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The Annual Freakonomics Kentucky Derby Predictions

Almost a decade of blogging had worn me down, but after some time off, I’m ready to jump back in the saddle. I can’t think of a better way than by embarrassing myself with the annual Kentucky Derby predictions!

My Annual Kentucky Derby Picks

I make public predictions about anything exactly three times a year: who will win each of the three Triple Crown thoroughbred horse races.  Other than that, I predict nothing.

The nice thing about making so few predictions is that by the time next year’s predictions roll around, no one can remember how last year’s predictions turned out.  My very worst year, I named with confidence the horse that I believed would finish dead last, when in fact that horse won the race!  Nonetheless, people still asked me for my picks the next year.

This year, I even got invited to do a live Q&A on the Kentucky Derby, which you can check out at Deadspin.

So who do I like this year in the Kentucky Derby?

A Fascinating, But Costly, Kentucky Derby

My condolences to anyone who bet my picks in the Kentucky Derby.  Of the four horses I liked, the best finisher was Revolutionary in third place, but even that was unimpressive because he surprised me by going off as the second favorite in the betting.  Just be glad I didn’t post my picks for the entire day’s racing at Churchill Downs…the few friends I did give those picks to are cursing me today!

The Kentucky Derby was extremely interesting, however, from a statistical perspective.  Here is a link to the results chart for the race.  If you don’t study horse racing, it will just look like gibberish.  If you know how to read a results chart, you will see a remarkable pattern jump out of the numbers.  The race is 1.25 miles long and there were 19 horses in the race.  Of the eight horses who were in the front of the pack after one-fourth of a mile, seven ended up finishing in back: 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th.   Only one horse that trailed early also finished poorly, and that horse started terribly and was way behind the field from the beginning.  In contrast, the horses who ended up doing well were in 16th, 15th, 17th, 12th, and 18th place early on in the race.  Basically, there was a nearly perfect negative correlation between the order of the horses early in the race and the order of the horses at the end of the race!

This Year’s Kentucky Derby Picks (And a Brand New Way to Bet on Them)

Every year I post my picks for the Kentucky Derby.  Last year I actually did well, for a change.  In a twenty-horse field, I picked three horses to do well, and two of them ended finishing first and second. The winner was 15-1.  I also made a correct prediction as to which horse would finish last.  I got that one right as well.

So here we go again…

Let me start by saying that the crystal ball (actually the computer algorithm) is a little fuzzy this year.  There are four horses that all look equally good to me: Falling Sky, Java’s War, Itsmyluckyday, and Revolutionary.  All will be longshots, I suspect, with odds between 15-1 and 25-1.

The model also kind of likes Verrazano, who might be the favorite in the race.  If I were betting, I might include him in my exotic bets.

Kentucky Derby 2012

Every year I post Kentucky Derby picks.

Every year they turn out to be terrible.

Every year I vow I will not embarrass myself again next year.

Every year two or three loyal readers email me and ask why I didn’t post my picks this year, so then I post picks after all.

So, against my better judgment, here they are.