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Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

The Rabbit Strategy Backfires

The slow break out of the gate may have been the best thing to happen to the newly crowned winner of the 149th edition of the Kentucky Derby, Mage. The son of Good Magic did exactly the same thing in the Florida Derby, both times resulting in highly successful performances. This time though, he was paid handsomely for it.

Built for the race with his location in the early going, put him in high contention with his style. He did exceptionally well and his jockey steered him perfectly with that hot pace out front. Unfortunately, he was highlighted as a very good and well-configured player, but disregarded for favoritism coming off of the front. So it goes.

The high speed bias was kind to inbred speed for two days straight at Churchill Downs, producing winners who came from all areas of the track. That changed very quickly in the Kentucky Derby.

In the lead up to the Derby, it was widely known that the cast of characters who were perceived to be the leads would engage in the typical moderate to fast pace. That changed very quickly as well.

In the same fashion that Rich Strike was able to capitalize last year from the suicidal fast pace, we see the same again this year. The difference though is that Derby 148 was the result of an over-anxious Japanese invader. This year it appears by design.

Brad Cox had four entries, Hit Show, Verifying, Jace's Road and Angel of Empire.

Todd Pletcher had 3 entries on the morning of, but after Forte's scratch, Kingsbarns and Tapit Trice remained.

Brad Cox picked Verifying. Todd Pletcher picked Kingsbarns. They were not chosen to actually thrive in the race, they were chosen to help their stablemates. Their plans backfired, but more so for Todd Pletcher.

Verifying came out of Post 2, Jace's Road all the way over in Post 12.

Verifying posted a 101/102/76 coming out of Post 1 in the Rebel Stakes. The obvious choice based on that displayed ability to roll with early figures like that, plus the post was the perfect spot with which to unleash the strategy. Should have seen it coming.

We questioned why Jace's Road didn't pass Kingbarns in the Louisiana Derby. Makes sense now.

In the LA Derby, Jace's Road posted 76/80/98. Now we know why. He did not want to "teach" Jace's Road to run on the lead. When Verifying pulled Post Two for the Kentucky Derby, his fate was sealed. He would be used to pull a "Summer" in the Derby to benefit his rear runners..

Kingsbarns was the lightly raced "third string" hitter in Pletcher's barn. He had the two stars in Forte and Tapit Trice, both rear runners. He sent Kingsbarns to the front in the Louisiana Derby to "teach" him to run on the lead for the Kentucky Derby. He would be used to pull a "Summer" in the Derby to benefit his rear runners as well. This is why Todd was talking Kingsbarns down before the Kentucky Derby. Should have seen it coming.

Kingsbarns in the LA Derby: 24.71 49.60 114.69 139.13

Kingsbarns in the KY Derby: 22.35 45.73 1:10.11 1:36.06

He chose the wrong Guinea pig and with the early morning scratch of Forte, it was already too late. Kingsbarns was trained to help Forte and Tapit Trice to win the Derby. Especially Forte. Much more to gain when the breeders shed comes to pass, the two year old champ was his main focus. Unfortunately, he was stuck with it after Forte scratched juts hours before the Derby. But he still had the rear-running, new favorite with Tapit Trice after all. Full steam ahead.

After the scratch of Practical Move, the "strategy" that was focused towards Baffert/Yakteen with Reincarnate was actually sitting in the Pletcher/Cox barns. After last year with Rich Strike, it is obvious, if you want to win the Kentucky Derby then force a fast pace for the benefit of your rear runner. If you have multiple entries with competing styles, you are set.

The public can only handicap a race using figures and as much insight as possible. They can't handicap back room strategies. They can only see it clearly after the race. This puts us at a huge disadvantage in trying to figure it out prior.

Todd Pletcher used the wrong guinea pig - that is obvious. He should have left him alone to run his race.


On that speedy bias and with those calls, those who sat with ENORMOUS STAMINA - BELMONT WORTHY STAMINA - closer to the pace capitalized, and obviously those who had a major turn of foot coming from the rear with running room. It demolished any and all inbred speed horses on that field. They all dropped heading for the 3/4 pole to the top of the stretch.

