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For nearly four decades Ernie Munick has been giving his heart and mind to thoroughbred racing. He is a writer, a vlogger , a musician, but most devotedly a handicapper and horseplayer. He can be seen twice a week on the NYRA Network's RACEDAY, and his videos for the Breeders' Cup can be found by clicking here.

I've picked a lot of Belmont Stakes winners. A lot. I linger around 35%. I'm known to linger, like my mother. I'm also known to find value; 150 miniature white carnations go for $64.38 at Sam's Club, not a bad deal. Carnations need plenty of sun but they also beseech moisture. They're very needy. Schpritzing is key. Schpritz every three races and your carnations will linger.

My prowess at selecting the Belmont Stakes is the only thing that sustained my spirit during those years in the carnival. Up until 2008, when Big Brown, my selection, launched and dropped his rocket boosters to come save me, I had my own tent in the sideshow as The Worst Kentucky Derby Handicapper in History. Half man, half Cheerio…Ernio. They called me Ernio.

0 for 35.

"Step right up!"  barked the red-striped, straw-hatted mustachioed fellow through the megaphone. "Stranger than the spotted zebra, freakier than the three-headed gargler… Ernio! He's half man, half Cheerio - he hasn't picked a Derby winner in three and a half decades!"

After Big Brown won the Derby, I bid goodbye (cheerio) to the carnival, happy to have my legs back, and began to follow Brownie from state to state. Not long after his career-ending injury, I traveled far and wide to thank my only Kentucky Derby champion in the flesh. I was a star-struck 1 for 36, bursting with gratitude, if a bit of a Brown noser. [Video]

But I was wrong again last year, 1 for 37. I could be relapsing. I skulk among the shadows, petrified, wondering how many more times I can whiff before the one-armed (five-yard arm) plate-spinner drops his dinnerware and reels me in for another stint.

Do you realize, if you've picked the Derby favorite every time since 1972, you're 10 for 37?

I picked Sham to beat Secretariat, Alydar to catch Affirmed. Sanhedrin had the classic, old-money Rondinello pedigree to wear down Seattle Slew. Ronnie Franklin was a kid, I thought he'd blow it on The Bid. Mogambo was to Ferdinand what Leo Castelli was to Alysheba. Easy Goer, Holy Bull, Point Given, Curlin. The one-armed plate-spinner found me hiding under the stage in the Belmont Park Festival Tent, sipping a NYRA lemonade (122 Beyer).

Liza Minnelli, which rhymes with Leo Castelli - Liza Minnelli is a way better Derby handicapper than I am. So is Mr. Powerball. The following celebrities tower over me as a Derby picker: Celine Dion, Marvin Hamlisch, Brit Hume and especially the 1-800 Lawyer Guy. Underrated Kentucky Derby handicapper: Lee Greenwood. I have graphs and pie illustrations to prove all of this.

Sidney's Candy has much to overcome, most of all the backing of Mr. Oneforthirtyseven. Eskendereya was my top choice, Endorsement my second. My third pick allegedly  - though I have several high-ranking sources to confirm this- my third pick is rumored to have blown up. My third choice just blew up. Sidney's Candy, originally ranked fourth, is a free runnin' fool who pulls up strong every time. The outside post means he'll monitor the no-chance speed to his left. My lucky Brownie proved that post 20 is not mission impazible. John Sadler (great last name for a trainer) is having a scary-good year, though scary might not be the right word. Scary is the 1-800 Lawyer looking a lot like the carnival barker, a lot, and the circus that is the infield at Churchill on Derby day ain't nothin' like the one in my future, if Sidney doesn't boogie home first.

Comments :

  • Geno | April 29 2010 07:37 PM

    Great stuff Ernio, and now I know why I am picking the second half of the Oaks/Derby Double! Good luck (to us)!

    report this comment
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