Derby hangover cures

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TwinSpires Staff

May 11th, 2017


One of the longest and most exciting two-day stretches of the racing calendar is behind us with the 143rd Kentucky Derby & Oaks complete.

For those fortunate handicappers that profited over the wet going at Churchill Downs last week—other than sleeping off a party night—it should be pretty easy to prepare for a more standard week of racing. However, for folks like myself the Derby “hangover” after a losing weekend can be a bit more challenging to rid oneself of.

Between the pride involved in handicapping the Kentucky Derby successfully and the multiple opportunities over the weekend for a monster score it is not an easy task to just shake things off and move forward. It can be a process to clear the mind and be ready to get back at it.

Here are a couple of things that I try to do before I dive back into the past performances and attack the pari-mutuel windows after such a massive two-day extravaganza.

First, I lower my budget considerably over the next few days of racing and ease back into things. I tend to extend my weekly and daily allowances quite a bit on Derby weekend. A combination of the quality of racing being greater, the amount of uninformed money in the pools being at a yearly high and the knowledge that if I can string together several winners in a row it can greatly change the next several months makes the increase in money invested well worth the risk. However, it is imperative as an everyday player to take the foot off the gas pedal instead of chasing your recent losses.  

Second, while I love racing at Churchill Downs, it is not one of the circuits I play professionally year round or cover as an analyst. I find it helpful after the two big days to get reacquainted with the racetracks I will be focusing on over the next several weeks outside of the Triple Crown races. For instance, I spent much of my day after the Kentucky Derby watching replays of the Santa Anita races from that week. Not only am I unable to give those races the same attention I would during a “normal” week, but I also want to make sure I did not miss any track biases or poor trips. This ensures that I see everything I need to. 

Finally, I like to go back a few days after the big day is over and watch the plethora of stakes action for the second time. It can be difficult to watch a race without partiality when it is taking place live. Most horseplayers are guilty of seeing the poor trip or unwise ride that the horse they wagered on endured, but fail to see the three others that sustained equally unfortunate voyages or handling. Plus with big races in the coming weeks at Pimlico and Belmont there is a good chance handicappers will need to be prepared to make decisions on these horses soon. This can get you ahead of the game when that time arrives.

By no means are these the only ways to recover from the “Derby hangover” and perhaps some horseplayers just treat big days the same they do any other weekend of racing. However, for someone like myself that puts so much into these massive days it is important to go through a short, but much needed process before reengaging in the game I love so much.

Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography