Thanks to impressive past performances, positive pre-race hype and a perfect post draw, Omaha Beach has been made the 4-1 morning line favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1).
That’s a shorter price than many handicappers were expecting, because this year’s Derby is viewed as more competitive than several others in recent memory. I view 4-1 as a fair price on Omaha Beach, who looms as my top pick based off his eye-catching victories in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Rebel Stakes (G2).
One exercise I like to tackle in advance of the Kentucky Derby is creating a “fair odds line” to compare against the morning line odds. While the morning line odds are just a guesstimation of how bettors will play the race (and never perfectly match the post time odds), they usually provide a solid glimpse at how the wagering will unfold, giving handicappers an opportunity to see which horses they might be interested in betting.
Creating a fair odds line requires a lot of math, but the goal is to assign odds to each horse based on their perceived chances of winning. For example, if I list a horse at 3-1, I believe it has a 25% chance of winning, while a horse I list at 50-1 represents has a 1.96% chance of winning. The tricky part is getting all of the percentages to add up to 100%.
The math is secondary to the end result, which is easy to understand. If my fair odds for a given horse are lower than their morning-line odds, then that horse is an overlay and represents good betting value. If my fair odds are higher than the morning-line odds, then I think the horse in question will be an underlay and represent poor betting value. If the two lines match, I believe the odds are fair.
With these explanations out of the way, here’s how I break down the 2019 Kentucky Derby field. The complete morning-line odds are listed on the left, followed by my fair odds:
Unlike last year, when I listed six horses as overlays or fair value in the Kentucky Derby, just two horses strike me as offering value this year: Omaha Beach and Maximum Security. This is partly because I hold a very positive view of Omaha Beach and would be happy to play him at 3-1, a shorter price than many would accept. As a result I’m forced to raise my fair odds for the other nineteen entrants, leaving only the Florida Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security in the fair value range. Game Winner could potentially enter that range as well if he drifts up at all from his 5-1 morning line odds.
Among the numerous underlays on my list, the greatest example is surely Improbable. A 6-1 shot on the morning line, I have him pegged at 10-1 and will have to side against him for win purposes if he remains at his morning line price.
One last note—my fair odds apply only to the chances of any given horse winning the Derby. They do not apply to the chances of any given horse finishing in the superfecta.
Which horses do you think represent fair or better value in the Kentucky Derby?