JC / Railbird

Derby History

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.

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

Miss Mary, Licensed Trainer

Noted in today’s TDN:

July 7, 1934 … Mary Hirsch became the first female to be licensed as a Thoroughbred trainer, in Illinois. Hirsch subsequently was licensed in Michigan that year and two years later, on April 9, she was licensed by The Jockey Club to train in New York.

Hirsch, known as “Miss Mary” and described as a “frail-looking, sad-eyed” young woman with modest hopes by Time Magazine in April 1935, was the daughter of Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch, who conditioned Sarazen, 1924-25 Horse of the Year, and Assault, the 1946 Triple Crown winner. He’s also known for losing Stymie, eventual champion and winner of almost $1 million in earnings, as a juvenile in a $1500 claiming race.

Nothing so dramatic, won or lost, would mark Miss Mary’s career, but she did have the distinction of being the first female trainer to saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby. No Sir, a well-bred stakes-winning gelding owned by Hirsch, finished 13th in the 1937 run for the roses, which was won that year by War Admiral. She also became the first female trainer to win the Travers, with a horse named Thanksgiving, in 1938, a year in which she won 18 races and $26,210, “a record not equaled by scores of men trainers,” wrote Charles B. Parmer in “For Gold and Glory,” a history of American thoroughbred racing published in 1939. The author not only admired Hirsch as a trainer, but for what a good sport she could be, as exemplified by this story:

A standing alibi on the race track, when a good horse loses, is for the owner to announce: the jockey didn’t give my horse a good ride. Mary Hirsch endeared herself to the jockey colony one day, when she climbed the stairs into the press box. One of her horses had lost a race the day before: the newspapers said the jockey had given him a poor ride. Mary said: “You chaps are all wrong. The boy rode to my orders — the horse just couldn’t make it.”

In 1936, Hirsch helped her father win his first Kentucky Derby by sending 18-year-old Ira Hanford, her apprentice jockey, to ride Bold Venture. The colt paid $43 to upset; Hanford was suspended 15 days for rough riding.


Forgive the self-promotion; it’s not every day I can say that you can find me twice on the New York Times web site …

On the City Room blog, I reply to comments left regarding Sunday’s OTB story. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the exchange, except for one mistake on my part — I realized this morning that commenter El Barto was referring to the amount retained by OTB, not the surcharge on winning bets. Oops! It’s still a fine reply, just to another question.

On the Rail, I write about history and preps, how the races have changed, how tradition may still matter. After I’d already sent this piece off, I read Jay Hovdey’s post on Derby defections, in which he refers to Eskendereya’s “porcelain handling.” I suppose there’s some truth to that, but consider: Last year’s field averaged 6.4 lifetime starts, down a bit from the 7.05 of the 2004 field (the first of the 20-horse Derby era). A light record is just the way of things these days — this year’s likely field averages 6.5 starts — making the 3YO prep season all the more important.