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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

Breeding. Bias. Pace.

I know that most of you are as completely “Derbied-Out” as I am, but this article is probably the most important one I have ever posted in the 3 years since starting this site. It's a very long article, so get up, get a coffee, sit back and read it all.


21.78 45.36 1:10.34 1:36.96 2:02.61

The Fractional times listed above is the reason why Rich Strike won Derby 148.

It was the fastest opening in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

The running positions shown above is the reason why it appeared he sprinted home.

It is because he did not expend a drop of energy for the entire opening mile of the race.

He ran hard, for 2 furlongs... passing thirteen retreating horses.


Handicapping is a series of small details that pile up one by one and intertwine with each horse on the field. The Kentucky Derby is the mother-load of small details, with 20 horses that need to be dissected and then intertwined to make a whole.

Each Derby that comes and goes, whether you cash or not, gives opportunity to peel away the layers in order to truly build your handicapping skills for the following year. Derby 148 will prove to be one of the biggest learning experiences of any edition in my lifetime. You may be completely “Derbied-out” and exhausted from the big race and build up, but, if you really want to build your handicapping skills, this particular article is for you. There is so much here with this one race that will provide the exact skills necessary to conquer it for next time. If you walk away without learning something that will help you in the future, what was the point?

It is easy to see it all in hindsight, however, it is in this very time when you learn what to look for and how those pieces fit together for the next time.

There are three things that combine, in specific order that needs to be studied for each and every entry on that field, including late entries.

1. The Breeding (pertaining to ability to run over 10f) We have this covered.

2. The Bias (pertaining to their past performances and the weather) We have this covered.

3. The Pace. (pertaining to covering both sides) Completely neglected.

For the sake of space, we’ll look at the specific players who impacted the handicapping and the outcome of the race. We’ll look at the specific details that were touched on but not taken to their full capacity. For the Derby, every detail needs to be viewed to the extreme in order to hit this race.


Summer is Tomorrow had mares numbers that were completely backwards for the Derby. We knew this. We knew he did not have the distance based on these numbers:

Mares = 7-7-6-6-2 Speed = 14 Stamina = 8 Index = 1.69 Triads = 20-19-14

We also thought that he could be one of 3 colts to dictate the pace.

My assumption was that Messier was going to control the pace, and in normal Baffert fashion, his pace would have been moderate. This is exactly how it has been for the last decade. Moderate pace with the top tier front running “speed horses” continuing to the wire. Obviously, that did not happen. Summer took the lead, ran 21.78 opening quarter and a 45.36 half. He started back peddling at 3/4 pole and he took down every speed-driven horse with him who was up in that front tier. Turns out, those times were the fastest in Derby history. Go figure. Dramatic change with dramatic outcomes.

Crown Pride was a bit harder with every sign that he was a real player; the handling, the win in the UAE and the late speed in the Hyacinth. He “appeared” a standout prior to the race. The fact remains though, his mare’s numbers were not conducive to the Derby and those numbers were ignorantly ignored.

Mares = 9-3-2-10-5 Speed = 12 Stamina = 15 Index = 1.05 Triads = 14-15-17

I am guilty of changing my initial one star rating on his Prep analysis which is always based on the numbers and nothing else. His numbers were terrible for the Derby and should have never been upgraded based on factors outside of them. His fancy stride and his handling had nothing to do with being incorrectly balanced for the Derby. The two invaders above made a strong impact on both the handicapping side and the outcome, but I digress.


The UAE Derby is overwhelmingly won by mid-range and stamina type colts. Under 2.70 with most well below that index. In looking at that now, and watching Summer is Tomorrow basically compete on the same level as Crown Pride in that race, my initial analysis on him should have stayed instead of being updated. Now, it is easy to see, the only way that Summer competed in that UAE race with Crown Pride and lasted as long as he did was because the BIAS of that track was a speed trap. Both colts deficient in true stamina and capitalized off of that speed bias. It is in both of their mares numbers as well. In addition, the performance on the track by Crown Pride in Tokyo was read opposite of what it should have been. It wasn’t a balance, it was because he is a speedy mid-pack runner who capitalized off of both of those speed biases. The track in the UAE Derby was souped up and allowed both of those horses to capitalize based on their breeding and their numbers. It is the only way that BOTH of them could have been successful in that race.

Next year, if the winner (and 2nd place finisher) have numbers that are counter to the Derby and also point to that track being speedy based on those numbers, they won’t make it here and they won't make it on the superfecta ticket.


