Every year, die-hard horse fans begin their Kentucky Derby handicapping well in advance of the big show. Every bit of information found is poured over. We consult Brisnet figures, Timeform figures, Race Replays, Pace Projections, Workout Times, and Handicapping tips and picks across the internet.
Most all will indeed have their strongest picks ready to go well before the big show arrives. In our minds, we have the best top 4 or 5 guys who have shown their dominance in the Prep races. In our minds, these top 5 guys must be the true players, after all, the morning line odds are agreeing as well. These guys are taking to that Churchill track with incredible 4f, 5f, and 6f workouts. Their trainers are giving interviews about how well their horse is settling in and the bigshots across the internet can’t stop talking about the chosen few. Everything is looking good for that big score and you are set to dive into your biggest gamble of the year, a nice hefty Superfecta bet that will cost you hundreds. You can’t lose this year. Everything is aligning perfectly, isn't it?
The first Saturday in May finally arrives and with great anticipation you prepare to place your bet. Be it at the track itself or at an off track betting facility or right at your computer, you shell out a few hundred dollars with all the confidence in the world. It doesn’t matter that they have been calling for rain all day.
By 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the track has turned a sloppy muddy mess and still, you hold steadfast to your picks. Worse yet, you already placed your bet earlier in the day because your confidence was through the roof. These 5 guys are so good that in your mind, even if they have never run on a sloppy track, you can feel it in your bones that they are the best for the race today. Be honest with yourself, this is exactly the scenario that plays out every sloppy Derby Edition for you. It is a long 365 days for the next Derby shot, but you will trek onward and never change.
We marry our picks well in advance. You are not alone. We all do it. It’s in our nature as diehard handicappers to see something in a particular horse that you just can’t let go of. It is in our nature to dismiss most of the longshots who did not shine as greatly on the trail. Most importantly, it is in our nature to dismiss the bias of the track in favor of the past performance sheets even if that sheet shows no performance to date on a sloppy track. They were great in all of their races, they must still be great in all weather conditions. The longshots still do not compare.
So you think.
The Kentucky Derby is unlike any race run throughout the 3 year old’s short career so far. Not one has run 10f. Most likely, their points were gained at their optimum distance of 8f to 9f. There is a very good chance that most have never shown their ability to skate across a wet surface. If they did in fact show brilliance on a wet surface, the race they conquered was 6f or 8f or even 9f – not 10f. If a colt has never performed on a sloppy track in his career, one would never know that a longshot is ready to explode on that surface at the 10f distance, which would be his most advantaged spot he has run to date.
When the track on Derby Day comes up sloppy, every single solitary bet placed by the thousands across the globe is bet with blinders on. Every single one of them.
So what is a gambler to do? We are not mind readers. If they never ran on a wet surface or even if they did at a shorter distance, we must still go all in with those top 4 or 5 guys with our Superfecta bet, right?
Being the gamblers that we are, we could consult the numbers and rely on history. Sounds a bit scary doesn’t it? It would entail bypassing a few of the bigshots who are the talk of the town in favor of a couple of longshots who are so obscure that their pictures aren’t even taken during their Churchill workouts. It means changing your entire ticket an hour before post time. It means divorcing your favorites and using a 20-1 shot underneath. It means going against your betting instincts. Not an easy task with a headstrong bettor, but one that will change your handicapping skills a great deal and take you to a whole other level.
Which horses dominate on a wet sloppy track at Churchill Downs at 10f on the first Saturday in May?
Two Specific Types:
Those two items do not pertain to past performances. They pertain to inheritance. Since 1994, (not wise to go further back than 25 years) the Kentucky Derby was run on a sloppy track eight times. For purposes of this article, last year’s sloppy edition will not be considered because of the stretch run and disqualification of the winner. That race will always need to be a toss for historical purposes.
Type One: High Inbred Speed.
Speed horses have an advantage on a sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby. There are two reasons for this. The first is that a speed horse (one who has a Chef index of 3.00 and over) will have the ability to skate on that surface closer to the lead. They are the ones who run quickest out of the gate, gain perfect position, stay clean without being blinded by the mud, and have the necessary dominance of speed to outrun their opponents. The second reason is because the stamina guys themselves (those with chef indexes below 2.00) do not carry the correct amount of inherited speed, generally run mid-pack and behind, are covered in mud and do not possess the jets to pass speed demons down the lane. Stamina horses suffer in the mud in the Derby and therefore always relinquish the advantage to the Speed Guys on a silver platter. The 2.00 to 2.90 average indexed colts always have the disadvantage in the Derby rain or shine. They are the ones who do not carry enough speed to compete against either side of the balance...unless they possess the second criteria...
