Horsin’ around: Bee horse racing handicapper weighs in on Kentucky Derby outlook

Got Derby fever yet? Exacta Kenny does. With the Run for the Roses less than two weeks away and horses starting to ship into Churchill Downs, The Bee’s handicapper is starting to amp up his research. The post position draw is at 2:30 p.m. April 29 (can be seen live on NBCSN), and Exacta Kenny will be live tweeting analysis @FresnoBeeSports. His picks for Oaks and Derby Day will appear in The Bee on May 1 and at

The high five

There’s not much to note at the top this week as my Top 5 remain intact and on a collision course for what is setting up to be one of the most top-heavy editions of the race in quite some time. My No. 1 — American Pharoah — arrived in Louisville last week and has settled in nicely. The buzz continues to grow for this horse, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll go to post as the favorite. Whether I’m willing to eat the chalk is a question I have yet to answer. No. 2 Dortmund — trainer Bob Baffert’s other ace in the hole — had a strong workout at Santa Anita over the weekend and appears ready to roll. No. 3 Carpe Diem had the track to himself at Keeneland on Saturday for a workout and certainly looked the part of a true contender. No. 4 Firing Line impressed jockey Gary Stevens with his workout last week, and No. 5 Upstart was back on the track after a fever kept him from training for a few days. With the race so close and with so many strong contenders, any little hiccup gives me pause. At this point, I’m just not sure I’ll be able to confidently back Upstart. But I’ll reserve judgment until he settles in at Louisville.

YOLO for Bolo

Ok, I’ll admit it: Bolo was the horse I used to try to beat Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby. I might as well have taken a lighter to my money. Bolo raced wide the whole way and had no realistic shot to catch the winner, who had it his own way on the front end. I figured the connections would give up on this horse on dirt and put him back on turf, where this colt has shown tremendous ability. Well, apparently Derby dreams do die hard as he’s headed to Louisville after sneaking into the qualifying Top 20 after some defections opened the door for him last week. Not sure he’s good enough to beat 19 other horses May 2, but the bloodlines scream out for distance and with expected odds of at least 20-1, I think Bolo’s a smart use somewhere in your exotic bets.

Feeling Super

Speaking of exotics, my favorite play on Derby Day is the superfecta. Sure, it’s one of the hardest bets to hit as you have to select the top four finishers in order, but it also delivers massive payouts. The pools for each wager on Derby Day are bloated, and the payouts show it. The last five $2 superfecta payouts:



$15,383.80 (and that’s with 5-2 favorite California Chrome winning)












$202,569.20 (whoa!)


My tip:

Choose the horse you think will win the Derby and key him on top. Then select 1-3 horses you like to finish in second place, then select as many as you can afford to use in slot 3 and 4. Choosing viable long shots to use underneath your winner is just as important as picking the winner. You can’t win without both.

Make a day of it

With less than two weeks to go, it’s time to make plans. The best part of Derby Day is having fun with friends and nailing a big score. With huge betting pools, it’s fun to risk a little to win a lot. Have people over to your house for a Derby party, or if you’d rather head out for fun, there are a couple options around Fresno.

The Fresno Fairgrounds is hosting a big Derby party with $5 admission to the grandstand, $10 admission to the VIP Suite and $15 to the Turf Club. You can reserve a table for four in the Turf Club for $60, which includes admission. Call (559) 253-0155 for reservations.

At Club One Casino, $15 gets you admission into the Polo Lounge and Event Center, along with a buffet. Call (559) 497-3000 to reserve a table.

I recommend calling soon for reservations though as both places fill up fast. Doors open at 7 a.m. at both venues.