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  • 2011 Kentucky Derby Pick

       May 05, 2011

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    Every 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.

    Question 1
    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.

    Without Uncle Mo, this is a definite "no" this year.

    Question 2
    Who proved their early maturity with some good two-year old form?

    Since Apollo in 1882 (that's right, 1882), no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two year old. Since 1993, only Charismatic, War Emblem and Monarchos won the Derby without a good performance at two.

    This year, horses with a good two year performance are:

    • Animal Kingdom
    • Archarcharch
    • Comma To The Top
    • Mucho Macho Man
    • Santiva
    • Soldat
    • Stay Thirsty
    • Decisive Moment
    • Master Of Hounds
    • Shackleford
    Note that Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude didn't even race at two and that the likely top two choices in the field, Dialed In and Nehro, don't seem to have the necessary precocity.

    Question 3
    Of the remaining horses, who has already proven their class with stakes wins? After backing too many horses that had potential rather than performance, I want a horse thatís proven he or she can win consistently. I've broken up with Potential and am interested in entering a relationship with Reality, who, I'm told does very well for himself.

    Since 1993, every Kentucky Derby winner except Giacomo had previously won a stakes race. Also, every winner except Giacomo and Funny Cide were graded stakes winners. Of the horses that passed Question 2, all but Master Of Hounds and Shackleford are also stakes winners (and Decisive Moment is the only stakes winner that isn't a graded stakes winner).

    Question 4
    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

    As I said before, I expect the pace to be pretty normal and I'm looking for a winner out of the stalkers and closers (but not deep closers). Of our remaining contenders, these horses still fit the bill:

    • Animal Kingdom
    • Archarcharch
    • Mucho Macho Man
    • Santiva
    • Stay Thirsty

    Question 5
    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.

    Since it has rained in Kentucky for the last two weeks, most of the horses have trained over the sloppy Churchill Downs track. Of our final six, I'd move Animal Kingdom up on a wet track and move Santiva down and reverse it if the track is fast. Addtionally, even though he doesn't have the necessary two-year old form, Brilliant Speed should also be moved way up on a wet track.

    Question 6
    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 remaining six, I think Archarcharch and Stay Thirsty have the pedigree to go long. Animal Kingdom is bred up and down for turf and Santiva and Mucho Macho Man have distance questions.

    Question 7
    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.

    I'm not sure that this is too important of a question this year. My only note is that The Factor made his races in California and Arkansas look more like a typical Kentucky Derby from a pace perspective. So, you might want to look at horses like Nehro, Archarcharch and Comma To The Top with the knowledge that they've at least dealt with some Derby-like pace in the past.

    Question 8
    Are any of the remaining horses trained by Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas or Nick Zito or riden by Calvin Borel? 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.

    Well, Zito has Dialed In, Baffert has Midnight Interlude and Borel is riding Twice The Appeal. I'm not really considering any of those horses for the win, which means that one of them will probably win :)

    Question 9
    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 or a small-time better looking to make the score of a lifetime, he probably will. Good stories win.

    Two of our main contenders, Archarcharch and Mucho Macho Man, would make for huge human interest stories.

    Question 10
    What do the clockers say?

    The clockers at Churchill Downs are typically pretty good at spotting horses doing well before the Derby. This year, they've really keyed in on Archarcharch & Shackleford as horses doing very well on the grounds.

    The Pick
    Other than the post position and my heart, Archarcharch meets every criteria I set forth for a Derby winner. Beyond that, he's another one of those Kris S. line horses that are just spectacularly beautiful.

    My heart and my soul wanted Uncle Mo to win and I'll this Derby has a hole in it without him, so I will officially pick Archarcharch, but honestly, I care about 100 times less about the race without Mo in it.

    As for the rest of the ticket, as I wrote last year, ponder the plodders. I don't like them for the win, but I'm interested in Dialed In and Brilliant Speed in the exotics. If I'm putting together a six horse exacta box (if I do get to the OTB, I'll post some pics of the official tickets), I'm thinking it's:
    Archarcharch, Brilliant Speed, Dialed In, Nehro, Santiva & Mucho Macho Man.


    Posted by kris at May 5, 2011 10:59 PM

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    Comments

    #  May 6th, 2011 7:18 AM      kris
    Uncle Mo update due at 7:45 AM central time today - word is that he's been scratched. BOO!  
     
    #  May 6th, 2011 7:21 AM      kris
    Confirmed.  
     
    #  May 7th, 2011 8:10 AM      kris
    here's where I ended up:

     
     
    #  May 8th, 2011 7:15 PM      kris
    Archarcharch retired today with condylar fracture

    I've got to figure out how to bet better. My system gets me down to a reasonable number to isolate for the win (this year it was five), but I didn't cover enough of them.  
     

     

     


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