Annual Post-Derby Derby Ramblings

Good Monday everyone. Here are some thoughts about Saturday's Derby, in my usual rambling fashion that somehow a few of you get through every year.

The Menu, and racing, was a feast.....

I thought the race office put together two marvelous racing cards for both the Oaks and the Derby. It wasn't short-field star studded, with some trap races placed in the serials, it was, from top to bottom, amazingly enjoyable to handicap. Although the handle per race was down for both cards (more later), gold stars all around, from this handicapper.

Although I saw a few tweets Friday about problems with admission, it appeared things ran rather smoothly at the track. Perfecting a big event with so many people is difficult, but it incrementally gets better year after year.

Tepin's win was awesome. The turf racing was especially interesting. It was a grand day(s) of racing. 

Narratives busted (until next year at least).......

Cathryn Sophia could not get the distance... whoops maybe she could. It is always interesting, (with Thoroughbred race horses making so few starts) that if they fail on one day or one race, they get pigeon-holed, and often it dictates how a career is mapped out. If Songbird is not scratched, Cathryn Sophia is home in the barn on Oaks day, with the connections targeting a 7 furlong race at the end of May. Because she (say it with me now) "can't get the distance".

Nyquist was as good as advertised. After stumbling home at 8.5 furlongs last fall causing a serious use of narratives, Nyquist earned a 103 Beyer and a competitive TimeformUS figure. This keyed a more than decent payout on the distance-challenged Oaks-Derby double. Two races ago, after Exaggerator moved too early and faltered late, the perfecta was also of the can't get the distance variety. Pedigree still works, but it only works if it's confirmed, not wished for on one data point.

Horseplayer Mike Maloney, several years ago now, told me he thought Indian Charlie was way too good a sire, and way too good a racehorse, to not sire a Derby winner. His son did. Nyquist's 7.0 dosage will take a tumble, and one of the best racehorses - in my view - we've seen the past several years gets his due. Way to go Uncle Mo.

Narratives that keep building.....

Todd Pletcher's Derby record is fodder for social media, and this year more gasoline was thrown onto the fire. Outwork and Destin were quality, picked by many, and took two different paths to the Derby. Both of them were pretty blah. His horses can't seem to move forward on Derby day with any regularity, where a move forward is essential.

Narratives busted, two.....

Derby ratings were down a few ratings points on Saturday. Handle was, by any measure, about what we'd expect with the weather. For about 25 years there were those who said a Triple Crown winner will propel the sport to new heights. I think we can put this one to rest.

Attendance continues to be strong and growing, but this is more correlated to population growth than any barometer we can use for measurement of the sport's health. To increase the bet, it won't take a brown horse or one day, it will take a lot of work to improve the sport for those who consume it 365 - the bettors. Post-Derby, this looks increasingly unattainable.

Social Media bettor blow ups .....

Bettors on social media are different than fans on social media. The wins by the Navarro barn were red meat for many. It's understandable, mind you. Catalina Red ran a 123 and Sharp Azteca ran a 126 after being torched through a suicide half mile. Catalina Red came off a 113 and a 94. Azteca off a 102 and 105.

Bettor problems....

TVG - through human error apparently - was shut out of the Derby betting for an hour or so. This contributed to the soft handle numbers for the Derby. This, although unfortunate, doesn't concern me much, because it was a random error that TVG clearly did not want to happen.

What does concern me is that there are some accredited ADW's shut out from a Derby signal. There are potential new bettors signing up for services the week of the Derby at these ADW's. The first experience these new bettors get from online horse wagering is being told they can't bet the Derby. Churchill has a responsibility, in my opinion, to offer their signal out to everyone. This event is bigger than they are, and they need to respect that the future of horse racing involves more than just them. Again, that's my view.

Post-drags have really been embraced by the Derby folks. Pretty soon the Derby card will be running into the Preakness card. It'll be even too fast for a Dutrow horse to run back. 

Can the brand take a hit?.....

This year, like last, there's been some serious chalk for the Derby payouts. The Derby brand for betting has been all about sniffing out prices, making a score, and spending a lot of time before the event looking for that score. It's a big reason the prices of the higher odds horses have all been depressed.

If the Derby turns into a chalk show, does it hurt the betting brand? I've often said that you could run five claimers and do $190 million in handle on Derby Day, so I doubt it. But it's something to think about. I know I've been looking at it differently of late.

Mo Trips....

I have not gone through each horse's trip yet, but Mo Tom finding trouble was just so Mo Tom. The horse is quality and I think he'll prove it if he stays sound (and on his feet). Suddenbreakingnews' last quarter was magical, for a breed who seems to find a 10th furlong tough. If Exaggerator gets a little luck and a little better placing, I suppose he could've won, but we could say that about a lot of horses every year.

Every year, the same story.....

We can sit here and nitpick about handle, attendance, TV ratings, or the quality of the field. We can slam Churchill or TVG or someone that messes up. But I'm sorry, if you don't like Derby Day I am convinced you will never like the sport of horse racing. Once again, from morning to evening, the day was pure glory.

To everyone I chatted with on social media, those who handicapped the race and shared their thoughts, the great work done by the figure makers, package sellers and all the rest that I read voraciously, it made my day enjoyable, and I thank you.

Enjoy your Monday everyone.

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