FanPost

Who Wins The Derby When Just About Everyone Needs The Lead?

(MattG: A great FanPost that deserves to be bumped up to the front page.)

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A comment I made in response to one of MattG's posts got me thinking - always a dangerous proposition.  How many of the horses we may see in the Derby have faced anything similar to the kind of pace most of us expect for the race?  Below is a chart I have compiled showing the last three races for each contender.  This information comes from the BRIS program, which I no longer feel comfortable handicapping without.  One of the things I like about it is that it shows how many points above or below par each of a horse's races was run.  (One of the things I wish it showed was the race's shape!)  0 is normal, while negative numbers indicate a slow pace, and positive numbers a hot one.  I have bolded the above-par numbers.

Horse Name

1st Call Race Par

2nd Call Race Par

Horse Finish

American Lion

-13

-6

1st

 

-1

-2

4th

 

-4

-3

3rd

Awesome Act

-12

-11

3rd

 

+10

+3

1st

 

-9

-10

4th

Backtalk

-13

-6

3rd

 

-14

-7

1st

 

+2

+4

8th

Conveyance

-3

-1

2nd

 

+7

+9

1st

 

-4

-2

1st

Dean’s Kitten

-2

-6

1st

 

+6

+3

2nd

 

-16

-17

4th

Discreetly Mine

+1

+2

4th

 

-8

-4

1st

 

-1

-3

4th

Dublin

+4

+4

3rd

 

-6

-5

3rd

 

+7

+9

2nd

Endorsement

-3

-1

1st

 

-13

-11

1st

 

-12

-13

2nd

Eskendereya

-12

-11

1st

 

-11

-14

1st

 

-16

-8

1st

Homeboykris

-22

-18

2nd

 

-1

+6

5th

 

+7

+8

5th

Ice Box

+4

+5

1st

 

-11

-14

5th

 

-10

-8

1st

Interactif

+10

+10

4th

 

-1

-2

2nd

 

-16

-17

2nd

Jackson Bend

-12

-11

2nd

 

-11

-14

2nd

 

-1

+6

2nd

Line of David

+4

+4

1st

 

+6

+5

1st

 

+3

-2

1st

Lookin At Lucky

-21

-21

3rd

 

-6

-5

1st

 

-12

-17

3rd

Make Music For Me

+10

+10

6th

 

+5

+1

1st

 

-12

-17

3rd

Mission Impazable

+1

+2

1st

 

+7

+9

4th

 

-8

-15

2nd

Noble’s Promise

+4

+4

5th

 

-6

-5

2nd

 

-12

-17

2nd

Paddy O’Prado

+10

+10

2nd

 

+6

+3

1st

 

+9

+3

3rd

Rule

+4

+5

3rd

 

-1

-3

1st

 

+1

+4

1st

Sidney’s Candy

-21

-21

1st

 

-1

-2

1st

 

-7

-11

1st

Stately Victor

+10

+10

1st

 

+1

+3

5th

 

-11

-15

8th

Super Saver

+4

+4

2nd

 

+5

+4

3rd

 

+7

+2

1st

If the race plays out like we think it will, with one of the speedballers setting some suicidal early fractions, we eliminate three horses from this list - Conveyance, Line of David,  and Super Saver - on the assumption that a speed duel up front will render them unable to get the mile and a quarter when they have barely held on for wins at shorter distances.

 

Thus, who among the remaining names - Awesome Act, Dean's Kitten, Dublin, Homeboykris, Ice Box Interactif, Make Music For Me, Mission Impazible, Noble's Promise, Paddy O' Prado, and Stately Victor - has shown the type of closing kick that will win the Run for the Roses?  Here, I think it is wise to look at a few other factors - the distance of the race, its surface, the number of horses involved, and the races' final times.  So, one more chart:

Horse

Distance

Place at 2nd Call

Field Size

Time

Awesome Act

1 1/16 on Turf

4th trailing 2

10

1:43 and 4

Dean’s Kitten

1 1/16 on Turf

3rd trailing 1 1/2

9

1:46 and 1

Dublin

6 Furlongs

3rd trailing 2

11

1:09 and 2

Homeboykris

1 Mile

3rd trailing 1

6

1:35

Ice Box

1 1/8

11th trailing 7 ¾

11

1:49

Interactif

1 1/16 on Turf

4th trailing 2 1/2

12

1:45 and 1

Make Music…

1 Mile on Turf

4th trailing 1 ¾

10

1:35 and 1

Mission Impaz..

