• Miss Sunset (3-1) grinds out the win over Chalon in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes.Posted 1 day ago
  • Bonus Points (3-1) swings wide and draws clear to win the Maryland Million Classic.Posted 1 day ago
  • La Coronel (5-1) leads them all the way in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.Posted 8 days ago
  • Rubilinda (6-5) finds the wire just in time to take the Pebbles Stakes.Posted 8 days ago
  • Engage (1-2) rolls home from last to win the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes.Posted 8 days ago
  • Bolt d'Oro is the 12-1 favorite in the current Las Vegas line for Kentucky Derby 2018.Posted 11 days ago
  • Romantic Vision (6-1) takes the sloppy Spinster (G1) at Keeneland.Posted 14 days ago
  • Unique Bella (1-5) returns with a clear victory in the L. A. Woman (G3) at Santa Anita.Posted 14 days ago
  • Flameaway (5-1) wins a three-horse photo finish in the Dixiana Bourbon (G3) at a wet Keeneland.Posted 14 days ago
  • War Flag (9-1) wins the stretch battle in Belmont's Flower Bowl (G1).Posted 14 days ago
Breeders' Cup 2017
HRN Original Blog:
Bada Bing Inc.

Patience pays off in Kentucky Derby Zen

By Tony Bada Bing 


The art of Zen allows one to tap into an inner calm while crisis ensues all around. Of course, it is almost impossible to recreate chaos, so Zen must be practiced in more peaceful times. For our Kentucky Derby purposes this means measuring one’s self in small, weekly increments known as “the Derby prep season.” The broadcasts for these events are common, the fields average to large (unlike the double-barreled Churchill Downs Derby gate) and provide many handicapping lessons. Lessons that should be taken in varying degrees, not rushes to judgment.  


For me, the Derby prep races must be viewed live. Why this is, I’m not sure. In the era of immediate, accessible replays all over the internet, one would think the need for watching any horse race live to be more of an extravagance, than a necessity. But for planning ahead and winning that Derby bet, the 30 or so minutes leading up to the gates opening provide essential pieces of information that must be considered for any wager, such as: 


  • How are the horses reacting to the large crowds 

  • Ordinary saddling or problems in the paddock 

  • Are the horses being led out and warmed up smoothly 

  • Body language of equine and human connections 


As I watch all the derbies, beyond the anticipation leading to the bell ringing and the announcer’s call, I would say I am taking in all that happens. The ebb and flow, the natural progression from being led from the stables to the paddock, saddling up, the call of, “Riders up,” and finally onto the track are all encompassing moments. The broadcast, not the broadcasters are important. Heck, I would even recommend turning down the sound to national televised events or watching an on-track broadcast through the many advanced wager sites. (NBC Sports has the most important preps on either its flagship station or its cable equivalent further up the dial.) 


There are only a handful of the big prep races left starting with this weekend’s Louisiana and Florida Derbies. In the following week’s the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita and Arkansas Derbies and the Blue Grass Stakes will follow. Each has something to offer, not everything you need to know, just something. Unfortunately, some among us will glom onto one big win, speed figure or event that focus your wagering lens onto this year’s Kentucky Derby winner too far in advance. 


While the races leading up to first Saturday in May are important there should be lingering questions for us to answer such as: 


  • Does winning at nine furlongs mean a horse can win running 10 furlongs for the first (and most likely) last time in his career? 

  • How racing against 7 to 13 foes translates into banging and bumping among 20 entrants? 

  • The weather, as in, if it rains on May 5, will the horse respond positively to mud in his face? 

  • Bad luck, bad timing, bad post or bad rides, can this particular horse overcome them?  


Just as importantly, you’ll need this piece of handy advice: most of the time, prior events are not always instructive toward future events. While this may seem like a head-scratcher, it may make perfect sense with the following illustration borrowed from The Black Swanbook on the theory of catastrophic events and how unwilling or unable we are in predicting such. 


Author/philosopher/skepticNassim Nicolas Taleb paints this picture of our reliance on prior information to poorly predicting future events. A turkey spends a leisurely life on a farm; he has no wants, no needs and no worries. The turkey gets used to the farmer’s daily call and his share of feed. After consistent and constant feeding the turkey is happy and expects his feed on day 365, based on the prior 364 days. What a surprise when the turkey meets the ax, not the feed tub and ends up on the dinner table for a Thanksgiving feast. He never saw it coming! 


In recent years the Kentucky Derby has displayed “Black Swan” type of finishes – unexpected by most or shall we say winners at odds more than 20-1 such as, Animal Kingdom (2011), Mine That Bird (2009), Giacomo (2005) and Funny Cide (2003). Very few publicly forecasted these “upsetting” winners simply because of a reliance on past performances that pointed to a more predictable winner – also one with much lower odds.  


