Las Vegas bookies make Quality Road Ky Derby favorite

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Quality Road, who is coming off back-to-back wins in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, is the Kentucky Derby future book favorite at two of Las Vegas most prominent race & sports books.

After opening Quality Road at 200-to-1 several months ago, Wynn Las Vegas slashed the price on the son of Elusive Quality to just 5-to-1 after the colt ran two monster Beyer Speed Figures. Down the street and around the corner at the Las Vegas Hilton, oddsmakers Jay Kornegay, Ed Salmons and Charlie Ludlow are offering up Quality Road at a paltry 4-to-1, according to the last published futures sheets updated at both places on March 30.

The numbers are low, but Quality Road deserves the respect. In the last 15 years, I can’t recall a colt posting back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures exceeding 110 in their two races leading into the Derby. By contrast, last years wonder-horse Big Brown earned just a 106 Beyer in his Florida Derby.

Originally, Quality Road was awarded a 103 Beyer when he defeated Dunkirk in the March 28 Florida Derby, but the Beyer team upgraded it to 111 after further review. In the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth, Quality Road ran a 113 Beyer.

Quality Road’s Beyer figures are significant because the last six runnings of the Derby were all won by colts who ran less than 110 on the Beyer scale.

By sheer good fortune, I have a ticket on Quality Road, who I bet at 75-to-1 without even knowing who he was. On Dec. 20, I watched Pioneerof the Nile win the Grade I Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park. In the Daily Racing Form, Bob Baffert was quoted before the race as saying that POTN was his Derby horse.

The win virtually ensured that Pioneerof the Nile would have enough earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby gate, and I thought who’s better than Baffert at getting a horse ready to run his eyeballs out on the first Saturday in May.

Of course, I also considered the chance that Baffert’s horse might get injured, but at the time all the talk was about how safe synthetic surfaces were for horses. So after the Cash Call Futurity, I zoomed down to Las Vegas Hilton, but before I got to the window I saw Vic Vivio, who I worked with for years at the Imperial Palace.

Back in 2000, Vivio, who is now a supervisor at Palace Station, got huge odds on Fusaichi Pegasus in the future book and won more than $5,000 when Fu Peg strolled home in the Derby. At the Hilton on Dec. 20, Vivio told me that he had recently bet Quality Road — who I had never heard of at the time — based on the 101 Beyer Speed Figure he earned while breaking his maiden in a sprint on Nov. 29 at Aqueduct. And Quality Road’s odds at the time Vivio got down were 125-to-1.

I figured what the heck? This guy Vivio has been around the horse game for awhile, maybe he learned a thing or two about the ponies. So, along with Pioneerof the Nile at 40-to-1, I also bet Quality Road at 75-to-1.

And as long as Qualilty Road and Pioneerof the Nile get into the Derby gate, I see the futures as an opportunity to turn Kentucky Derby into a positive advantage race for me. So, I plan to wager on other contenders at decent pari-mutel odds because funny things can happen in a 20-horse field with a hundred thousand drunken screaming fans.

But Vivio, who I spoke to a couple of days ago, will absolutely not hedge.

In fact, Quality Road is the only Derby horse Vivio bet, and he likes him so much that he also loaded up on the colt in the pari-mutuel future book exactas.

“I’m just going to root for him to win,” Vivio said.

And, you know what,  he just might.

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