Ready to take Churchill Downs by Storm! (Taken with instagram)
Louisville is great (mostly) year round, but April heading into May is my favorite time to be a Louisvillian because of the Derby. Is it an overblown spectacle centered around a horse race that most spectators don’t even see? Yes, and that’s proof that Louisville is perfectly able to take any old event and make a huge party out of it. I gamble a little on horses, and I’m interested in the race, but I like the Derby more just because the buzz around town is so electric during the two weeks of Derby Festival. You see all kinds of people around, drunken rednecks, giggly un-chaperoned high schoolers, prepsters in their pastels, hipsters, goths, they’re all in the same places doing the same things and having a good time doing it. I love Derby time.
As for the race: it’s almost always impossible for me to handicap it. There are 20 entrants, they’re almost all very good, and the favorites usually have only raced five times or less so it’s tough to know how they’ll perform at a given distance on a given track. Bloodlines help, but often you can just throw that out the window after they’re loaded into the gate.
My pick this year is Creative Cause, a colt sired by European legend Giant’s Causeway. It was honestly a coinflip for me between him and Gemologist, but I like the way Creative Cause ran in his past few races and I think he’s got the pedigree to knock it out of the park in ten furlongs. Others that I like are Daddy Long Legs (make him your longshot if you’re betting exotics) and Dullahan, winner of the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland. I know the rail is not where you want to be in the gate in this race, but if he gets a good break, Daddy Long Legs could make things interesting. Dullahan really impressed me in coming from behind to edge out Hansen, who failed to find another gear in the final furlong in that race. I’m avoiding Union Rags and Bodemeister, just because the favorite rarely wins the Run for the Roses and Union Rags hasn’t impressed against good competition since the Breeder’s Cup last fall. My pick for Oaks is (/pulls name out of hat) On Fire Baby, for no other reason than she’s a 4/1 favorite, has a great name, and drew the 1 post which is usually pretty good for Oaks.
Obvs, none of my handicapping prowess will prove successful come Derby Day, and that’s the fun of it. Everyone in Louisville is a horseman during these two weeks; I at least can say I go to the track three or four times a year. Happy Derby!