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2014 Bourbon Review Top 8 Kentucky Derby Horses

(By Hunter T. Houlihan)

Before you look at my attempt to handicap one of the most difficult races in the world to pick a winner, one must first appreciate the odds that each of these great animals have overcome just to make the field of this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Making it to the Derby: 0.0009% (20 starters out of 23,150 foals born in 2011)

Winning the Derby: 0.00004% (1 winner out of 23,150 foals born in 2011)

And of course there’s you, the bettor, who technically has a 1 in 20 chance (0.05%) of picking the winner. Personally, I’d rather have to choose 1 out of 20 single barrel Bourbons, as I know I’d be the winner regardless.

Below are my Top 8 Horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby field, in post position order, with their number, name, sire and current odds (as of May 1st).

#4. DANZA (by Street Boss), 8-1. His pedigree doesn’t suggest he’ll get the distance, but there is no ignoring his closing kick in the G1 Arkansas Derby. He has definitely been one of the most talked about horses at Churchill this week based on his good looks and a near effortless work last Sunday.

#5. CALIFORNIA CHROME (by Lucky Pulpit), 5-2. He has been perfect this year, and if he can carry that form into Kentucky, everyone else will be running for 2nd place. Definitely not a blueblood pedigree, but a deserving favorite nonetheless. His odds will likely drop even further, however, and I can’t bring myself to place a win bet on him with such juicy odds on some of my other choices.

#10. WILDCAT RED (by D’wildcat), 15-1. A confirmed frontrunner, this colt earned some respect when he almost held on in the G1 Florida Derby. Only two horses to the best of my knowledge – War Emblem and the filly Winning Colors – have been able to wire the Kentucky Derby field in the last 25 years or so, but if he can sit off the pace and make one run, he might surprise us all.

#14. MEDAL COUNT (by Dynaformer), 20-1. LOVE his pedigree, and trainer Dale Romans has consistently said this is the best horse he has ever brought to the Derby. You have to worry, however, that he might prefer synthetic surfaces (or even turf?), and that this will be his third start in four weeks, which is unheard for a thoroughbred in this day and age.

#16. INTENSE HOLIDAY (by Harlan’s Holiday), 8-1. Seems to be the “Wise Guy” horse this year but is no longer flying under the radar after a strong work the same day as Danza. In addition, a very astute handicapper I know (you’re the man Mark Boyle) has been on the horse for a while and he was all over Animal Kingdom at similar odds in 2011 – leave him out at your own risk.

#19. RIDE ON CURLIN (by Curlin), 15-1. Beautifully bred, and a nice horse. Trainer Bill Gowan is not exactly a household name, which for me makes it even more fun – the horse has proven he can compete with this group and I’ll have him in all of my exotics.

#20. WICKED STRONG (by Hard Spun), 6-1. Should have been the 2nd choice on the morning line, now he technically will be after the scratch of HOPPERTUNITY (by Any Given Saturday) on Thursday morning. He came home, well, strong in the G1 Wood Memorial (beating some nice horses in the process), and has a pedigree that should relish a mile and a quarter.

IF THEY DECIDE TO RUN:

#21. PABLO DEL MONTE (by Giant’s Causeway), 50-1. Longshot special. Not sure he’ll get the distance, but I really like the horse to at least get a piece of this thing at long odds. Add in that he was a last-minute addition to the field compliments of the scratch of Hoppertunity and it makes it even more intriguing.

And now, a few hypothetical wagers to help you win some money:

$1 trifecta key

5 over 4,10,14,16,19,20,21 over 4,10,14,16,19,20,21

Total cost: $42

(this bet is engineered to cash in should California Chrome run big)

 $1 exacta box

4,5,10,14,16,19,20,21

Total cost: $56

(you’re backing yourself up with the favorite, but if he misses the board & you win, this thing will pay well)

A few more, just for fun:

The Todd Pletcher exacta:

$2 exacta box

4,7,9,16

Total cost: $24

(it isn’t all that crazy when you consider I really like two of his horses anyway)

The Ortiz Brothers exacta:

$2 exacta box

3,6

Total cost: $4

(if this one hits you’re buying me a drink)

I’ll also be placing some modest win bets and across the board bets on the horses I like, based on their odds closer to post time. My general rule of thumb is if they’re over 5-1, bet $10 or so on their nose (to win), and if they’re over 10-1, bet $2 or $4 across and hope you get a nice return if they run 2nd or 3rd.

Hunter Houlihan was born and raised in central Kentucky and is a bloodstock agent for Taylor Made Sales Agency in Nicholasville.  He enjoys Eagle Rare on the rocks and pretending to know how to cook when he is not buying, selling or betting on thoroughbreds. He and his wife, Meredith, live in Lexington with their two-year-old daughter, Kate.

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