The common denominator in all these finishes was a reliance on a winning race three to five weeks earlier used as the chief indicator of Kentucky Derby success. Incredibly, despite historical information to the contrary, too many of us – handicappers, gamblers, fans, reprobates – put too much stock in the most current form of Derby contenders. Turkeys, we certainly almost all belong to their club because year-after-year the favorite choices are touted over those with just as much of a chance due to breeding, recent improvements in form and the delicate nature of those believed to be better.  


With a bang of the gong, a moment of reflection, it’s time to uncover what is to be revealed today... It is foolish to rely too heavily on the races to be run over the next three weeks in deciding your Kentucky Derby winner.  


These races scheduled at varying tracks for tremendous amounts of money matter – they are used, at the very least, to determine which horses get into the Churchill starting gate on May 5. A win may even confirm a feeling or demonstrate a super athlete not be dismissed, but remember the Kentucky Derby post positions have yet to be drawn, the weather on that day is unknown and the thousands of afflictions that delicate Thoroughbred is apt to fall under still have time to develop.  


Take notes sure, watch the replay a few times, but only to help you formulate what is to come, not determine it. Keep your mind open to the possibilities of a racing picture that is still far from complete. And while media attention provides a pool of attention that borders on delirium, you must remain calm below the hyperbolic waves that swirl above. For now, you know that today’s results will not accurately predict May’s win, only inform it - unless of course, you’d like to emulate our friend the turkey.  


comments powered by Disqus

Older Comments about Patience pays off in Kentucky Derby Zen...

It will all come down to the trip in a 20 horse field. To much emphasis on the horse and not the Jock. I try not to pay to much attentin to how a horse acts prior to a race unless they are mine and I know how they act normally. I left out Shakleford on my super ticket after getting sucked into the washing out story last year. It is hard enough with all the printed info and numbers assigned to each past race to digest only to have the final grade or body of work to be determined by a pre race Dr Phil and Dr Oz segment. I do agree with watchinghow they warm up on the track as that is different.
Every time a horse had a big win in an allowance race this spring everyone went crazy and put them in their top ten and I'm thinking
Last year everyone was so excited about Dialed In's Florida Derby performance and look what happened!
I agree that Derby prep races must be watched live...or at least recorded in their entirety for playback when convenient. I really need to see how the horses are behaving prior to the race. For example, Dale Romans was so excited prior to Shackleford's first race of 2012, saying how unusually calm he was in the paddock and I was thinking OH NO that's not good,no "Victory bucks" and he didn't run well. I wish they had more cameras behind the scenes so we could get a better look at whats going on back there!
Donna Barton Brothers said Shackleford looked horrible before the Preakness. I will not listen to her again.
And remember how the Preakness TV audience was warned that Shackleford was terribly washed out yet he went on to run the best race of his life!
many real condtenders did not have their last prep up to par: Unbridled, Alysheba and Giacomo could be capped by theri thrid contest back
"Incredibly, despite historical information to the contrary, too many of us – handicappers, gamblers, fans, reprobates – put too much stock in the most current form of Derby contenders." - Fantastic advice!

Related Pages

Tony Bada Bing began his lifelong quest of finding winners more than 35 years ago as a fifth grade student. This is when his grandfather first took him to the many Off Track Betting facilities sprinkled throughout Long Island, NY. While many kids his age were clamoring to hit the beach or an amusement park during summer vacation, Bada Bing was spending it in stuffy, smoked-filled rooms filled with retirees and reprobates listening to Marshall Cassidy on tape delay calling Saratoga.

This passion was further lit by his father, who took Bada Bing to East Boston's Suffolk Downs, only after Bada Bing learned to read the Racing Form. For most of his young adult life a summer rotation of NY OTB, Suffolk, and the now shuddered Rockingham Park in Salem, NH filled his betting days. 

Notable winners along the way: Willow Hour's and Runaway Groom's Travers wins as well as Derby winners Grindstone, Thunder Gulch (which he called in print the day before) and Super Saver. His latest quest is to hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta.

Bada Bing plays tournaments at Derby Wars, bets through several account wagering sites and has blogged about Thoroughbred racing for the past four years. He prefers the bigger meets of NYRA and California as well as seasonal meets of Gulfstream, Churchill and Oaklawn. He likes vertical, multirace wagers like Pick 4s.

He has produced several Horse Racing Nation videos, in addition to blogging. He can be found at Twitter @tonycbadabing. While away from the track Bada Bing enjoys time with his wife, who tolerates and supports his passion, and his two children.


Related Stories

Top Stories