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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

1 of 3 - Derby Quality - SPEED

Approximately 350 horses are nominated for the Kentucky Derby year after year. Of those, only 20 will secure a gate, four will grace the Tote Board and only one will win. Figuring out the cream of the crop is daunting in one respect, but in reality, the same exact winning qualities reappear over and over again. There is a strange phenomenon that reoccurs every year even as handicappers pour over those past performance sheets - Circling the field consistently, day after day, not wanting to land on the favorites, consulting so-called hotshot handicappers for tips and picks and disregarding common sense and the very things that isolate Derby Quality.

But what is "Derby Quality" and what attributes do these past winners all have in common that easily projects them onto that winning Tote Board?

  1. Inherited Speed vs Displayed Speed as shown in their Preps

  2. Inherited Stamina to withstand 10f which is found in their charts.

  3. Bias Ability according to the Weather, either displayed previously or according to their chart.

These three items, and these alone, are the keys to holding a winning ticket and one feeds right off of the other. All three qualities, no matter the category that the horse falls into, must be present and active among your top four prospects. Leave one item out and you will no doubt be ripping up that ticket after the two minute run.

It is not so much which entries have the proper qualities, it is more important to isolate those that DO NOT have those qualities for the GIVEN DAY. When handicapping a field of 20 horses who were all good enough to secure their gate, all under 10f, common sense tells us to chop out those who lack in the attributes listed above to get down to a more manageable field to work with. The mistake would be to toss any colt who might gain an advantage depending on item #3. They may be holding something extra depending on that bias, but they may also lose it depending on a different bias. All three items interlock together and all three items are easy to spot prior to the bell. A main point that has been reiterated over the years - What wins the Kentucky Derby on one bias is not the same as what wins on another bias. The first two items must be present no matter the conditions of the day, but the third point is what drives the entire exercise home.

This will be a series of three separate articles for each of the categories and how to identify the players who follow those 3 attributes. This article will explore the points with regard to the Speed Category, which should reveal why one speed horse would remain a keeper when handicapping the Derby over one which would be an easy toss. In the examples below, both horses depicted high INHERITED and DISPLAYED Speed to gain a gate in the Derby. They both performed to a very high level along the way and now presented with a 10f distance to conquer, it is quite easy to determine which will reign supreme and which one is easy to ignore. This happens every single year among the speed category, so if you want to rise in your handicapping you must learn how to distinguish between the speed players and the speed pretenders.

Since the speed category is the most advantaged set among the field and since these speed guys are equipped with inheritance to excel in their shorter races in order to secure their gate, these are the guys that become the easiest to handicap. The speed category is the most important part of the Derby field. They are the most advantaged regardless of the weather. They are generally the ones who bolt out of the gate and secure the proper position. They are the ones who DISPLAYED fierce speed in their maidens and throughout their preps. They are usually the most hyped because of their timeform and beyer figures. This category presents the highest percentage of winners in recent years. They are the easiest group to separate between the keepers and the tosses. It is imperative to look for the key signs and qualities which places one above all the others and gives you the opportunity to weed out the field with the pretenders.


Speed wins races no matter what. Common sense. Early on in the season, a colt's chart will easily pinpoint the inheritance speed factor and that colt must display that inherited speed along the way. He must win his races, he must exhibit fast workouts and he must do it consistently. Stamina quality aside, the speed horse will always find greater ease in his early prep races, rain or shine, which means that he will gain favoritism each step along the way. They are easy to spot and if they run to their numbers as 2 year olds and early three year olds, they will always gain the spotlight and always have the advantage early on. That advantage may or may not continue on into the Kentucky Derby.

Examples between a SPEED keeper and a SPEED obvious toss :

2014 California Chrome - SPEED

DP = 7 - 9 - 14 - 0 - 0 (30) DI = 3.29 CD - .77

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Brilliant (4,5,6f) Classic Dominant Points Total Over 3.00 Low

Won Maiden race at 4.5f. (Displayed Speed)

Won the Graduation Stakes at 5.5f on AWS (Ability to translate to different bias)

Won the King Glorious Stakes at 7f on AWS (Displays will and determination with disadvantage among the field)

Won the California Cup at 8.5f (Demolishes the field back on dirt after 2 consecutive disadvantaged losses)

Won the San Felipe at 8.5f (Explodes on dirt against a competent field, uptick in performance)

Won the Santa Anita Derby at 9f (uptick in performance at further distance)

Enters the Kentucky Derby as the 2-5 favorite. Clean fast track that day.

Inherited speed to win early Derby Prep races 9f and below? Yes. Check.

Displays that speed along the way on different surfaces? Yes. Check.

Stamina inheritance to go the 10f distance. Yes. Check.

Fourteen points (dominance in the Classic distance from his chefs)

Chef CD is low.

