ESPN Horse Racing

Derby Q & A
By Jay Cronley
Special to

Here is some Derby mail answered.

Q: My wife and I can afford to go to the Indianapolis 500 or the Kentucky Derby. Which would you recommend?

A: I have only been to one NASCAR race and couldn't get past the part of the rules that permits somebody behind to catch up during a time out. Say somebody is ahead half a mile. Say a fender falls off. The race is restarted with everybody together again. Why isn't a race resumed with the cars in their previous positions?

Q: Vegas or Detroit?

A: You pick.

Q: You've said horse race announcers are the best in the business? What sport has the worst announcers?

A: No contest. Golf. The average golf announcer stinks because he takes the game too seriously. Any spoiled rich kid who can afford to hit 1,000 practice balls per day beginning at age seven can grow up to be a patron favorite, patron being another way of saying former spoiled rich kid.

Q: If you were a part of the Derby television coverage, what would ask one of the owners of a high-dollar colt?

A: What's a hock? Ever ridden?

Q: Same situation as above, what would you ask one of the trainers?

A: Who would you bet, and how much?

Q: As an average Derby viewer, who would you like to see profiled in the main part of the television coverage?

A: One of those jockey wives approaching her 24th birthday while standing about 5-11 and weighing around 125. You see these statuesque beauties near their hubbies in the victory circle after important horse races. Usually they're in the background. Seeing them work out on a Wednesday like any other and twirl around the estate would make for some good viewing.

Q: What are the traps to be avoided while betting the 2004 Kentucky Derby?

A: The usual, front runners and late runners. This isn't the Arkansas Derby with the bulk of the competition coming from something out of a couple of nifty allowances a state away. If Smarty Jones hot-foots it early with a crowd this solid in reasonable proximity, he won't be undefeated much more than a minute and change longer. Horses with a habit of running from last tend to bond with underdogs in the betting public. It Tapit starts too far back here, he'll be tapped out. The classic Derby profile is of the stalker who runs anywhere from second or third to halfway back in the field before putting away the strategically impaired.

Q: What changes would make horse racing better?

A: Having access to a steward who made a questionable decision would be informative and educational. And how about some nice big stopwatches in the infield. Some jockeys have clocks in their heads. Some have rocks. I know somebody who owned a horse that drew three straight outside post positions in six-furlong races, not good; then the animal grew sore, so much for that season. Gates and lanes can't be staggered as though at a relay race. But there's enough bad luck out there once the gates open. After two straight outside posts, you should get to pick a spot.

Q: Why are the so-called experts so bad at picking the Kentucky Derby?

A: First of all, it's hard. If 15 horses have a legitimate chance to win, the expert handicapper is at once facing stiff odds. What is an expert handicapper, anyway, beyond a horse player who knows somebody willing to print his stuff. Picking the Derby is so difficult, some television experts don't even try. Most of those who do try are afraid to appear foolish alone by picking a long shot. They're much more comfortable appearing foolish with plenty of company and pick something with a short price that gets left.

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