The first Saturday in May means two things: mint juleps and the

Kentucky Derby

. Hope springs eternal for the owners and trainers of the 3-year-olds competing in the 126th running of this race. Every owner visualizes his or her horse as being able to win the

Triple Crown

, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, at a distance of 1 1/4 miles, the

Preakness

(in two weeks), at a distance of 1 3/16 miles, and the

Belmont Stakes

(in five weeks), at a distance of 1 1/2 miles.

Winning the Triple Crown is rare in horse racing, just like in baseball. Only 11 horses have done it: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).

As regular readers of this column know, part of my purpose in writing this column is to educate those who are new to wagering. While I started my betting hobby as a teen-ager with trips to places like Monticello Raceway, I quickly learned that, in contrast to betting on other sporting events, betting on horse racing is almost always a losing proposition.

Why? It's simple, really. Horse racing is a parimutuel activity, in which anywhere from 15% to 25% of the amount bet on a race (or a series of races in the case of a Pick-3 or a Pick-6) is taken out of the pool to pay state-imposed taxes, provide funding for purses, and allow the racetrack to make a profit. There are multiple "pools" on any particular race. For example, there is a win pool, in which individuals betting on the horse that wins the race get paid; a place pool, in which individuals betting on the first- or second-place finisher get paid, and a show pool, in which individuals betting on the first-, second- or third-place finisher get paid. The total amount that gets paid for each particular pool is the remainder of the amount bet in the pool after the 15%-25% takeout.

In other sports betting, the wagers are not parimutuel, i.e., there is no takeout. In Las Vegas, the sports books make their money because the bettor must lay $11 to win $10. If the sports books take in an even number of bets on each side, they take in $22 but must pay out only $21. Their theoretical takeout is only 4.54% or 1/22 of the amount bet.

Needless to say, for the skilled bettor, it is far easier to overcome the 4.54% takeout involved in sports betting than the 15% to 25% takeout in horse racing.

Of course, even knowing that the odds are stacked against me, it would be almost un-American to allow a Kentucky Derby to pass without making a bet! The complete field is listed at this

Web site.

A favorite has not won the Kentucky Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979. This year's favorite will be Fusaichi Pegasus. I think Fusaichi Pegasus will go off at odds of about 8-5, insufficient for me to bet him in light of the failure of favorites to win in this spot over the last 20 years. If Fusaichi Pegasus is at least 7-2, I will bet him. If not, I will look elsewhere. Last year's winner, Charismatic, went off at 31-1.

I use the process of elimination to narrow the choices.

First, I eliminate horses in the Nos. 1 or 2 post positions, because those positions invariably have resulted in the horses breaking from those positions being shuffled back and bumped unmercifully in the early going. That eliminates Globalize and Anees.

Second, I eliminate horses that I believe have no chance of winning the Derby because their breeding suggests they cannot run 1 1/4 miles in a competitive time. Those horses are: Hal's Hope, Trippi, Deputy Warlock, Commendable and Impeachment.

Third, I eliminate horses that I do not believe have the experience to handle the 20-horse field and 100,000 drunken screaming people at Churchill Downs. Those horses are: Aptitude, Wheelaway, China Visit, Graeme Hall, Exchange Rate, Curule and Ronton.

Here are the remaining contenders:

Horse

PP

Program Number

My Odds

High Yield

18

1X

6-1

Captain Steve

8

7

10-1

War Chant

9

8

8-1

More Than Ready

10

9

7-1

The Deputy

11

10

7-1

Fusaichi Pegasus

16

12

3-1

If any of these horses have higher odds than my odds shortly before post time, I will be placing a bet on such horse. My biggest bet probably will be on More Than Ready, who is listed at 10-1 on the morning line. Good Luck.

Which horse will win the Kentucky Derby?

Fusaichi Pegasus

The Deputy

War Chant

Other