From Maiden To Prep To Derby

Practical Joke - Champagne Stakes Winner - 2016

Most times when I decide to sit and construct a new article for our website, I begin with just a simple title and I let that title take me wherever it wants to go. My original thought for this one was to walk through the special qualities, breeding and signs that allows one to spot a potential champion. But sitting here looking at that title, I just keep seeing furlongs and not qualities and signs. Maybe it’s because I just spent 2 hours looking at the field for the Champagne stakes and I am obsessed with distance at this second in time.


That title, in essence, reads… FROM 6f, TO 8.5f, To 10f. Maybe I should just change it or maybe it will drive the point home even stronger.


Most maiden races are 6f or 6.5f and most of these races are won by the little guys who are packing a great deal of speed inheritance. There is no stronger handicapping skill with maiden races than common sense. There is no better opportunity to spot a potential champ after seeing just one race. The debut race is one of the easiest races to hit and those who take the time to look passed the trainer and workout times, could easily increase their winning average.


Not a single serious handicapper should ever place a bet on a maiden race without first typing each and every name on that field into Pedigreequery and checking (at the very least) his chefs dosage index. Once every index is listed next to the contenders name, you will be given at least an insight as to where each falls on the speed/stamina scale and an insight into which colt(s) have at least a high degree of sprinters speed inheritance where they should have a slight edge among the group. Very high chef index has an advantage in short debut races. In taking the 10 minutes to do this exercise, you now have give yourself an advantage as well.

Havana - Champagne Stakes Winner - 2014

One of two things will happen. You will either collect on your efforts or you will spot a potentially very good colt going forward because he did NOT fall into the advantaged category. This information will pay off for you later. One race will always connect to the next and all information gained along the way is what separates moderate handicappers from the great handicappers.


High speed inheritance has the greatest win percentage in a 6 or 6.5f race. It begins with indexes starting at 3.00 with each added point adding even more speed inheritance. This does not mean the colt will automatically win, it means he has the best advantage on that field to win. If a colt wins the 6f race and he is not one of the higher indexes on the field, then take note. In order to triumph over speedsters going so short, the colt is either running through his numbers or he is so overloaded that his optimum is spread across the board. The last possible scenario, you just spotted a potential monster. If this guy can win or simply keep up with the speed horses on that field, make sure to place him in your virtual stable. The hype surrounding the winning speedster will surely overshadow the average guy or the stamina guy that managed to grab his minimal piece. This is the guy to follow as well as the hyped winner.


Self-control in betting on maiden races is the key. There are so many maiden races at this time of the year that in order to have a successful run, you must know when to walk away. Again, common sense in handicapping and common sense with your money go hand in hand. There was a time several years ago, where I personally went on a 16 race winning streak in maidens. The streak spanned a 3 month time period where I handicapped at least 50 debut races. Understanding your potential to cash on any one particular race with the patience and the ability to know that you simply have no advantage in the race is more important to your bottom line than taking the gamble with no advantage. Sixteen winners in a row based only on two things - the horse had a high chef index (over 3.00) and how many on that field fell into that category. You must know what is in each and every gate and how they affect each other as far as their inheritance especially in a maiden. These guys are running on their inheritance first out. It is the best time to strike.


After jotting down the indexes of the field, if 50% of the field is holding indexes over 3.00 – Walk Away. There are so many maiden races at this time of the year that being choosy in which one gives YOU the highest advantage of cashing the ticket instead of ripping it into shreds is all about self-control and common sense. In a 10 horse field, if 5 of them are little speedsters, all 5 have an advantage over the other. This is a losing bet. Forget the time you put in and walk away. Find the next maiden where there are only 3 or 4 with a higher index. Narrow your field down and at least strike with an advantage of your own. When you find a maiden race with only one crazy high indexed horse on the field, strike harder than ever. Your advantage doesn't get much better than that.


(I would be remiss if I did not add in one other thing as it pertains to winning maiden numbers. If there happens to be a colt with a 5 digit dosage profile that totals points OVER 40 - this horse also will have an advantage in a maiden race regardless of the index itself. These types of colts with extremely high points generally have the ability to excel at distances across the board with no true optimum.)


War Pass - Champagne Stakes Winner - 2008

Moving on to the early Derby Prep races. One of the single most important things to understand in betting EARLY prep races is that those horses who occupy a gate are the very ones who excelled in their maidens, therefore, the early prep gates will usually be filled with a ton of speedsters and only a gifted few who surpassed their numbers and beat the speed against their disadvantage. As stated above, the best shot at making money between all three areas (maiden, preps and Derby) is the maiden. Early Derby preps are the HARDEST because of the make-up of the entrants. Speed still dominates at 8 and 8.5f. Now you have a field most likely filled with the speediest of the earliest of maiden winners as far as breeding goes. Most early Derby prep winners in the past have been speed horses and this most likely is due to the fact that 90% of the field consisted of maiden speedster winners. This is the reason why early prep races are as wide open as they come and your betting dollar does not go far. Past Performance Sheets in EARLY prep races are not as reliable as one would think.


