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The world will watch the Gr 1 Kentucky Derby on Sunday morning (Sydney time).

A lot normally do as we know. The race, America’s Melbourne Cup if you like, elbows its way ahead of all sporting events during the first weekend of May. But more so this year.

That’s because minority groups like PETA are half-pie expecting or maybe even hoping something tragic occurs – which, while under the global eye of public scrutiny, would empower their mission to stop the sport.

That eye is there because of the amazing and saddening 23 deaths arising from training at California’s Santa Anita racetrack over the past 6 months.

And, not reported, over-shadowed as it were by those Cali deaths, is the other chilling fact that Churchill Downs, where the great 3YO race is this weekend, is the most dangerous of ALL North American racetracks.

One small article last week that did appear in the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Churchill Downs had lost horses to death at a rate of 2.42 per every 1000. This stat appearing since 2016 and when compared as apples to apples with other racetracks in the U.S, is the worst.

Which just means that this years’ Derby is as much a tipping point for the sport in North America as it is a spectacle for the world of horse racing enthusiasts.

The Lasix bans and whipping bans that were initiated at Santa Anita last month, don’t apply to Churchill Downs and right there is an indication that a unified body needs to take over the running of North American racing.

Sure, most major tracks will start to phase in reductions then ultimately bans on Lasix and whip use over the next two years, but that’s down the track and may be, would be, considered too little too late if, heaven forbid, a tragedy occurred this weekend.

But off that, who wins the great stallion-making race?

Find below the field and the barrier draw. The barrier draw is the SAME as the saddlecloth numbers and the monies next to the trainer’s names are how much prizemoney that horse has won leading up to this year’s 2000m race.

1 War of Will – Tr Mark Casse $450,840

2 Tax – Tr Danny Gargan $307,500

3 By My Standards – Tr Bret Calhoun $600,000

4 Gray Magician – Tr Peter Miller $526,000

5 Improbable -Tr Bob Baffert $389,520

6 Vekoma – Tr George Weaver $747,600

7 Maximum Security – Tr Jason Servis $582,800

8 Tacitus – Tr Bill Mott $210,000

9 Plus Que Parfait – Tr Brendan Walsh $1,540,400

10 Cutting Humor – Tr Todd Pletcher $462,467

11 Haikal – Tr Kiaran McLaughlin $247,500

12 Omaha Beach – Tr Richard Mandella $450,000

13 Code of Honor – Tr Shug McGaughey $432,070

14 Win Win Win – Tr Mike Trombetta $316,000

15 Master Fencer (JPN) Tr Koichi Tsunoda $234,392 Japan

16 Game Winner – Tr Bob Baffert $1,610,000

17 Roadster – Tr Bob Baffert $636,000

18 Long Range Toddy – Tr Steve Asmussen $830,000

19 Spinoff – Tr Todd Pletcher $224,000

20 Country House – Tr Bill Mott $120,000

We have a Japanese runner in No. 15 Master Fencer this year for the first time.

But he’s a long shot.

Omaha Beach, after winning 3 straight important lead-up races, is now the outright 11/2 favorite to win the Derby, notes Peter Watt from global price assessor, Oddschecker.

“The colt’s ascent to the top of the bet slip caps a remarkable rise, with Richard Mandella’s horse a rank 33/1 outsider just 6 weeks ago.

“Long-time favorites Game Winner and Roadster have dropped to 7/1 apiece, with Improbable drifting out to 9/1.

“In relative terms, the bookmakers believe that Omaha Beach’s chances of winning the ‘Race for the Roses’ have increased from 2.9% to 15.4% since the beginning of March.”

There are six recent Grade 1 winners in the field this year – all quality horses and all have strong chances. They are: Game Winner (who was the Champion 2YO); Omaha Beach; Roadster (champion trainer Bob Baffert’s best hope); Improbable; Maximum Security and Tacitus.

I mentioned to Peter that I had backed Tacitus to win this year’s Run-For-The-Roses, snaring $13 from Ladbrokes a few weeks back.

“Well, happily for you, Tacitus is currently the most backed horse through Oddschecker over the past month with 33% of the market share. And he exists from gate 8.”

Maximum Security will have a lot of support because he is a cheapie. His profile doesn’t match that of the others. For instance, he was claimed for just $16,000 before starting his ascent up the ladder of success and has in recent starts absolutely brained his opposition.

Last start for instance, he led all the way to beat fellow Derby runner Code Of Honour by 7 lengths in the Gr 1 Florida Derby and that is always strong lead-up form.

The Ky Derby, however, seems always to be run at a faster mid race pace so he will be put to the acid test.

The prices have been hammered in for the top four favourites, with Omaha Beach just edging ahead of the pack this week

Watt added, “Confusion often leads to some favorable prices, so this is great news for bettors.”

Good luck every one betting on the Churchill Downs weekend. The Kentucky Oaks for the 3YO fillies is on the day prior to the Derby.

Good luck to the punters but especially good luck to the horses and riders.

And let’s pray that the sport itself is shrouded by good luck this year too because EVERYONE will be watching!

My Tips:

Tacitus, 2. Win Win Win, 3. Maximum Security, 4. Country House

*Existing customers only. 2nd Racing bet. Excl SA & WA. T’s & C’s apply. Gamble responsibly.
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