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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

The Deception of Speed


"Fast horses win races" is a saying that most handicapper's take to heart. Though it may be true with 2 year old and young 3 year old's on the Derby Trail running at their optimum, that consistent speed can be very deceiving when it comes to the 10f of the Kentucky Derby with a full field of 20 starters. It is not so much the distance in all cases. Much depends on the bias and condition of the track. History repeats itself often in the Kentucky Derby, more often then the average handicapper could ever realize. History reveals itself over and over at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, like clockwork, and most never even give it a second thought.

Understanding that exquisite Beyer and Timeform figures are not the only impetus to winning or hitting the board in the Kentucky Derby, - BREEDING - along with those figures - is the driving force. Those 100+ beyer figures are extremely important, if that horse has 10f+ bred into him. You never hear about the multitude of past contenders who entered that Churchill gate sporting top 100+ beyer figures who packed it in around the far turn, you only hear about the winners, after the fact. Speed wins races, but in the Derby, that speed must be accompanied with the ability to tackle the distance.

How many top ten Derby lists were there with Forbidden Kingdom among the top? He was there because he posted a 102 in the San Felipe, with a visually impressive stretch run. That beyer figure could have said 115 and it still would not have mattered. If the horse is not bred to conquer the distance, he is not a Derby player.

The M/L odds of the Kentucky Derby entries are a depiction of high Beyer and Timeform figures coupled with posted wins and NEVER EVER revolve around the breeding of the colt. The number one criteria for success in the Derby is the ability to tackle the 10f distance in the first place. The horse must be built with 10+ furlongs.

High beyer, equibase and timeform figures "generally" will be seen on a Speed-type colt along the road. This is how they are built and this is how they should perform. They are running 6f to 9f races prior to their start in the Derby, which, in just about every case, is exactly what their preferred optimum distance encompasses. They SHOULD present fast times. They SHOULD acquire high beyers. They should beat up on their stamina opponents at those distances. This is just common sense. More important for the Derby, can they sustain that beautiful speed further than 10 furlongs?

Let's look at a few deceptions over recent years to see why we do what we do here and how history always backs it up.

2020 NY Traffic

This guy went off at 13-1 on the year where all the races were flip-flopped due to Covid. His final Derby prep was actually the 9f Haskell stakes. He went off at 6-1 in that race and produced sensational pace figures of 92/109/100 with a final figure of 107. He hit the board in 8 of his 9 previous races. He also had no chance in the Derby because he was not built for the 10f distance.

DP = 2-12-2-0-0 (16) DI = 15.00 CD = 1.00

Mare Profile = 5-4-5-7-5 Speed = 9 Stamina = 12 Index = 0.86 Triads = 14-16-17

His numbers correlate to 9.1f to 9.5f optimum. Without rain, he didn't have the distance.

NY Traffic came in 8th place in the Derby.

2019 Roadster

Roadster went off at 11-1 on Derby Day. The over-hyped winner of the Santa Anita Derby posted 93/94/98 figures with a 98 beyer. For comparison, Code of Honor went of at 14-1, and Country House at 65-1. The betting dollars went to Roadster based on his speed at Santa Anita and the Baffert factor. Code and Country House took their killer Derby configurations over the finish line while the true distance capability of Roadster was on full display at Churchill.

DP = 6-2-10-0-0 (18) DI = 2.60 CD = 0.78

Mare Profile = 9-5-1-6-9 Speed = 14 Stamina = 15 Index = 0.96 Triads = 15-12-16

Relying on a sire, in this case Quality Road, or 9f prep figures, holds no bearing. The entire chart is the Key.

Roadster came in 15th place in the Derby.

2018 Bolt d'Oro

Bolt went off at 8-1 in the Derby. His final prep in the Santa Anita Derby, he came in 2nd behind Justify and posted 91/102/114 with a final beyer of 110. No matter where you looked, everyone was talking about his figures in that final 9f prep.

