2010 Kentucky Derby Pick
(see all of our 2010 Kentucky Derby preview articles)
Each year, I try to use a series of questions in order to narrow the field and pick my Kentucky Derby winner. While I might not get the winner right, I hope these questions will be a good guide for the rest of you and help you pick a winner.
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.
Maybe Sidney’s Candy, but otherwise no.
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. Sidney's Candy drew a terrible post and Super Saver's jockey, Calvin Borel, has been on fire so far at Churchill Downs. Lookin At Lucky has a history of being extremely unlucky and will be on the rail, which could cause problems.
Who has won multiple stakes races? After backing too many horses that had potential rather than performance, I want a horse that’s proven he or she can win consistently. Potential be damned. I'll let Potential beat me this year.
Our multiple stakes winners are American Lion, Backtalk, Conveyance, Dean’s Kitten, Devil May Care, Jackson Bend, Lookin At Lucky and Sidney’s Candy.
Of the remaining horses, who proved their early maturity with some good two-year old form?
All of these horses showed some precociousness and good form at two.
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.
Line of David and Conveyance seem to be the speed of the speed, so I would expect a pace like 46 and change for the half and 1:10 and change for 3/4 of a mile. That’s perfect for the high quality speed and the stalkers but not for the deep closers unless the field really is just horrible and no one can stay. Of the eight we have left, Conveyance, Sidney’s Candy and American Lion are front runners (although I’d expect that both Sidney & Lion are going to try to lay a bit off of the pace), Devil May Care and Jackson Bend are your stalkers and Backtalk, Dean’s Kitten and Lookin At Lucky will come from the back of the pack. Dean’s Kitten and Lookin At Lucky are more stalker/closers who’ll make their move around the turn, so based on the pace scenario, Backtalk is the only one of these I’d eliminate.
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 does matter. 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. Additionally, who has dirt, rather than synthetic, form. Some horses love synthetic tracks, some only perform on real dirt.
So it does look like it's going to rain Saturday. Of the seven we have left, all have worked well over the mud this weekend and I wouldn’t have any concerns about how they’d handle the track. However, I think that Churchill’s mud is extra tiring and so I’d give bonus points to horses with strong stamina pedigrees (see the next question).
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".
I feel vaguely negative about Jackson Bend’s pedigree, but not enough to knock him from the list. On the positive side, I love American Lion’s pedigree and as a son of Tiznow I’d expect him to be even better later in the year.
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.
The big angle this year has been horses from California winning preps outside of the Golden State (winning the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Illinois Derby and Kentucky Derby Trial), so let’s take our seven down to the Cali colts so we’re left with American Lion, Conveyance, Lookin At Lucky & Sidney’s Candy.
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.
Baffert has both Conveyance & Lookin At Lucky, while Lukas will have Dublin and Zito has Jackson Bend & Ice Box. So, in theory, at this point I should be down to Conveyance or Lookin At Lucky. In theory...
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.
But, it's hard to imagine that the Derby Gods want Baffert to win again, right? On the other hand, there are good reasons for the Gods to favor both American Lion and Sidney’s Candy. American Lion is trained by the cool Irish trainer Eoin Harty. He’s the man behind many of Baffert’s early champions. Additionally, he used to train for Sheik Mohammed and would routinely develop nice horses only to have them plucked from his care and sent to Dubai. Sidney’s Candy, on the other hand, will be ridden by Joe Talamo, he would have ridden last year’s Derby favorite I Want Revenge. Sadly, I Want Revenge was scratched on Derby morning. I think the Gods will have some sympathy. Plus, Sidney’s Candy is owned by longtime racing dame Jenny Craig (yes, that Jenny Craig) and is lovingly named for her late husband.
Okay, so I think it’s been obvious for awhile that I'm going to pick Sidney’s Candy. However, his 20 post position is just awful for a horse like him. Ideally, he would have wanted to lay 3rd or 4th off of the pace and make his move around the turn. Now, to get into that position they'll have to gun it from start, using up precious energy in the process. And even then, he'll probably get hung wide on the turn and lose too much ground. Big Brown won the 2008 Derby from 20, but he was much the best of his field. I think Sidney is the best horse in the race, but I'm not sure he's that much better that he can overcome the post.
His running style (moderate early - fast late) actually looks more like a closer, so maybe he can get into a good position in the back in the Derby and make a run. But you don't really want to change your horse's successful style. Basically, as much as I love him, I think he's screwed.
So, here's how I'd spend a hypothetical $100 in Derby wagers (don't worry Mom, I'm not really betting $100)
- $10 straight up to win on Sidney, just because if he did pull through I still better have some money on him.
- $2 Exacta box with Sidney, Lucky, American Lion, Ice Box, Paddy O'Prado & Stately Victor for $60
- $5 across the board bet on American Lion for $15
- $5 across the board on Ice Box for $15
For posterity's sake, my official "pick" will still be Sidney's Candy. Although, I feel like if I abandoned him officially now it probably would mean that he'd win.
Posted by kris at April 29, 2010 07:45 AM
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|# April 29th, 2010 8:09 AM kris|
|1 1/2 inches of rain are forecast between Friday and the Derby now. In all likelihood the track is going to be a mess.
Who does that favor strategically? Well, on one hand Mine That Bird won last year's muddy race from way back, but the prior two muddy Derbys (1994 and 2004) were won by front runners or close stalkers, plus, if you throw out Mine That Bird, the rest of the top finishers were stalker types.
|# April 29th, 2010 8:55 AM kris|
|Horse that I fear will screw my bets the most: Awesome Act
Horse that I actually, inexplicably, don't fear at all: Super Saver
|# April 29th, 2010 11:04 AM kris|
|To get more specific about the mud - there's something called a "Tomlinson Rating" that's supposed to numerically determine through breeding how well a horse will run in the mud. I believe it's included in the DRF - the higher the number the better. What I seem to remember is that this field was, for the most part, unusually well-qualified to run in the mud.
The only exception would seem to be Line of David who had a notably poor workout in the mud.
|# May 1st, 2010 5:36 PM kris|
|Friggin' Super Saver.
Sidney probably finished last - I can't believe he backed up like that.
|# May 1st, 2010 5:46 PM BVBigBro|
|Damn clever ride. Icebox fired hard. Now we know who to look for at the Preakness. |
|# May 1st, 2010 5:54 PM kris|
|I'd look for Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky, who somehow, despite getting constantly screwed, finished 6th.
New question for the Derby: Is there a horse ridden by Calvin Borel? If so, be sure to add some Borel insurance, if I had at least I would have had the exacta.
Oh well, I feel happy for the guy who made the $100,000 bet.
|# May 1st, 2010 6:01 PM BVBigBro|
|Icebox and the 4th place had very hard trips. |