2008 Kentucky Derby Analysis and Picks
Much like last year, the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby features an uninspiring cast of characters without an obvious star. Of course, no matter how uninspiring they appear now, a star will be anointed just a few minutes after six o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Will it be a pretender like Giacomo in 2005 or will this year’s Derby winner go on to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed thirty years ago? Although there are always more questions than answers heading into the Derby, this year there seem to be more than ever. How will form translate from the the all-weather tracks in California to the dirt of Churchill Downs? Is Big Brown this year’s Curlin – a future star without enough experience to win the Kentucky Derby? Can any useful information be gleaned from the Blue Grass Stakes?
On to the handicapping:
Step 1: Eliminate the Early runners
I’ve indentified some interesting trends over the past couple of years. If you want to read the details, check out the previous Kentucky Derby Previews (2006, 2007) and Recaps (2006, 2007). Horses with an E (Early) running style have a dismal record in the past three 20-horse Kentucky Derbies. This means that Bob Black Jack and Recapturetheglory can both be eliminated.
Also, eliminate any Non-E-Type runners with an Early Pace (EP) in their last race greater than the Kentucky Derby EP par. This knocks out favorites Tale of Ekati, Smooth Air and Big Brown.
Step 2: Eliminate horses that have not run a BSF of at least 98 this year.
In the past 16 years, only two horses (Giacomo and Sea Hero) have won the Kentucky Derby without having previously earned a BSF of at least 100 as a three-year-old.
Out: Anak Nakal, Court Vision, Big Truck, Pyro, Colonel John, Z Humor, Momba, Adriano, Denis of Cork, Cowboy Cal
Step 3: Eliminate horses without a 100+ BRIS Late Pace in their last race.
If you’re going to win the Kentucky Derby, you better be running in the stretch.
Out: Cool Coal Man, Visionaire, Gayego
Step 4: Miscellaneous Eliminations
With only two runners left (Eight Belles, Z Fortune), I guess I should stop eliminating horses.
Step 5: Hard Decisions
Since the first three steps decimated the field, the hard decisions will be who to bring back in from the cold.
#9 Pyro – Was second-best two-year-old last year (behind champion War Pass, who beat him three times). Easily won first two starts this year, but did not produce fast times. Finishing a dismal 10th in his final prep race (Blue Grass) does not generate much confidence, but the talent is there. Or it it? As I read what I write, I just can’t sell myself on him. The wins were slow, the Blue Grass was pathetic, and his workout at CD this week was not at all impressive. OUT. (Upon further review, the workout was better than the final time indicated.)
#10 Colonel John – He’s never raced on dirt. His Beyer Speed Figures are not gaudy. His margins of victory are narrow. But he closes like a freight train and his workout over the Churchill Downs strip this week (5f in 57 & 4/5) shows he loves the surface. IN.
#16 Denis of Cork – Lightly raced runner began his career with three wins in as many starts before dropping a clunker in the Illinois Derby. Come from behind running style suits the race shape here and he has been working very well at Churchill Downs. Having last year’s winning jockey Calvin Borel on board is another plus. Has a chance to pick up a piece of the superfecta. IN.
#19 Gayego – Nice win in the Arkansas Derby was rewarded with the second highest route Beyer this spring, behind only the Florida Derby. Was dead game in holding off fast closing Z Forture, but gets the worst of the post position change versus that rival. Outside post and pace pressure will be too much to overcome. OUT.
#20 Big Brown – Three races? Curlin only had three and, as good as he is, he couldn’t get it done. The Florida Derby was impressive, but he began his career as a turf horse and I’m just not convinced he’s really that good. Throw in post 20 and the disadvantage of being a front-runner and I’ll pass. OUT.
Thoroughbred Report Picks:
1st: #5 Eight Belles
2nd: #6 Z Fortune
Include in exotics: #10 Colonel John, #16 Denis of Cork, #9 Pyro
Kentucky Derby Wager
$30 Exacta 5-6 (Eight Belles over Z Fortune) = $30
$15 Exacta 6-5 = $15
$5 Exacta 5,6 over 10,16 = $20
$1 Triple Key 5 with 6,9,10,16 = $12
$1 Triple Key 6 with 5,9,10,16 = $12
$1 Super Key 5 with 6,9,10,16 = $24
$1 Super Key 6 with 5,9,10,16 = $24
Total Wager: $137