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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

10f and the Derby Pace

The majority of hopeful gamblers tend to attack this race by consulting Timeform Figures, Past Performance Sheets and Beyer figures. They dive into it in the same exact manner that they do for any other race that they gamble on throughout the year. 

This is the incorrect approach.

Those three points need to be placed on the backburner and left to simmer as if they don't even exist. Lower the burner and put a lid on it. Leave those points in the background until the bitter end.  

This specific race is a unique contest where a group of twenty highly competitive colts have obviously shown some type of outstanding talent to ensure their gate in the first place. They did not secure a Derby gate with poor figures, nor by losing races. They are the 20 chosen few because each one stood above a thousand others.

Each one of these 20 colts are completely unique unto themselves. Different running styles, quirks, energy, motivation, tendencies, track and surface compatibility, nerves, stride length, etc. 

Regardless of how impressive a given colt's Timeform or Beyer figure was in an 8.5f or 9f race, and even if they attained a track record in any prep race - the fact remains -  not one of them has shown any evidence that they are even capable of running a distance that exceeds 10f. Not the favorites, nor the longshots.

Regardless of any horse notching a victory in a maiden or a prep at Churchill Downs - the fact remains - the bias of that Autumn track, as it was in October or November, will not be the same on a Spring track, as it will be the first week in May.

Regardless of layoffs, new equipment, probability of peaking, who beat who before, who secured the most prep points, the trainer, the jockey, lengths won by in final prep, workouts, shipping concerns, high beyers, etc etc, - the fact remains - the horse must be able to tackle the Classic distance, on a Churchill bias, compatible with the weather, aligned with the pace, with complete composure and nerves of steel.   

The last two editions of the Kentucky Derby emphasize the importance of constructing two separate tickets based on the pace.

There is the fast (normal) pace which has been reliable for most recent history.

And then there is the suicidal pace.

The four colts who eventually strike that wire first will be COMPLETELY different within those two pace structures. The final order of finish could NEVER EVER be the same between the two because most competitors are not bred to distribute their energy in a multitude of ways.

It would take an extremely astute jockey to make adjustments within the chaos of the live action to adapt at a split second's notice. A quick judgement that could backfire or save the horse like Rosario did with Epicenter. That reaction was absolutely the difference between Epicenter staying for 2nd instead of being sent to the bottom of the totem pole with the rest.


This is highly relevant and in the same exact manner when it comes to the weather. What will eventually comprise the final top finishers will be completely different on a clean track than it would end up being on a sloppy track. 

To reiterate, if a well-bred 10f colt with massive Timeform figures and aggressive patterns at his peak form gets caught in the middle of suicidal pace, he's going to lose. If it rains and he hates it, he is going to lose. If his running style does not jive with that pace and that weather, he could have Timeform figures that rival Flightline, he is still going to lose. 

This is the main reason why it is so hard to configure a winning superfecta ticket.

You must understand each horse's attributes within each pace scenario and execute at least two separate tickets in this race. 

The weather side is different. We will have full knowledge of that bias in the hours leading up to post time.  Both tickets for a sloppy track and a clean track should be constructed and ready to go for the conditions. It is easy to place that bet accordingly.

Pace is the blind spot.

No matter what any handicapper may envision, that eventual pace will unfold second by second during the race. The same exact horse will not capitalize in both situations. If we have learned anything over the last two years, this point would be the most important. 

In 2022, who would have thought that a Japanese invader would run 21.78 and 45.36 in the opening half? The rear runner's advantage skyrocketed because of that. If there was a different early pace, it would have been a completely different outcome.

In 2023, would you have guessed that Kingsbarns (of all horses) would take that lead and roll off a 45.73 half, throwing that entire edition into a tailspin. Another double digit odds winner capitalizing from the rear. Different paces, different outcomes. 

Not one handicapper on earth could be precise with eventual pace in the week, day or hours proceeding the opening bell. That side either relies on sheer luck or preparing and betting both sides. 

Because of the major advantage that the 80 to 1 longshot, Rich Strike, capitalized on based on that suicidal pace, those trainers who have multiple entries saw the vulnerability and the easy solution to taking out the lead tier. It was a smart and reliable strategy. Sacrifice one to the benefit of the other.

Now, the handicapper must take on that same strategy when gambling on this race. Just as we painstakingly gauge 10f capability for the race and then also work out weather factors for each competitor, we must also put much more emphasis on who gains from pace strategy.

