Exotic Betting Will Be the Favored Strategy

Times Staff Writer

Of the dozen races on the card at Churchill Downs today, the Kentucky Derby might be the worst for wagering.

The problem is, Empire Maker, the 6-5 morning line favorite, is far and away the best of this bunch. If he gets a clean trip and fires his best shot, he wins.

In fact, the price on Empire Maker might be better than would have been anticipated a week ago. Much has been made about his bruised foot, so some bettors may be scared away.

Bobby Frankel is the best trainer in the country, though, and if he starts Empire Maker, there’s nothing to worry about.


Bettors who need to get involved and think the favorite will win will probably be zeroing in on the exacta, the trifecta and/or superfecta.

Only a few of the remaining 15 3-year-olds appear capable of filling out the exotics. Longshots Lone Star Sky, Ten Cents A Shine, Offlee Wild, Outta Here and Domestic Dispute aren’t among them.

Others not likely to threaten are Eye Of The Tiger, Supah Blitz and, surprise, Scrimshaw.

At first glance, Scrimshaw seemed a legitimate longshot. He won the Lexington Stakes two weeks ago in his first race after a minor throat operation, which was the same Grade II Charismatic won for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis and trainer Wayne Lukas before his Kentucky Derby upset in 1999. Proud Citizen also won the 2002 Lexington for Lukas before finishing second in the Derby.

However, both of those colts ran faster than Scrimshaw in the Lexington. And what kind of trip is he going to get from the outside post after leaving from the rail at inside-friendly Keeneland?

This leaves Brancusi, who’s improving with every start; the tenacious Buddy Gil, the underrated Funny Cide, the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass winner Peace Rules, Indian Express, who will probably try to wire the field as War Emblem did last year for trainer Bob Baffert; the newly blinkered Atswhatimtalknbout and Ten Most Wanted.

Peace Rules and Indian Express have pedigrees that make them suspect at 10 furlongs.

Ten Most Wanted has been all the rage since beating a bunch of nobodies in the Illinois Derby, and his price will be shorter than it should be. Still, he could collect one of the minor prizes, as might Atswhatimtalknbout, who has trained well since arriving in Kentucky and who may improve with blinkers.


So, the exotic focus here will be trifectas keying Empire Maker on top, using Funny Cide, who was only half a length behind Empire Maker in the Wood; Buddy Gil, who gets little respect but keeps on winning, and 30-1 shot Brancusi in the second spot, and those three plus Ten Most Wanted and Atswhatimtalknbout in the third spot.