• A Kentucky Derby Best Bet

    POSTED Apr 20, 2013
    For many moons, I have talked about how potent horses with improving late speed rations (my own pace figures measuring late energy disbursement) are in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, after several years with at least one qualifying animal (2000-2007), the plays dried up. Since 2008, only Chocolate Candy and Hansen showed the requisite improvement — and both of them raced over synthetic surfaces, casting doubt on the numbers.

    Hansen’s “improvement,” in particular, was almost surely the result of his switching from dirt to Polytrack for his final prep in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 14, 2012. Although the white colt with the blue tail (thank heavens that sideshow is a thing of the past) recorded a -4 late speed ration at Keeneland that day, LSRs recorded on turf and synthetic surfaces are typically 5-7 points lower than those recorded on dirt. Hence, the -7 figure that Hansen earned in the Gotham six weeks earlier was probably better than his (likely inflated) Blue Grass number.

    I’ve got some exciting news, though: There is a legitimate improving-LSR contender in this year’s Run for the Roses. Before I reveal who it is, however, some history is in order…

    Eureka! The Key to Derby Success Has Been Found

    When a great scientific breakthrough is achieved, it is often referred to as a “Eureka Moment.” Supposedly, this dates back to Archimedes, who, while attempting to determine whether or not King Hiero II’s new laurel-shaped crown was solid gold or a combination of lesser metals, drew a bath and made a startling discovery.

    The famous Greek mathematician, engineer, physicist, inventor and singer/songwriter (sure, why not?) found he could determine the density of the crown — without destroying it — simply by noting how much water it displaced.

    Overcome with joy and excitement, Archimedes, sans clothing, took to the streets, yelling, “Eureka! I have found it!”

    I wasn’t naked — nor did I feel compelled to jog — when I had my Eureka Moment on May 7, 2005, but I certainly did my share of screaming. Earlier, you see, while formulating my wagers for the 131st Kentucky Derby, I had unearthed an amazing statistic.

    I had observed that, in the two decades prior to the first Saturday in May of 2005, eight winners of the Run for the Roses had shown improving late speed rations, or LSRs, in their final two Kentucky Derby preps. In addition, these Derby champs often paid hefty prices — like the $51.00 that Thunder Gulch offered his backers in 1995 or the $64.60 that Charismatic returned in 1999.

    There were two Derby entrants that showed improving LSRs in 2005: Buzzards Bay and Giacomo. I settled on the latter, as his overall form looked best and he had established his class as a two-year-old when he was runner-up in the Grade I Hollywood Futurity. 

    And, like Archimedes before me, I felt the exhilaration of success, as Giacomo flew by the leaders en route to a half-length score in Louisville that year (I’m sure my shouts of encouragement helped spur him on). True, I didn’t receive the undying gratitude of a king or everlasting fame for my Eureka Moment, but I did collect a $102.60 mutuel.

    It was more than enough.

    Since then, no horse with improving LSRs has experienced Derby glory, although Hard Spun and Curlin completed the trifecta behind Street Sense in 2007. Nonetheless, it is an angle worth looking out for, as I’m sure it will pay off again before long. 

    (Click on image to enlarge)


    1) Horse must have earned higher LSRs in each of its last two races.

    2) All horse’s last three races must’ve been contested over a route of ground (mile or greater) within the past 120 days and at least two of those races must’ve been graded stakes. 

    And the potential (fingers crossed) 2013 qualifier…

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Verrazano fits the profile of the kind of runner we’re looking for in every respect and, in fact, has improved his LSR each time he’s run. The son of More Than Ready followed up a -13 LSR in his career debut, with a -5 in his second race, a -4 in his third start and, finally, a +1 figure in his final prep, the Grade I Wood Memorial.

    He’s going to have to overcome the dreaded Curse of Apollo (see below), of course, but I’m very impressed with the way Todd Pletcher has handled this guy. I’ve been critical of what I’ve felt was Pletcher’s one-size-fits-all approach in the past, but, this year, the veteran conditioner appears to have abandoned that strategy and I think — regardless of what happens in Louisville on the first Saturday in May — his stock will be the better for it. (Has any trainer been hotter on the 2013 Triple Crown trail than Pletcher?)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    The Curse of Apollo

    No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year-old. Below is a look at the Derby entrants that were unraced at two — and how they fared in Louisville — since 1937:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Anonymous said...

    You gave us the chalk! :)

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