Type Two: Loaded Profiles.
A loaded colt is one who was blessed with an extraordinary amount of listed chefs in their chart. The dosage profile itself displays the chefs high amount of "ingredients" which is revealed in the total points after you add up the numbers across their Dosage Profile.
Example: Go For Gin, winner of the 1994 Kentucky Derby 25 years ago:
His chef’s dosage profile is 8-5-16-7-6. When you add up those points it equals 42. That is loaded. Average points among runners generally total approximately 22 with most well below that. Way above that average is considered “loaded”.
Go for Gin was undeniably loaded. He possessed close to double the average amount of points.
A loaded profile DOES NOT require a high index to go with it.
Sometimes a colt will possess both which makes his advantage fly through the roof. Simply having a loaded profile, regardless of his chef's index, will also bestow a huge advantage in this race. (Loaded mare triads also have been working in the same fashion as of late for stamina guys). The only reason that I can muster for this phenomenon is that the colt is pulling his influence from a greater amount of chefs (or mares), giving him a greater chance of inheriting a fondness and a dominance to perform on a sloppy track. Other than that, I cannot quite guess why loaded colts have a way of finding themselves among the eventual Superfecta players. The simple fact is that it just does.
History does not lie, and in black in white, race results prove themselves over and over again. It is important to configure two separate tickets for the Kentucky Derby – one for a clean track and one for a wet track.
What wins on the two separate biases are NOT the same.
Again, two separate items find themselves with an advantage on a sloppy track at 10f at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby.
1. Chef index over 3.00 and/or
2. Loaded Profiles.
Only two horses out of 28 to hit the superfecta on a sloppy track did not match the two qualifications – Instilled Regard who took 4th in 2018 and Brocco who also hit 4th back in 1994. This means that 92.8% of the time, these two criteria will dictate who controls the top 4 spots in the Kentucky Derby in the rain. Both Instilled Regard and Brocco both had two items in common, they both sat at the highest plateau of inherited stamina among their group that year and both held overloaded triads. They both had the LOWEST chef index of the group which means they were packing the highest amount of stamina entered that year. They also had serious triads. In addition, even though last year was a toss as it pertains to history, Code of Honor also sat in that very same spot on the list and he too made the superfecta in the rain with overloaded triads and the highest inbred stamina on the field. Important to take note of that and to highly consider any entrant in this year’s Derby (rain or shine) who hits that third criteria just in case. At the moment, that spot belongs to Sole Volante. It is also important to note that most stamina guys hate the slop and the 3 guys mentioned who had the highest amount of inbred stamina on the field are truly not the norm - basically 50-50 - to grab their piece even with their magnificent breeding. Consider the monster Thunder Snow who also sat with the highest amount of inbred stamina on the field that year coupled with killer breeding. His hatred for the mud stopped him in his tracks right out of the gate so this third criteria should be seen as a "just in case" type of addition to a muddy superfecta bet. We leave no stone unturned as far as the Derby is concerned - better to be safe than sorry.
Payouts when the track ends up sloppy are greatly higher than when it is run on a clear track. The reason is because the overlooked longshots who quietly will thrive at 10f under those conditions are neglected when the weather turns. Additionally, any of those stamina guys who were considered favorites prior to the race, those with very low odds, had their advantage knocked out from underneath them. In reality, a few of the favorites who happened to be stamina guys (under 2.00) will undoubtedly struggle for a piece unless they sit in that same spot as Code of Honor, Instilled Regard or Brocco. This is when a strong handicapper who has the ability to pinpoint a player with the correct inheritance for the bias can take advantage of the weather and cash big.
The chart below shows the last editions of the Kentucky Derby since 1994 that have been run on a sloppy muddy track. Every one of them with the exception of 4th place Instilled Regard and Brocco hit the two identifying criteria. They were either 3.00 and over colts OR they had overloaded profiles. In some cases, they had both which sent their advantage through the roof.