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When Betting the Derby, Keep These Facts in Mind

Added on: April 30, 2013

While it is no guarantee that a horse who won a two-year-old championship of some kind, whether it is the Eclipse Award or the Breeders Cup Juvenile, is a shoo-in to be one of the top contenders by the time Kentucky Derby day rolls around, one thing has held true for more than a century that this race has been run: no horse has made a career debut as a three-year-old has won this race. The last time it happened, in fact, was back in 1882, when Apollo won it.

Some horses naturally develop late, so perhaps it is surprising that none of them have been out into action for the first time in their three-year-old season and experienced the ultimate success in the Derby. But that is just the way it is. So keep it in mind, because from time to time there are entrants who have not raced as a two-year-old. One of them was Bodemeister, who gave it a try last year after winning the Arkansas Derby in dominant fashion.

Generally speaking, very inexperienced horses don't do all that well in the Derby. But nine of them entered the Kentucky Derby last year despite having run only twice as a three-year-old. One of those horses - I'll Have Another - not only won the race, but also went on to win the Preakness Stakes as well before having to bow out with an injury prior to the Belmont Stakes, thus ruining a chance at the Triple Crown.

The field is usually pretty crowded these days in the Kentucky Derby, often getting the maximum of 20 entrants, and when more horses are in the race, it constitutes more congestion. More congestion, in turn, makes it harder for the favorite, or for any horse, for that matter. Betting against the favorite has not been a bad idea at Churchill Downs in this race. In fact, from 1980 to 1999 no favorite won the race. Then in 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus, an awesome horse, brought home victory. Over the past 13 years, there have been four favorites that have reached the winner's circle in the Run for the Roses.