JC / Railbird

Derby Handicapping

Chrome Draws #5

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.”

More links: Jon White’s Derby Strikes column is upget free Kentucky Derby past performances from Brisnetwatch Mike Welsch’s Derby clocker reports.

Sturm und Derby

Is there anyone who isn’t upset with Churchill Downs this Kentucky Derby week? Well, Steve Asmussen was smiling while paddock schooling Kentucky Oaks morning-line favorite Untapable and Derby contender Tapiture this afternoon, despite the PETA allegations. And trainer Art Sherman seems happy to be in Louisville, although who knows what he really thought on seeing California Chrome’s name misspelled on his Derby contender saddlecloth.

But nine out of 10 Horseplayers Association members polled reportedly plan to bet Churchill less or not at all, due to the recent takeout hike. Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm is fed up with Churchill’s gracelessness towards horse owners on stakes days (fellow owner Bobby Flay tweeted his support). And Little Mike’s owner-trainer Carl Vaccarezza is furious that the track took a blood sample for out-of-competition testing from his stable star in advance of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. (Little Mike now won’t be running on Saturday.)

Call it the Angry Derby.

If there’s good news, it’s that the horses don’t care. Twenty will go to post at about 6:24 PM on Saturday, and one will be the Kentucky Derby winner at approximately 6:30 PM. Post positions won’t be drawn until late Wednesday afternoon, but it’s not too early to start geeking out on Derby handicapping. If you’re looking for the 2014 historical criteria spreadsheet, it’s here, and it’ll be fully updated after Derby past performances are available.

4/30/14 Addendum: Re: the above in the context of the rumor that the Breeders’ Cup will be at Keeneland in 2015 (and Del Mar in 2016): “Lately, however, Churchill Downs’ ability to generate cash has been running neck-and-neck with its knack for making enemies.” Ow. And Frank Vespe explains why we should care about Porter’s rage: “He’s mad as hell … and a lot of people around racing are feeling the same way.”

California Dreaming

There’s been something about California Chrome from the start:

“I had a dream about this colt two or three weeks before he was born, and I woke up and told my wife that (the mother) was going to have a colt, he was going to be a lot of flash to him, he was going to have four white feet and big bald face, and that’s exactly how he was,” Coburn said. “(When he was born), I looked at that colt and said, ‘This horse is going to be special — I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to do everything we have to do to make sure this horse is put in the right hands and taken care of so that he can run.’”

The colt’s owners laid out a plan, and so far, so good:

Last March, when Sherman received word that he was getting Martin and Coburn’s 2-year-old to train, Martin sent him an email. The subject line simply read: “The Road to the Kentucky Derby.” It included all the races that California Chrome needed to enter to prep and qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Sherman said he’s glad Martin detailed the story to the media because he felt folks would think he made it up.

“Every race Perry put in that plan worked out just like he said.” Sherman said. “It’s kind of spooky, kind of like a miracle because I’ve been around this game a long time and know all the things that can happen.”

With zero strikes, he’s one of 11(!) in this year’s likely Kentucky Derby field who stand “a very good chance” of winning according to Jon White’s system.

Top 25: The latest Derby leaderboard from Churchill Downs (PDF).

Who’s Your Derby Pick?

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.

It’s Derby Time

And the prep and historical criteria spreadsheet is up for 2013.

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

← Before