2009 Kentucky Derby Pick
It's almost Derby Day! I'm getting ready to make my traditional Mint Juleps and my traditional incorrect Derby pick. Well, scratch that, since I adopted the 8 question system below, I've done much better and I've been able to make picks based on analysis, not emotion. So what ultimate answer do my questions bring this year? Let's find out together.
Is there an exceptional horse in the race? Because the Derby usually has a large field, racing luck and pace tend to make the race. A truly exceptional horse, however, tends to make its own luck. If you think there's a potential Triple Crown winner in the field, pick him and skip to the end. If not, move on to question 2.
I think there are 4 or 5 really, really good horses, but I don't see any of them as head and shoulders above the others, so this is a no for me.
Are there fewer than 14 horses in the field? If so, then you can rely on what happened in the Derby preps to guide your pick. Races with fewer horses tend to have a more reasonable pace and predictable results. If the field isn't full, look to one of the winners of the big prep races (Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, Florida Derby).
This year, 20 horses are going to be in the starting gate, so things like racing luck and riders will play a factor.
How fast will the pace be? Check out the running styles of the field. If there's a ton of horses in the race that all like to be 4th or 5th throughout the race, then they all might plod around in the early part of the race, meaning that one of them will outkick the others for the win OR that a frontrunner might get loose on the lead and win. This is not a common scenario. More likely is the field with a few speedballs. They'll ensure a swift pace and cause those horses who want to be comfortable sitting off the lead to go faster than they want. This pace scenario usually results in a come-from-behind horse winning.
So, to review, fewer speed horses mean the race sets up for stalkers OR for a lone speed horse. Lots of speed horses mean that the winner will most likely come from way off the pace.
Join In The Dance, Papa Clem and Regal Ransom will probably be near the pace, but none of them seem likely or capable of setting that kind of suicidal pace that the deep closers need. Additionally, I don't think any of the three are good enough to go wire to wire. So, I'm going to narrow the field to these stalkers: Friesan Fire, Chocolate Candy, General Quarters, I Want Revenge, Dunkirk,Pioneerof The Nile & Desert Party.
Will it rain? On some tracks, it doesn't seem to matter if it's muddy. At Churchill Downs (the home of the Derby) it doesmatter. It's the track comes up wet, look for horses with some history of success in the mud. Extra bonus points if his mother was a mudder. Addtionally, who has dirt, rather than synthetic, form. Some horses love synthetic tracks, some only perform on real dirt.
Friesan Fire is the most proven mudder in the field. Chocolate Candy and Pioneerof The Nile haven't run on real dirt, but experts at Churchill Downs report that they've both been working great and look like they'll have no problem with the surface.
Can he go the distance? One common misconception is that horses who come from behind are stayers. This isn't necessarily the case. You still need to find a stretch runner with a pedigree that doesn't scream "sprinter".
Of the seven horses left after Question 3, the only one without a strong distance pedigree is General Quarters.
Horses prep all around the country and many never race against each other before the Derby. Therefore, it's useful to rank the regions. If, for example, the Florida horses are much the best this year, that gives you a reason to take a Florida stretch runner over one who stayed in California.
Horses based on California early this winter not only won all of the West Coast races, they also won the Wood Memorial in NY and the Arkansas Derby. They look the strongest to me, so I'll give extra points to Chocolate Candy, Pioneerof The Nile and I Want Revenge, as well as to Friesan Fire, who beat Cal-based Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem in the Louisiana Derby.
Are any of the remaining horses trained by Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas or Nick Zito? Savvy handicappers are known to take out "Lukas insurance". That is, they'll place a small wager on Lukas-trained horses even if they don't really believe that they have a chance. History shows that you ignore Lukas, Baffert & Zito at your own peril.
Lukas and Zito have a couple of longshots in the field (Flying Private and Nowhere To Hide) while Baffert has one of the favorites with Pioneerof The Nile.
Who do the Derby gods want to win? Really. The Derby gods are a sentimental bunch. If there's some octogenarian owner who has waited his whole life to win the Derby, he usually will. Good stories win.
The Derby Gods probably have two options. First, Friesan Fire could win it for trainer Larry Jones, who was second in each of the last two years with Hard Spun and the ill-fated Eight Belles. Second, the Gods might choose Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters who is the only horse in the stable of 75-year-old owner/trainer Tom McCarthy.
So, going into my analysis, I had narrowed the field to Friesan Fire, Dunkirk, Pioneerof The Nile, Chocolate Candy, I Want Revenge & Desert Party. After my questions, I've narrowed the field to Friesan Fire, Dunkirk, Pioneer Of The Nile, Chocolate Candy, I Want Revenge & Desert Party. Oh, wait... Maybe it'll help to look at each horse individually and then think about how they'll interact in the race together.
Friesan FIre: He hasn't raced in 7 weeks, but his trainer has been successful following that schedule. He put in a brillian work earlier in the week and would love a muddy track. He's the best bred horse in the race as he's by A.P. Indy and has a bunch of tough Australian & New Zealand horses on his dam's side. His speed figures aren't as fast as I Want Revenge or Dunkirk, but hopefully that means he'll peak now, not in March.
