Commentary

Derby time

Updated: April 24, 2012, 3:57 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Here are some suggestions and tips about handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

1: Ask yourself: If you had a horse like Creative Cause or Hansen and didn't have to win a late Derby prep race, and didn't win, and ran big seconds instead, wouldn't you feel as good if not better about your horse than you did going in?

2 Think at least twice about avoiding trendy horses like Dullahan and Alpha.

3: Baffert wouldn't name just any old horse for his son, would he?

4: Look for improving horses. They're why the highest Beyer numbers don't win.

5: What's the rush? It's too early to make picks. Wait for the post positions and weather. Even heat could be a factor. Will they have to import roses?

6: Now that Santa Anita has returned to dirt, horses from there are no longer automatic throw-outs.

7: Watch the works. Slightly above average works work. Too slow is slightly worse than too fast.

8: Diagram the race, guess who will be where at various points around the track, as this could provide the handicapper with a reason for making a particular bet for the first time in ages.

9: Bet more.

10: Don't play trainers with heartwarming stories.

11: Use hot jockeys.

12: Beyond what they train, trainers are average to lousy handicappers.

13: You might think about boxing good horses that fit the three basic running styles, one on or near the lead, a stalker, and a closer.

14: Run from what the professional handicappers call "value." What's the interest rate, three percent? A four or five hundred percent return isn't enough? Everything that pays off has value.

15: Play overnight doubles or Pick-3's and the like instead of Exactas. Your Derby Exacta money goes to lucky number and freaky name winners, people who play birthdays and names of things in cages. If you must play an Exacta, mix in an All.

16: Play lucky numbers and names with personal meanings.

17: Have fun. This is not a day to be taken too seriously. Chat it up. Socialize. Play a local or a regional horse, which is as close as you can get to old school-type spirit at the race track. Take a spouse or a date.

18: There's no pedigree that puts out runners skilled at competing with 19 others.

19: A race over the track, Churchill, isn't so important; wins over the race track are.

20: Be wary of New York horses fresh from victories over four and five foes.

21: Not all numbers and power ratings are for the tourists. There's a Brisnet distance rating that a number of recent Derby winners have all surpassed.

22: After "Luck," the HBO series during which some horses died in the name of art, and after the New York Times piece about dangerous racing in the sticks, hold your breath as they're going around the first turn.

23: Cover what's missing in your future's pool bets. Bet to win that which has entered the field from beyond left field, something like Bodemeister, who has made field bets look good. Get more involved in future's bets next year. They can make the Derby easier and less expensive to play.

24: Don't bet the rail to win.

25: Don't tip a teller too early in the day, as you might need the money in the middle of the afternoon.

26: Consider deep closers for third.

27: Bank on Hansen not being on the lead.

28: Don't expect Union Rags or Creative Cause to experience free rides, as each has had a nose for trouble.

29: Ask an idiot who he or she likes.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.