Photo via Flickr user Velo Steve
To those who aren’t horse racing fans—a category that includes nearly every person on Earth who isn’t incredibly wealthy or an aging alcoholic gambling addict with a permanent hacking cough—the Kentucky Derby, known to insiders as “the horse race that is happening this weekend in Kentucky,” is a mysterious, somewhat stupid tradition. The horseletes (like athletes, but they’re horses) have names like “Orb,” “Vyjack,” and “Palace Malice” and are owned by characters who could be James Bond movie villains. The people who are really into the Derby wear awful hats and get day-drunk on minty cocktails that taste like your grandfather. Not only that, the race is ten “furlongs” long, which means no one knows how long it actually is. So why care about it? Because it gives you a chance to root for—and gamble on—a horselete of your choosing, and distract you from your mostly miserable, horse-free life for two minutes, or however long it takes to run ten furlongs.
But what horselete should you bet on for? Presumably you don’t have a personal connection with one of the animals, and unless you are a huge fan of orbs or whatever a vyjack is, a name alone won’t determine your rooting interest. Which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide for you that matches up your personality with a corresponding horselete.
You Hate Hippies
If you get into heated arguments with Greenpeace canvassers and routinely go on rants about the evils of PETA, why not throw your support to Frac Daddy? This horse is, of course, named after the controversial natural gas extraction technique—primary owners Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenkermade their money in the oil and gas business. They decided not to name him “Frack Daddy,” I guess, because spelling, like environmentalism, is for loosers.
You Love Diversity
Horse racing is one of the few sports where men and women compete on the same playing field. There have been a number of jockettes (“lady jockeys”) who have ridden in the Derby, but none of them have won, yet. Rosie Napravnik’s ninth-place finish in the 2011 race is the best to date from a female rider, and she’ll be atop Mylute for this year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Kevin Krigger, who will be riding Goldencents, is the third African American jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921. Krigger is relatively unknown, but had arguably one of the best prep races leading up to the Derby, proving he deserves a spot this Saturday. A win by either Napravnik of Krigger would make history at an event that, um, has not always been known for its embrace of progressive politics.
You Have a Senior Citizen Fetish
At the other end of the diversity spectrum are the teams behind Will Take Charge and Oxbow, which consist of old white dudes. Seventy-seven-year-old D. Wayne Lucas is the trainer behind both of those horseletes, and the two jockeys are 50-year-old Gary Stevens (on Oxbow) and 52-year-old Jon Court (on Will Take Charge). If Stevens wins, he’ll cement his legacy as one of the greatest jocks of all time—he won the Derby three times before retiring in 2005, and he’s been a TV analyst and actor since, and played legendary jock George Woolf in the movie Seabiscuit. I guess we’ll “see” if Stevens wins the “biscuit” tomorrow! I’ll show myself out.
You Are a Cat Person
There’s a horse in the Derby named Charming Kitten, so ha ha wouldn’t it be funny if that horse won?
You Are a Sphere Person
Let’s say you hate cats, and you hate dogs too. You do like enjoy though—you have a half-dozen perfectly round balls you cherish as if they were your own children. You spend hours every day caring for them and playing with them and taking photos of them to share on Instagram, and no, mom, that’s not “weird” or “a reason to go back to seeing Dr. Leibowitz twice a week.” So you’re really, really hoping that the horse named Orb, the 7-2 favorite, wins.
You Give a Crap About Gambling
If, like me, you actually know about horse racing, you know that the way to make money off of your wagers is to get a little bit more exotic than just picking the winner—you need to pick the first two finishers in order (what’s called an exacta), the first three (a trifecta), or the first four (a superfecta). While making these bets can get expensive, payouts can reach the thousands of dollars if a longshot comes in first or second. The bet I’m making this year will cost $90, and it is this:
$1 exacta box
2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20
In English, that means that if any two of those ten horses finish first and second, I’ll get paid—probably not very much, but maybe enough to buy some more pet spheres.