Big Al's Kentucky Derby Winner + Bonus Exotics Picks

At 6:30 pm, on Saturday, our selection is on Bob and John to win the Kentucky Derby, and our bonus pick is on Point Determined. I recommend that you take both Bob and John (the #7 horse) and Point Determined (the #5 horse) across the board (which means to bet on each horse to win, place, AND show), and an exacta and trifecta box with Bob and John, Point Determined, and Steppenwolfer (the #2 horse). OK, let's break down this race. Will there be a 50-1 pick win this race like last year? A year after our bonus pick of Giacomo cashed at 50-1, I'm sorry to say, no. But that doesn't mean there isn't value to be had in the 132nd Run For The Roses. In fact, this year's field is probably the hardest to handicap in years. For 2006, because there are so many horses in the field who have faced questionable competition, we're going to focus on horses who have had a busier campaign leading up this one. That means horses who have run at least 6 times in their career, with at least 4 of those 6 starts occuring this year. That in itself, eliminates quite a few of these (Barbaro, Sinister Minister, and Showing Up to name three). The post position draw was also quite interesting, with the two deepest closers drawing the #1 and 2 posts (Jazil and Steppenwolfer) and the speed is spread out all over the field. And speaking of speed, there is plenty of that in this year's field. Entrants like Sharp Humor (#9), Keyed Entry (#3), and Sinister Minister (#4) should assure a very hot pace up front. Normally, I would like a closer to win in a situation like this, but in a 20 horse Kentucky Derby field, those kind of runners often get stuck behind a wall of horses and have to manuever around the entire field, or worse yet, check behind horses and lose their momentum and run out of room in the end. So this year we're looking for a stalking type horse with a decent post position, plenty of races under his belt, and strong connections. The one that jumps out first is Bob and John (#7), trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by the excellent young rider, Garrett Gomez (although Gomez is also named on Sinister Minister so Victor Espinoza may get the call). While not 50-1, Bob and John has a very nice morning line of 12-1, but I wouldn't be surprised to see his odds float up to 15-1 or even higher come post time on Saturday. People may look at the final time of his winning performance in the Wood Memorial and say that it was slow and this could drive his odds up. But there are two significant things about that race. First, it was run over a very sloppy track, something I like to see in at least one prep race. Second, Baffert shipped this horse all the way across the country to run in that one (Bob and John is a California based horse) and he responded very well. Knowing a west coast horse can ship in and still win is very important for the Derby. There aren't many horses in this field that you can say that about. Bob and John is a very versatile runner who can sit right off the pace (within a length of the leader in other words), or stalk from a further distance away and pounce when asked. He also has legitimate excuses in the races where he did not fire his best (like the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita). Baffert has two other entries in the aforementioned Sinister Minister and Point Determined (#5). I wouldn't be surprised to see both Bob and John and Point Determined fold in behind Sinister Minister and Keyed Entry and sit right off those two in perfect stalking position going around the first turn. This should help ensure smooth trips for Bob and John and Point Determined, at least in the early going. In fact this year, Point Determined is going to be our bonus selection. This one has spent most of the winter chasing likely favorite Brother Derek in the California prep races, with a very impressive second place to Derek in the $750K Santa Anita Derby, a finish which saw Point Deterimined closing in and eventually passing Brother Derek after the finish of the race. Adding to his appeal is the excellent breeding of this horse and the sentimental factor that he is owned by the wife (estate) of the late great California horseman Robert Lewis. I expect that if for some reason Bob and John is not there at the end, then Baffert's other stalker from California, Point Determined, will be charging hard and picking off horses as they tire in the stretch. Like Bob and John, Point Determined has a morning line of 12-1. Also coming fast and furious to the wire will be one of the closers. The only one I can really recommend is Steppenwolfer. Good breeding, good connections (Robby Albarado will ride for trainer Dan Peitz), and very competitive races (Steppenwolfer chased Lawyer Ron much like Point Determined chased Brother Derek) mean that Steppenwolfer has a very good chance of being in the mix at the end. So our wagering recommendation is as follows: Take Bob and John and Point Determined across the board and an exacta and trifecta box with Bob and John, Point Determined, and Steppenwolfer. Then sit back enjoy the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby. As always, good luck...Al McMordie.

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