The Wynn Las Vegas futures market is the most respected and closely watched of any advance Kentucky Derby betting. Following the past weekend’s busy schedule of prep races it was expected that one of Bob Baffert’s two horses–American Pharoah or Dortmund–would be the favorite. Instead, it was Blue Grass Stakes winner Carpe Diem.
To be fair, the status of ‘favorite’ is largely a matter of semantics at this point with the top three priced at very similar odds. Carpe Diem is at 7-2 with Dortmund at 9-2 and American Pharaoh at 5-1. American Pharaoh runs Saturday in the Arkansas Derby and based on the overmatched field he’s facing he could turn in a very impressive victory. That might propel him to the top of the betting board.
Carpe Diem’s ascension is considered something of a head scratcher. Carpe Diem won the Blue Grass Stakes with ease in what was little more than a glorified workout. He didn’t exactly gain the enthusiastic support of the horse racing fanbase who was unimpressed with the field he beat and the lackluster 95 Beyer Figure he posted in doing so. It looked especially weak compared to the Beyer Figures posted by Dortmund and Frosted in the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial respectively–both were in excess of 100. Heading in to the weekend most of the handicapper debate focused on the Baffert horses with factions supporting Dortmund and American Pharaoh. There has been very little talk among racing fans or in the racing media to suggest that Carpe Diem is superior to either horse.
Of course, betting odds aren’t necessarily a reflection of qualitative superiority. A good portion of the betting odds equation is public opinion and perceived betting patterns. There’s also the chance that the Wynn is in a liability position on Carpe Diem and is trying to attract betting interest to the Baffert horses. Wynn Race and Sports Book Director John Avello didn’t explain his rationale in hanging these numbers nor is he expected to. Most importantly, the odds dynamic can change markedly between now and the first Sunday in May. Barring injury, there’s every reason to expect that one of Bob Baffert’s entries will go off as the post time favorite.