The Kentucky Derby is this weekend. That's fun! Horses! We don't know a lick about it, so we asked Angelo Grasso, of The Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette, to preview the race for us. Maybe you can even make yourself some money.
Horse racing embraces two vices that Americans love and sports hate: drugs and gambling. Without them, the sport would be unrecognizable and cease to exist. (This is also true of the NFL; wisely, they're a tad more covert about it.)
The drug vice is less interesting than it should be, as the drugs in question are used to make horses run faster, and generally double as diuretics. It's a lot less sexy to envision that the horses are being fed rocket fuel when in reality, they just pee more often. Granted, there are rogue trainers who take steps beyond the norm and legal, by taking measures such as giving their horses Viagra, injecting their legs with cobra venom (so they don't feel fatigue), and rubbing cayenne pepper on horses' genitals. But by and large, drug use is permitted, health consequences to the animals be damned.
So let's instead focus on racing's fulcrum: gambling. Without betting, there's no purse money for horses, and no lore of Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Barbaro. And because the Kentucky Derby is quintessential Americana, you're not only allowed to bet and win on the Derby, it's desired that you do so. Which is a win-win: you can make money while watching television, and Kentucky can continue to have a functioning economy.
If you're looking for a quash-scientific breakdown of the 20 Derby entrants and how to bet, check out our analysis on our site. But I suspect you're looking for a quicker way to watch and bet the Run for the Roses. Not a problem. Here are 6 well-accepted methods of picking your steed while sipping a mint julep in seersucker:
1. Bet the fastest horse. Generally foolproof in the world of racing, this leads you probable favorite Big Brown. While he's the most talented horse in the race, he's bucking 93 years of history by trying to win in his 4th lifetime race. On the plus side, his trainer has been suspended more than once for injecting his horses with illegal substances, so there's a chance he'll have an extra boost on Saturday. Expected odds: 3-1.
2. Bet the horse with the coolest name. Take a good look at the late-running Pyro during the post parade, because you won't see him again till the last 15 seconds of the race. He's the best closer in the field, but has to watch out for traffic trouble while trying to rally from last to first. Expected odds: 8-1.
3. Bet on Barbaro's memory. No, there aren't any horses with Barbaro's lineage in this race. However his trainer, Michael Matz, is back with his second Derby starter in Visionaire, who's a not-impossible longshot. The problem is that betting him means you're endorsing the five-plus minutes of violin-laden Barbaro montages during the pre-race telecast. Expected odds: 30-1
4. Bet the chic horse. Yes, the word "chic" and horse racing go together about as well as youth and John McCain. Still, every year there's a horse that the racing cognoscenti descend upon like vultures and pound his odds to half of what they should be, and the horse promptly runs 8th. This year's edition? It's Court Vision, who's owned by IEAH Stables, who intend to use him and Big Brown to start a racing hedge fund. Seriously. Expected odds
5. Bet on the girl. On the heels of filly Rags to Riches winning last year's Belmont Stakes, this year we've got a female Derby entrant in Eight Belles. In a wide-open year, she's got a fighter's chance as she's improving rapidly and seems to be coming into her own at just the right time. However, she'd be only the 4th filly to win the race ever and has never taken on male horses; suffice to say that she's a large underdog. Expected odds: 12-1.
6. Bet the horse that fits the historical criteria. In a year where there doesn't appear to be a standout, there's exactly one horse that fits the traditional Derby profile, be it the number of races, breeding, results, speed, earnings and connections. To top it off he's getting no hype and will be an honest price. Ladies and gents, I give you your 2008 Kentucky Derby winner: Z Fortune. Expected odds: 18-1.