Usually handicapping a big race is not nearly as difficult as figuring out a winner among a group of nags that will eventually end up in the glue factory.

The entries in classic races like the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes or even the Breeder’s Cup are mostly all quality horses that have won some prominent stakes races and usually earned plenty of money.

In fact the amount of earnings and the points accrued by winning prestigious stakes races determines the participants in the Kentucky Derby. The amount of money won generally dictates who will be the favorite for the Run for the Roses.

But that’s the first stumbling block handicappers faced for Saturday’s race. Orb was the favorite all week long at 7-2, but was only fourth in earnings with $921,050. Lines of Battle had the highest earnings at $1,276,204 but was a 30-1 shot to win the Derby, followed by Goldencents ($1,250,000) and 5-1 and Overanalyze ($956,301) and 15-1.

Other factors that baffled handicappers was the fact trainer Todd Pletcher had a record-tying five horses entered in the Derby, but is only 1-for-36 in his long career of saddling entries for the Run for the Roses.

Rosie Napravnik was attempting to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and was on Mylute, another 15-1 shot.

Kevin Krigger, who was aboard 5-1 Goldencents, was trying to become the first black jockey to win the Derby since 1902 and 77-year-old D.Wayne Lukas was trying to become the oldest trainer to saddle a winner with Will Take Charge at 8-1.

And veteran trainer Shug McGaughey, who was trying to win his first Derby in seven tries, hit the jackpot with this year’s winner Orb, who started the day as the favorite at 7-2 and then went all the way up to 7-1 before going off at 5-1 and the favorite at post time.

Orb is owned by Ogden Mills Phipps and his cousin Stuart Janney III who are prominent members of the Phipps racing empire that has been associated with horse racing for six generations and gathered victories in the sport’s biggest races, but had NEVER won the Kentucky Derby before Saturday.

The racing surface at Churchill Downs was declared sloppy after only .20 inches of rain had fallen lightly throughout most of the day. This sent the handicappers scrambling through their records to see how many of the 19-horse field were considered “mudders.”

Immediately the focus of the bettors turned to Revolutionary, in the No. 3 post position, because it won the only race it ran on a wet track, plus the jockey was Louisiana native and Churchill Downs regular rider Calvin Borel who has brought home many victories on a sloppy track and was close to his favorite position on the rail for this race.

Revolutionary’s odds to win increased from 10-1 to 5-1 and he became the Derby favorite while Orb’s odds dropped from 7-2 to 7-1. Only eight of the 19 Derby horses had ever run on a dirt track rated worst than “fast.” And Orb wasn’t one of them.

That’s one of the reasons I journeyed over to nearby Delta Downs in Vinton three hours before post time so I could watch how the Kentucky Derby bettors fluctuated the odds board at Churchill Downs. I also ran into one of the best handicappers in this area who explained to me why the pre-race odds kept changing.

He also told me that most of the “high rollers” usually wait until the last couple of minutes before making their sizeable Derby wagers. And he was right-on because as the horses were moving toward the starting gate, Orb’s odds to win increased until he once again was the Kentucky Derby favorite at 5-1 and Borel’s mount slipped to second at 6-1.

My handicapping friend explained to me that a sloppy track may be a slight detriment to a class horse, but when all the plusses and minuses are totaled up, the best horse is still the one the big money horse-players bet on. And Orb had won his last four races as the favorite.

I decided to put $5 to win, $5 to place and $5 to show on Orb and also $2 across-the-board on Revolutionary. My amateur instincts were rewarded as Orb won and paid $12.80 to win a $2 bet, $7.40 to place and $5.40 to show. And Revolutionary was third and paid $3.70 to show, so my $21 bet turned into a $69.30 payoff.

Not bad for a two-minute race.

KWICKIES…Congrats to the Lamar Lady Cardinals for making it to the Southland Conference Softball Tournament that begins tomorrow (Thurs.) at the newly-renovated Lady Demon Softball Complex at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. The Lady Cards, in their very first year of softball competition, earned the No. 5 seed and will open the tourney tomorrow at 11 a.m. against fourth-seeded Central Arkansas. Other teams in the SLC tourney include No. 1-seeded McNeese State, No. 2 Northwestern State, No. 3 Sam Houston State and No. 6 Southeastern Louisiana. The winner of the 2013 SLC tourney receives and automatic entry in the NCAA Girls Softball Tournament. The selection airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Bridge City Cardinals and Orangefield Bobcats both advanced in the Texas high school baseball playoffs with victories in the bi-district round last weekend. The Cards shut down Shepherd 4-1 in a one-game, winner-take-all series on a cold night in Jasper Friday and will meet top-ranked Sweeny in a best-of-three series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. The Bobcats swept Tarkington by scoring the game-winning run in the seventh inning to nip the Longhorns 3-2 and earn the right to meet District 23-2A champion Houston Furr. The best-of-three series begins 7 p.m. Friday at Baytown Sterling, Saturday at 1 p.m. also at Baytown Sterling, with Game 3 to follow, if necessary. The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears overwhelmed Huntsville 11-0 and 12-2 to advance to the Class 4A Regional quarterfinals where they will meet the Nederland Lady Bulldogs in a one-game playoff of District 20-4A rivals 7 p.m. Friday at Port Arthur Memorial. The Lady Bears beat Nederland in both games during the regular season.

The Houston Astros will have to get a lot better just to be classified as “lousy.” The Astros enjoyed a well-deserved day-off Monday after being pummeled in a four- game series by the Detroit Tigers at Minute Maid Park in Houston 37-8 since Thursday. Houston has lost six in a row and 10 of their last 11 games and going into Tuesday’s action sport the worst record in the major leagues at 8-24. The Astros are on a pace for a record-setting 122 losses which will be added to the 213 combined losses of the last two seasons. That’s what the lowest payroll ($20 million) in major league baseball buys.

And on a little brighter note, the first round of the NBA playoffs is complete as No. 1-seeded Oklahoma City advances to meet No. 5 Memphis and No. 2 San Antonio faces No. 6 Golden State in the Western Conference while No. 1 Miami takes on No. 5 Chicago and No. 2 New York matches up with No. 3 Indiana in the Eastern Conference.

Orange’s 71-year-old Marathon Man Kenny Ruane once again outclassed his age group in Saturday’s Calder Avenue 5K run in Beaumont as he posted a time of 21:41 and finished 44th out of the 650 entries in the event. “I felt really good running and am very satisfied with my time for the 5K event,” Ruane said.

JUST BETWEEN US…This Korner wishes good luck to the high school athletes from Orange County who have earned the right to participate in the University Interscholastic League state track and field meet in Austin Friday and Saturday. Little Cypress Mauriceville’s Zoe Casteel is the only local athlete in Class 4A and will compete in the girls’ pole vault. In the Boys Class 3A the West Orange-Stark Mustangs will send Rashon McDonald in the 400, Will Johnson in the 300 hurdles and the 400 relay team of Maurice Morris, Chris James, ThoMarcus Fontenot and Colin Janice, the 800 relay team of Morris, James, Janice and Jarodd Ross and the 1,600 relay team of McDonald, Jerrious Tims, Deionte Thompson and Janice. In the Girls 3A, Bridge City’s Alexus Henry will compete in the high jump and Kati Horton will compete in the pole vault. West Orange- Stark girls 800 relay team of Shalin Hardin, Aaliyah Teel, LaShya Cole and Shavontae Thomas also earned a berth in the state track meet.