NBC Sports’ Randy Moss: Horse Racing Analyst/Handicapper on the 137th Kentucky Derby, Betting The Big Race, Horse Racing’s Future, more

Randy Moss’s love of horses began at an early age. He grew up near Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a well known track for racing enthusiasts. As a teenage boy, Mr. Moss was already providing analysis on horse racing.

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This weekend, Randy will be providing commentary for NBC Sports’ 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. He is no stranger to the annual event held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, being present at almost every Derby over the last three decades.

“I’ve actually been covering the Kentucky Derby a lot longer than most people realize. This is my 31st Derby in the last 32 years. I started back in my hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas, which happens to have a racetrack in Oaklawn Park. It’s one of the largest racetracks in America. I was handicapping races for a newspaper at the age of 13. So I’ve been doing this for quite a long time.”

For this Kentucky Derby, Moss says it’s an evenly matched field of more than a dozen horses. He believes things could be wide open if the three-year-old Uncle Moe doesn’t compete. Attention prior to post time is generally focused on horses who might scratch late for some reason.

“This is a very, very evenly matched race. That’s a refrain that you often hear at the Kentucky Derby because this is the time of the year when the three year olds are just beginning to mature to their peak and a lot of times it’s kind of hard to tell. This year more than any other Kentucky Derby I think I’ve ever covered, it is wide open. It could conceivably get even more wide open before Saturday afternoon because it’s still certainly far from a certainty that Uncle Moe will even race in the Kentucky Derby.

He was the two-year old champion last year. He’s the horse that’s been garnering a lot of the headlines in the run up to the Kentucky Derby. He came out of his last race. Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher have gotta make a decision here over the next 24-48 hours as to whether they want to press on with Uncle Moe or scratch him and wait for another day. He was officially entered of course on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually gonna put him in the starting gate on Saturday.”

On who will win the Kentucky Derby, Randy is focused on two horses that performed well at the Arkansas Derby, Archarcharch and Nehro. Both horses sport lower odds than most of their opponents on the live betting lines being offered to wagerers.

“The Arkansas Derby horses, which the race happens to have been run at my hometown racetrack I reference earlier at Oaklawn Park. That doesn’t really have anything to do with why I like them. But Archarcharch and Nehro ran one, two in that race. They were a neck apart. The Arkansas Derby was the most strongly run of any of the prep races. Both of those horses have running styles that are perfectly suited for the mile and the quarter of the Kentucky Derby. Both of those horses are improving.

The only problem there is that both Archarcharch and Nehro didn’t get the post positions certainly that their owners and trainers had wanted. Archarcharch lines up in post position number one, not a death sentence by any means, but potentially disadvantageous. Nehro winds up in post 19 position out of 20, he’s gonna have to try to avoid getting a wide trip. He’ll probably drop back, a little further back than usual and make one big run, which is not necessarily bad. Either one of those two horses right now I think are the ones I’m focusing on. At this point I would give Nehro the slight advantage there.”

Being someone who has handicapped and studied horse racing since his teenage years, Mr. Moss says betting the Kentucky Derby is different compared to any other racing event. Randy provides some interesting advice for people who are wagering on the event this weekend.

“The advice I would give someone when you’re betting the Kentucky Derby would be different than the advice I would give someone who’s just betting an every day race at their local track. The Kentucky Derby is probably the most, the most outstanding betting race of the year in thoroughbred racing because you have 20 horses in the field and each individual horse is its own betting interest. The money bet on the Derby is so spread out that the odds on each individual horse are a lot higher than they would be in a normal race. So, there is a lot of money making potential in the Derby. What I would tell people is, have fun with it obviously because it’s very difficult.

You don’t want to wager over your means by any means, but play horses that have prices. I mean, if you’re gonna do it, swing for the fences, play the superfecta, the 50 cent superfectas and high up some combinations and things like that because you’d be surprise. When you get the Kentucky Derby, around the country, there are all sorts of success stories of people who for relatively small investments, I’m talking about less than $100, have come up with these superfectas that have paid $100,000. So go for some of the long shots and roll the dice and have some fun watching.”

Four times a year, many people focus on horse racing in America. This weekend’s Kentucky Derby along with the Preakness Stakes, Belmont and Breeders Cup are national horse racing events the public pays attention to. Outside of that, you’d be hard pressed to find an average Joe or Jane interested in horse racing.

Randy believes horse racing hasn’t caught up with the reality that many sports minded people only care about major events. He believes, in some sense, that cutting back on the amount of horse races offered could make the sport more popular. This might cause each race to be more meaningful. Once upon a time in America, horse racing was hugely popular as it was the only way people wagered and, consequently, they became fans of the sport.

“It’s something that is going to require sort of a retooling of the sport. Back in the days, when horse racing was phenomenally popular, it was the only, essentially the only gambling game in town. If you wanted to bet and Americans certainly love to bet, you went to your racetrack. You didn’t have simulcast parlors, off track betting parlors. You didn’t have Indian Casinos. You didn’t have online betting. You didn’t have lotteries. You went to the racetrack. So horse racing was phenomenally, phenomenally popular in America both from a gambling standpoint and also from the standpoint that when you go to the racetrack and gamble on a regular basis, you become a fan of the sport, you follow the sport. It was just an overall knowledge of the sport from your average sports fan.

You don’t get that today in America because there are so many other gambling options around. Back in the day when horse racing was going great guns, racetracks could run Monday through Saturday, they could run six other days a week or five days a week and they would still get crowds every day. That’s no longer the case and horse racing hasn’t really caught up yet fully to that reality. America has become a sports society that’s very much addicted to the major, the major event. A lot of people don’t watch golf unless it’s The Masters or US Open. A lot of people don’t watch tennis unless it’s Wimbledon or the NBA unless it’s the NBA Finals or baseball unless it’s just the World Series.

That’s why the Kentucky Derby, the Triple Crown is still so popular. So what I’m getting at is that horse racing needs to retract a little bit. Racetracks don’t need to be running nearly as often as they’re running right now. There needs to be a less is more mentality, focusing on creating more racing events and major racing days in America instead of focusing on your five day a week, six month a year grind that a lot of racetracks have.”

The running of the Kentucky Derby is an exciting event ushering in the beautiful month of May and giving many folks a reason to pay attention to the sport of kings, if not simply as a pretext to enjoy a mint julep.

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