Dunkirk: He hasn't won a stakes race yet. His move around the turn in the Florida Derby was explosive, but then he couldn't get by the now-injured Quality Road in the stretch. Was it just a bad ride or is he just a late closing sprinter? His mom won the Kentucky Oaks, so I doubt he's a sprinter, but he might just be immature. He didn't race as a two-year old and because of that he'll be trying to buck well over a 100 years of history.
Pioneerof The Nile: He's already beat many of the top contenders. His last race was more professional than brilliant. He can get a little keyed up, but he also has the speed to put himself in a good position in the race. In other words, he makes his own racing luck.
Chocolate Candy: He finished second to Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby, but really got a bad ride and was too far off of a slow pace. He'll have a better rider in the Derby and will probably have a quicker pace to run at.
I Want Revenge: Has run the fastest figures in the field and overcome about 8 races worth of trouble in winning the Wood Memorial. However, he didn't beat anything in his races in New York. Back in California, he couldn't beat Pioneerof The Nile. DId he get better in NY, like the tracks more, or simply face easier competition?
Desert Party: He'll be attempting to win the Derby after wintering Dubai. It hasn't worked yet. That said, he's got a the right stalking style and his connections seem to prefer him over his stablemate Regal Ransom.
Of these six horses, I see I Want Revenge, Friesan Fire & Pioneerof The Nile being closest to the pace. Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy and Desert Party will be in the next tier back. Going around the far turn, I think Pioneerof The Nile will make the first move, but that by the time they turn for home Friesan Fire will have the lead. He'll get a jump on the other stalkers and although Chocolate Candy will be coming after him I think Friesan Fire wins the Derby! My trifecta would be Friesan Fire/Chocolate Candy/Desert Party.
So who's your pick?
Posted by at April 29, 2009 10:22 PM
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|# April 30th, 2009 7:56 AM kris|
|Update: There's a 60% chance of rain for the Derby. Only six of the 20 Derby starters have ever raced on a track listed as other than fast: Desert Party, Flying Private, Friesan Fire, Join in the Dance, Nowhere to Hide, and Papa Clem.
This isn't to say that the other horses can't run well in the mud, it just means that they haven't yet.
|# April 30th, 2009 9:45 AM KVBigSis|
|I was leaning toward Friesan Fire, but the forecast tipped me fully into his camp. I'd love to see an Indy-sired winner. |
|# April 30th, 2009 9:55 AM kris|
|Me too. And, his mother is named "Bollinger", which of course reminds me of former Badger QB Brooks Bollinger.
Who does your boss like?
|# April 30th, 2009 9:56 AM kris|
|I have to say though, that I really like Desert Party. I love the way he levels off and just digs in and eats up ground in his workouts. |
|# April 30th, 2009 10:22 AM BVBigBro|
|Pioneer of the Nile and Dunkirk. |
|# April 30th, 2009 10:25 AM kris|
|Which one is your pick?
Also, I'm shocked. I've never known you not to pick a deep closer in the Derby.
|# April 30th, 2009 10:33 AM BVBigBro|
|Dunkirk has Unbridled breeding, Kris. If the track is dry he will be held far enough back to win via a stretch run. |
|# April 30th, 2009 10:47 AM kris|
|So does Pioneerof The Nile. They are both his grandsons - Dunkirk via Unbridled's Song and Pioneerof The Nile from Empire Maker. |
|# April 30th, 2009 10:51 AM kris|
|FYI, you can watch videos of workouts and preps at the Kentucky Derby website. |
|# April 30th, 2009 2:43 PM kris|
|I was hoping that Friesan Fire would go off as the fourth choice, at around 8 or 9-1, but I think he's going to be favored if our poll here and the rest of the internet chatter is to be believed. |
|# April 30th, 2009 2:49 PM BVBigBro|
|Initial odds had him 4th choice at 6-1. |
|# May 1st, 2009 2:09 PM BVBigBro|
|Friesan Fire is now 6.5-1. Perhaps you will get your odds after all. |
|# May 1st, 2009 4:55 PM kris|
|Wow. Rachel Alexandra just won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 3/4 lengths. Too bad they didn't spend the $6k last month to nominate her to the Triple Crown. It will cost them $100K if they want to supplement her to the Preakness now. |
|# May 2nd, 2009 5:47 PM BVBigBro|
|Blech. I think that was the worst Derby I've ever watched, and I didn't care who won. |
|# May 2nd, 2009 5:53 PM kris|
|Agreed, trying to convince my party how much it sucked other than Borel's ride |
|# May 2nd, 2009 7:33 PM BVBigBro|
|If Mine That Bird doesn't win the Preakness this actually will have been the worst Derby ever won. Not a fast enough pace to kill the leaders, nor so slow as to rule out a win from the back, yet magically when they reached the stretch no one could run. It was like the whole field went backwards.
The field went 4-5 wide around the first turn. Nothing like running an extra 1/4 mile on a wet track, I guess.
The winners seemed pretty cool, so I'm happy for them, but otherwise a mess of a race.