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May 2, 2003

by Bill Hogan


In the twenty or so years that I've been betting on the Kentucky Derby, I have never – ever – cashed in a winning ticket. And it's not because I was so proud to pick the winning horse that I had the ticket framed for posterity.

If you've read any of my past Derby features, then you know I've been a big proponent of the hunch bet. Find a horse with a name that means something to you and bet the ranch – or at least a buck or two.


Well not any more! I'm off the hunch bet for good. Twenty years of using word association to pick a stable full of nags and I finally got the message. That's it, I'm done.

In years past, I may have leaned toward Buddy Gil. My favorite baseball manager in the late '60's was Gil Hodges and my favorite comedian is Buddy Hackett (that's a little bit of a stretch). Seems like a natural. Not this year.

I'm laying off all first names – you have to go back to Tomy Lee in 1959 to find a Derby winner with a familiar first name. I wish I'd have figured this out sooner. I could have saved a bundle in 2001 when I plunked down a chunk of change on Dollar Bill. He finished fifteenth.

And I laid off Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 in favor of Hal's Hope because I used to work with a guy named Hal. How's that for handicapping. Hal's Hope galloped across the line in sixteenth place.

To my wife, I'm an Adonis, so it was a no-brainer in 1999 to go with the horse of the same name. I really wish my wife would have instead thought of me as Charismatic – he paid $64.60 to win. Adonis finished the Derby just a few minutes before the start of the Preakness two weeks later.

Can you see why I'm off the word association theory?

And forget about any horse whose name sounds like one of those silly vanity license plates. Nothing annoys me more than vanity license plates. Not to mention it can put a man in a very embarrassing situation.

I guess it's OK for a nice looking woman to have "HOT4U" on her tags, but what happens when I have to borrow the car? Sure makes it tough to meet the guys at the schoolyard for the weekly basketball game. Especially when the plates are attached to a lime-green Volkswagen Bug.

And I realize it's romantic to put "2NLOVE" on the family sedan, but it takes on a whole new meaning when I have to drive my father-in-law to the airport. There's way too many pick-up trucks sporting gun racks and bumper stickers that read "Honk if you're horny" on the road to ever put myself in that predicament.

With that in mind, I'll have to pass on At'swhatimtalknbout this year. Besides, you have to go back to 1926 to find a horse with a 'vanity plate' name that even came close to winning the Derby. Bagenbaggage ran second to stable mate Bubbling Over. (I wonder if the outcome would have been different if the latter horse had been named Bubblingover).

No horse with a number in his name has won this race since Twenty Grand in 1931, so I'm throwing out Ten Cents a Shine and Ten Most Wanted. (See how scientific my new system is?)

There's something about Sir Cherokee and Indian Express that seems too culturally insensitive to me, so they're gone. And Peace Rules sounds like the latest single from a Dixie Chicks CD. (I'm starting to get the hang of this.)

Domestic Dispute – too violent. Eye of the Tiger – too Sylvester Stallone. And forget about Empire Maker, the favorite never wins this race. Six horses left. I'm sure, by post time, I can find a good reason NOT to bet on five of them.

For the 129th "Run for the Roses", I'm going with the last horse standing. Right now that looks like it may be Scrimshaw. I have no idea what the name means, so it may be difficult to dismiss him.

Good luck picking a winner. I'm Outta Here. (Hey, wait a minute, there must be some reason why I decided to end this column with "I'm Outta Here". I've never done that before, maybe the horse gods are speaking to me. Hmm.)


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