After finishing second to Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity last December and then the Robert B. Lewis in February, Firing Line came back to win the Sunland Derby on Sunday by 14 1/4 lengths, a performance that earned him a Beyer speed figure of 97 and a TimeformUS figure of 111. With the final round of Kentucky Derby preps beginning on March 28, each worth 100 points to the winner, here are the 2015 prep schedule results so far:
Trainer Bob Baffert wouldn’t say which of his top Derby contenders, juvenile champion and Rebel winner American Pharoah or undefeated Dortmund, is better when asked — “That’s like asking me which kid I love more,” he told Ed Golden — but Bill Finley has no need for such tact:
American Pharoah is a brilliant horse. Dortmund is a grinder. He’s tough and game and somehow he always has his nose in front at the wire, but nothing he does takes your breath away. I’d be shocked if he proves to be the better of the two Baffert-trained stars.
I don’t know — a grinder who can make a horse capable of a 14 1/4 length win work hard for second, not once, but twice, is kind of brilliant in his way.
The 5-2 morning line favorite will break from stall #5. Now that Kentucky Derby post positions have been drawn, the 2014 Derby historical criteria spreadsheet is ready for your handicapping reference. View the field for 2014, plus full fields going back to 2003; the winners and top three finishers going back to 1998; or the last 16 winners’ prep schedules (including workouts).
The 2014 Kentucky Derby prep schedule and results, with replays, charts, and prep winners’ Beyer speed figures, can be found here. You can see which Derby starters are exiting the four most productive preps on Hello Race Fans.
5/1/14 Update: Trainer Bob Baffert scratches Hoppertunity due to a foot issue, and Pablo Del Monte draws in. He’s a maybe for Saturday, tweets Jonathan Linter: “Trainer Wesley Ward says no guarantees Pablo Del Monte runs in the #kyderby Saturday because it would mean breaking from the outside post.”
A handy shortlist/chart of who likes* who for the 2013 Kentucky Derby:
Also handy, and great for parties: The Hello Race Fans Derby Cheat Sheet.
*Click on the links in the left column for more info on things like White’s Derby strikes system, which ranges from zero (no strikes) to four (a statistically bad bet), and what Welsch saw at Churchill Downs this week.
**Thomas Herding is a rich, idiosyncratic form of analysis covering the Derby contenders’ “emotional conformation.” The horses ticked above in column three reflect my interpretation of the Thomas profiles, which appeared on Kentucky Confidential in 2011-2012, and are available on Brisnet this year.
As is the case with grooms and hot walkers, these individuals are not listed on the official race chart, or in the program, or in most of the media coverage leading up to or following the big event. There will be no trophy or postrace TV interview on a national network for the one whose horse wins the Derby. Ask how they feel as they gallop their charges beneath the Twin Spires, however, and every one of them will tell you — in the days leading up to the big event, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
The spreadsheet contains three pages for your reference: The Derby fields page, which includes historical criteria information for all starters dating back to 2003; the in-the-money page, which includes information just for Derby winners and placed horses back to 1998; and the winners’ preps page, which lays out the race and work schedule for each Derby winner back to 1998.
New this year, inspired by Left at the Gate, is a column that that includes the number of starts each contender made as a 3-year-old pre-Derby, next to the column that includes the number of total career starts.
Every Derby winner since Street Sense in 2007 has won off a two-race prep schedule; 2012 was the height of short pre-Derby campaigns in this era, with nine contenders making their third start of the year in the Derby (and one making his second start of the year). This year, five starters will enter with two preps — Java’s War, Overanalyze, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Mylute — and one, Lines of Battle, with one prep. Curiously, of the two-prep bunch, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Overanalyze also haven’t surpassed their top 2-year-old Beyer speed figures as 3-year-olds. (Nor have Vyjack and Frac Daddy, with three preps each.) Since 2007, there have been one to five starters each year who raced as 2-year-olds but didn’t exceed their juvenile best Beyer in their prep campaign, and all but one finished out of the money. Street Sense is the lone winner since 1998 striking out on that measure — but he did earn a figure of 108 winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Revolutionary, etc. can’t make the same claim.
More: Derby prep results and replays / Hello Race Fans’ Derby cheat sheet / Jon White’s Derby strikes and selections / Derby by the speed figures / Mike Welsch’s final Derby Clocker report from Churchill / Andrew Beyer’s analysis
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