DP = 7-11-12-2-0 (32) DI = 3.00 CD = 0.72

Mare Profile = 11-2-2-4-10 Speed = 13 Stamina = 14 Index = 1.00 Triads = 15-8-16

Even with Medaglia D'oro as a sire and 32 points in his profile, his mares contribution was completely off for Kentucky.

Bolt D'oro finished 12th in the Derby.

Colts like Itsmyluckyday, Gemologist, Dialed In, etc who went off at single digit odds in the Kentucky Derby because of their commendable performances along the trail, did not perform on the Churchill track that day because they were built incorrectly for the 10f race. Buzz and hype, high beyers at 9f, and fancy PP sheets will never supersede inheritance.

Inheritance is one thing, experience is another.

Deception with a speed bias or other factors that strike the colt's immediate competition in a prep is yet another component. Sometimes the faults and flaws of one colt will in fact enhance another's.

As discussed in a previous article concerning the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Shackleford's distance limitations enhanced Animal Kingdom's ending thunder. This situation happens over and over again. There is no guarantee that the lead will have over 10f distance capability. This is just common sense. This is the reason why we wanted Forbidden Kingdom in a gate. As it appears now, we have a few other possible lead contenders who will affect the race results, guaranteed.

Based on Epicenter's "training race" in the Louisiana Derby, laying off the lead, it would appear that Asmussen knows exactly what his horse is capable of. This trainer is very good and he is making sure that all bases are covered. With Forbidden Kingdom out, I would imagine that he still would prefer Epicenter sitting just off the pace. He still has a few targets to consider.

There is Messier, whose best performance came on the lead in the Robert B. Lewis. However, out of 6 career performances, Messier only had the lead that one time. With that record, we cannot rely on that speed dictating the pace. It would be very nice, but not reliable. I would imagine, on a sloppy track, "Baffert" will insist that "his" horse has that lead. In that case, after carefully watching Messier's replays over and over, and with working on potential projected scenarios coupled with his breeding, even on a sloppy track, he falls short of the wire. Board hit, yes - but his 10.25f combined capability coupled with the way this horse has been trained to expend most of his energy in the very early stages of the race, he may be in jeopardy.

The reality of the situation with Messier is that Medina Spirit also posted commendable beyer figures aided by the slick Santa Anita Track. Medina Spirit also lost his ending thunder in each of his prior prep races. Magically, Medina Spirit changed for the Kentucky Derby and posted a higher late figure than his early figure in the Derby. I'll simply leave that there for you to ponder, but I will say, trust in your instincts when it comes to the syndicate. That is all I have to say about that, I will move on.

The one who has the biggest probability for attempting to lead the pace is Early Voting. His maiden, he stalked in second. In both the Withers and Wood Memorial, he went for the wire. Both at 9f, he connected with the win in the Withers but had to settle for 2nd in the Wood because he lost some steam around the final turn. The likelihood that he will again shoot for the wire is a strong probability, so how does he factor with controlling the pace?

Early Voting's track record is located at Aqueduct, which is usually not a track that correlates very well to Churchill. However, this horse wired and won the Withers, which, on that day, was a sloppy track. Aqueduct caters to stamina and stamina horses usually have an adverse tendency to slick tracks. They usually do not sprint out of the gate for the lead. It appears that Early Voting is running to his own beat, but how does it all translate?

With the way his numbers shake out, he is highly influenced by his mares, not his chefs, which means that more emphasis must be attached to his mare's contribution, however, that fact doesn't really matter in his case when it comes to distance capability.

Chef's Profile = 0-0-4-0-0 (4) DI = 1.00 CD = 0.00 → translates to 11f

Mare Profile = 5-3-6-8-3 Speed = 8 Stamina = 11 Index = 0.95 Triads = 14-17-17 → translates to 11.7f

A case could be made by all of the evidence presented, that Early Voting, on the lead, regardless of bias, could potentially have enough distance capability on the Churchill track to take it wire to wire again at 10f.

While it may appear on paper that Early Voting has the muscle to be a player in the Kentucky Derby by all of the positive signs listed above, we must take into consideration the cons as well.

