2010 Kentucky Derby - Pace Makes the Race
(see all of our 2010 Kentucky Derby preview articles)
When analyzing the Kentucky Derby you'll hear lots of platitudes like "pace makes the race". Okay, but what does that mean?
Basically, in horse racing, if the pace is fast, the horses running up front will get tired and come-from-behind horses are more likely to win. If the pace is slower, those same front runners are more likely to hold on and win. If the pace is moderate, "stalkers", those horses that run just a little bit behind the leaders, have a better chance.
I think there's a common misperception that the Kentucky Derby always has a fast pace and is always won by a closer. Looking at the chart below, you can see that that couldn't be further from the truth.
So what's a "fast" pace in the Derby. To simplify the analysis, I'd say that anything under 1:10 is fast for 3/4 of a mile and anything below 1:36 is a quick mile. The last time that kind of pace happened was in 2005 when Giacomo came from the clouds to win it.
If you look at the chart above, you'll notice that in most cases, a "red" pace begets a "red" winner and a "green' pace gets a "green" or "yellow" winner. The big exception is last year - the pace was exceptionally slow and Mine That Bird still came from way behind to win it. The 2009 Derby was just odd - the favorites dropped out of the race or were eliminated at the start and the track was muddy. The result didn't really make sense then and still doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. My recommendation is to consider it an outlier.
How do you know what kind of pace the Derby will have? You don't, but looking at the major prep races may give you a clue:
As you can see from all of that green, most of this year's prep races have had slow paces. Frankly, it doesn't look like many of the contenders have enough early speed to guarantee the stereotypical swift pace. That said, it's important to note that the trainers of the Derby favorites, Eskendereya & Lookin' At Lucky, both have speedier horses in their stable that will run in the Derby. They could very well use these horses to make sure the pace is fast enough to help their big horses.
One thing I like to look at in the chart above is if there are Derby horses who were able to overcome a disadvantageous pace scenario to win. In other words, are there closers who won despite a slow pace or front runners who set quick fractions and still had enough left at the end? That could be a sign of a superior horse. Three performances stand out. First, Derby favorite Eskendereya closed into a slow pace to win the Wood Memorial (a note of caution - sometimes horses that win closing into a slow pace are just beating bad or distance-challenged fields). Second, Line Of David won the Arkansas Derby on the lead while setting fast-to-moderate fractions. Third, Sidney's Candy won the Santa Anita Derby by running an exceptionally fast final 3/8 of a mile from the lead - he didn't hang on to win, he accelerated away to win.
Special horses like those might be can overcome the pace, but a good general rule to win a Derby bet by is to make a bold stand about what kind of pace scenario you think the race is going to have and pick a winner who will be helped by it. If you think it's going to be slow, look at the front runners. If it's moderate, find yourself a stalker and if it's going to be fast up front, you're going to want to choose a closer.
Next time - surfaces - turf, dirt, Pro Ride, Polytrack and more. What does it mean for the Derby?
Posted by kris at April 19, 2010 12:29 PM
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|# April 19th, 2010 12:42 PM BVBigBro|
|I think one thing to note is that Churchill also has a long stretch run at 1-1/4 miles. This relieves late running horses and their jockeys from having to gain too much ground in the second turn and instead frequently allows them to pick out holes in the turn and find room on the inside when horses fade on the stretch. |
|# April 19th, 2010 12:46 PM kris|
|I'll probably write an article on trips & jockeys, but a couple of things to note on the inside this year:
1. After last year and 2007, everyone HAS to be aware of Calvin "Boo-Rail" and they sure as hell better not let him down there again with Super Saver this year.
2. Garrett Gomez got killed for putting Lookin' At Lucky down on the rail in the Santa Anita Derby so you know that he's going to be trying to circle the field on him in the Derby.
|# April 19th, 2010 12:48 PM kris|
|The other thing to note is that so far I'm just talking about picking a winner - I think thinking about the closers and how spread out the field typically gets is REALLY important if you're trying to hit the exacta, tri or superfecta. |