Wednesday: The Morning Line Overlay/Underlays

The draw is done and the field for the Kentucky Derby is set despite one more defection on Wednesday morning.  Rebel winner Win Willy is unable to go but he was replaced immediately by Nothing to Hide, a Nick Zito trainee who has done little to lead you to think he can contend here. 

The draw being finished means we were all privy to the morning line as compiled by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.  For those of you, like myself, who participated in a bit of line making, it is interesting to see another opinion put forth in a formal fashion.  Battaglia has had the unenviable task of creating the morning line for the Derby for many years and it is certainly not a facile task.  Here’s the field with morning line odds:

1 West Side Bernie (Kelly Breen/Stewart Elliott) 30-1
2 Musket Man (Derek Ryan/Eibar Coa) 20-1
3 Mr. Hot Stuff (Eoin Harty/John Velazquez) 30-1
4 Advice (Todd Pletcher/Rene Douglas) 30-1
5 Hold Me Back (Bill Mott/Kent Desormeaux) 15-1
6 Friesan Fire (Larry Jones/Gabriel Saez) 5-1
7 Papa Clem (Gary Stute/Rafael Bejarano) 20-1
8 Mine That Bird (Bennie Woolley/Calvin Borel) 50-1
9 Join in the Dance (Todd Pletcher/Chris DeCarlo) 50-1
10 Regal Ransom (Saeed bin Suroor/Alan Garcia) 30-1
11 Chocolate Candy (Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith) 20-1
12 General Quarters (Tom McCarthy/Julien Leparoux) 20-1
13 I Want Revenge (Jeff Mullins/Joe Talamo) 3-1
14 Atomic Rain (Kelly Breen/Joe Bravo) 50-1
15 Dunkirk (Todd Pletcher/Edgar Prado) 4-1
16 Pioneerof the Nile (Bob Baffert/Garrett Gomez) 4-1
17 Summer Bird (Tim Ice/Chris Rosier) 50-1
18 Nowhere to Hide (Nick Zito/Shaun Bridgmohan) 50-1
19 Desert Party (Saeed bin Suroor/Ramon Dominguez) 15-1
20 Flying Private (D. Wayne Lukas/Robby Albarado) 50-1

For those of you who were eyeing a couple of longshots and wanted to see maybe what price they’d start at, the morning line is a great jumping off point.  The following stuck out to me:

1. Dunkirk is a terrible play at 4-1: He is certainly among the contenders but I can’t see a valid reason to take him at such a price.  He has been overbet in each of his first three starts, partially because of his connections or just the general hype that has surrounded him.  Are his credentials respectable?  Sure, but he has done NOTHING that would make me interested in him at 4-1. 

2. Hold Me Back at 15-1: I’ll admit, I’m slowly crawling onto this guy’s bandwagon.  He is making his 3rd start off a 90+ day layoff and exits a strong finish in the Blue Grass in a race that was slow to develop.   A set of nice workouts and an accomplished trainer-jockey combo further add to his intrigue.  That being said, I was excited about the prospects of him being 25-1 or more.  He is hardly more than a fringe player, so I’m looking for a bit better price.

3. Arm yourself with Musket Man at 20-1: Is he a serious win candidate?  Not really, but isn’t 20-1, or even a bit more given the clogged section of horses at 20-1 enticing on this guy?  He basically shows up every time and is the only participant in this event to have posted Beyer figures of 90 or more in four consecutive starts.  He’s been trained to get the added ground with long, slow gallops in the morning, which give way to sips of Guinness in the afternoon.  If Musket Man leaves the gate at 30-1, you might find yourself in the midst of Happy Hour.

4. Feast on Chocolate Candy at 20-1: The pride of Sid and Jenny Craig has been installed at 20-1 and his past performances beg the following question: if you like Pioneerof the Nile at 4-1, shouldn’t you love this guy at 20-1?  I’d say the answer is yes, as this guy had a much tougher trip last time out racing wide and off a very slow pace.  He is moving forward as the races get longer and should appreciate the added ground today.  His Hall of Fame jockey knows how to navigate a late runner through the Churchill Downs stretch to boot.

Hopefully you’re reaching the culmination of your handicapping for the Derby and are now onto the undercard, which came up quite strong.  Remember that there are three multi-race wagers linking the Kentucky Oaks and Derby.  The following is taken from Jay Privman’s article in the DRF:

“Churchill be offering more than the usual wagering fare on its Friday and Saturday programs.  The 12-race Friday card will include three pick four wagers (50-cent minimum), beginning on races 2, 4, and 8. Also, the Oaks-Derby double ($1 minimum), standard fare since 1996, is being joined for the first time this year by the Oaks-Woodford-Derby pick three (minimum $1).

The 13-race Saturday card will include four pick fours, beginning on races 2, 4, 8, and 10.  The pick six ($2 minimum) runs from races 6-11 both days, with the Oaks and Derby serving as the final pick six races.

Rolling daily doubles and pick threes will be available whenever possible both days. Also, the super high five ($1 minimum) will be offered on the Oaks, Woodford Reserve, and Derby, along with other selected races.  There are no minimum pool guarantees in effect for multi-race wagers either day. And although Churchill normally offers 10-cent superfectas, the minimum reverts to $1 for both the Oaks and Derby cards because of crowd considerations.”

We’ll see you Thursday to analyze the Derby a bit more.  Until then, we’ll leave you with the 2008 Kentucky Derby.  Good luck!

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