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May 13, 2011


By: By John Piesen

For those who checked out my Derby selections, congrats on a nice score. For those who did not, you can -- as said by the Brooklyn Dodger fans of yore -- wait 'til next year.

I don't know why but I have had remarkable success over the years in the Derby. Back in the '80s, I nailed eight Derby winners in 11 years as a public selector for the New York Post and Daily Racing Form, most of them at double-digit prices.

Most recently, from 2003 thru the 2011 Derbys, I have nailed six exacta boxes, and two trifecta boxes in that nine-year period on my telephone service (888) 612 2283, and online. That of course includes the $329.80 exacta box I hit last Saturday.

I've never been one to complain about payoffs, but there's no doubt that that exacta payoff in this case was very light. By all calculations, the combination of a 21-1 and an 8-1 should have paid at least $500.

In fact, at Freehold the same day there was a similar finish that returned $360 -- and that was with an eight-horse field (compared to the Derby field of 19). You never know  why gimmicks pay what they do. I just have to assume two or three folks liked the Animal Kingdom/Nehro combo very much, and bet accordingly.

Moreover, at the 16th pole, it looked for sure that I would hit the trifecta with my 19-14-8-16 box. But alas Mucho Macho Man came along to beat Shackleford for third to complete a  $3,952 tri. If MMM doesn't do so, we are looking at a $12K tri hit. Thank you very much.

So I had to settle for the exacta box. I checked through the selections in the DRF, New York Post, New York Daily News and USA Today...and could not find another selector who hit the exacta box.

Why did I like these horses?

Fair question.

Nehro was my top choice for obvious reasons. He finished fastest to just miss in the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbys, comes from a top barn, and figured to love the mile and a quarter. I had no problem with post 19. In fact I liked it. It helped the price.


That's where inside information came in. My Kentucky sources told me that the horse was training lights-out at Churchill Downs, and looked every bit the part of a Derby winner. All you needed to do was to take a look at him on the walkover, and in the paddock, and you knew they were right.

Of all, the speed horses in the field, Shackleford looked by far the best.

And, of course, when he got loose on the lead in slow fractions, I was kicking myself for not putting him on top.

Dialed In had been my Derby horse since he won so impressively first pop at Churchill last November. In fact, I had been kicking myself for not getting down  at 100-1 in Vegas after that race...especially as it became more evident every day that he was going to be the post-time favorite.

He was certainly a vulnerable favorite, but I felt I had to use him. My mistake.

As for Animal Kingdom, I liked his Spiral victory so much that I put him in my Derby Top Ten on this venue, and kept him there. In fact, in my final Derby Top  Ten, I had him fifth to Dialed In. Actually, second because my second, third and fourth horses in that DTT didn't make the race.

As it developed, my top two picks (Nehro and Shackleford) were one-two turning into the stretch, and I was looking like the proverbial genius. Then those  familiar Team Valor silks came calling at the furlong grounds. And just when it seemed I had the trifecta box, MMM came running.

The end result? It could have been better...but hitting three-fourths of the 48K superfecta ain't chopped liver. Nor was nailing the 26K Pick Four box on the last four races. Please note that while I didn't have the winning horse on top in all four races, the winner was in my top three and my specific betting recommendations made it clear to play all horses in the Pick-4. In the end, that's only a $108 investment to get back a life-changing payoff.

And then there was the irony of seeing Archarcharch loaded into the wagon. I didn't like the horse at all for the Derby, but I like the connections very much, and I felt  (and feel) so bad for them. Jinks Fires and Jon Court are two of the best people on the racetrack, and it was so sad to see their Derby dream shattered the way it was.

Otherwise, from a personal handicapping standpoint, the Oaks/Derby weekend was a tremendous success for those who played my full card selections.

On Friday, I nailed five exacta boxes, including race one ($53.80), race 10 ($118.20), and race 12 ($56.20), and even won three tight photos, including First Dude ($9.20) in race nine.

My Derby Day hits included a cold $372 trifecta in race eight, and, as mentioned, that $26,316 late Pick Four on a $108 investment.

On the other hand, leaving Aikenite out (because of the one-hole) in race nine was a mistake, but race 10 was even worse.

A half-hour after filing my full-card selections, and doing the recording, I learned that Little Mike was scratched from race 10.

By itself, this wasn't significant because I hadn't used Little Mike. But it was important because the scratch left Get Stormy as the lone speed.

Get Stormy was my third pick...and I seriously considered calling in to move him up to my top choice. It just seemed the obvious thing to do. But I didn't -- and, of course, Get Stormy breezed wire-to-wire at $17.

Even after the Derby score, I was kicking myself for that mistake.

Now, it's on to the Preakness...and an entire new dynamic. Right now, even with Nehro awaiting the Belmont, there are several candidates to knock off Animal Kingdown -- some of them old faces from the Derby, some of them new faces.

Obviously, this was the worst Derby field of modern times, and the caliber of the horses won't get any better for the Preakness and the Belmont.

But there still has to be a winner (or three winners as is likely), and we'll try our best to get it right.

In the meantime, there is a $514,583 Pick Six carryover Thursday at Churchill. Four of the six races are claimers, the other two maiden-claimers, and all have fulll fields. I'm going to try and cash that pick-6 and you can join me right here online for just $15. Click Here to sign up now.

Chances are that jockey Leparoux will have a better day than he had last Saturday, when he was dragging a remote last off a :48 half on the Derby favorite.

Would have loved to be a fly on the wall when trainer Zito collared him after the race.

Finally, congrats to winning owner Barry Irwin. We were buddies in the old days at the Form, and he has since remained only a phone call away.

Maybe if Barry had remained a turf writer, he would have been the one to do a pre-race piece on Animal Kingdom.

Thanks for checking in. Good luck this week, don't forget to check out the JP Hot Line, and see you back here next week for a look at the Preakness.

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