Updated: May 8
Horse racing is something I've been interested in for years. Nothing major, but an appreciation. The pageantry, the thrill, all of it is pretty cool. Back in high school, I used to work at a local restaurant in my town. I worked from a bus boy all the way to a managerial role, meeting many people along the way.
The place had fire burgers, but on top of that, it was one of the only places that on the North Fork that had the HHR machines where you can place the bets on the ponies. The regulars were always glued to the TVs. Saratoga, Keeneland, Emerald, you name it. Some were even parts of investor groups, but Triple-Crown events were always a big deal.
On Sundays, I used to open up and work the early afternoon crowds. I met many people along the one, but one woman in particular showed me the ropes early on. We had a deal where I'd give her $20 bucks and a Bloody Mary, and by the end of the night she'd hand me the winnings (I was of the legal gambling age by the way).
I was responsibly hooked. Living on Long Island, I've been to Belmont a few times, I even got the chance to witness history, being present for the last Triple Crown in 2018, shoutout Justify.
Long story short, I have a lowkey affinity to horse racing.
This weekend kickoffs the Triple Crown at the one and only Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is a bucket list event, and it's time to talk some winners.
For the casual, the favorite isn't always a lock. 49 out of the 141 Kentucky Derby's have been won by the favorite, just over one-third of the time. Your favorite of the evening is Blue Grass Stakes winner, Zandon, who's won first and third this year and has a career of 4-2-1-1.
Coming in at 7-2 odds is Epicenter, who could sneak up as a post-time favorite when bets open Friday.
Then there is Messier (8-1), Mo Donegal (10-1), White Abarrio (10-1), and Taliba (12-1) to round out the favorites. Some dark horses that have made some waves in the media include Smile Happy (20-1), Happy Jack (30-1), and Pioneer of Medina (30-1).
With the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby, there won't be a familiar face present. Well known and the sports prominent trainer, Bob Baffert, will not be in attendance.
After a lengthy investigation, the horse-racing officials suspended Baffert disqualified last year’s Derby winner, Medina Spirit, for testing positive for betamethasone (horse steroid). However, two of his former horses—Taiba and Messier—will be racing under Baffert's assistant. Baffert trained both 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, and won a record six Kentucky Derbies.
Definitely a lot to digest, but if you do your research (or just pick your favorite names), you're bound to have some fun. Happy Derby!
Place (If horse finishes 1st or 2nd): Epicenter
Exacta Box (Two horses. If they finish 1st or 2nd, in either order): Zandon and Epicenter
Exacta Box: Taiba and Messier
Show (If horse finishes 1st, 2nd or 3rd): Smile Happy
Always bet responsibly, call 1-800-Gambler if you have any problems.