Relevancy of the Kentucky Derby Field as the Racing Year Progresses

The orginal caption said that Super Mario rode IHA around 3 turns for the win. I'll tell you what, caption writers these days... - Jayme Price

After looking at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile fields back to 2006, I wondered what, if any, correlation there was between graded stakes success and a start in the Kentucky Derby. Just to get out of the gate on the first Saturday in May is an accomplishment in and of itself, but does it translate to success for the runner as they get older? Or is the Derby the pinnacle for a large portion of runners, as the BC Juvenile seems to be?

WARNING: Another data dump lies beneath the narrative.

This does not include race day scratches. Again, my Green/Red shading scheme is based mostly on GSWs, but (as in the case of Animal Kingdom) is also based on the top end form they have shown and not always just wins. Yellow shading is a horse that did not have an opportunity to reach full potential and prior to showing they were Graded/Group material post KY Derby, but my guess is that given soundness, they would have been top notch. No color shading (grey/white) is listed stakes winners/competitive non-winners of Graded events.

Several key take aways:

  • Since 2007, there have been 117 starters in the Kentucky Derby
  • 51 have shown they are top end Graded/Group Stakes Horses with GSWs or great BC starts (43.6%)
  • 13 were retired due to injury (11.1%)
  • 25 were never competitive at the graded/group level again (21.4%)
  • 28 get no color (23.9%)
  • 41 are currently at stud throughout the world (35.0%)

But the really interesting fact is the dearth of BC success (measured in wins) of the KY Derby field:

  • 34 KY Derby Starters eventually made a start in a Breeders' Cup event (29.1%)
  • 23 ran in a BC event in their 3yo year (19.7%)
  • Just three Kentucky Derby Starters have won Breeders' Cup events (2.6%)
    1. Trinniberg (2012 BC Sprint) (3yo year)
    2. Court Vision (2011 BC Mile) (6yo year)
    3. Curlin (2007 BC Classic) (3yo year)

There is definitely a very strong correlation between a start in the KY Derby and top end success, but like all things horse racing there is nothing close to a guarantee. I think the low numbers of BC winners is artificially suppressed by two factors: 1) Once you've established you have a high end 3yo, the incentives to take that colt to the breeding shed are immense; and 2) So many of the colts and fillies are just tired after a grueling 2yo campaign focused on the Run for the Roses that they need a break. You see such a significant number of these horses with zero entries after the Keeneland fall meet that there must be more than just coincidence needed to explain it. And honestly, I think that the rest is a good thing for racing.

(OK, time for a quick rant: I HATE northern winter racing with a passion. Even Turfway is just too cold. And Aqueduct? Ridiculous. Asking horses to run in such cold weather is just crazy, especially when you can relatively easily get to much warmer climates like Miami, Tampa, and even Hot Springs.)

Once you boil all of this down though, even the Derby has too many also-rans in its field when you consider the goal of the race is to get the best 20 possible entries into the field. Too many of the colts just racked up a ton of Graded Stakes money via two or three really nice showings in their 2yo year, but are basically non-competitive once the later foals and slower growers catch up. Not sure the best way to fix this, but the Derby Qualifying system certainly cannot hurt.

The question then becomes when do horses hit the optimal age where the best competition is available? May of year 3? June of year 3? Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what the race record will show. I know what the conventional thinking says, but I think I'll have to keep digging through the big races like this to find out for sure.

FINALLY A PROPERLY AND APPROPRIATELY FORMATTED TABLE! WITH COLORS AND EVERYTHING!!

