I spoke with Ellis Starr, professional Handicapper and national racing analyst for Equibase, about his Derby picks. He picked 2 of the 3 Oaks winners and has an excellent track record for predicting winners.
A public handicapper doesn't actually break your kneecaps. Instead, he picks horses for variety of tracks - especially at Derby Week.
"My top selection didn't win and but my 2nd and 3rd selections for the Oaks won today - which would've made for a very nice exacta on my selections. Hopefully, we'll have as good a day or better tomorrow. For the Derby itself, I've narrowed my selections down to 6 out of the 20. I believe my top three - Awesome Act, Lookin at Lucky, and the filly - Devil May Care - all have what it takes to make it into the triple crown. They're all lightly raced and have the breeding it takes to win."
I couldn't help asking about how the fillies perform at the track.
"A filly has never won a triple crown. We've had fillies win the Derby - the last one was Winning Colors in 1988 and Rags to Riches who won the Oaks and the Belmont, but skipped the Preakness, then last year Rachel Alexander won the Oaks and then won the Preakness, but not the Belmont."
The Handicapper dashed my dreams this might be the year a filly won the triple crown.
"I don't think Devil May Care will be raced in all three. I think she could be competitive, but more than likely if she does run well or win the race her trainer, Todd Fletcher, will skip the next race and come back at the Belmont. Fillies normally can't race as often as male horses do. The races are grueling. You're asking horses to come back in two weeks then three more. Overall, fillies need more time between races. She's been off for, I believe, seven weeks, and that makes her good, whereas the males, you really want to see them run 3 to 5 weeks ago just to be ready for the needs of the Derby. In two weeks, she wouldn't be able to run a good race. In five weeks, she could come back and win the Bellmont, as was proved with Rags to Riches a few years ago."
The filly may not have a shot, but the professionals think a couple of the boys could go the distance.
"Awesome Act and Looking at Lucky are two horses that certainly have a shot at the triple crown. If another horse wins the derby, I'd reassess. It depends on their breeding and how often they've raced this year. Keep a watch out!"
The Handicapper's Derby picks are:
#16 Awesome Act
# 1 Lookin at Lucky
# 11 Devil May Care (5/1 odds)
# 6 Stately Victor (8/1 odds)
# 20 Sidney's Candy (8/1 odds)
# 4 Super Saver (8/1 odds)