What experts say about Zandon, Taiba, other horses

LAS VEGAS — Before we can even pay for our horse racing admission, we’re faced with these handout sheets at the entrance.

Even before sports betting reporting became my livelihood, the hunch was to sidestep this information, and after further reporting from the field, a savvy bettor I spoke to confirmed my hunch.

“Why would someone with information on who is going to win give it away for free?”


As we head into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, ignore the tout services and chat with the wisest handicappers we know, gentlemen who keep their research and analysis to themselves – unless their journalist friend tells them. hurry.

My own prevailing theory when betting on rich pitches like the Derby, which is due to start at 6:57 p.m. Saturday on NBC, is to look for value tied to underdogs given the depth of talent and traffic that can alter the best of racing strategies.

This esteemed panel gathered here expressed a similar sentiment, finding reasons to mostly shun Zandon, the 3/1 favorite, in favor of contenders who can produce a more lucrative payoff.

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OPINION:Five stories to watch at the 148th Kentucky Derby

Let’s start with a Zandon supporter, though.

“Big” Dave Samarzich, an occasional occupant of the luxurious Eddie Logan VIP Suite at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., is an expert gambler who chats with a slew of horse racing insiders before laying down his bets.

How much money people make from betting is their own business, but one of my favorite tales is “Big D” stuffing his sweatpants pockets with thousands of cash and stuffing half a dozen of complimentary Snickers bars for good measure as he left the suite one day.

“They got the wrong favorite. Epicenter (the 7/2 second pick) should be the favorite,” Samarzich said.

His reasoning rests on the belief that trainer Steve Asmussen, who is famous for his 0 for 23 in the Derby, has a remarkable horse whose sire, Giant’s Causeway “could run all day.” Epicenter won four of the six races.

Samarzich expects Santa Anita Derby runner-up Messier to take the lead with Epicenter, but he predicts Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba (12/1) will be the tougher choice than 8/ 1 Messier, with jockey John Velazquez, three-time Derby winner. a board.

“I will watch everything (before the race) and if the track is sloppy (with Friday thunderstorms expected to give way by Saturday morning) then I go with Taiba to win,” said Samarzich. “His dad, Gun Runner, could run in the mud all day.”

If conditions are less saturated, Samarzich expects Epicenter to “chew” Messier.

“When these horses expend that much energy one-on-one, it takes a lot out of them and they end up losing that punch in the end,” he said. “Zandon is the real deal and ran huge to win the Blue Grass Stakes. He will come running down the stretch.

“And since we know Taiba has already looked Messier in the eye and spat in it, I’m going with a boxed exacta from Zandon, with these incredible speed ratings, with Taiba and Epicenter.”

Boxed Exacta Definite: A bet on two or more horses to finish first and second in any particular order.

Samarzich will add a long-running bet on the 20/1 simplification, believing bettors should put aside consideration of his loss last time out.

“He was harassed in the lead and got knocked out, losing a few lengths, but he likes getting out of rhythm,” Samarzich said.

That brings us to sports advertising veteran Steve Brener, the Santa Anita Park publicist who bet on the Derby for decades for fun.

His knowledge of the sport and myriad contacts make Brener a go-to on Derby weekends, as he typically leads Cinco de Mayo boxing cards in Las Vegas, including the Saturday Canelo Alvarez-Dmitry Bivol title fight. light-heavyweight at T-Mobile Arena.

Brener’s breakdown is brief.

“I think (jockey) Mike Smith will have Taiba in the right place at the start of the race and when the time is right I think this horse will show some awesome kick to win the race against Epicenter and Joel Rosario,” said Brener. “My long game is Crown Pride (20/1) from Japan.”

Another astute member of our team is Jay Rood, Senior Vice President of Risk and Commerce at Bally’s Interactive, former MGM Race and Sports Book Manager in Las Vegas, who has consistently provided quality opinions on the Kentucky Derby.

Surprisingly, Rood likes a big longshot, Zozos, a horse from Minnesota.

“He’s only raced three times, but he was second to Epicenter (in the Louisiana Derby at the end of March), and I think he has a chance of cashing in a big buck if he’s been trained well,” Rood said. “He’s unproven but full of potential.”

Rood also loves Crown Pride because “the field is wide open.”

Finally, before picking our own pick, we consult with Bob McGrath, the veteran player who has framed my own lane bets for the past decade.

McGrath, like Samarzich, said he will closely monitor the condition of the track on Saturday.

“My pick is for an exact box with Mo Donegal (10/1), Epicenter, Messier and Zandon, and my two long picks hitting the board are Barber Road (30/1) and Cyberknife (20/1, also spawned by Gun Runner),” McGrath said.

“With 22 horses in the field, anything can happen. My favorite is Mo Donegal… good luck. We will all need it.

That may be my West Coast bias, but the fact that Taiba has already shown impressive closing speed to sprint past Messier to the wire in the 1 1/8 mile Santa Anita derby portends big stuff for the biggest Churchill Downs 1¼ mile race.

The odds are ideal, the horse is fearsome, and Mike Smith is the jockey. I’ll be rolling the dice on this all day, every day.

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