KY DERBY Finish Horse BC Runner same year? Non-JUV BC Runner EVER? Post KY Derby GSWs BC Race Finish
(any Non-JUV year)
Notes
2012 1 I'll Have Another N N G1-Preakness None Retired Pre-Belmont; at stud in JPN
2012 2 Bodemeister N N None None Retired due to shoulder injury; standing at WinStar
2012 3 Dullahan Y Y G1-Pacific 2012 BC Turf (9th) Synthetic horse
2012 4 Went The Day Well N N None None Has not run since Preakness
2012 5 Creative Cause N N None None Retired with no wins post 3yo Preps
2012 6 Liaison N N None None Not that good
2012 7 Union Rags N N G1-Belmont None Retired prior to BC
2012 8 Rousing Sermon N N None None Also ran on the West Coast Stakes Circuit this year
2012 9 Hansen N N G3-IA Derby None Retired to Ashford Stud
2012 10 Daddy Nose Best N N None None Can't hit board post-Derby Preps
2012 11 Optimizer Y Y G3-Kent 2012 BC Turf (11th) Doesn't look like a G1 level horse
2012 12 Alpha Y Y G1-Travers 2012 BC Classic (12th) Can only win slow races
2012 13 El Padrino N N None None In Training as of SEP12, hasn't run since Derby
2012 14 Done Talking N N None None Best form as 2yo, won IL Derby
2012 15 Sabercat N N None None Has not run since Derby
2012 16 Gemologist N N None None Retired post-Haskell; Standing at WinStar
2012 17 Trinniberg Y Y G1-Woody Stephens 2012 BC Sprint (1st) Best Sprint Form
2012 18 Prospective N N G3-Ohio Derby None Looks like productive stakes horse
2012 19 Take Charge Indy N N None None Back off long layoff, 2nd in Clark
2012 DNF Daddy Long Legs N N None None Listed Stakes Runner in EUR
2011 1 Animal Kingdom N Y None 2012 BC Mile (2nd) Shaping up to be great miler
2011 2 Nehro N N None None Back off long layoff, GS placed
2011 3 Mucho Macho Man N Y G2-Suburban 2012 BC Classic (2nd) Late really came into own in 2012
2011 4 Shackleford Y Y G1-Met Mile 2011 BC Dirt Mile (2nd) 2x Dirt Mile Runner; standing at Darby Dan
2011 5 Master of Hounds N N G1-Jebel Hatta (Dubai) None Nice GSW in UAE
2011 6 Santiva N N None None Allowance Runner now; can't stay healthy
2011 7 Brilliant Speed N Y G3-Saranac 2012 BC Classic (11th) Nice Turf GSW
2011 8 Dialed In N N None None Not that good
2011 9 Pants On Fire N N G3-Pegasus None Good stakes horse
2011 10 Twice the Appeal N N None None Low level stakes horse; can't hit board
2011 11 Soldat N N None None AOC runner
2011 12 Stay Thirsty Y Y G1-Cigar Mile 2011 BC Classic (11th) Retired to Ashford Stud
2011 13 Derby Kitten N N None None AOC runner
2011 14 Decisive Moment N N None None Listed Stakes winner
2011 15 Archarcharch N N None None Retired post-Derby; Standing at Spendthrift
2011 16 Midnight Interlude N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2011 17 Twinspired N N None None AOC runner
2011 18 Watch Me Go N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2011 19 Comma To The Top N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2010 1 Super Saver N N None None Stands at WinStar
2010 2 Ice Box Y Y None 2011 BC Classic (8th) Stands at Three Chimneys
2010 3 Paddy O'Prado Y Y G1-Secretariat 2010 BC Classic (5th) Standing at Spendthrift
2010 4 Make Music for Me N N None None AOC runner currently
2010 5 Noble's Promise N N G3-Aristedes None Allowance Runner
2010 6 Lookin at Lucky Y Y G1-Haskell 2010 BC Classic (4th) Champion
2010 7 Dublin N N None None AOC before retired in 2010
2010 8 Stately Victor N Y None 2011 BC Turf (5th) Listed Stakes Winner
2010 9 Mission Impazible N N G2-New Orleans None Competitive graded stakes horse
2010 10 Devil May Care N N G1-Mother Goose None Filly in KY Derby; very very good
2010 11 American Lion N N None None Soundness issues; long layoffs
2010 12 Jackson Bend N Y G1-Carter 2011 BC Sprint (3rd) Very good GSW
2010 13 Discreetly Mine N N G1-King's Bishop None Standing at Lane's End
