Time to pick the Derby's wiseguy horse 

April, 29, 2010

People develop their opinions about the Kentucky Derby for weeks, as if betting the race were some strategy for attacking the island of Peleliu. (Seriously, "The Pacific" gives me nightmares.) But then, once a consensus comes together, something crazy happens, like everyone's fave, Eskendereya, dropping out six days before the race. (Or Army intel not knowing about a byzantine network of caves filled with enemies who would rather die than concede defeat. What the freak, intel?)

This week, as soon as trainer Todd Pletcher announced Eskendereya wouldn't race, the new odds-on choice became the Bob Baffert-trained Lookin' at Lucky, who is now going off at 3-1. For what it's worth, according to the ESPN Stats & Information packet I received in my e-mail this morning, since 1992 there have been 11 horses favored at less than 4-1 odds by race day. Only two -- Big Brown in 2006 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 -- won the race.

But here's what the squares doing their amateur forecasting don't know: A secondary market for favorites breaks out midweek at Churchill Downs. It develops after the sharps have seen the 3-year-olds get in a few runs at the track. And by Wednesday night, when Louisville International Airport is starting to swell with visitors, they are greeted by the buzz for the wiseguy horse.