Before I begin, I just want to say that the Derby Analysis has become somewhat of a “tradition” among my small group of horse-playing friends for some time. I think it was with the “Original Eight” of us. Even though I was forced to suppress members here at our club (a couple thousand at one point) I am happy and honored to have this small group of around 50 die-hard loyal handicappers gathered to talk and strategize the Kentucky Derby. So thank you to all who have a password, you have it because you are important and I consider all of you friends.
I will start by saying that my forte is not handicapping Derby preps. I always have the 10f Kentucky Derby in my head and it is hard to separate myself from it along the way. I usually always gravitate to the ones who appear to have what it takes to run 10f, hoping and praying they win the prep and secure a gate in the Derby. For me, this makes the Derby itself much easier to handicap if they are indeed there. I assume you all know this by now after reading my posts (and picks) along the way. It’s something that I just can’t help. So, I do not have an easy time with betting the preps, which is why I usually sit and watch the back field, looking to see who is still performing at a heightened level, even in defeat. Everything revolves around the Churchill race at 10f. I can’t see past it. If you hadn’t noticed, I love it!
There were so many incredible, perfectly bred 10f Derby horses this year. The major ones were Nadal and Maxfield, but there were also quite a few silent ones who were so intensely well-bred for the 10f, that they couldn’t pull off a win at 8 or 9f. Therefore, they could not secure their gate.
A few who come to mind who fell by the wayside were Fore Left, As Seen on TV, Eight Rings, South Bend and so many others. They couldn’t connect with the speed at those shorter distances but they would have been completely at home on the first Saturday in September.
Every year, the gates at the Kentucky Derby are filled with a few superstars who completely dominated their two year old campaign and their prep races. Some years, these guys go on to dominate the Derby as well and maybe one quiet guy grabs a small piece. Many years this is dictated by the weather. Along the way, speed guys win their races and when presented with a muddy track, grab that advantage again. Some years, a few of those overly speedy ones disrupt the favorites if their jockey’s aren’t careful and stamina gains the upper-hand. This usually occurs on a fast clean track.
There is no safeguard for any category. Every year a new field of heavy-hitters and longshots gather to run 10f. The speed and the class of the field usually gains a leg up right out of the gate and they persevere for the top spots.
Many years though, it doesn’t work out that way...
Animal Kingdom at 21 to 1, Country House at 65 to 1, I’ll Have Another at 15 to 1, Mine that Bird at 50 to 1.
Funny Cide at 13 to 1. War Emblem at 20 to 1. Monarchos at 10 to 1. Charismatic at 31 to 1. Giacomo at 50- to 1.
Even Barbaro was not the shortest odds on the board.
In addition, there are the 3 board-hitters underneath the winner who do not necessarily make up the shorter M/L odds horses either...
Instilled Regard at 85 to 1. Lookin at Lee at 33 to 1. Battle of Midway at 40 to 1. Commanding Curve at 38 to 1.
Golden Soul at 34 to 1. Went the Day Well at 31 to 1. Shackleford at 23 to 1. Make Music For Me at 30 to 1.
Denis of Cork at 27 to 1. Tale of Ekati at 37 to 1. Bluegrass Cat at 30-1. Limehouse at 41 to 1.
And on and on and on.
Those odds up above are the reasons for the obsession. Yes, the big league favorites win this race many times, but so do those longshots who pay off at the windows. Which is what we are looking for, right? In most all cases, the breeding pointed them out as superior for the 10f race, not their past performance sheets below their optimum.
The horse who graces the Winner’s Circle and those that fill out the superfecta in the Kentucky Derby are the ones who capitalize off of their breeding and the bias. They are the ones who savored a clean and unimpeded trip. Not all of them may have been the toast of the town along the trail because they saw no advantage there. Every year, this race must be looked at with a fine tooth comb and not one of them should be neglected.
It is easy to look at who dominated the prep races and even easier to prop up the favorites of the race as if you know something that the vast majority of handicappers don’t. This is one of the main reasons why I personally will not read one single thing that pertains to the touting of a M/L favorite. It’s the same words over and over, with absolutely no insight into the distance at hand. No insight into the effects of a lead speed horse, and no insight into how a win at one track would translate to a win at Churchill. Beyer Figures, across the line,
and where they ended up on the tote board is not a gauge for the Kentucky Derby if you place superfecta bets. I cannot stress that enough.
In the process of putting together the analysis, as it is every single year, horses pop out so significantly and with a clear understanding of how the particular horse should and will perform starts to make complete sense to me once all of them are laid out. The little things, the smaller details, become so spectacular and transparent... it is as if the heavens opened up and in the clouds, a faint movie reel plays out the final 20 seconds of the race. It happens every year, maybe because I have spent the last 10 months dreaming of every colt and every outcome and every possibility. This is the race we all live for. Possibly an obsession...
...gone to the extreme but we get one shot. One time a year. It's time to grab a piece of this big pie and every colt in that gate is more important than the next.
This year, this crazy year, could possibly culminate in an even crazier outcome and it is better to know it beforehand than after the Derby party. There are a couple of extremely quiet horses entered that have exactly what it takes to make their presence known on that super winning ticket. And that is exactly how it plays out every single year.