Derby Winner "I’ll Have Another" Proves the Pitfalls of Handicapping

I’ll Have Anotherwasn’t exactly a huge longshot, but he certainly was getting treated like one. But there was the horse, in Friday’s New York Times, predicted to come in dead last.

“Santa Anita winner has overachieved,” wrote the well-respected Times horse racing reporter Joe Drape,” but there won’t be any magic here.”

Drape was one of the few who boldly predicted how the entire field would finish and decided to put 12 horses with longer odds ahead of I’ll Have Another, who of course went on to win the Derby.

“I did hear about that particular prediction,” said J. Paul Reddam, the horse’s owner. “At first when you read what the pundits say it can kind of be a little bit unnerving because it will be different from your own opinion and you wonder how much bias you have. But if you go and you look, you’ll see that that particular writer had him last, but somebody else had him first.”

That actually would be quite hard to find.

The day before the Derby, the local Louisville Courier-Journal, offered up its media picks column. Out of the 21 pundits, only 1 – Rob Longley – from the Toronto Sun (perhaps motivated by Reddam being a Canadian native) – picked the horse in the top three. USA Today surveyed 16 horse writers, and one, Bill Marshall of the Augusta Chronicle had the horse to win it all.

Trying to find others who made the bold call is a needle in a haystack, though James Scully of horse handicapping site also called I’ll Have Another in a column, which was also published on

“The classy colt is going to be overlooked in the wagering and I like his chances of a minor upset,” Scully wrote.

One sharp, unnamed bettor also seemed to like I’ll Have Another, placing multiple bets at as high as 200-1 odds at a sports book in Nevada. Dan Shapiro, a spokesman for Lucky’s, which manages the casino, said the bettor made at least $30,000.

But that bettor was clearly in the minority. Sports books did very well because the Derby favorite, (which has only won about 38 percent of the time) didn’t win. In fact, spokesman Mike Perry told CNBC that I’ll Have Another was among the least bet on horses in the race.

“I think (the horse) was such a price because of me training it and Mario riding it,” trainer Doug O’Neill told the press after the race. It was O’Neill’s third Derby horse and jockey Mario Gutierrez’s Derby debut. “If it would have been (trainer Todd) Pletcher or (jockey John) Velazquez, I bet you it would have been 9-2. How do you win the Santa Anita Derby and not be one of the top five choices?”

Questions? Comments?