McCrabb: Best bets for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Even for the casual horse player — you know, the one who bets based on the horse’s name, color or saddle number — there is nothing like the Kentucky Derby, often referred to as “the greatest 2 minutes in sports.”

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, 20 3-year-olds are expected to enter the gate with the chance of thoroughbred racing immortality 1 ¼ grueling miles ahead.

The 150th running of the $5 million Derby has a 6:57 p.m. post time, or about eight hours after the first race and after thousands of gallons of mint juleps have been consumed by the 150,000 spectators.

There is no race that’s more difficult to handicap than the Derby due to the field size, the inexperienced horses, the length of the race and the size of the zealous crowd.

That said, I will try to pick the winner of the Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Remember Rick’s Picks are for entertainment purposes, though several area casinos will gladly take your wagers.

Here is a horse racing refresher course for the novice:

If you bet your horse to win, he must finish first. If you bet your horse to place, you cash if he finishes first or second. A show bet pays if your horse finishes first, second or third.

There are numerous gimmicks, the three most popular are exacta, trifecta and superfecta.

If you bet an exacta, you win if your two horses finish first and second. If you bet a trifecta, you win if your three horses finish first, second and third and a superfecta is the first four horses to cross the finish line.

My Derby selections:

Win: Fierceness, the Derby favorite, has won two of his last three races, including the highly competitive Florida Derby by a record 13 ½ lengths.

But he hasn’t won consecutive races for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Derby in 2010 and 2017. Also, Fierceness will break from the No. 17 post that has never produced a Derby winner in 44 attempts.

Fierceness has lost twice at very short odds, in the Champagne Stakes and Holy Bull Stakes.

The speed figures he earned in winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby suggest he’s the fastest horse in the field.

Horse: Fierceness. Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Odds: 5-2.

Place: Honor Marie. He’s training well and there is a good chance his odds will come down a bit. He was second to Catching Freedom in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, beaten only a length.

He also appears to be a horse for the course with two wins and a second in three starts at Churchill.

Horse: Honor Marie. Jockey: Ben Curtis. Trainer: Whit Beckman. Odds: 11-1.

Show: Forever Young will try to be the first UAE Derby horse to finish fourth or better in the Kentucky Derby since 2000. That streak may be over this year.

Forever Young, breaking from the No. 11 post, is the fastest horse to come from Dubai and his trainer, Yoshito Yahagi, has shipped to the U.S. to win Grade 1 races.

He’s a perfect 5-for-5 in his last five starts. The Japanese-bred horse is one of two in the Derby field to enter undefeated.

Some are shying away from Forever Young due to him shipping internationally. That’s a lengthy trip, especially heading into the 1 ¼ mile Derby.

Horse: Forever Young. Jockey: Ryusei Sakai. Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi. Odds: 10-1.

Best Long Shot: Mystik Dan. Watch out for him if it rains Saturday and the dirt track comes up sloppy. He romped on a muddy track in the Southwest Stakes.

Trainer Kenny McPeek has two Grade 1 wins in the Preakness and Belmont. Now he’s looking for an elusive Derby.

Horse: Mystik Dan. Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Odds: 33-1.

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