Looking for History to Bring Me Home a Derby Winner

by Richard Rosenblatt

Full disclosure: The last time I picked the Kentucky Derby winner was nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1996, when Grindstone edged Cavonnier by a margin so close I’m still not certain which horse crossed the finish line first.

And believe me, I’ve been working on coming up with my next winner ever since. But no! Even though the favorite has won the last six Derbies, I’m still 0-for-a-near- quarter-century. American Pharoah? Nope. Justify? Didn’t have him. Big Brown? No way. Not even after his trainer declared his horse was by far the best of the bunch.

So here I am again, scouring the Daily Racing Form, and sifting through past performances. I’ve all but ignored every numbers system known to mankind. Perhaps this is why I can’t come up with a winner.

Nonetheless, I’ve created my own special strategy for Saturday’s 145th running of the Derby, and I’m pretty comfortable with it: Stick with what’s worked in the past… at least a past that dates back to trainer Bob Baffert’s first Derby victory, with Silver Charm in 1997 – the year after his Cavonnier was nipped at the wire in his first attempt at winning the Run for the Roses.

West Coast at the Pennsylvania Derby – Photo Courtesy of Bill Denver

So here goes: The 19-horse field has three trainers who have won the Derby before – Hall of Famers Baffert (Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, American Pharoah, Justify) and Shug McGaughey (Orb), along with Todd Pletcher (Super Saver, Always Dreaming). Three of the 19 jockeys – Hall of Famers Mike Smith (Giacomo, Justify) and John Velazquez Animal Kingdom, Always Dreaming), along with Joel Rosario (Orb) have at least one Derby victory on their resumes. The others riders are a combined 0-for-54.

Whittling things down a bit further, Rosario will ride the Baffert-trained Game Winner (the morning-line 9-2 favorite), Velazquez will be aboard McGaughey’s Code of Honor (12-1) and Smith moves into to ride Pletcher’s Cutting Humor (30-1).

Baffert, of course, also sends out Roadster (5-1) and Improbable (5-1). Pletcher’s second entry is Spinoff (30-1).

Now that we’ve settled on a system, the picks:

1 – Game Winner
2 – Code of Honor
3 – Cutting Humor

If I’m betting a superfecta, I’m adding Roadster and Improbable.

Happy Derby Day!

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