2010 meant another Derby party at Casa Chok. This time we did it up right and made everyone dress as if they were actually going to the Derby. I did this to give myself the feeling that I was at the Derby because for sure, I was missing not being there amongst the 140,000.
Now, I don’t miss the lines, the drinks spilled on you while you are trying to get to your seat or go to the bathroom, the long long lines at the betting window while you are trying to get that last superfecta in behind the old lady from New Albany making a show bet on every horse in the race – one at a time.
I don’t miss the long taxi line after the races or the hard chair seats in the boxes. I certainly don’t miss the drinks they pass off as Mint Juleps that are nothing more than a teaspoon of bourbon and a packet of sugar with a wilted mint leaf.
No, I didn’t miss all that. I miss the people watching. The smell of the horses in the paddock and the sound they make coming down the stretch for the first time after the gate opens. That’s what I miss.
So, we had a Derby party in 2010 and I made the Mint Juleps from an old family recipe I got off a guy from northern Mississippi. In true Emeril style I kicked it up a notch and made them in my Margarita Ville machine, which shaves the ice. So, it was like an adult bourbon mint snowball and the women loved them.
We had a hat contest and a sit down dinner after the Derby dust had settled and someone won the 400 pool we put together with a 20-dollar entry for a postposition.
It was a blast and lasted long into the night but it wasn’t the Derby – and that was really okay – kinda sorta.
The 2010 Derby I was actually between a few horses coming into the Derby. I liked Lookin at Lucky, Super Saver and Paddy O’Prado coming in and settled in the end on Lookin at Lucky. I was a bit miffed when Super Saver splashed home at a nice price too. Lucky was a bit unlucky and proved that it will take a super horse to win from the 1 position and he just wasn’t as super as Super Saver that day.
The 2011 Derby was low key for me. I remember having a small gathering at my house – I may have boiled some crawfish but it was a subdued party as opposed to the previous year’s blowout.
I had started getting workout reports from a guy in California named Bruno Dejulio. I went looking for anyone who had workout reports for sale anywhere in the country and he was basically the only one other than another big outfit in California.
I did very well with the workouts looking for horses at the California tracks that showed some closing promise in their works when the track favored closers a bit more.
So, when Bruno went to Kentucky to cover the horses I made sure to get his reports – and I’m glad I did.
I was actually between a bunch of horses that year and the deciding factor for me was the way that Animal Kingdom was working out and how he presented himself on track. And the only reason I knew that was following Bruno and his on track reports.
I won a lot of money on the Derby that year by cashing the winner and the exacta when Animal Kingdom paid 20-1 and Nehro came second. I did not have the trifecta with Mucho Macho Man and that would not be the last time that MMM thwarted me out of a huge payoff. A few years later at the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge I was all in on Will Take Charge and Declaration of War with a rather large win bet on Will Take Charge but he could just not get past MMM in the stretch costing me and some investors a big payday.
But, in 2011 I did okay for myself and I have to give a lot of the credit to Bruno and his reports.
Before the 2012 Derby I played in a little tournament called the National Handicapping Championship. I had qualified six or seven years in a row and was finally ready to win. Think of my entry like a three year old who goes through his conditions steadily – loses the first time he tries stakes company – then gets the big win.
The first time I tried to qualify for the NHC was at the Fair Grounds and it must have been in 2005 or 2006. They were paying 4 spots and I literally had no idea what I was doing or how to play a contest. Luckily many of the other competitors didn’t have a clue either. I finished in 5th 10 cents behind the 4th place guy who got his seat, plane ticket and entry to Vegas and the NHC.
