LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There are lots of opinions about the Derby field heading into the first Saturday in May. But one man began preparing for the race six months ago.
He's Churchill Downs' lead racing analyst, Joe Kristufek.
Joe is the guy you see standing in the paddock and shown on the big screens at Churchill Downs, analyzing each race before it goes off and giving his picks.
The Chicago native said he was born with a "little gamble" in his blood and he used to pour over baseball statistics as a kid. He discovered horse racing in college, and said he learned a lot about the sport by losing.
Since then, he's had experience in Dubai, Hong Kong, and more than 35 tracks across North America. He has also attended 13 Kentucky Derbies in person. He said he is very excited about number 14.
Here are my five questions with Racing Analyst Joe Kristufek.
1) What are the first things you look at when handicapping a race?
I take my job very seriously. I watch every race multiple times and take detailed trip notes, answering the question why each horse did or didn't run well. Did they have a tough trip? Were they running over the right surface and distance? Was the competition too tough or too easy? Analyzing horses is like scouting any sport. You're evaluating talent, figuring out what each horse does best, and applying that knowledge .
2) What's the most amount of money you have ever made from a bet?
Personally, I hit a Pick Four at Arlington Park about 10 years ago that paid $20,000. But I also captained a group bet that hit the Superfecta in the 2001 Kentucky Derby (Monarchos) that returned $125,000.
3) You're getting into horse ownership by offering people a chance to own a piece of a racehorse. How does that work?
I've owned in the past, and you really can't describe the satisfaction you get from winning a race with a horse that you have a personal relationship with. My partners and I created Brilliant Racing to have fun and make memories. If you don't know how to go about it, horse ownership can be intimidating. We wanted to make the experience simple, affordable, interactive, and fun. Our first partnership recently closed, but anyone who wants more information can visit brillianthorseracing.com.
4) Do you feel stress giving people advice when you know they could lose money based on your suggestions?
I realize that some people bet my picks blindly, and in my job, you're either a hero or a goat. Over days, weeks, months and years, my results are consistently good and I'm proud of my track record. I take an educational approach to what I do. I want people to understand that there is a method to the madness and offer food for thought. I hear all the time, "Joe, I NEED a winner." No, you need food, a roof over your head and air to breathe, lol. I'd rather have someone ask me for a winner, than Derby tickets!
5) This is an impressive Derby field. What are your thoughts?
You never really know how good the Derby field is until after the race is run and after the alumni write the stories of their careers. Going in, this looks like one of the strongest Derby fields in years. I truly think that when you look back at the chart of the race 10 years from now, you'll be wowed by the star power. So many of these are loaded with potential on the racetrack and in the breeding shed.