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Top-10 lessons from Betting Saturday

4 May 2015

By Vin Narayanan
OK. Betting Saturday wasn't Saturday's official name. But with the Kentucky Derby, the boring but heavily bet-on Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs entering the second round, May 2 might have been the most lucrative sports betting day we've ever seen. The final numbers are not in yet, but consider this:

-- Wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program topped $194 million.
-- The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is expected to generate between $60 million and $80 million in wagers.
-- About $116 million was bet on this year's Super Bowl.
-- A record $119.4 million was bet on the Super Bowl in 2014.

So Mayweather wasn't the only person making money Saturday. The bookmakers and the horse tracks clearly had a very big day.

So the name Betting Saturday fits. What else did we learn from Saturday's betting extravaganza?

10. It's OK to bet on yourself
Floyd Mayweather bet $750,000 on himself to beat Manny Pacquiao. That's disturbing on two fronts. Should a boxer be able to bet on a fight he's in? And – that's it? Just $750,000? Mayweather was a mortal lock to win this fight. And he's expected to make at least $120 million off it. He should have bet at least $1.5 million.

9. Boxing is officially dead
To be fair, boxing was already on life support before the fight. Mayweather and Pacquiao just pulled the plug on the respirator. The fight looked liked like two old men going through the motions in the ring. It was dull and uneventful. And both fighters played a role in that. Neither fighter made any effort to make the fight live up to the hype. And now another generation – or more – will probably never pay money to see another fight. Boxing fans will pay up. But as a national and cultural phenomenon, boxing is dead.

8. Perfect Derby
By contrast, the Kentucky Derby was two minutes of perfection. The four best horses in the race – American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund and Carpe Diem – all broke cleanly and took control of the race early. American Pharoah and Firing Line caught and passed front-running Dortmund in the stretch run and put on a lively duel before American Pharoah pulled away for the win. The race had excitement, energy and a competitive spirit the fight lacked.

7. Even better Preakness
As good as the Derby was, the Preakness is going to be even better. The Preakness favors speed and horses that like to run at the front. And the top Derby competitors either prefer that style or are quite capable of running near the front. The Preakness is also a shorter race, which means the kick for the finish between Dortmund, Firing Line and American Pharoah is going to be fierce. This has the makings of an instant classic.

6. Pacquiao should retire
Pacquiao is one of the best and most aggressive fighters boxing has seen. But he didn't have the energy to throw the volume of punches needed to beat Mayweather. The only way to beat Mayweather is to be aggressive and punch from odd angles. That's Pacquiao's strength. That's the way Pacquiao fights. But not on Saturday. He didn't even try, because he just doesn't have the energy to fight that way anymore.

5. Mayweather should retire
Mayweather protected his financial interests and his undefeated record by fighting a conservative fight. That's all he's obligated to do. But he failed to burnish his legacy. He could have pressed his advantage numerous times Saturday night, but chose not to. Part of it is his nature: He does the bare minimum needed to win. Part of it is Father Time. Father Time is undefeated, and he's clobbering Mayweather right now. Mayweather looked tired and listless for large chunks of Saturday's fight. He's lucky Pacquiao looked even older.

4. Dortmund is really good
Dortmund showed tremendous courage and speed while setting the pace at the Derby. It took championship efforts from Firing Line and American Pharoah to reel him in, but the tiring horse held on for the third. This is clearly a horse that's not afraid of any challenge and has the stature and speed to win big races. Unfortunately for him, the Derby was too long and had two horses that were just a bit better.

3. Firing Line is better than Dortmund
Firing Line ran a valiant race. He stalked Dortmund brilliantly and made a nice big move to pass him late in the race. When American Pharoah moved into first, Firing Line didn't give up. He rose to the occasion and battled back, making a championship run of his own. In the end, American Pharoah was too much horse for Firing Line to overcome. But he made the Derby champion work hard for that first place finish.

2. American Pharoah is the best
American Pharoah is a big, strong, capable champion. He can run out front. He can stalk speed. He can close. And it feels like he has the speed and energy to run as fast as he wants for as long as he wants. He ran the perfect race Saturday to win the Kentucky Derby, and he has the talent to win the Triple Crown.

1. Triple Crown is a possibility
American Pharoah's combination of size, strength and speed gives him a very real chance to win the Triple Crown. He's proven he's the best horse. Now he has to prove he can handle the Triple Crown grind. This is the only time in American Pharoah's career that he'll be asked to race two grueling races over the span of three weeks and three grueling races over the span of five weeks. I like American Pharoah to win the Preakness, but I'm not sure about the Belmont. A fresh horse could catch him in that race.
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