1 1/8

7th trailing 4 ¾

13

1:50 and 1

Noble’s Promise

1 1/16 on Syn

1st

14

1:43

Paddy O’Prado

1 1/8 on Turf

2nd trailing a head

9

1:45 and 2

Stately Victor

1 1/8 on Syn

6th trailing 4 3/4

9

1:48 and 3

Most of these races were run at a mile and 1/16th or longer.  Here are the horses that have won against a hot pace in that time frame:  Awesome Act, Conveyance, Ice Box, Line of David (three times!), Make Music For Me, Mission Impazible, Paddy O' Prado, Stately Victor, and Super Saver.  If you go beyond the last three races, you can add Dean's Kitten (twice), Dublin, Homeboykris, Interactif, and Noble's Promise to the list.

 

 

After making this chart, I am inclined to ignore the wins by everyone listed with the exceptions of Dublin, Ice Box, Mission Impazible, and Stately Victor.  Why?  Because everyone else was within two lengths of the lead at the second call.  And these aren't even the horses we expect to be frontrunners!  This will be a cavalry charge at the start.  I don't think there is any way this race doesn't melt down in Spanish Chestnut/Giacomo-style.

All four of the horses left in this long-winded analysis might intrigue me. 

Dublin has finished second and third in his last two races with above par race times, and he might just be the kind of plodding, same-speed-all-the-way-around-type that lopes past an exhausted field.  In a way, I think it would be poetic justice for a son of Afleet Alex to win a Derby that melts down, since Alex, who I think was without a doubt the best horse in his Derby, lost it due to an insane pace.  Also, wouldn't it be great if D.Wayne Lukas got to play Yoda to Pletcher's Skywalker, especially when Pletcher might train a quarter of the field?  Lukas has won only four of his last 145 graded stakes races, though.

Ice Box, from Nick Zito's barn and owned by Robert Lapenta, the same connections as Belmont stunner Da'Tara, ran his highest figure last out and Zito is 25 percent with horses who won their last race.  He also fits on earnings if you look only at this year's campaign.

Mission Impazible is one of those horse that just seems to be blooming.  Three back he ran a BRIS SF of 102 on a sloppy six-furlong track and lost by a head.  Good enough for Pletcher to move him into stakes company, where he was fourth in a mile race that saw Conveyance outlast Dublin.  Then, bam...Louisana Derby winner with a 7th-to-1st move of the kind that wins races like this one.  And the win came with only a BRIS SF of 97 attached.  Does his form indicate a potential five-to-seven point bump?

And finally, there is Stately Victor.  He is the kind of horse I typically toss because I find it easy to go against closers that got a dream pace set-up in their last out.  But what if a horse can get that dream set-up twice in a row?  If he wins, he's the second-coming of Giacomo.  And I am not saying he can't win.  His form cycle hints at a recent growth-spurt, and of the few trainers that seem to have figured out that synthetic-to-dirt angle, Mike Maker is one, to the tune of 35 percent wins and 66 percent in-the-money.  And I love Alan Garcia...there is no way I will leave Stately Victor out of the top four holes.

Whew...sorry to go on so long, but I love this kind of stuff, and I'd be doing it for myself anyway.  Why not share?  I think it is good to talk these things out with other knowledgeable people.  Sitting here, I am shocked to realize that this whole post required nary a mention of Eskendereya or Lookin' at Lucky.  But all of their wins have come from slow races.  Even factoring in the way Esky crushed a couple of fields, I just think this is a year where the top two favorites finish third or worse because of pace considerations, at which point they become prime candidates for Preakness victory!

Then again, perhaps I am going to be egregiously wrong...Lord knows, I have been before.

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