  1. The only colt in history to win the Derby with only 4 total points in his chefs profile was in 1943, Count Fleet. This does not cover those who hit the board though.

  2. His triads, across the board, are below par and the set-up of his mare's profile will have a tendency to get watered down by the tilt to the left. He does not have anything to pull from his chefs to counteract the balance.

  3. His pace figures on that sloppy track depicts a colt who expended a severe amount of energy in the early stages of the race and melted down substantially as he neared that 9f wire. 110 105/ 74 - with a final of 91.

With the addition of another 660ft, Early Voting would have to change his early expended energy substantially in order to wire the 10f. He would need to control a much more sedated pace without pressure. Even if he gets by that, his ending thunder may only rise as high as a 94 realistically. With his distance capability and with the evidence that he can play on a faster track, this pushes his capability down to possible board hit but highly unlikely to score the roses. His numbers are still under-par both in beyers and in inheritance for a win. For Epicenter and White Abarrio, having Early Voting controlling the pace, would be very nice. It would appear that either Messier or Early Voting capturing the lead on a fast track or sloppy track, would prove favorable to the stalkers who have the distance with their eyes closed.

On the other side of things, lets move on to the big "Buzz Horse" Taiba, half Brother to Early Voting, who is sporting 11.5f distance capability. Beautiful stamina configurations. Another who was a product of the Santa Anita speed bias and bestowed with a high beyer for it. Let's not forget last year, when the highly talented stamina-driven Rock Your World, capitalized off of that same speed bias as well. He ended up with a 102 figure for his effort, beating Medina Spirit by 4-1/4 lengths. He also had a fairly light resume, 3 undefeated races going into the Derby - one extra than Taiba. Both of these colts sit in the dreaded 2.00 average category, but Taiba's configurations are a far cry from the spectacular numbers of Rock Your World. Both with more than enough inbred stamina for the task at Churchill - but even with that Santa Anita speed - inexperience will crush you every time.

Taiba has competed against 11 combined competitors in his 2 month career in 2 races. Read that line again.

Picture in your mind the spectacle that is the Derby. Picture the screaming and clapping during the post parade. Picture 20 horses behind the gate as they load - and then in an instant, 80 powerful legs are stampeding for position. They are getting bumped and steadied right in front of the grandstand. Recall horses like Vyjack, Promises Fulfilled, Flameaway, Uncle Sigh, Sidney's Candy, etc. who ran out of that gate like a beast on fire, most likely not understanding how they arrived amongst all of these powerhouse colts and why the penetrating loud noise with it. Experience counts, even with the best bred, and that high beyer figure coming out of the Santa Anita Derby happens year after year, but it does not always translate into a win at Churchill, not by a longshot.

Where did that speedy Santa Anita Beyer get Rock Your World, Honor A.P., Roadster, Gormley, Exaggerator, Dortmund, Midnight Interlude, etc.? Sometimes a board hit, sometimes not. But, the ones who did manage a board hit - had experience. Even Point Given failed to hit the Tote Board after he demolished his foes in the Santa Anita Derby. Point Given had 8 races under his belt going into the Kentucky Derby.

The idea that a horse who had a race against 6 opponents in March and 5 opponents in April is a legitimate player for the Kentucky Derby is a joke. The recklessness of greed in subjecting this horse to compete against these experienced Grade One winners puts Taiba, the jockeys and the other contenders in harms way. But that would not occur to those associated with this horse. Competing in the prestigious race is all that matters.

Colts like California Chrome, I'll Have Another and A.P. Indy who won the Santa Anita Derby with high beyers had experience with their breeding moving to Churchill. Justify, the lightly raced inexperienced one, had Baffert. This is the only thing that Taiba has in his back pocket for the Kentucky Derby. The absolute ONLY THING. This is what "compensation" at the ticket windows means every year and suspensions are not suspensions in the truest sense of the word. This leaves the individual handicapper the only one who can "justify" forking out the "compensation". It's the same year, over and over again.


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