Sports

Is one Kentucky winner too much to ask for? Don’t listen to this guy

Kentucky Derby entrant Tapwrit, ridden by exercise rider Silvio Pioli, gallops during a morning workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Kentucky Derby horse race is set for Saturday, May 6.
Kentucky Derby entrant Tapwrit, ridden by exercise rider Silvio Pioli, gallops during a morning workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Kentucky Derby horse race is set for Saturday, May 6. AP

Tapwrit is my horse for this year’s Kentucky Derby.

The colt has classic breeding, America’s leading trainer, a world-class jockey, good post position, a favorable running style and enough good races to suggest he’s a candidate to wear a wreath of roses on Saturday.

Cross him off your list, if you haven’t already. He’s saddled with the Pajak curse.

Of all the past-performance information available to horse players these days, nothing could be more helpful than knowing the Derby horse I prefer. My pick not only has not won, it has hit the board just once in 37 years since I bet my first Derby in 1980. That’s off-the-charts futility.

Throwing darts, picking numbers, colors or jockeys, or putting your Racing Form under a bird cage and using droppings to select the Derby winner would be more successful.

But this is my year. I can feel it. It’s a wide-open Derby without a prohibitive favorite. Even those nasty mint juleps are going to taste good Saturday evening.

There’s only one question a horse player hears annually: Who do you like in the Derby? I’ve never had the right answer ahead of the world’s most recognizable race.

I loved Sunday Silence in 1989 but couldn’t take 3-1 odds. I was set to bet Sea Hero in 1993 but can’t remember what dissuaded me in the last, fateful minutes. I liked Charismatic in 1999 but lacked the confidence to publicly back a 31-1 shot. I’ll Have Another was in my final two in 2012 but, alas, I was influenced by workout reports and went the wrong direction. Lessons learned.

Congaree, third to Monarchos in 2001, is my relative success story, although I did cash a ticket on 50-1 shot Mine That Bird in 2009 in the one Derby I attended. I bet the wrong horse. The money was nice, but it didn’t count in the big picture, of course.

I’d like to think I have dozens more chances, but you never know. I’d have bigger regrets if I went today than not having touted and bet a Derby winner. Honestly, at this point I’d be happy if my horse had a chance turning for home. Get the blood pumping and all at the Derby party.

A former colleague would bet $2 on every horse in the Derby so he could honestly tell those who asked that he had the winner. I’m not going to sink to that. One horse, in advance.

Tapwrit figures to be about 20-1. For someone looking for big payoffs from a small amount wagered, those odds fit the bill. In his last race, he finished behind four other Derby horses. I’m drawing a line through that race.

I can’t say Tapwrit is the most likely winner – I give that distinction to McCraken – but he does offer the best value, in my historically incorrect opinion.

Good luck. I really need it.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak

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