Why The Kentucky Derby Favorite Could Be A Winning Strategy Saturday

Zinger Key Points
  • While there have been two Triple Crown winners since 2015, a super horse like Secretariat has not emerged.
  • Forte, this year’s deserving favorite, has had four wins in four starts.
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Being a “punter” at the ponies over the last five decades, my natural instinct is to find the most undervalued longshot and go with it.

Unfortunately, my longshot last year was not Rich Strike, and with the convoluted outcomes of the Kentucky Derby over the last four years, the chalk has not been the place to be.

Related Link: Churchill Downs Q1 Earnings Highlights: Revenue And EPS Beat, Record Adjusted EBITDA, Stock Split And More Ahead Of Kentucky Derby

Next Super Horse? While there have been two Triple Crown winners since 2015, a super horse like Secretariat has not emerged. The reason: increased competition (fresh horses for the second and third legs). Also, since each respective race is a different distance, the fragility of thoroughbred horses becomes evident. As a result, there may never be another Secretariat.

Money, Money, Money! Forte, this year’s deserving favorite, has had four wins in four starts since the Breeders Futurity last October, which crowned the top 2-year-old colt in the country. More impressively, his last victory was a come-from-behind romp in one of the premiere Derby preps, the Florida Derby, which is run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles.

What the colt did in the last sixteenth of a mile was nothing short of remarkable. After starting the race at the back of the 14-horse field, his jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., maneuvered his way closer to the leaders before heading into the stretch.

Just when it appeared he was going to suffer his first defeat, the colt exploded and made up several lengths in a matter of a few strides to secure the victory. Keep in mind the Derby is one-eighth of a mile longer, at 1 1/4 miles, which bodes well for a horse with Forte’s finishing speed.

Exacta Plays: If you are not inclined to bet on the favorite or are seeking a better payout, wagering the Exacta will produce a better return.

This is especially true if a longshot comes in second. The payout would be greatly enhanced if the longshot pulls the upset and the favorite comes in second. Therefore, you should always box your Exacta wagers.

With Todd Pletcher having two colts in the race, and with his horse Tapit Trice likely being the second favorite, his barn may be able to better dictate the early stages of the contest.

Pletcher’s other entrant, Kingsbarns, went wire-to-wire in the Louisiana Derby, which is run at a distance of 1 3/16 miles, one-sixteenth longer than the other Derby preps. The morning line on Kingsbarns 12-1.

Another colt that may go off near double digit odds is the decisive winner of the Arkansas Derby, Angel Of Empire. He raced patiently near the back of the field and easily distanced himself in the stretch. The Arkansas Derby is a top prep race, and winning it easily, along with finishing well, merits strong consideration for Angel of Empire.

Handicapping And Investing: In the difficult investing environment this year, there have been some big winners and big losers. While the deep-down bargain hunting on beaten-down stocks has yielded some solid returns, buying high (akin to the betting on the favorite) has worked as well.

A great example of this phenomenon is the price action in the Churchill Downs, Inc. (NASDAQ: CHDN) stock, which is where the Derby takes place. The company is the owner of several tracks and casinos in the U.S. Churchill Downs has one of the largest online wagering sites for horse racing: Twinspires.com.

After ending 2022 at $211.43, the issue made a new all-time-high ($300.90) on Wednesday and posted its all-time closing high the day prior, at $297.78.

On the closing basis, that makes the return for the year $86.36, or 41%, compared to the return on the S&P 500 cash index as of Wednesday (6.5%).

While this investor has not participated in the rapid appreciation of the issue, this handicapper is applying the “winner” theory to the Derby in hopes of parlaying into a decent return.

If Forte goes off near his morning line of 3-1, it is certainly not bad odds for a horse with his dominant past performance.

Photo via Shutterstock. 

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