JC / Railbird

Kentucky Derby

2016 Kentucky Derby

Prep schedule: Includes leaderboard, charts, replays, speed figures
Reference: 2016 prep and historical criteria spreadsheet
Churchill: Official Kentucky Derby website

Niche Work

Dave Hill spends Kentucky Derby weekend with Las Vegas horseplayer Alan Denkenson and things take a poignant turn when the bets don’t come in:

“I’ve been having a bad year. I’m starting to entertain the possibility that I could really go broke,” Dink says, without a hint of sentimentality. “Then again, if I don’t go broke there’s a 50 percent chance that I’m going to turn 75 and be making $4 bets in the sportsbook like these other guys. I mean what else am I going to do? Waz can go into stocks, into finance. I can’t do anything else. I’m 62 years old and this is all I know.”

Respect

The 2016 Kentucky Derby field turns into the Churchill Downs stretch
Turning into the stretch of the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist earned a Beyer speed figure of 103 for winning the Kentucky Derby, the highest Beyer of his career; his TimeformUS speed figure came up 123. However you measure his performance on Saturday, it was a peak, and trainer Doug O’Neill looks like a pretty smart guy for bringing his Uncle Mo colt to Churchill Downs in condition to move forward off two prep races, only one of which was around two turns. I thought Nyquist would come up short for that very reason, especially if the early pace as as strong as projected.

Just like Ed DeRosa, though, running down what he got right and wrong about this year’s Derby, I have no regrets:

RIGHT: Nyquist was the best two-year-old and best three-year-old. This might sound like a funny brag considering I didn’t pick him to win the race, but at 2-to-1 keying a 14-to-1 exacta I have no regrets about opposing him on top because even if I had picked him to win I still wouldn’t have won anything on the race at that price with (my actual pick) Exaggerator second. But the respect for Nyquist’s talent was clearly there. I just gambled against it trumping the rest of the group.

WRONG: Picking against Nyquist. From a horseplayer perspective, it’s easy to forgive the pick against—especially considering how well Exaggerator ran—but the fact is everyone wants to pick the Derby winner, and I had my chance after having Nyquist on top all year.

The winner went to post at a price of 2.30 and paid $6.60 — Nyquist’s odds were the lowest for a favorite since Point Given in 2001, and lower than the odds of the three winning favorites since 2013 — Orb’s price was 5.40 that year, California Chrome’s 2.50 in 2014, and American Pharoah’s 2.90 in 2015.

Here are the incremental fractions for the Derby from the DRF chart:

The 2016 Kentucky Derby fractions
View the official Equibase chart (PDF).

Danzing Candy hustled to the front and led the field through the first three quarters in times of :22.58, :45.72, and 1:10.40 before yielding his position to eventual third-place finisher Gun Runner and then Nyquist, who assumed the lead entering the stretch and wrapped up the 1 1/4 mile Derby in 2:01.31. He did run his final quarter three seconds slower than he did his first, but that he was in front at all is what’s impressive, as Mike Watchmaker points out:

He was the only true survivor of a Derby pace that completely fell apart, and Nyquist did much more than merely survive.

Every other horse involved in the Derby pace either collapsed, or out and out disintegrated. But not Nyquist. He kept on with dogged determination the way champions so often do, and he safely turned back a runner-up in Exaggerator who had this race set up for him …

Watch the replay:

Derby recaps: Now Nyquist has real respect as he sets out to exorcise a Triple Crown demonNyquist wins the Kentucky DerbyNyquist answers call, reignites Triple Crown chase with Derby winNyquist stays perfect with Kentucky Derby victory. He ships to Pimlico on Monday for the Preakness.

Derby 142

Picks for the Kentucky Derby card are up on Hello Race Fans. Today’s best bet — or, at least, the one horse almost no one wants to play against on the undercard — is Tepin in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner is 3-for-3 so far this year and she’s looked nothing but indomitable. She may be the one certainty in a day of deep fields.

Nyquist is 2-1 in the early Kentucky Derby wagering, below his 3-1 morning line. Some handicappers may feel uneasy about the undefeated champion’s chances (I’m among them), but money on the favorite has been steady.

Kentucky Derby Time

I was feeling the American Pharoah hangover. I didn’t have a Kentucky Derby horse, I was more interested in the Oaks — why not take a year off from this one race with its oversized field and tendency to chaos after we finally, finally get a Triple Crown winner? The feeling passed with the draw. Just like that, 20 horses slotted into the starting gate, and the excitement came back.

I still don’t have a Kentucky Derby horse, but I do have a few links to share:

1. The prep and historical criteria spreadsheet is updated with the 2016 field. For the past two or three years, I’ve thought it was time to revisit some of factors, such as the key preps, or the reliance on Beyer speed figures, but as a quick reference and a check on exuberant handicapping, the info holds up.

2. Keep the sheet open in a tab while you read why you shouldn’t pick Nyquist.

3. Who else should you play? Hand your Saturday party guests the Hello Race Fans Kentucky Derby cheat sheet to answer that question.

4. The Thomas Herding “Patterns of Motion Analysis for the Kentucky Derby” report is great reading each year — it’s a different way to think about each of the starters, and how they’ll react to being in a 20-horse field, that breaks through all the usual angles. This year’s edition is as insightful as ever about a crop that everyone seems a little stumped by, even if Kerry Thomas and Pete Denk are as flummoxed as observers at Churchill Downs have been by this year’s UAE Derby winner: “Lani moves very methodically yet runs with a strange Jeckyl-and-Hyde intensity,” they write. “This is a very unique profile.”

5. Sure, Lani has a unique profile. But is it a winner’s profile? If you’re looking for an reason to bet him, then Jon White’s Kentucky Derby strikes system gives you one — he has only a single strike against him. Lani also has one of the best pedigrees for the distance, says Valerie Grash.

6. Unless there’s a scratch and Laoban draws in, the Derby pace looks like:

7. The Bathing Index. (If Mo Tom wins, I’m a convert.)

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