Kentucky Derby: Handicapping the Race

05/03/2012 at 05:00 PM EDT

Kentucky Derby: Mike Smith, Gary Stevens Handicap Race
Mike Smith rides Bodemeister
Wesley Hitt/Getty
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, and while mint juleps, outlandish hats and preppy pants will be reliable features at Churchill Downs, the annual event is, let's not forget, a horse race.

So we asked two experts in the field – jockey Mike Smith, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2005 and is riding the favorite, Bodemeister, on Saturday; and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who won the Kentucky Derby three times over his career – to handicap this weekend's race.

Who should you bet on? By all accounts, it's Bodemeister, who has been installed as Morning Line odds favorite at 4-1, and is "the fastest in the field," according to the Daily Racing Form. "I'm really excited to be on this horse," Smith tells PEOPLE. "If given the chance, he can run a really big race. He's very talented."

Read on to find out who could be a surprise winner, what the depth of field is like this year, and what a rainy day could mean for the competition. (The Kentucky Derby has a post time of 6:24 p.m. ET. and airs live on NBC.)



Mike Smith

Who are your favorites? Bodemeister. Enough said.
Who could be a surprise? Daddy Knows Best, but I don't know how much of a long shot it really is.
What do you think of the overall depth of field? This is the most talented Derby in a while. I haven't seen it this deep in a long time. There are up to eight horses that could win – you wouldn't be shocked at all if any of them won.
The weather calls for a chance of thunderstorms – do those track conditions benefit anyone? If it rains, it will really help my horse, Bodemeister. He had one of the best workouts the other day on a wet track at Churchill Downs.

Gary Stevens

Favorites: Union Rags, Bodemeister, I'll Have Another
Don't Count This One Out: Daddy Knows Best
Depth of Field: It's probably the deepest field I've seen in 30 years. If I were still riding, there would be 10 horses that I would be excited to have a the mount on.
Track Conditions: People have told me I'll Have Another will love it if it rains.

For more on this weekend's race, check out the Ultimate Kentucky Derby Fan Guide from the Daily Racing Form for complete contender profiles and expert predictions.

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