The next year I qualified online and I was off to the Red Rock. I was dead money. I had learned a bit more about how to play but was still woefully unprepared. I don’t remember how I finished but I know it was no good. The next year was better and so it went. Finally, in 2011 I walked in the sports book at the Red Rock and thought I had a chance. I had kind of back-doored in as I finished third in a contest late in the year but one of the guys in front of me had already qualified and this was before the double entry rule so I got a seat. As soon as I walked in the sports book I ran into an acquaintance from Louisiana and he said to me, “wow you got lucky to get in you shouldn’t have made it.” He said it not as funny but as vindictive. It made my blood boil because I knew I deserved to be there and late on Day 2 that year I was in the Top 15 but couldn’t find the last horse to get me to the top. I was playing to win – not to finish in the Top 10 and I remember I really liked a horse in the last race of the contest – the horse that won it for John Doyle – but I passed on him to get a longer shot that could have won it for me – and I’m so proud of that play and decision because it meant to me that I was there to win the damn thing – not finish in the top 10.
I finished 23rd but knew I could win it. The following year – 2012 – I walked into the ballroom at the Treasure Island knowing I was one of maybe 50 people that could win. I caught a huge break before the first race went off. I was forced to move tables because some asshole said he had saved the seat my brother was supposed to sit in.
I got put next to Peter Rotondo, Sr.; Peter Jr. and Lee Davis. Peter Behr was also at our table and he would go on to win the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge a few years later.
We got along famously. I’ve told the story many times in many different spaces but I got hot the second day after having a 45-1 shot win for me on Day 1 that I got strictly from a workout report by Bruno. People say you were stabbing and just picking long shots but this was Day 1 and it was an optional race. My brother and I also cleaned up betting the race so it wasn’t a stab.
Late on Day 2 I was in a position to win – picked the right horse and won a million bucks.
Which brings me to Derby 2012 because Twinspires brought me to that Derby – along with my wife, son and his soon to be wife to show off their patron and the million-dollar check.
I didn’t have I’ll Have Another – the Derby winner that year but I had a blast and it was a great lasting memory thanks to Jeremy Clemons and Ed Derosa of Twinspires. I ended up on one of my worst Derby selections of all time – Sabercat.
My wife and I went back in 2013 and it was a different story. It rained all Derby day but I already had my Derby horse. I liked Orb coming into the race and on Thursday was sitting trackside when he stopped right in front of me on his gallop over the track that day. He looked like he was going to eat the rest of the horses. He was a beast and he ran like one a few days later.
I was at that Derby because we had begun some filming for the TV show Horseplayers with my tablemates from the NHC and some other folks – including Bruno. Good times for sure.
In 2014 I was back at home but this time had to scramble to watch the Oaks on Friday as my son was getting married on Oaks day. Yeah, I know and you are right but what are you gonna do?
So, he gets married on Oaks day and we spend the next day – the first day of his honeymoon over at my brother’s house at his Derby party. I give him a superfecta box of California Chrome, Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, Danza and Intense Holiday. Yeah, it hit for 7,500 for a buck. Quite a wedding gift. Your welcome Bradley! He had a much better honeymoon I’m sure due to that nice score. As for me, I didn’t have Chrome but had Commanding Curve as my 2nd choice and Intense Holiday as my first choice but I did manage – to hit the trifecta to eek out a few bucks that year.
Last year I watched the Derby with no fanfare. It was a quiet Derby at the house. I liked Frosted and was against American Pharoah only because of his odds and him being a favorite. But, I learned something from that Derby. Just as California Chrome was not going to convince you with his speed figures that he was the best horse – neither did American Pharoah. But, what I learned is that some horses just like to win and have more of what it takes in their heart and soul to win than other horses.
Chrome and Pharoah were a lot alike in that respect. Neither was going to set a track record but they sure weren’t going to lose many races either and other horses respected them on the racetrack. Chrome especially was a super alpha male horse that you just didn’t want to mess with. He still is as evidenced by his win in Dubai and I can assure you that Frosted wants nothing to do with Chrome ever again and I will never underestimate horses like those two again.
Derby Record 36-7-11-1 = 175.40/103.40 profit for a $ 2 dollar win bet