Powell: foaling date a factor to consider in Kentucky Derby handicapping

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TwinSpires Staff

May 5th, 2016


While I was handicapping the horses being pointed for this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), I noticed that two of the major contenders were late foals. Both MOHAYMEN (Tapit) and SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft) were born on May 02, 2013 which meant that they celebrated their third chronological birthday only this week.

Living in Saratoga, there is no advantage to having an early foal. Mares that foal in January and February have babies that are standing on ice and snow with no live grass to be found. Yes, good local hay from the previous season helps a lot but much of the mare and foal’s energy is used to stay warm. Central Kentucky can be just as bad some years.

If you are born too late, like Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews, you then are younger than your competition and give up a physical maturity edge. Now, the facts are that if you watched these two colts this year, you would not guess they are younger than their competition. But it got me thinking about what is normal.

The first question that popped into my mind was “What about American Pharoah?” He is the gold standard of American Thoroughbreds so let’s find out when he was born. Answer: February 02, 2012. So racing’s newest Triple Crown winner was an early foal.

Me being a bit obsessive/compulsive, then wanted to know about the rest of the field so below are the starters and their respective birthdays. In post position order:

Trojan Nation                      March 17

Suddenbreakingnews        May 02

Creator                                 March 30

Mo Tom                                March 26

Gun Runner                         March 08

My Man Sam                        March 03

Oscar Nominated                April 02

Lani                                      February 22

Destin                                   April 16

Whitmore                             January 23

Exaggerator                          February 05

Tom’s Ready                         February 01

Nyquist                                  March 10

Mohaymen                            May 02

Outwork                                April 09

Shagaf                                   February 05

Mor Spirit                               April 01

Majesto                                  April 28

Brody’s Cause                       March 17

Danzing Candy                      April 06


So we have two horses born in May, six born in April, seven born in March, four born in February and one born in January. Clearly this year, May 02 is the outlier.

But that is for the foals of 2013. What were the birthdays of the top Derby finishers in the past. So, I went back 10 years and looked at the birthdays of the top three finishers.


American Pharoah                February 02

Firing Line                             January 19

Dortmund                              February 12



California Chrome                February 11

Commanding Curve             March 23

Danza                                    April 17



Orb                                         February 24

Golden Soul                           May 14

Revolutionary                         February 20



I’ll Have Another                    April 01

Bodemeister                           April 28

Dullahan                                 February 08



Animal Kingdom                    March 20

Nehro                                     February 25

Mucho Macho Man               June 15



Super Saver                          March 18

Ice Box                                  March 29

Paddy O’Prado                     February 15



Mine That Bird                      May 10

Summer Bird                        April 07

Musket Man                          May 10



Big Brown                             April 10

Eight Belles                          February 23

Denis of Cork                       February 16



Street Sense                         February 23

Hard Spun                             May 10

Curlin                                     March 25



Barbaro                                 April 29

Bluegrass Cat                       January 23

Steppenwolfer                       March 16


For the past 10 years, winners were born on:

February 02

February 11

February 24

April 01

March 20

March 18

May 10

April 10

February 23

April 29


MINE THAT BIRD (Birdstone) is the outlier being foaled on May 10 and BARBARO (Dynaformer) is close on April 29. HARD SPUN (Danzig), MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno) and MUSKET MAN (Yonaguska) were born in May and finished in the money but it appears from the above information, if you were born in May, you are at a disadvantage.

Yes, it can be overcome but most breedings are timed to have a foal from February to the middle of April. Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews will have a lot to overcome if they are to win the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby (G1).