Boy, it’s a good thing horses can’t read. Because if they could, they might be really depressed.
Take Nyquist, the 3-1 favorite for the Kentucky Derby later today. He’s undefeated coming into the Derby and has bested many of the challengers. But you’d never know that from the coverage. “Despite His Credentials, Nyquist Has His Doubters” The New York Times headline blared.
There are many reasons for this. There’s nothing in betting on the favorite. The more you win, the closer you are to losing. And people enjoy tearing down a winner perhaps even more than they enjoy getting on a winner’s bandwagon. Then, too, the colt’s human handlers – trainer Doug O’Neill, who’s been cited for giving his horses improper drugs and the animals breaking down, and rider Mario Gutierrez – seem to rub some people the wrong way. You’ll remember they teamed for I’ll Have Another’s 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins before the horse came up lame. (I’ll Have Another was 15-1 in the Derby, so the thinking goes that the race favors the long shot and not the favorite.)
“I'm going with Exaggerator for W/P/S. (Win/Place/Show),” says Thoroughbred art collector and race aficionado Thomas DeChiara. “Even though Nyquist has beaten him before, I liked his last race and his ability to close. Should be a competitive race as the favorite, while undefeated, does not dominate the field like a Barbaro, California Chrome, or American Pharoah. There are six or seven horses that are competitive enough to win.”
True, but see, there’s a reason an undefeated horse is undefeated and that the favorite is the favorite. It’s because he’s good. Plus, I remember many “neigh”sayers when Barbaro, fatally injured at the start of the Preakness (rest in peace, such a shame), California Chrome and the Pharoah made their runs.
I’m going with Nyquist.