Kentucky Derby Betting: Odds point to Orb at Sweet 16

Matthew Stockman

Orb is the favorite on Kentucky Derby odds menus and he may have a lucky post position at 16. Why does Orb have an advantage over Verrazano at the No. 14 gate? Is he the best Kentucky Derby bet?

It's better to be lucky than good, and the Kentucky Derby winner usually needs both to hit the wire ahead of 19 challengers.

No. 13 is considered bad luck, while rolling No. 7 at the casino is generally considered good luck. But this year could see a continuation of a recent trend towards numbers considered unlucky by Derby bettors.

If oddsmakers are right and Orb is really the best horse in the Derby field, he will become the fifth winner since 1995 to break from No. 16 (Animal Kingdom in 2011, Monarchos in 2001, Charismatic in 1999 and Thunder Gulch in 1995).

"Sweet 16 is a term reserved for college basketball, but it is becoming a trend in the Derby," said Michael Dempsey, a veteran of 30 years of horse racing who has picked three of the past six Derby winners, including longshot Animal Kingdom, who returned $43.80 for a $2 wager.

Orb was made the morning line favorite at 7/2, just slightly ahead of Verrazano at 4/1. Oddsmakers apparently had some concerns about Verrazano after his Wood Memorial victory, which allowed Orb to leap-frog the undefeated horse that had been the favorite all spring. Verrazano got the No. 14 position.

If Orb wins, he would become the fourth Derby winner in eight years to break from a wide position.

An outside post is usually a disadvantage in a normal horse race, but the Derby is different, according to Dempsey. Animal Kingdom's win in 2011 made it three of the past five Kentucky Derby races where the winner started from No. 16 or beyond.

"The Derby is run at 1 1/4 miles, and there is a long run to the first turn. Often, Derby starters breaking from outside posts can avoid trouble by being toward the outside."

Indeed, plenty of Derby winners have broken from the outside, including Big Brown who broke from the 20 post in 2008.

"Where you do not want to be is in the No. 1 or No. 2 post. The last Derby winner to win from the inside two posts was Winning Colors in 1998, and she was able to do it simply because she was quick enough to get clear of any trouble by the time the field headed into the first turn."

Back to those traditional lucky and unlucky numbers of No. 7 and No. 13 -- both will need to be very lucky if those horses hope to win this Saturday.

Giant Finish (7) and Falling Sky (13) are the biggest longshots on the board at 50/1. But bettors remember Mine That Bird in 2009 winning as a 50/1 longshot.

Mine That Bird broke from the 8 gate, a position that also produced Derby winner Barbaro in 2006. This year, third betting choice Goldencents (5/1) got the No. 8 position.

Goldencents also offers a shout-out to the Sweet 16, as Rick Pitino -- coach of the national champion Louisville Cardinals -- is a part owner.

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