1 MAGE - DI = 2.50 CD = 0.57 Late Runner

2 TWO PHIL'S - DI = 2.64 CD = 0.55 Speed = 7 Stamina = 13 Index = 0.69 (Belmont Numbers - Major Stamina - Front Runner)

3 ANGEL - DI = 9.00 CD = 1.20 Late Runner

4 DISARM - DI = 2.43 CD = 0.50 Speed = 10 Stamina = 15 Index = .85 (Belmont Numbers - Major Stamina - Front Runner)

5 HIT SHOW - DI = 2.50 CD = 0.57 Speed = 8 Stamina = 14 Index = 0.69 (Belmont Numbers - Major Stamina - Front Runner)

The numbers never lie. It's written like a script as it usually always is. This time, because of the obvious strategies of Cox and Pletcher, they handed the historical "front tier speed" on a speedy bias advantage over to the highly stamina dominant advantage found in the Belmont Stakes. Impossible to foresee and impossible to handicap. This, in turn, affected the entire order of finish turning it upside down from top to bottom.

A few things stand out with several of the runners because of this and it will be used going forward a bit more strategically.

Angel of Empire - Severe talent with his configurations and style.

DI = 9.00 CD = 1.20 Speed = 10 Stamina = 14 Index = 0.96 Triads = 16-21-20

Ability to reserve sprinters speed with configurations that put him past the 10f mark. Advantage skyrockets with fast lead and ability to win when unleashed at the proper time. Based on the credentials of the other 4 finishers, this horse ran a tremendous race with his breeding.

Two Phil's, Disarm, Hit Show - As talked about before the race, these three guys are suited for the Belmont Stakes. The three who benefited from their front style and overly dominant stamina leaning. With Two Phil's, we knew he had both the Derby and Belmont pegged. Extremely high quality horse.

Derma Sotogake - His 6th place in this race with that pace was exceptional and with a more realistic pace, this horse would have absolutely been in that stretch as a contender. Not surrounded by the wicked pace, his jockey did right by keeping him at bay early. Shy of the 10f, he still performed very well.

Confidence Game - Was not trained to distribute his energy over the layoff. He remains "Early Voting 2.0"

Rocket Can - Did himself no disgrace in this race with that pace. This is a good horse going forward even though Tapit offspring do not win the Derby. He remained neutral to the pace with a constant run until he could run no more.

Raise Cain and Sun Thunder - Did much better than anticipated and proved to be much better and higher quality horses under the circumstances. They remained neutral to the pace, just like Rocket Can.

Tapit Trice - Had the set-up but did nothing. He was quirky prior to the race and remained the same for this race.

Cyclone Mischief, Jace's Road, King Russell - still had no shot either way.

Kingsbarns - This horse was trained and sacrificed for Tapit Trice (but especially for Forte) and I am sure that Pletcher had an uneasy night because of his decision. Based on the performances of those two horses in the Derby, there is no comparison.

Kingsbarns was able to sustain that unrealistic pace all the way through to the top of the stretch. Verifying gave in just after the 3/4 pole. If the horse wasn't ruined because of the strategy, Kingsbarns is one heck of a horse and if he was able to run his race without being the sacrificial lamb, he would have been a true contender based on how he ended up performing in the race with a 45.73/110.11 run all the way through the backstretch and into the final turn. Hopefully, he is given his proper shot in the future to perform the way he is built when Saratoga opens. Major talent. My adoration for Pletcher consistently doing right by his charges has turned slightly and hopefully the horse will recover from the obvious misuse. He should have left him run his race, behind Verifying and Reincarnate. His breeding alone would have seen him through.

Sorry Mr. Pletcher, you made it too obvious and it backfired.

"It is a very tactical game, especially when it comes to Baffert, and the Kentucky Derby trophy is the Holy Grail for cash in the Breeding Shed in their minds. Reincarnate is representing Baffert in that gate, watch the strategy unfold very early in the race. It's coming." Unfortunately, this should have been re-written for Pletcher and Kingsbarns after the scratch of Practical Move.


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