Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What Do All Kentucky Derby Heroes Have In Common?

GoofyEveryone has their own strategy for deciphering the Kentucky Derby. Some handicappers spend hours deciphering speed ratings, pace scenarios, pouring over pedigree charts and past performances with dreams and hopes of scoring a big payoff.

Below are some intriguing and essential facts that should help handicappers define their line-up of Derby horses.


PED1Pedigree should the first step by handicappers to figuring out whom to keep on the Derby list. It is essential to identify the horses that will love ten furlongs, those who could finish in the money and the ones that couldn’t get the distance with an oxygen mask. The most important pedigree factor in deciding if your Derby hopeful is a contender or pretender is the progeny stakes records of the sires and damsires.

It is generally accepted that a horse’s damsire and female family impart stamina and class. This is the most important aspect in determining if your Derby hopeful can handle the distance. In every instance in the last eleven years, every Kentucky Derby winner’s sire or damsire’s daughters had previously produced a stakes winner at 1 ¼ miles. In all except once instance since 2000, the damsire had produced a mare that bore a 1 ¼ mile stakes winner. In seven of eleven instances, the Kentucky Derby champ was a dual qualifier, that is, both the sire and damsire had previously produced at least one stakes winner at 1 ¼ miles.

Dual Qualifier:

2000 Fusaichi Pegasus

2001 Monarchos

2002 War Emblem

2004 Smarty Jones

2006 Barbaro

2007 Street Sense

2010 Super Saver

Single qualifier by damsire:

2005 Giacomo

2008 Big Brown

2009 Mine that Bird

2011 Animal Kingdom


Single qualifier by sire:

2003 Funny Cide


This year’s Kentucky Derby field includes six horses who have no stakes winners produced by the damsires’ daughters at 1 ¼ miles or beyond. There are also six contestants by stallions who have yet to sire a stakes winner at 1 ¼ miles. The Kentucky Derby Pedigree Analysis Ebook shows how many stakes winners the sire/damsire have produced in the last 12 years for every Derby entrant.


Track surface can be another concern.

Scattered thunderstormMuddyTracks are forecasted  Saturday. It’s doubtful that we’ll see the quagmire that was present in the 2009 and 2010 Kentucky Derbies, but should the track be off or labeled “good,” the handicapper should again turn to pedigree to figure out who has experience or breeding for the mud. Both Mine That Bird and Super Saver had superior pedigrees for the mud the years that they won their respective Derbies. This year, nine Derby hopefuls have raced over an off track and five were winners. Other colts, such as Bodemeister and Alpha, have superior mud breeding.


cartoonraceAn important factor in determining the current form of Kentucky Derby contenders is how they finished in their final prep race before the Derby. In the last 11 years, only two Derby champs finished worse than second in their final prep. Only three Derby champs didn’t win or place in a Grade 1. Six of the Derby heroes won their final Derby prep:

2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (Wood Memorial (G-1)

2001 Monarchos (Florida Derby G-1)

2002 War Emblem (Illinois Derby G-3)

2003 Funny Cide (2nd, Wood Memorial G-1)

2004 Smarty Jones (Arkansas Derby G-1)

2005 Giacomo (4th Santa Anita Derby G-1)

2006 Barbaro (Florida Derby G-1)

2007 Street Sense (2nd Blue Grass G-1)

2008 Big Brown (Florida Derby G-1)

2009 Mine that Bird (4th Sunland Derby G-3)

2010 Super Saver (2nd Arkansas Derby G-1)

2011 Animal Kingdom (Spiral Stakes G-3)

Going back to 1988, this same precedent holds true. Only two Kentucky Derby winners didn’t win or place in their last start, 1993 winner Sea Hero and 1995 winner Thunder Gulch. 1990 winner Unbridled won the Florida Derby, but was third in the Blue Grass Stakes and 1999 winner Charismatic was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby but won the Lexington Stakes, indicating horses that were peaking at the right time.

The runners-up in the Kentucky Derby also fit this profile. All except three colts won or placed in their last effort, which was either a Grade 1 or Grade 2 Stakes race. The colts who didn’t fit this profile (2000 – Aptitude, 3rd in FL Derby; 2001 – Invisible Ink, 3rd in FL Derby; 2005 Closing Argument, 3rd in Blue Grass) finished third in a Grade 1 Stakes and placed second in the Kentucky Derby.

Seven horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby don’t fit the final prep profile for winning the Kentucky Derby:

El Padrino (4th Florida Derby)

Liaison (6th Santa Anita Derby)

Prospective (6th Blue Grass Stakes)

Optimizer (9th Arkansas Derby)

Rousing Sermon (3rd Louisiana Derby)

Sabercat (3rd Arkansas Derby)

Union Rags (3rd Florida Derby)


Race2Here’s another important fact. Think those one run plodders are the horses to watch in the Derby? Guess again. Every Derby hero has been close to the lead by the quarter-pole and since 1950, 77% of the winners had the lead at the eighth-pole. 98% of the horses who have the lead at the eighth-pole finish in the trifecta. These stats prove that the Derby winner must have a brilliant three furlong explosion and that jockey timing is everything. The majority of the Kentucky Derby winners have tactical speed. Only when there is dominant speed in the race (such as 2001 & 2005) does a stone closer have a legitimate shot at winning, and even then, that closer must have a strong three furlong move.

So, the research proves that every Kentucky Derby winner in the last eleven years has a sire and/or damisire that has produced previous stakes winners at 1 ¼ miles or farther. The Derby winner has won or placed second in its final prep and has enough tactical speed to gain the lead by the eighth-pole. Makes it easy to pick the winner, doesn’t it?