, outdueling Alydar in each of the three races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

With all due respect to the RealMoney.com columnists who were discussing the "winner" of the Kentucky Derby in this week's Columnist Conversation, it is important to consider post position at the Derby. Horses leaving from the first two posts are often shuffled back, never to be seen again. As Bob Baffert, the trainer of Point Given noted on Wednesday, "If I'd have had the one post position , I'd be throwing up right now. I'd rather be in the 17 than the one."

This year, I believe Point Given, a physically imposing 3-year-old, will win the Triple Crown. For young horses, the Triple Crown series is demanding, and most of the youngsters are not up to winning three consecutive races against the other top 3-year-olds.

Because Point Given has drawn the outside post position (17), this may be the toughest of the Triple Crown races for him. The last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby from an outside post was in 1969 ( Majestic Prince). However, four of the last six Derby winners have started from post 15 or 16.

Last year, Fusaichi Pegasus became the first favorite to win the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979. While I'm sure Point Given will be the favorite this year, I'm not sure how much of a favorite he'll be. At anything more than 6-5 odds, he offers value.

Picking the second-place finisher is a challenge, but will be financially rewarding because the real value will be in the exacta pool (picking the first and second horses to finish). Baffert is also the trainer for Congaree, who will break from post 8. Baffert says Congaree is close to Point Given in talent, and I believe Congaree probably will be close to Point Given at the finish line.

Balto Star (the 3) is another choice for second, and will provide the early speed in the race. He has a great post and should be in the lead by the first turn. He'll be near the top at the end if he can slow the pace of the race down a bit.

The third horse I'm using in my exacta bet is Thunder Blitz (post 4), a horse that is improving with every race. While most foals are born in February, March or April, Thunder Blitz wasn't born until May 1998, and physically could not compete with other juveniles. His workouts for this race have been impressive and he's a 30-1 longshot, so the exacta payoff would be substantial.

Wagering $60 on Point Given to win likely will allow you only to double your money. However, an exacta with Point Given on top and one of the other horses I've discussed could pay a substantial amount. For those looking for a large payoff with a small investment, I would bet a $1 trifecta, using Point Given as the winner and boxing Congaree, Balto Star and Thunder Blitz to finish second and third. This ticket would cost $6.

My recommended bets for this year are as follows:

$20 exacta: Point Given-Congaree

$20 exacta: Point Given-Balto Star

$20 exacta: Point Given-Thunder Blitz

Good luck.



Who is your favorite horse? Secretariat Affirmed Seabiscuit Mr. Ed Trigger Should the Triple Crown races be spaced further apart than the current five weeks? Yes No

Barry Lieberman was a litigator with the U.S. Department of Justice for nine years and is currently the general counsel for a company that operates four hotel/casinos in Las Vegas. He has been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years and successfully concluded last football season by winning on 55% of his college and pro selections posted on TheStreet.com. He welcomes your feedback at Vegasvice@aol.com.

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