Horse racing tough to handicap

It’s rather unfortunate that for a sport desperately seeking to build a new base of fans, the one horse race that everybody pays attention to also happens to be the most difficult to predict the winner.

That point was driven home again this year at historic Churchill Downs when 50-1 longshot Giacomo stunned 19 opponents and the entire racing world by winning the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby.

When it comes to creating new fans, thoroughbred racing’s fabled “Run for the Roses” is often the great sport’s own worst enemy. Only two post time betting favorites have won the race in the last 20 runnings.

There are many factors which make the Kentucky Derby virtually impossible to predict using statistical data and past performance:

1. None of the horses has ever run as far as the 1 ¼ miles distance of the Kentucky Derby.

2. The electric-charged atmosphere, the crowd in excess of 150,000 people, the band and the pageantry can affect a high-strung thoroughbred like no other race in which he’ll ever compete.

3. The unusually large number of horses which compete (20 for this year’s running) creates “traffic jams” like none other a horse will ever experience.

What’s more, a horse has only one chance in his entire life to win the Kentucky Derby, and he has to be at his finest fettle at approximately 5:35 pm on the first Saturday in May. A minor ache or pain, or one missed day of training, and that window of opportunity for sports immortality slams shut forever.

Not a single horse racing expert predicted that Giacomo would muster a challenge in the race, let alone win. Based strictly on statistics, that certainly appeared to be the case.

Giacomo had won only one of seven starts, and that lone win was his maiden victory at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., last October. When his connections entered him in the Kentucky Derby, he was still eligible to compete in races of far less stature against horses which had no where near the credentials of most of the opponents he faced Saturday.

His opponents in the Derby included a collection of major Grade I stakes winners of the most prestigious 3-year-old stakes run in North America so far this year.

All of the pre-race Derby hype belonged to a colt named Bellamy Road, owned by George Steinbrenner of New York Yankees fame. Many said he would be unstoppable, especially in light of the way he demolished his rivals in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, N.Y., in his previous outing.

So much for pre-race hype. Bellamy Road finished a lack-luster seventh.

It’s now on to the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of America’s coveted Triple Crown. The 130th middle jewel of the Crown will be run at “Old Hilltop,” Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore next Saturday.

The Belmont Stakes, the “granddaddy” of all the Triple Crown classics, will be held on June 11 to end this year’s spring thoroughbred extravaganza. The Belmont, at 1½ miles, is the most demanding of the Triple Crown events.

Triple Crown glory has eluded every Kentucky Derby winner since Affirmed in 1978. Will Giacomo be the first colt in 27 years to win the Triple Crown? He’s a longshot, just as he was in the Kentucky Derby. And we all know what happened there.

This article is a reprint from the Quad-City Times. To view the original article, click here.

Original News Article

Bookmakers Reviews - 2005-05-16 12:58:23

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