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Fred Faour: 8 tips and trends for this year's Kentucky Derby

Justify will be trying to buck history at Churchill Downs. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Here are some key trends and betting notes for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (numbers compiled from several web sites including drf.com, oddshark.com and horseracingnation.com). If you want detailed breakdowns of every horse, you can find them here. 

Chalk talk

Five straight favorites have won the Derby.  The previous high was four in a row from 1972-75. There were no favorites winning the race from 1980-2000.

So why the change? This will be the sixth year of the points system, where races have weighted point values and the top 20 in points get in the race. This has eliminated cheap speed horses. During this five-favorite run, every winner has had at least 100 accumulated points. This year there are nine such horses: Magnum Moon 150, Good Magic 134, Audible 110, Noble Indy 110, Vino Rosso 107, Bolt d'Oro, 104, Enticed 103, Mendelssohn 100 and Justify 100.

Even with the five straight favorites, money can be made in the exotics. The last five exacta payoffs are $336, $31, $75, $340 and $982.

Trend setters

  1. No horse that failed to race at age 2 has won the Derby since 1882. SInce then 61 horses have tried it. The two who came closest were Bodemeister (second, 2012) and Battle of Midway (third last year). Two serious contenders in this year’s race fit that profile: Favored Justify and Magnum Moon. Both are unbeaten.

  2. Since 2011, every Derby winner won his final prep race.

  3. Over the last 26 years, there have only been four Kentucky Derby winners whose final prep race was slower than 1:50.00 at nine furlongs. That would eliminate Good Magic and Noble Indy.

  4. Nyquist (2016) and Street Sense (2007) are the only horses to win the BC Juvenile and then the Derby. Good Magic attempts to do it this year.

Long trip

No horse has prepped in Dubai and won the Derby. Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby by 18 lengths and is the only horse to run farther than 1 ⅛ miles. Horses trying this route are 0 for 13.

The Pletcher factor

Trainer Todd Pletcher has four serious contenders this year. Heading into this race he has 48 Derby starters but just two winners, including Always Dreaming last year. The theory is he tries so hard to win preps that his horses peak before the Derby. The exceptions were Super Saver (2010), who was also the last horse to win the Derby without winning his final prep (he was second in the Arkansas Derby but was not pushed that day). Always Dreaming peaked Derby Day and has done nothing since. Pletcher will likely have three of the top five favorites.

Other trainers

Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas each have four Derby winners. Baffert last won the Derby in 2015 with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He has favored Justify. Lukas sends out 50-1 shot Bravazo.

Combatant has a shot to hit the board at 50-1

He has only one win in seven tries, but has hit the board in five of those races. Was fourth in debut on the turf, fourth in the Arkansas Derby in a paceless race where he could not close. Probably can’t win but good shot to hit the board at 50-1. He has a similar profile to last year’s Lookin’ at Lee. Got his only win at Churchill, so he has that going for him.

Another wiseguy longshot

Hofburg is 20-1 and has only three career races. He was fourth in his debut as a 2-year-old last September and did not run again until March 3, when he won a maiden race at Gulfstream. He was then thrown to the Wolves and was a good second in the Florida Derby. He should improve, and trainer Bill Mott does not run horses unless he thinks they have a shot.

Beyer beware

The average winning Beyer speed figure for the Derby is 105. Only two horses have topped the 100 mark more than once -- Justify (107, 101, 104) and Bolt D’Oro (102, 101, 103). Both colts accomplished this in California. Are the numbers inflated? There are only two other triple digit Beyers: Good Magic (100 in last year’s BC Juvenile) also run in California. Are the Cali horses better or are the numbers skewered?

Mendelssohn was given a 106 Beyer for his UAE Derby but Beyers are not typically done for overseas races.

When putting together your selections, make sure you pay attention to these trends and use them to your advantage. Good luck! 

 

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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