Kentucky Derby wrap: Does a faster Oaks portend a decline in Derby winner's form?

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TwinSpires Staff

May 6th, 2014

The clear-cut Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome handled his business. He sat an ideal trip under Victor Espinoza, put away his competition with disdainful ease, and stayed on to win with his jockey celebrating before he reached the finish line.

Indeed, California Chrome did everything right, except run fast. The one-dimensional plodder Commanding Curve rallied to finish second, even though the fast pace he so desperately needed, never materialized for him.

California Chrome received a Speed Rating of 103. It's the second-slowest Derby-winning Speed Rating this century with only 2005 winner Giacomo slower at 100.

Remarkably, Untapable won the Kentucky Oaks with a Speed Rating of 108. Has a Kentucky Oaks winner ever received a higher Speed Rating than the next day’s Kentucky Derby winner?

Yes, it's happened before—Rachel Alexandra's Kentucky Oaks was one point faster than Mine That Bird's Derby win, and Rags to Riches’ Oaks win is one point faster than Street Sense's Derby win—but Untapable’s five-point margin is unprecedented.

Both fillies went on to be champion three-year-old fillies and classic winners that year (and Rachel Alexandra Horse of the Year) while neither Derby winner was that year’s champion three-year-old male.

The Beyer Speed Figures tell the same tale as the Speed Ratings. Since Daily Racing Form first published Beyer’s figures more than 20 years ago, only one time has the Oaks winner been assigned a Beyer, as high, or higher, than the Derby winner: 2009 when Rachel Alexandra won the Oaks with a 108 Beyer and Mine That Bird won that year’s Derby with a 105

This year, the Oaks Beyer is a stunning 10 points higher than the Derby Beyer. Moreover, TV analyst and Beyer associate Randy Moss said that Beyer adjusted the Derby figure “from a 91 up to a 97 due to wind.”

Needless to say, a matchup between California Chrome and Untapable would be a blockbuster. They have the same running style, they both are very close in ability, and they're both suited well to 9.5 furlongs.

It would be a “battle of the sexes” among both the horses and jockeys with the fresh-faced Rosie Napravnik on the filly versus the chiseled veteran Victor Espinoza on California the colt.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to happen, as Untapable’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, has said she won’t start in the Preakness because of the quick (15-day) turnaround. Indeed, American trainers tend to be very conservative, and fillies rarely are asked to take on the males. Since 1945, only eleven different fillies have started in the Kentucky Derby:

2010 Devil May Care

2008 Eight Belles

1999 Excellent Meeting

1999 Three Ring

1995 Serena's Song

1988 Winning Colors

1984 Life's Magic

1984 Althea

1982 Cupecoy's Joy

1980 Genuine Risk

1959 Silver Spoon

Two of those eleven won, and another finished second. Maybe we’ll get our battle in the Belmont.

What did the TCI Boys think of the Kentucky Derby? Check out the video below!