Picking the Derby winner: advice from a handicapping expert
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If you're ready to stop betting horses based on their name or color, we have some handicapping advice from an expert.
Merv Huber picked the Derby winner at a party when he was just 11. After that, he was hooked on horse racing, and learned to handicap from a family friend who works at Churchill Downs.
He went over a racing program with WDRB's Candyce Clifft and pointed out what's important.
The program shows a lot of information: when the horse last ran, which track, the condition of the track at the time and the splits for the race.
"A good measurement is that a horse should go an eighth of a mile in about 12 seconds," Huber said. "Handicappers are very good at multiplying by 12."
Next you'll see the class of races the horse has entered. The higher the dollar number in a claiming race, the more competitive that race likely was.
"I like a horse that's on the improve," Huber explained. "Because if they're been improving, they're likely to keep improving, whereas a horse that's moving down in class, he may not have every reason to win a race."
Next, in bold print, you see speed figures. The higher the number, the better.
Huber says some of the most helpful information are right at the top of the program, in dark print: like a horse's jockey, a horse's trainer.
Some handicappers, including Huber, place a lot of emphasis on how much weight a horse will carry. One pound, he says, equals one length.
If a horse is carrying one extra pound, then they will perform one length less than what they otherwise would,"
Finally, don't discount the eye test.
"You can sometimes tell how a horse is feeling by the way it's acting in the paddock," Huber said. "If the horse is on its toes and it has its ears pricked and has a nice shiny coat, then that's a good horse to kind of look at and consider betting."
A sweaty horse is never a good sign.
His last piece of advice: don't bet what you can't afford to lose.
Huber says a lot of where people go wrong by getting into exotic wagers. He recommends picking a horse, maybe bet it across the board, or just put down a $2 bet, and you're more likely to cash a winning ticket.
According to a post on social media early Saturday, Huber says he has decided on Dance with Fate to win this year's Kentucky Derby -- based mostly on its looks.