It’s finally here — Derby Day! And I, like so many of you reading this I’m sure, have been immersed in handicapping what looks like a great card.
On that subject, if you’re still waffling over which horse to bet in the big event, check out my Kentucky Derby Betting Guide, which is sold separately or as part of a great package at Brisnet.com. It’s chock full of unique statistics and data to make your Kentucky Derby handicapping a breeze… well, OK, maybe not a breeze, but easier… I hope.
Also, be sure to listen to my May 1 podcast for an in-depth look at Kentucky Derby 139.
So, without further babbling and/or shameless promotion, here’s what I’ve discovered so far (check back throughout the day as I will be providing frequent updates):
From a numbers standpoint, it’s not even close — APROPOS dominates this field. Her most recent Brisnet Speed Figure (BSF) is 10 points greater than today’s par and her -4 late speed ration (LSR) last time is among the best dirt numbers in the race. That said, one must wonder why the daughter of First Samurai was scratched from a similar spot at Keeneland on April 6 and why, since that defection, Apropos has worked just twice.
Among the more attractive alternatives to the favorite are GLAMOUR PASS and JAN’S PERFECT STAR. The former recorded a 100 BSF and -4 LSR in her most recent start, while the latter earned a -20 early speed ration (ESR) in a winning — albeit unimpressive — effort in her route debut. She’s back sprinting today and should be tough.
3-Glamour Puss (7-2)
5-Jan’s Perfect Star (4-1)
GOMBEY DANCER’S try in the Swale left much to be desired; however, today’s race isn’t a Grade III stakes event and his penultimate race, in which he broke his maiden by three lengths while recording a 103 BSF and -3 LSR, is easily good enough to win today’s heat.
2-Gombey Dancer (5-2)
Tough race without a lot of value propositions, I’m afraid. OLD TIME HOCKEY is a Grade II winner (although he beat just three rivals to become one) who should improve in his second start of the year; Grade I-placed ATIGUN could get the lead in this paceless affair; and THE PIZZA MAN has won seven of his eight tries on the green.
Still, there are issues with all the “best” horses — Old Time Hockey has recorded so-so LSRs of late, Atigun’s connections don’t seem to have a clear plan for the 4-year-old son of Istan (blinkers on, then off; first try on the grass) and The Pizza Man has potential class issues — and the others have ability questions to answer.
1-Old Time Hockey (3-1)
5-The Pizza Man (7-2)
4-Under Control (8-1)
ARGOSY’s experience should be beneficial today, although his outside post position certainly is not. Other top contenders include KING OF BROADWAY, BAMA BOUND, ESPLENDIDO and TROUBADOUR TANGO.
5-Bama Bound (9-2)
4-King of Broadway (5-1)
12-Troubadour Tango (6-1)
On paper, this race isn’t close — onetime Derby contender CODE WEST towers over the competition. His speed figures are good, his pace figures are among the best in the field and he’s got some early foot too.
8-Code West (4-5)
I give SOUTHERN DUDE, who is 10-1 on the morning line, a huge shot in this spot. True, I don’t think turf is his best surface, but there’s not a lot of early speed in this race and that gives the son of Lion Tamer a big tactical advantage — provided jockey Julien Leparoux takes advantage of it. Other top contenders include the deep closer HAVELOCK and the rapidly-improving ICON IKE.
1-Southern Dude (7-2)
8-Icon Ike (4-1)
Don’t have a strong opinion here, as most of the horses strike me as a cut below true Grade I performers (at this point). For that reason, I’d insist on value and not be too swayed by perceived class advantages or limitations.
Having said that, I’m not thrilled with RUMOR at a short price (she’s the 5-2 morning line favorite) and would look to beat her in this spot.
3-Same Cross (9-2)
6-Aubby K (5-1)
9-Holiday Soiree & several others (8-1)
Two of the best horses — Stephanie’s Kitten and Marketing Mix — are coming off of long layoffs making the Distaff Turf Mile a rather wide open affair. DAISY DEVINE probably has the best overall credentials and current fitness, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these win. In fact, I even give DRAMA DRAMA (30-1 on the morning line) a reasonable shot.
3-Daisy Devine (7-2)
8-Marketing Mix (7-2)
6-Stephanie’s Kitten (4-1)
5-Hungry Island (9-2)
DELAUNAY has the look of an emerging superstar, although his outside draw is probably not to his advantage today — nor does it help that BC Sprint Champion TRINNIBERG breaks to his immediate inside. Hence, I’m taking my biggest shot — depending on the odds, of course — on HIERRO, who loves Churchill Downs and gets what I believe is his best distance.
He’s the champ for many reasons and one of those reasons is that WISE DAN is tremendously tactical, which gives him a huge advantage today — against a field without a lot of early zip.
8-Wise Dan (6-5)
9-Point of Entry (2-1)
4-Silver Max (12-1)
Race 11: The 139th Kentucky Derby
First, let’s address some of the changes since the field was drawn: As most racing fans know, BLACK ONYX was scratched and — because the one-hole is the biggest handicap since I anchored the sack race at my daughter’s field day — the no. 1 post position will remain vacant.
Second, it looks like the track will be sloppy or even muddy by race time. How does this change the complexion of the race? Take a look at the following chart:
The half-mile time typically goes south — not a huge surprise given that Churchill Downs tends to get slower, period, when there is moisture in the track. But check out the race ESR and the ESR of the winner. Notice that both get lower, or relatively faster, as the rain starts to fall. What’s more, the percentage of wire-to-wire winners goes up.
With this in mind, I present the contenders for the 139th Run for the Roses.
In order of preference
4-Golden Soul (20-1)
18-Frac Daddy (30-1)
Others (in post position order)
5-Normandy Invasion (15-1)
7-Giant Finish (75-1)
10-Palace Malice (30-1)
11-Lines of Battle (75-1)
13-Falling Sky (75-1)
15-Charming Kitten (50-1)
17-Will Take Charge (30-1)
19-Java’s War (20-1)