Crown Pride actually gave all of us clear evidence of what he would do in the Derby and it was taken in the opposite direction. The “deception of speed” works exactly the same in workouts as well. This is something that I always take to heart when it comes to those who are easily read as speedsters. When an obvious “speedster” runs 4f in .46 before the Derby, you run as fast as you can away from that horse because he will never be able sustain that speed in the Derby. When an obvious “stamina” horse runs that same time, you grab ahold and you don’t let him go.. Workouts always need to be matched to the breeding. In this case, it was matched to a horse who “appeared” to be stamina-dominant based on his index and his win in the UAE Derby. In reality, it was opposite, based on his mares contributions and a speedy UAE bias. It is easy to read it now, after the fact, but going forward, the breeding and the bias and the details prior to the race needs to be thought out with common sense. I say that mainly for myself because I read them based on what “usually” wins the UAE instead of reading them for the horse himself. The fact that Summer sustained his speed in the UAE Derby – along with Crown Pride – made their balance the same, tilted too far to speed. His workout was the answer. His mare’s numbers were off and skewed. The speed of Summer on the lead did play out exactly in place of Forbidden Kingdom. Burn-out speed from both invaders.

More on the Bias handicapping…

Prior to the Lexington Stakes, we had gone over the fact that Tawny Port was built for dirt based on his configurations. This was seen easily in his numbers. Since he did not do well in the Risen Star on dirt where he “should have” exploded, we knew that Brad Cox was wheeling him back into the Lexington to give him another chance. He won the race, but it was not the “explosion” that should have occurred. This happens in higher caliber horses like Animal Kingdom, when they are hard trained on surfaces that are not to their liking and then they explode when everything comes together.

We studied all of that as it pertained to Tawny Port quite extensively. We matched his breeding to the bias, came to the conclusion that he should run much better on a dirt surface and we were impressed with his run but underwhelmed with the lack of “explosion.” Handicapping on that horse was thorough and spot on. This step in the handicapping process is so important and quite frankly, 100x more important than beyer and timeform figures. Breeding matched with bias points out how a horse will react, how far he will travel, and how his style relates to the other contenders.

For some reason, the insight was extracted for Tawny Port, but was disregarded as it pertained to Rich Strike. The two stood in that gate with basically the same type of balance, breeding, numbers and AWS Derby road. What was different was that we were given the opportunity to witness the “potential explosion” on dirt by Tawny Port but not with Rich Strike. That potential was to be revealed in the Kentucky Derby, exactly as it was for Animal Kingdom in 2011.


Chefs = 3-3-4-0-0 (10) DI = 4.00 CD = 0.90

Mares = 4-7-5-9-6 Speed = 11 Stamina = 15 Index = 0.77 Triads = 16-21-20


Chefs = DP = 5-8-11-0-0 (24) DI = 3.36 CD = 0.75

Mares = Mare Profile = 7-1-6-9-7 Speed = 8 Stamina = 16 Index = 0.72 Triads = 14-16-22

Both colts sitting in the “advantaged 3.10 and Over" category with a history of AWS races. We saw Tawny in the Lexington win but not explode. The Derby was Rich Strike’s Dirt shot to explode. And he did. Rich Strike with DOUBLE the inbred mare stamina than Tawny. DOUBLE. Yes, hindsight is 20-20, however, skating over all of the particular details (Breeding and Bias) for a late-comer is unacceptable and I am guilty.

In the article, Insight- Training by Design, we went over several horses who were “race-trained” on biases and surface that were counter to their breeding and how they should react when finally appearing at Churchill. Rich Strike was not part of the line-up at the time, but he would have been a perfect candidate for the article if he was and he would have been in that article because of the AWS.

More on the Pace and Moving Forward…

We have always discussed having two tickets laid out and ready for a clean track and a sloppy track because two different outcomes will occur depending on that bias. It is absolutely clear now that two separate handicapping ideas and two separate tickets MUST be formulated for the two separate Pace Scenarios as well. With Baffert absent, this is something that was highly overlooked this year but it cannot be overlooked ever again. It won’t on my part, that’s for sure.

In year’s passed, Baffert’s lead speedsters magically ran the full distance, therefore, all who were up with the pace continued on to the end if they had the Breeding for the Distance. This is why “Stamina” horses have suffered since 2011.

The Important Part:

Both of those tickets for the two separate pace scenarios must be placed. We cannot assume that the lead speed who does not have the distance, (in this case, Summer is Tomorrow) will definitely secure his spot. He could break bad, get shuffled back, or even beat to the lead. Unfortunately, he did get that lead and he turned the Derby upside down.