Rich Strike's trophy win was the turning point which alerted certain trainers to this magical advantage. Who can blame them?

Has the days of a normal fast pace, which has benefited a certain type of breeding consistently, been overtaken by a suicidal pace which then benefits a different type of breeding? The type that relies strictly on balanced and even stamina as opposed to excessive inbred speed backed up with readable 10.2f capability?

Last year's edition saw to it that the over-exaggerated pace benefited those much more suited with their breeding aligning with maximum evenly balanced 12f Belmont Stakes configurations. All four top finishers. A direct result of the pace.

This information is race specific and pertains STRICTLY to the Kentucky Derby. This portion will NOT translate to the 10f Belmont Stakes even though they are run at the exact same distance this year. They are two separate tracks - two separate biases - two separate weather temperatures, different field size, less paths utilized, etc.  The history would be slightly aligned but different none-the less.

The advantaged type of breeding will be different in the 10f Derby, as it is different in the 10f Travers, the 10f Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita or at Keeneland. Different at DelMar. Ditto with Saratoga. Different because of the bias, weather, field size, etc. 

The # 1 point for handicapping the Kentucky Derby is 10f+ ability before anything else. No matter how impressive a colt may have performed at those shorter distances up to this point, it will not translate into the Derby if he can't follow through with the distance.

His favorable timeform pattern won't mean a damn thing if he can only take his endurance to his furthest prep. 

Once the 10f colts are established, each of them will be affected either positively or negatively based on how they are bred for the given pace. Most colts will thrive with their inbred "scale" on one or the other - not both.

For example:

Dornoch and Fierceness.  

Both of these colts are bred to run the Classic Distance.

Both happen to have the same exact running styles.

Both are bred completely different with two separate advantages based on the pace - REGARDLESS OF HOW GREAT THEIR BEYER FIGURES COMPARE TO THE OTHER in those shorter preps.

Fierceness has performed much faster along the way and in a normal Graded Stakes race up to this point, he would be the dominant pick to prevail based on speed.

Let's assume that Fierceness breaks well and secures an uncontested lead. He will utilize his highly advantaged and historically time-tested breeding and beat the living daylights out of this crew. He would leave Dornoch struggling for a board hit underneath.

Even though Dornoch has 10f with his eyes closed and runs up front as well, he is not holding the same scale or same dominant side of that scale. The breeding of Fierceness puts him at the forefront with the historically perfect alignment of massive speed over massive endurance. "Normal" fast pace allows Fierceness to rely on his scale without disrupting that energy balance and in that scenario, Dornoch does not stand a chance against him.

Let's assume that Fierceness breaks well again and gets his butt up to the front again, but this time, a wise guy who has a barn-mate with him on that field decides to attack that front with a vengeance with him. Let's assume this wise guy runs in the same exact manner that Kingsbarns was pushed to run.

This will disrupt the lead tier and cut into Fierceness' breeding balance and "normal" advantaged 10f energy. He will be stealing from one side of the scale to compensate, thereby forcing his energy distribution off kilter. He still has 10f in him but it becomes adverse to his strength. It will not matter at all that Fierceness broke well out of the gate. The "Kingsbarns" guy just stole that trophy from him and handed a major advantage to both Dornoch and those with killer stamina (less speed) behind him.

With Fierceness lopsided to speed in his breeding, regardless of 10f ability, this would throw his "normal" energy distribution into a tailspin in that scenario. DP = 1-3-2-0-0 (6) DI = 5.00   CD = 0.83

This, in turn, could put Dornoch in the same exact position with his breeding (and style) that Two Phil's saw last year. It allows for those who have 10f+ breeding (with inferior beyers) like Honor Marie, Endlessly, Forever Young, Sierra Leone, etc. to use that good fortune to thwart history again.

Two different pace scenarios will produce a completely different order of finish regardless of anything else.

Normal fast pace and horses like Fierceness, Just a Touch, Resilience etc. gain major advantage with both their style and breeding. Suicidal pace hands the race to a completely different set of players. A handicapper can not assume what that pace will be and should be completely covered with the proper players in the same manner as they are in terms of the weather.

Specific and Time Tested History is now thrown out the window in favor of placing two separate superfecta tickets because of behind the scenes strategies. This is not meant to confuse or "over-pick" too many players for one race. It is a sign of the times.

There are a couple of colts who should still thrive with both pace scenarios like Catching Freedom, but the majority can only handle it one way. It is the way they are bred. This is the key to being successful in your wagers this year.


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