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Kentucky Derby Betting: It's Horse Sense

The odds of picking winners at the Kentucky Derby come down to a horse's experience on dirt and the weather.

Weather will be a factor at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs' dirt track in Louisville tomorrow, as there's an 80% chance of rain. Here are

contributors' picks.

As many horses run on synthetic surfaces, I tend to favor those that have proven themselves on dirt. With that in mind, plus the data below, there are only three horses I like, based on history, to win the Kentucky Derby. I Want Revenge deserves to be the favorite, followed by Friesan Fire and Dunkirk. They meet my criteria for two strong 100+ speed ratings coming into the big race.

Look at the past speed ratings of recent Derby winners coming into the race:

You can see that in the past 19 years, 16 Derby winners had a race speed of 100 or more in their prior race, while 12 of 19 have two straight 100+ ratings. So in seeking out the winner, I lean heavily on these criteria.

Interestingly, Friesan Fire has had seven weeks off, which would be relatively unprecedented, but he's the only horse that is proven on a sloppy track in recent times. Note that Desert Party also had success as a 2-year-old in the mud, which is why I like him to get a piece of the action.

Here's my expected order of finish, along with betting ideas (for those so inclined):

I Want Revenge (3-1 morning line odds, Post Position 13):

After being left at the starting gate and spotting a solid field a dozen lengths in the Wood Memorial, this horse came back to win and deserves to be the favorite. The challenge is that he's not much of a value play so we have to pair him with other horses in exactas or trifectas to get paid here.

Friesan Fire (5-1, PP 6):

Another super-consistent horse, he won his last two very gamely. The only question is, can he have a strong kick to finish well? I'm not convinced but must use him in some back-up bets.

Desert Party (15-1, PP 19):

The better choice among the two foreign choices, a solid workout and something tells me the foreigners are due.

Dunkirk (4-1, PP 15):

This $3.7 million yearling purchase may prove a good buy based on his classic breeding and capable speed.

Summer Bird (50-1, PP 17):

Call it a hunch, but this one was flying at the end of the Arkansas Derby and will be closing late, so he is a must-use in exotics.

Notable absences include Pioneer of the Nile (despite a great jock, the speed numbers are mediocre and is not proven on dirt; Papa Clem (great work today, I like him but have to throw out based on just one good race, not two); Hold Me Back (a nice closer but only shows up on synthetics to this point); and Regal Ransom (the other Saudi entry, dangerous but likely put in a career best last out).

Betting Strategy:

Remember that these are speculative bets, so any emails after the fact should only be sent as congratulations should we be so fortunate! Here's what I plan to bet, based on each $100 in a betting "portfolio":

1. Straight win bet: Bet $6 to win on Desert Party (19)

2. Exactas (picking the first and second place finishers together):

$5 Exacta Box I Want Revenge (13) and Desert Party (19) -- $10 total

$5 Exacta Friesan Fire (6) and Desert Party (19) -- $10 total

$5 Exacta Dunkirk (15) and Desert Party (19) -- $10 total

$5 Exacta I Want Revenge (13) and Friesan Fire (6) -- $10 total

3. Trifecta:

$1 Trifecta Wheel: 13 with 6 with all -- $18

$1 Trifecta Wheel: 19 with 6 with ALL -- $18

$1 Trifecta Wheel: 6 with 19 with ALL -- $18

Bob Lang:

1st: 6 -- Friesan Fire (5-1)

2nd: 16 -- Pioneer of the Nile (4-1)

3rd: 3 -- Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1)

4th: 15 -- Dunkirk (4-1)

$1 superfecta box on those four names ($24)

$20 across on Friesan Fire ($60)

$5 exacta box Friesan Fire, Mr. Hot Stuff, Dunkirk ($30)

$10 exacta box Friesan Fire/Dunkirk ($20)

$1 trifecta box Friesan Fire, Dunkirk, Pioneer of the Nile ($6)

Total bets: $140

Moby Waller:

There has been some rain for the past two days, and rain is likely both Friday and Saturday in Louisville. So there is a possibility that the Derby could be on a somewhat sloppy track, but it's not a certainty, as rain has mostly occurred in the morning, and the afternoons have been warm and dry. A messy track at Churchill Downs could make the field wide open for some longshots to finish in-the-money.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that many of this year's Derby horses haven't run on a traditional dirt surface.

1st: 13 -- I Want Revenge (3-1)

2nd: 2 -- Musket Man (20-1)

3rd: 15 -- Dunkirk (4-1)

4th: 6 -- Friesan Fire (5-1)

Other live longshots:

7 Papa Clem (20-1)

19 Desert Party (15-1)

$10 WPS on 2 = $30

$2 exacta box: (13, 2, 15, 6) = $24

$1 trifecta box: (13, 15, 6, 7, 19) = $60

$0.10 superfecta box: (13, 2, 15, 6, 7, 19) = $36

Andrew Hart:

$10 on 15 Dunkirk to win

$2 exacta box: (6, 13, 15) = $12

$1 superfecta box: (15, 5, 6, 12) = $24


$10 on 20 Flying Private to show

$10 on 3 Mr. Hot Stuff to place

Price Headley is the founder of

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