Mint Juleps will be in many hands when the post time for the 137th Kentucky Derby arrives at 6:24 P.M. on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at historic Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. By the time the starting gate opens and the horses break from the gate, NBC (who is broadcasting the Run for the Roses, complete with over an hour of pre-race coverage and prognostication) will have given the television audience of millions around the world a complete rundown of the field. Their panel of experts, including turf writers and veteran horsemen alike, will have already offered their picks on not only what horses will win or lose, but also how the race will play out. The bets will have been made, but at the moment the gate opens at 6:24 PM, the time for listening and betting will be over, and the time for watching, hoping, and sometimes screaming will begin. They don’t call the Kentucky Derby “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” for nothing.
The 2012 Kentucky Derby will feature a full field of twenty horses, which has been a fairly constant trend for many years now. As the post time of the race draws closer, the chances of each and every one of the twenty entrants will have taken many, many things into consideration. For one thing, no matter how fast a horse is – whether he/she is a front runner, a stalker, or a closer – none of those things matter if the horse isn’t healthy. So accordingly, it may help all you prospective Kentucky Derby bettors out there to pay close attention to what the analysts have to report about the official workout times each horse is required to post in the weeks leading up to the race if you haven’t had a chance to watch the workouts yourself or peruse the internet or newspapers to see for yourself.
The biggest reason for this is that the official workout splits will tell you, with no doubt whatsoever, whether or not the horse you’re considering to place a bet on is actually healthy or not. Believe me, if the experts are saying that one or more of those workout times is slow, then that means there is something wrong, something unsound about the horse that hasn’t been released. Perhaps a crack in a hoof, a ligament problem, a lip ailment or, worst of all, a serious leg injury.
Of course, an injury may not be the problem. One thing to keep fresh in your mind is that most, if not all, west coast horses run exclusively on synthetic racing surfaces these days, and a slow time may indicate that the horse doesn’t like running on natural dirt. Same thing with a horse that has only run on turf. If an injury is the problem, then don’t even think about betting, and as for hoping that the horse may just magically get used to the surface if his workouts show that he doesn’t like it? Well, just remember this: In the summer of 1973, after Secretariat won the Triple Crown, Lucien Laurin entered the amazing colt in the prestigious Man o’ War Stakes, a turf race at Belmont Park against older horses. He had never before run on grass, but after his first workout on grass, it was said that Secretariat would have been a BETTER turf horse than a dirt horse! Remember, this was the horse that set records (Preakness unofficial, I know, I know) in all three Triple Crown races. The moral of the story: the workouts don’t lie, so pay attention to them.