High Points Total (always advantaged)

Speed Index (always advantaged)

The Mares:

Mare Profile = 11-4-3-4-12 Speed = 15 Stamina = 16 Index = 0.94 Triads = 18-11-19

Split Profile goes one way or the other. Mare index under 1.00 shows stamina leaning. High 19 points in 3rd slot of triads. Profile depicts evenly balanced between his speed and stamina with slight leaning to additional stamina. The fact that he excelled on AWS shows dominance in stamina tendency and much more advantaged on a clean track than a sloppy track. May 3, 2014 presents a clean fast track.

California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby stalking the lead by 1-3/4.

2014 Vicars in Trouble - Speed

DP = 3 - 1 - 2 - 0 - 0 (6) DI = 5.00 CD = 1.17

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Brilliant Dominant Classic Descends Points Total Low Over 3.00 High

Won Maiden race at 6f. (Displayed Speed)

Won the Lecomte at 1mi 70 by 6-3/4. (Demolishes the field with incredible beyer stalking the lead)

Wins the Louisiana Derby at 9f by 3.5 lengths (Beats the favorite displaying will and determination)

Enters the Kentucky Derby. Fast clean track which is good because the horse displayed serious speed all on fast tracks along the way.

Inherited speed (5.00 index) to win early Derby Prep races 9f and below? Yes. Check.

Only ran on clean tracks to date so his displayed speed was perfect for the Derby bias that day? Yes. Check.

Stamina inheritance to go the 10f distance? Not in the least. Toss.

Chefs descend to the classic distance - less than his quick early short Brilliant category.

Low total points which means the mares will have the tendency to be more influential. This means that in Vicar's case, more emphasis must be placed on what the mares are providing him. Great speed inheritance with a 5.00 index but his CD is way above 1.00 which means he will need extreme mare stamina to counteract all of that inherited chef speed to balance him out.

The Mares:

Mares Profile = 6-8-7-7-3 Speed = 14 Stamina = 10 Index = 1.35 Triads = 21-22-17

Even though he has nice loaded triads, everything within a set of numbers feeds off the other. The high triads depict a high number of reines in his chart which is always good, but how do those reines balance out. First major pitfall - Speed 14 and the Stamina 10 numbers. They are adding a dominance of speed to his already packed up 5.00 chef index. Negative point spread is highly detrimental. The second pitfall, you can easily see that the mares are dominant in the Intermediate distance (7,8,9f) range which, by Vicar's resume, is exactly where he did his best - he is running true to his numbers. The third blow is that mare index. Way above 1.00 which screams speed and deteriorates any stamina he may have gained. Then the fourth and final blow is that the triads (although nicely packed) descend to the stamina end. With the speedy configurations of his chefs combined with the speedy and lopsided numbers of his mares, there would be no chance that this horse would be able to sustain his speed going that 10f.

Performing to a higher level from maiden to longest Derby Prep distances DOES NOT guarantee that a horse will be able to continue in the same manner at 10f in the Derby. High timeform and beyer figures are commendable and exciting and between Vicars and Chrome, well, Vicars actually posted much better figures than Chrome along the way. But those beautiful performance figures mean NOTHING as compared to the breeding inheritance numbers for the Derby distance.

Vicar's in Trouble came in dead last in the Derby.

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, the most important category is the Speed category because they are the most advantaged on the field regardless of weather. For this race and for this category, the past performance sheet and speed figures MUST be secondary to the breeding. They will all have beautiful speed figures and nice past performance sheets because THEY ARE SPEED HORSES and they should perform at those levels at that distance. What separates a monster from a pretender in this particular category is the ability to sustain that speed the extra 660 feet in the Derby. If they do not have the breeding to go that distance then it doesn't matter how high those beyer figures are on that past performance sheet. The horse can run as fast as a speeding bullet prior to the Derby and he may just do the same in the Derby as well, but that is 9f, not 10f. Which means as soon as he hits 9.2f he will start to dissipate.

Like Vicar's in Trouble, who displayed his speed in the Derby, running up with the pace in 5th position, the past performances, beyer figures and other times will easily tell you that he will be as competitive as he normally was with his speed, but then just before the final turn, he will give in. His previous figures hold no bearing if he does not have the inheritance to sustain it 10f. This happens over and over again - year after year. Like clockwork.

You must pit these speed horses against each other based on distance first and if the 10f is not present he must be tossed. Once the pretenders in the speed category are tossed, what you are then left with are the true speed guys who have the distance no matter how fast they travelled previously. If there are a few speed contenders who have the breeding, then those are the ones who now deserve to have their beyer figures, past performances, timeform figures and whatever other figures you use to now handicap what is REMAINING. The biggest trap for those who gamble on horses and particularly the Derby, are those who consider the figures and fractions and times of these "elite" speed contenders FIRST. If they are running to their breeding, then they will naturally post exquisite figures along the way. This is opposite of what truly matters in this race when it comes to this category.

Distance Capability Comes First When Handicapping the Speed Category. This statement will not hold true for the other categories (which we will get to next). When it comes to the Speed Category entries, no matter how much you love that horse, no matter how fast he performed in his preps, no matter what figures he posted along the way, if he does not have 10f+ in him, he can go as fast as he wants in the Derby for the first 9f or so, but he will eventually wind down before he hits that stretch. Guaranteed.


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