You generally are looking at a field packed with speedsters with 6f high beyer figures. How they act at 6f is quite a different scenario at 8 or 8.5f. Early prep races are probably the worst possible gamble for your dollar.


Take the field for the Champagne Stakes - Chef Index only:

Endorsed – 3.33

Trophy Chaser – 3.00

Achilles Warrior – 3.00

Complexity – 4.00

Call Paul – 3.44

Listing – 3.50

Successful Zip – 4.00

Aurelius Maximus – 4.09

Casa Creed – 2.00

Code of Honor - .76


A 10 horse field and 8 of them are dominate in Speed. One is average. One is all stamina. This clearly shows that most times, the “best” maidens will usually be won with indexes 3.00 and over and early prep races will most likely be won by the same because of how overloaded they are represented in the race itself. There is an 80% chance that another speed horse will win this race simply because 8 of them are entered. Chef numbers will always be a moot point in early Derby preps but one thing is for sure, even though one of the speedsters will likely win this particular showdown, 7 of them will not. Seven speedsters will falter because what wins at 6f is not what wins at 8f. To sustain a high degree of speed traveling a mile takes a profile that does not get watered down (many in this race are watered down) and/or mare stamina balanced against it (a few have great mare stamina to counteract). Too much mare stamina at this distance could water down the speed as well. In all practicality, 8f is still basically a "short" race but at 6f all that is required is serious speed, at 8f there must be stamina to sustain it. A past performance sheet with only 1 or 2 listed races per horse will never be a good gauge as to who is superior. The ability and mare stamina of one of the speedsters as far as breeding goes is the tell.


Shanghai Bobby - Champagne Stakes Winner - 2013

If you look past the betting aspect and focus in on the horses themselves, you can actually grab a huge advantage for a future prep here. This has to do with Casa Creed and Code of Honor. In both cases, both beat the speed they were up against in their debut when in fact they were both at a huge disadvantage with at least half of the field they ran against. If either Casa Creed or Code of Honor happens to win this race at the major disadvantage that they are holding against a full field of speed, then you know you are looking at something extremely special. Even more so with Code of Honor in that at least Casa Creed inherited 2x more speed than stamina. Code of Honor is at less than 1x speed over stamina. He is 95% stamina and at the greatest disadvantage of the entire field. If he can pull this off with his breeding, he would be well on his way to being a complete standout for 2019. Though easier said than done, a clear clean track will at least help with his quest.

If the track ends up a sloppy mess and either Casa Creed or Code of Honor happens to win this race, you are definitely looking at more than a serious contender for the Derby, you are probably looking at a serious champion in the making. The slop will play against them, especially Code of Honor. This is where betting strategies are at their finest. If in fact either horse does very poorly on that sloppy track, in their next race they will most likely have even longer odds. The fact that a wet track was not to their liking does not take away the fact that they beat the speed early on. In other words, the race would be a toss for those two - it would not be a toss for any of the others on that field who faltered. Understand that they most likely faltered not due to the rain, but due to the distance. Run away from any of those speedsters who showed their speed to win their short maiden but faltered at 8f with their speed in the rain with a good clean trip. It was not the rain - it was the distance. They want to sprint at 7to 7.5f.


Now the Derby. Speed horses continue to dominate the Kentucky Derby, however, having chef dominant speed is not the only thing a colt will need. In fact, most times high dominant speed inheritance is extremely detrimental if it is not backed up with the mare stamina to sustain it. Debut races and very early prep races revolve around chef speed. The Kentucky Derby revolves around mare stamina that coincides with chef speed. Mare stamina is the #1 important ingredient for the Derby. Coupled with high Chef speed is the ideal set-up. The necessary contributions for each distance along the trail is never ever the same.


Union Rags - Champagne Stakes Winner - 2012

Past winners of the Champagne Stakes:

Firenze Fire - 3.00

Practical Joke - 3.00

Greenpointcrusader - 2.71

Havana - 3.00

Shanghai Bobby - 3.80

Union Rags - 2.33

Uncle Mo - 2.20

Homeboykris - 3.67

Vineyard Haven - 3.00

War Pass - 4.09


70% of the time, indexes of 3.00 and over have won the Champagne Stakes. And most of the time, the reason is because the field was overloaded in speed horses because they simply won their maidens. Union Rags was a major standout that early on because of his ability to beat an overloaded speedy Champagne field. (As well as the fact that many editions were run on a sloppy track.)


For this edition of the Champagne Stakes, on a clean clear field, Code of Honor, with his crazy stamina inheritance up against a full field of speed is the one to watch. If the field ends up a rainy sloppy mess, do not hold a sub-par performance against him. He is not bred for that. (and Casa Creed as well). However, if he manages to pull off so much as a board hit on the wet track, the sky is limit with this guy. His .76 index against the rest of the field at this distance is ridiculously disadvantaged.


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