Many horse racing fans probably felt like they were punched in the stomach on Wednesday, when they found out OMAHA BEACH had to scratch out of the Derby due to a entrapped epiglottis. (Think really bad sore throat.) I know I was, he was my top pick, and was going to key him on top on all my exotic tickets. I can’t imagine how the connections feel, especially Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, one of the classiest guys and ambassador to the sport.

It’s too bad, I thought this horse was something special, but we’ll see him run again. Now it’s time to start all over and move forward.

Horse players around the country believe this year’s 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, is one of the most wide-open Derbies we have seen in many years. The starting favorite has won six consecutive years. With Omaha Beach out, the race strictly goes through five time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert, who has GAME RUNNER, IMPROBABLE, and ROADSTER running. (Game Runner is now listed as the favorite at 9/2). Three tough and competitive colts. If they were a entry, they probably be 7/5 at post time. Baffert always has his runners ready to roll for the big races.

But this is the Kentucky Derby. Anything can go wrong in a 20-horse field.

The first 100 yards are the most important. It looks like a rugby scrum when the horses break from the gate. This year’s 3 year old crop is not the strongest, with the jury still out on most of them. There’s not much speed in this year’s field either, so look for the winner to be on your TV screen when they come down the home stretch. There’s a strong trend with most Derby winners being near the front when approaching the quarter-pole, and I don’t expect that to change. I also don’t expect the front runner to be living large on the lead. Stalkers will be within shouting range while pressing the pace.

With Omaha Beach out, maybe this opens the door for bigger payouts, too.

Payouts for exotic wagers usually pay large on this day, even if the favorite wins. The average $1 Superfecta payout since 1996 is $78,858. That would make for a fun weekend if you hit that.

I was going to post a $100 win wager on Omaha Beach, but now, I think I’ll get a little more creative.

Good luck with your Derby wagers. Let’s cash some tickets.

My Main Contenders and tickets for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby

Top Pick - IMPROBABLE - Like I mentioned earlier, Bob Baffert has his own trifecta ticket with Improbable, Game Winner, and Roadster. Improbable gets the slight nod for me, especially if the track is sloppy. Ran a hard fought second last out in the sloppy Arkansas Derby (click to watch) to Omaha Beach, where he only lost by a length and was well clear of his rivals. He also was a nervous wreck in the gate and started slowly. Who knows what the outcome would of been with a cleaner start. Baffert takes the blinkers off now, which is a very strong angle for him in graded stakes. I’m hoping for a calmer start, getting out quickly and settling in behind the front runners by no more than five lengths. This colt has solid positional speed, so jockey Irad Ortiz will have options on how close to the lead he wants to sit. He also could be the bigger price of the three Baffert starters when the gates open.

The Speed - The one to catch is expected to be MAXIMUM SECURITY. The speedball is undefeated in four starts and is coming off a gate-to-wire victory in the Florida Derby. The Florida Derby win was his first race past a mile, and with a step up in class. Pedigree looks decent for 10 furlongs, and will be a square price today. There’s still a lot of questions about him. Slow pace was set by him in his Floridia Derby victory, and I don’t believe he’ll get that luxury today.

Value Play - TACITUS is coming off a hard fought victory in the Wood Memorial for Hall Of Fame trainer Bill Mott. It was hard fought, because he overcame being checked in the first turn and worked his way through traffic to get the win. This handsome looking colt is well bred for this distance and could be peaking at the right time. He’s also the top point earner in the field leading up to the Derby with 150 points. Keep a eye on him down the stretch with odds around 10-1.

Longshot Play - BY MY STANDARDS has been the buzz horse all week, so don’t expect his opening odds of 20-1 to stay, but still should be hanging around 15-1. Been training extremely well in the mornings and form is moving forward with each race. Winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby last out at 22-1. Not saying he’s going to win, but a must-use on your exotic tickets.

Wagering Tickets - $1 Superfecta, picking the top four horses in the correct order of finish Improbable with Game Winner, Roadster, Tacitus, with All with Game Winner, Roadster, Tacitus. Total bet: $96