With Summer is Tomorrow gaining that lead this year, he affected all of the front runners including Messier, Pioneer of Medina, Zozos, Taiba, Cyberknife, Charge It and White Abarrio. These were the colts who entered the gate, all with ample stamina to compete, but were taken down with the pace of Summer is Tomorrow. These colts sat in the HIGHEST ADVANTAGED SPOT consistently over recent years. This scenario had held up over the last decade mainly because of Baffert’s souped up speed demons up front controlling a moderate pace. Regardless, this is only ONE SIDE of two different possible scenarios.

The other side is if we have a speed meltdown. (Which we obviously had this year) This is the side that was left out and forgotten but always has a 50-50 shot of occurring. This is the side that must be formulated as well, with a separate ticket and placed at the same time. No one could possibly know who will eventually secure the lead and HOW he will react once he has it. We left 50% of the equation on the doorstep with assumptions. We do it every year. This is the piece of the puzzle that we have been missing and it is simply COMMON SENSE - which is the key to a great handicapper.

With Summer securing that lead and knowing that he did not have ample stamina to sustain it, gives advantage to the following colts: Zandon, Mo Donegal, Rich Strike, Happy Jack, and Barber Road. This side of the “possible scenario” was completely disregarded but always has a 50-50 shot of occurring. Recent history has been in favor of speed holding, but that does not mean it will occur every single time. This step was left out this year and has been for quite awhile. That was the mistake.

Rich Strike, Zandon, Mo Donegal and even Barber Road were the recipients of a favorable pace scenario, which WOULD NOT HAVE OCCURRED had it not been for Summer is Tomorrow gaining that lead. Their advantage skyrocketed exactly 21.78 seconds into the race. This would not have ever happened without the suicidal invader. Regardless of what happened, having the ticket for that scenario, isolated with the horses who have the distance AND THE BIAS, is the side that needs to be configured and placed as well. It does not just end with Clean track or Sloppy track. It covers BOTH pace scenarios as well.

We should never try to be mind-readers and assume who will secure the lead, be it a speedster who obviously does not have the distance or a one who has the distance in his back pocket. He may or may not have his wish granted in securing that lead. Many other factors could hinder his preferred spot, whoever he ends up being.

Rich Strike is not a super horse. He was the recipient of a wicked pace set up by an invader which affected every single “advantaged” speed driven horse on that field. The mistake was not in picking the improper horses, the mistake was disregarding pace scenarios- in this case – a suicidal pace. The mistake was not reading the obvious speed bias of the UAE Derby. The mistake was not giving a fair shake to the other side of the coin.

The super horse of the 2022 Kentucky Derby was Epicenter (and even Simplification). Epicenter disregarded his advantage and his disadvantage and conquered both sides of the coin. His jockey rode him brilliantly and took him away from his preferred spot and the suicidal pace. This horse responded and capitalized from both sides. It was a mistake in not giving a fair shake to the two possible scenarios which could occur in any Derby (and Breeders Cup Classic) any year and especially with the absence of Baffert. Change the lead speed in your mind and give it to a colt who has the distance in his back pocket with a rational pace and every advantaged speed driven colt who runs up with the pace would have crossed that finish line. Just like every other year.

Rich Strike would have never won that Derby. The overseas invader gave him the dream scenario and he capitalized with his running style - off the pace. Zandon capitalized. Mo Donegal capitalized. Barber Road capitalized. Exactly the way that Taiba capitalized off of Forbidden Kingdom in the Santa Anita Derby. EXACTLY THE SAME. On a side note, given the extraordinary and favorable pace for Taiba as well, he revealed that had had absolutely nothing for that race and should have never been entered. Always remember the dynamics of souped up beyers at Santa Anita. They occur every year. At least that part was not missed.

Remember, it is always Speed vs. Stamina. Stamina took over easily this year because of the pace.

Rich Strike’s 3.36 index and incredible mare stamina gave him credence on the dirt surface with the possibility of “exploding” at 10f, closer to his preferred distance once he was back on dirt. Summer is Tomorrow gave him the pace scenario. Handicapping burned-out a day before the Derby saw to it that he was not judged on ALL THREE PIECES like the rest of the field.

Next year, there will be entries who took the AWS and Turf Road and it is so easy to see the numbers and the relation to their breeding and how they could “possibly” relate to a dirt surface. Breeding and the bias. That side is covered. I have every confidence in reading that side (I should say, when I’m not burned out 2 days before the Derby.)

Next year, (both in the Derby and the Travers and the Breeders Classic) we will have the possibility of two separate scenarios occurring and two tickets must be formulated and placed regardless of how YOU THINK the pace will unfold. The assumption that Messier or Taiba was actually going to be the lead in the Derby (on my part based on history) was obviously incorrect, therefore no assumptions will ever be made again. Two separate scenarios will always be distinguished.

