Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
As we approach the Preakness, it seems like a good time to revisit our initial blog entry, and discuss the odds of a Triple Crown winner this year. Given the field, and the relative lack of speed, the KY Derby winner Super Saver could well have a tactical edge in this Preakness. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that he will be as high as 2:1, thus 35% seems like a conservative estimate of his chances. However, regardless of what price Super Saver ends up on the tote in the Belmont Stakes ( we know all Triple Crown hopefuls are overbet - how else could Funny Cide have been even money versus Empire Maker in 2003 ), assuming he adds the Preakness to his resume, his chances seem less likely in that 1 1/2 mile race. The distance, combined with the reappearance of Ice Box, as well as some promising others, would make for a very challenging finale. However, it's still hard to keep him under 30%, thus his odds of winning this Triple Crown feel like about 10.5%....or slightly better than 9:1. Even given this conservative estimate of his chances, I would still be inclined to lay that price as opposed to taking the odds.
Super Saver ( a full brother to Winter iron horse Hedge Fund ) may well be the most talented member of this class with the retirement of Eskendereya. He also might be just another reasonably talented member of this group, who got a perfect trip, and a great ride, on his preferred wet track surface, over his preferred Churchill Downs surface, while also benefiting from less than ideal trips for both Ice Box and Lookin at Lucky. Now, I know a lot of the latter is true, and while I'm not convinced the former is necessarily false, all things considered, he is the kind of favorite horseplayers drool at the prospect of betting against. Of course, the problem is who is necessarily better. On paper, this is far from clear, but very often the best way to approach a likely overbet favorite that won its prior race due to extremely favorable circumstances is to simply throw it out and find the next best alternatives. The next question, then, has to be....who are they?
The obvious choice is Lookin at Lucky who has had two less than favorable trips in a row. My problem is that I have never been sold on his talent, as his early wins were achieved with the most perfect trips and setups possible, and he is still yet to run a particularly impressive race. But, given that I am playing against Super Saver, he has to be in my play. Some may feel that Paddy O'Prado, who finished third in the KY Derby, is a reasonable alternative to the aforementioned duo. I could not disagree more. First of all, despite a minor steady on the backstretch, he too had a very sweet trip in the Derby, and until he runs a good race on a dry dirt surface, I will continue to believe turf is his preferred surface. I guess, then, this leaves us with the new shooters.
Only one of the new players interests me at all, and that is First Dude. Now, clearly First Dude will have to run better than he has ever run before, as his prior efforts are slower than many players in this race. But, it may not be as unreasonable as it appears on paper that he is a better horse than his pps suggest. His effort three races back, on February 21st, is much better than it appears. He lost to eventual Dwyer winner Fly Down that day, despite contesting a very fast pace, and Fly Down getting a great ride and trip that day. To me it is clear that he was the best horse in that race. In his subsequent effort, the Florida Derby, he was close to the fast pace, and appeared to be dropping out on the turn. When the field hit the stretch, he was completely shut off by the rallying Lentenor ( who should have been disqualified from 4th for this infraction ), yet surprisingly rallied again once he was able to get outside ( giving some credence to the theory that he may have been uncomfortable being inside of horses ). Now, it may not be unfair to suggest that his supposed " rerally " was more a case of passing tired horses, but given his trip, and how he appeared on the turn, I don't believe it is unfair to refute this notion. He followed these two efforts with a third on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland in the Bluegrass. Frankly, I doubt he even particularly handled that quirky surface, and was only third because of his talent level. Regardless, I will never allow myself to be thrown by a mediocre effort by a dirt horse on that particular synthetic surface.
Given all this I will be betting First Dude to win and boxing him in the exacta with Lookin at Lucky. I will also play him underneath Lookin at Lucky for extra money, as well as below Super Saver, as even though I am against that one, it would be foolish if First Dude fills out an $80 exacta with Super Saver and get absolutely nothing. Looks can be deceiving....but I'm not that stupid.