Channeling the Derby

Trying to pick the winner of this Kentucky Derby is not like handicapping. It's like channeling. You sit quietly and hope some jewel from the past will put you in good spirits.

Step right up and get your fresh Kentucky Derby tips.

Beware of Derby parties.

Two sporting events are made for parties -- the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby. Derby parties include showing off and giving advice.

A couple of years ago at a Kentucky Derby fundraiser, I was introduced as the author of the novel on which the horse race film "Let It Ride" was based. And as such, I was selected to come up with a bet for the group. It was a big and rich group.

I told them that they had it all wrong. The reason I wrote the novel was because it was easier than picking winners. We decided on one big win bet and it finished in the middle.

"Let's hear it for the master of ceremonies," the party leader said as depressed guests filed out toward valet parking where tips were bad.

Not a single person applauded the master of ceremonies, even my date, and she only lost $125.

The more you know about horse racing at a Derby Party, the less money you're apt to go home with.

That's because the Derby is more like a quest than a race.

Beware of the obvious.

The obvious sucker bets come with wildly varying price tags.

Obvious losers are usually first impressions that appeal to gamblers with little patience and big mouths. An obvious play doesn't have to be 6-5. The other day I saw a 20-1 sucker trap -- a fair horse made to seem quicker by a dramatic trouble line.

Repeat victims of the obvious seek an easy way out.

Bad handicappers are attracted to the obvious like romantics to closers. It's always good to know where two lousy handicappers are at any one time.

Notes from different Derbies suggest that a frequently unworthy obvious play that I make has to do with giving trouble too much credit. Guess what. Without a giddy-up hitch, the horse might still have lost. Guess what else. Trouble can be habit-forming.

Running styles that obviously seldom win Derbies are: up front and far behind.

Beware of being financially responsible.

If there's one race where you should take your wagering frequency to the next level, the Kentucky Derby is it.

The phrase "too many bets" has no place here. That's because $2 will get you all that you deserve.

Twenty-dollar Exacta boxes need only to be made by the expert TV handicappers as a way of backing a prediction. As a sacrifice. A dollar or two is all you need to bet, Derby day. If you hit the $1 Tri, you'll almost always be declaring high winnings at the IRS window.

The last bet you make at River Downs has little chance of hitting; your last bet on the Kentucky Derby is apt to be better than your first.

Be aware of what most Derby winners have in common.

The special horses show a history of steady improvement, with room to improve even more.

Next week, I'll put some picks here; that's right, with 20 in the gate, the picks will probably be plenty plural.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com