While concentrating extensively on who has the distance, coupled with advantages on both a clean track and a sloppy track, the third aspect – the two Pace scenarios must be separated along with those two other aspects. Having the first two requirements perfectly settled means nothing if the pace scenario for the two separate ideas is not distinguished with two separate tickets.

The Breeding – This part is mastered and nobody does it better than here at the Dirty Horse Club.

The Bias - The two sides as it pertains to the dry track and the sloppy track are mastered already as well, and with this section, one ticket can obviously be discarded. We have concrete evidence as to what the track looks like before we place our bet. Bias pertaining to preps and how they relate moving to Churchill is also covered. I know it like the back of my hand.

The Pace – THIS IS THE MAJOR THIRD STEP NEVER TO BE DISREGARDED AGAIN. Two tickets, based on a Conducive, Normal, Fair Pace and the other based on a Suicidal Pace must be configured. Assumptions cannot be made as to who will secure that spot.

Derby 148:

Rich Strike was not sprinting passed horses, picking them off one by one. He was running passed exactly 13 retreating horses. This can easily be read in the Results Chart between the 3/4 pole and the 1 mile mark. Every speed driven front running horse was a victim of the pace and every one of them was going backwards when Rich Strike decided to run - which was only the last two furlongs. Visuals are one thing. The chart is another. Take the time to look at that chart and look at the positions of all the front runners at the 3/4 pole and the 1 mile mark and the top of the stretch. This is the exact time that Rich Strike was actually running during this race. He wasn't passing them. They were retreating. They were victims of the pace and he capitalized.

Advantaged Players for Conducive Rational Pace: Messier, White Abarrio, Charge It, Taiba, Pioneer of Medina, Zozos, Cyberknife. (This is the side I chose this year based on the last decade) These are the 10f+ players with bias preference who track and follow with the pace. These are the ones who become VICTIMS if the other scenario plays out.

Advantaged Players for a Suicidal Over the Top Pace: Zandon, Mo Donegal Happy Jack, Rich Strike, Barber Road. These are the 10f+ player with bias preference who sit away from a fast irrational pace. These are the 10f players who can't compete with the speed, coming from too far back, if the other scenario plays out.

Either Pace: Epicenter, Simplification, Smile Happy (stay for both sides because their breeding gives them both sides)

Overseas Consideration: Summer is Tomorrow and Crown Pride

Within the Conducive category, White Abarrio given less credence due to post and inability to secure his preferred spot. Charge It, possibility of inexperience getting the better of him. Taiba, toss, should not have been entered. This leaves Messier, White Abarrio, Pioneer of Medina and Zozos who had the breeding, the bias and would be the most advantaged and most likely board hitters with a conducive pace. (Of course, Epicenter and Simplification remain here, both sides)

Within the Suicidal category: Happy Jack a toss due to bias consideration. (loss of 48 combined lengths on a speed favoring track) Epic and Simpli remain here, both sides)

Within the “Either Pace” category: Smile Happy’s configurations in his numbers were wrong. Toss.

(breeding incorrect - Mares = 7-4-1-8-5 Speed = 11 Stamina = 13 Index = 1.00 Triads = 12-13-14)

Overseas Consideration: Summer, an easy toss, configurations backwards. Crown Pride was also a victim of incorrect configurations and should have been an easy toss as well. Bias was read wrong in the UAE. Realistically, he had both the breeding and the bias incorrect.

The Two separate scenarios will never produce the same results, exactly the same for the sloppy and clean track. Both Pace Tickets Must Be Placed. Especially without Baffert's normal playbook affecting the results every year.

Every year that goes by gives the handicapper (including myself) an opportunity to rip apart the mistakes and to see what was overlooked and how to capitalize on those mistakes for the next time.

Breeding is covered. Bias is covered. Two separate pace scenarios with two separate tickets without assumptions of who you “think” will control pace is the last step in success.

As I said in the beginning, this article is probably the most important that I have ever posted on this website and should be referred to often. It brings the handicapping process full circle and those who cannot put all three pieces together will never cash a superfecta ticket in the Kentucky Derby. We now have all three sections completely covered. Breeding, Bias, Pace. It took some time to get here, but better late than never. It took the mistakes, the overlooked aspects and a lot of losing tickets to finally grasp each of the three requirements.

You will see additions to each winner in the 2023 Derby Prep analysis starting with Prep #1 in September. The additions will cover Bias preference and Advantaged Pace Preference based on running style, along with Optimum Distance and Breeding. At the end of all the preps, two SEPARATE scenarios within the Pace Options will be handicapped for two separate tickets.

On a side note, I rarely get involved with the Preakness, but I will absolutely be a part of it this year. All three points will be worked out with two separate pace scenarios.


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