It all comes down to pace and my 2011 Kentucky Derby analysis figures there to be an average one. Although many are predicting a quick pace, I just don’t see it that way. The problem with this race is that there isn’t that much true early speed. There are lots of horses that like to run up front, but they aren’t good enough to win if they contribute to too fast of a pace. Horses like Mucho Mach Man, Midnight Interlude, Watch Me Go, Soldat, Santiva, Pants On Fire, Decisive Moment, and Twice the Appeal have never done well with a quick pace in races over a mile. I don’t think these front runners will perform any better in the Kentucky Derby if the pace gets pushed. Knowing that, I expect none of them to push the pace too early.
For further analysis let’s use our historic Kentucky Derby winner and pace database. Using the race data for the last 20 years we can see that an average pace for the Kentucky Derby is much quicker than any normal race. For the Derby, an average pace is about .47 for a half. So to start my selection process I want to throw out any front running horse that didn’t perform well at the end of the race where the pace for the half was about 47 and change. I will define “well” at the end of the race as a last furlong fraction of about 12.5 in a route, on dirt. If we do this, we need to toss Twice the Appeal, Decisive Moment, Shackleford, Soldat, and Watch Me Go. They all had last fractions of more than 13. I am thinking that they will never make the added last panel so I will throw them out.
Next we’ll toss out the turf runners. Goodbye Animal Kingdom, Brillant Speed, Twinspired, and Derby Kitten. I say let them beat me. There is a reason they run on turf and polytrack. They are not true dirt horses. We can also toss out Uncle Mo for being a little under the weather and Stay Thirsty for never achieving a Beyer figure over 90. We'll also toss the favorite, Dialed In, who should have no value.
Now we are left with Archarcharch, Comma to the Top, Pants on Fire, Dialed In, Master of Hounds, Mucho Macho Man, Midnight Interlude, and Nehro. That’s eight horses. Let’s see if we can eliminate a few more. Lucky for us a few of these ran at the same tracks and we can compare their times easily. We’ll first look at Comma to the Top and Midnight Interlude. Comma to the Top was a heavily raced two year old who only recently tried real dirt. Previously he only won on polytrack. His last Beyer number is also a little suspect because he was out in front on the lead. He set the pace with a 47.33 and finished with a 12.63. Not too bad, but I would rather have Midnight Interlude in this race due to more consistency on dirt, and a closing fraction of 12.34. We’ll toss Comma to the Top.
Next we’ll look at Pants on Fire, Nehro, and Mucho Macho Man. In their last races at Fair Grounds, Pants on Fire had a first fraction of 47.7 and finished with 12.68, which was clearly better than Mucho Macho Man’s of 47.97 and 12.79. It was a faster first and faster last. But what about Nehro? He started with a somewhat slower 47.96 and finished with a strong 12.35. For now we will toss Mucho Macho Man. We can also compare Nehro against Archarcharch. Looks to be about the same. Archarcharch beat him by a neck, but Nehro had the better drive.
So this is how I rate them if the pace is average or faster than average. Nehro, followed by Midnight Interlude, Archarcharch, Pants on Fire and then Master of Hounds. The faster the pace the better Nehro and Master of Hounds should perform. We haven’t talked much about Master of Hounds, but he is already proven at this distance. He is a good closer and he was shipped all the way across the pond for this. His figures of 115 translates to about a Beyer of 95 so he fits in the race. Don’t let the lack of data on him fool you. The slower the pace the better Archarcharch, Midnight Interlude, and Pants On Fire will perform.
With all of that being said, this Kentucky Derby is a bettor’s dream. It lacks true quality horses so the field is very evenly matched. There is also no dominant horse this year so there will be tons of value. I will be watching the tote board very carefully. I hope you enjoy watching the race and hopefully picking the winner. Good luck.
This post was originally posted on my blog wagerjournal.com