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John Lamb, Published May 01 2010

Lamb: Derby little secrets are sure to pay off

Recently, the question I’ve heard the most, well, besides, “Didn’t I tell you never to come back?” would be, “How do I go about picking a horse for today’s Kentucky Derby?”

Great question. In fact, it’s so good I won’t waste time trying to find out. Instead I’ll just tell you what I know, which shouldn’t take long.

First, let me admit, I am not a jockey, a horse trainer, a horse owner nor have I ever been a horse rider. In fact, I don’t even like unicorns.

But I do like sipping a mint julep and watching the Triple Crown (the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) races and have developed some pretty uncanny notions for how to pick the ponies.

(Full disclosure: In addition to knowing next to nothing about horses, I know nothing about placing bets, so please, consult your own bookie before dropping any dough.)

Always go with the Cajun jockey.

In the past three years, both winning jockeys, Calvin Borel (2007 and ’09) and Kent Desormeaux (’08) have come from Louisiana. Borel rides Super Saver and Desormeaux sits on Paddy O’Prado.

When picking between the two Cajuns, always look the jockey in the mouth.

I know some people judge a horse by its teeth, but I would never put my fingers near a horse’s face. I would however stick my hand in a jockey’s mouth. In Borel’s post-victory interviews he smiles a lot, but I have yet to see a single tooth. Therefore, bad dentistry equals good riding.

If you need to associate with a winner.

Homeboykris may be a long shot at 50-1, but one of his owners is Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who won four World Series titles leading the New York Yankees. If he loses, you can blame it on Manny Ramirez.

If you’ve got attitude.

Unfortunately Yo Mama and Whatchoolookinat aren’t running this race, but if Backtalk can haul saddle like he hauls sass, he’ll pay out 50-1.

If you’re looking for inspiration.

Your horse is Noble’s Promise, which also sounds like a Lifetime movie.

If you like things that make no sense to you.

Eskendereya (was that the name of the Icelandic volcano?) was the heavy favorite before getting hurt, so looks like you’re betting on Mission Impazible.

If you like the ladies.

If Devil May Care wins, she’ll be just the fourth filly to wear the rose blanket.

If you like “Downtown” Dave Anderson.

Silver-haired Bob Baffert is one of the most celebrated horse trainers of the past 20 years, but he hasn’t won a Triple Crown race since War Emblem won the Preakness Stakes in 2002. This year he has two horses in the race: Conveyance and the current favorite, Lookin at Lucky.

If you want the luck of the Irish.

The Irish have a long tradition with horse racing (Donerail, named after a Kentucky town that is named after an Irish town, was the biggest long shot to win the Derby, paying out $92.40-1 in 1913), and this year, two Irish-named colts are running. The one you want is Paddy O’Prado, whose jockey is Desormeaux, the Cajun with a complete set of chompers. Trust me on this one. Just ask your bookie.


Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533