2010 14 Dean's Kitten N Y None 2011 BC Turf (9th) Lots of places in G2/3 races
2010 15 Conveyance N N None None Graded Stakes Runner in UAE
2010 16 Homeboykris N N None None Gelding; AOC runner
2010 17 Sidney's Candy Y Y G2-Fourstardave 2010/2011 BC Mile (6th) Standing at WinStar Farm
2010 18 Line of David N N None None Never Started Again
2010 19 Awesome Act N N None None AOC runner
2009 1 Mine That Bird Y Y None 2009 BC Classic (9th) Never the same after switching trainers
2009 2 Pioneerof the Nile N N None None Standing at Vinery
2009 3 Musket Man N Y None 2010 BC Classic (10th) Standing in Louisiana
2009 4 Papa Clem N N G2-San Fernando None Standing in California
2009 5 Chocolate Candy Y Y None 2009 Dirt Mile (5th) Dead; Stood in Canada
2009 6 Summer Bird Y Y G1-Jockey Club Gold Cup 2009 BC Classic (4th) Standing in JPN
2009 7 Join in the Dance Y Y None 2009 BC Sprint (9th) Dropped to AOC company
2009 8 Regal Ransom Y Y G2-Super Derby 2009 BC Classic (8th) Standing at Darley KY
2009 9 West Side Bernie N N None None AOC horse
2009 10 General Quarters N N G1-Woodford None Very good GSW on the grass
2009 11 Dunkirk N N None None Standing at Ashford Stud
2009 12 Hold Me Back N N G3-Dominion Day None Standing at WinStar Farm
2009 13 Advice N N None None Gelding; Claimer
2009 14 Desert Party N N G3 in UAE None Stands in NY
2009 15 Mr. Hot Stuff N N None None Gelding; Now runs jumps
2009 16 Atomic Rain N N None None Gelding; listed stakes winner
2009 17 Nowhere to Hide N N None None Gelding; AOC Horse
2009 18 Friesan Fire N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2009 19 Flying Private N N None None Low level stakes horse
2008 1 Big Brown N N G1-Haskell None Stands at Three Chimneys
2008 2 Eight Belles doesn't count; don't wanna talk about it
2008 3 Denis of Cork N N None None Retired
2008 4 Tale of Ekati N N G1-Cigar Mile None Stands at Darby Dan
2008 5 Recapturetheglory N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2008 6 Colonel John Y Y G1-Travers 2008/9 BC Classic (6th/5th) Stands at WinStar
2008 7 Anak Nakal N N G2-PA Derby None Ran in Dubai World Cup
2008 8 Pyro Y Y G1-Forego 2008/9 BC Dirt Mile (6th/10th) Very nice miler; Standing at Darley JPN
2008 9 Cowboy Cal N Y G2-Oak Tree Mile 2009 BC Mile (10th) Standing at Pin Oak
2008 10 Z Fortune N N None None AOC runner by end of career
2008 11 Smooth Air Y Y G2-OH Derby 2008 BC Classic (7th) Nice Multiple GSW
2008 12 Visionaire N N G1-King's Bishop None Stands in South Africa
2008 13 Court Vision N Y G1-Shadwell Turf Mile 2011 BC Mile (1st) Great turf Miler; Stands in Canada
2008 14 Z Humor N N None None Listed Stakes Winner
2008 15 Cool Coal Man N Y None 2010 BC Dirt Mile (10th) Listed Stakes Winner
2008 16 Bob Black Jack N N G1-Malibu None Good GSW post-Derby
2008 17 Gayego N Y G1-Ancient Title 2009 BC Sprint (4th)
2010 BC Dirt Mile (3rd)
Stands in Canada
2008 18 Big Truck N N None None Two year layoff between 2008 and 2010
2008 19 Adriano N N G3-Kent None Good GSW post-Derby
2008 20 Monba N N None None Also ran stakes horse post-Derby
2007 1 Street Sense Y Y G1-Travers 2007 BC Classic (4th) Standing At Darley JPN
2007 2 Hard Spun Y Y G1-King's Bishop 2007 BC Classic (2nd) Standing at Darley KY
2007 3 Curlin Y Y G1-Jockey Club Gold Cup 2007/8 BC Classic (1st/4th) World champ; Standing at Lane's End
2007 4 Imawildandcrazyguy N N None None Gelding; listed stakes winner
2007 5 Sedgefield N N None None AOC horse
2007 6 Circular Quay N N G2-New Orleans None Standing in Florida
2007 7 Tiago Y Y G1-Goodwood 2007/8 BC Classic (5th/3rd) Standing at Adena Springs
2007 8 Any Given Saturday Y Y G1-Haskell 2007 BC Classic (6th) Standing at Darley KY
2007 9 Sam P. N N None None AOC horse
2007 10 Nobiz Like Shobiz N N G2-Jamaica None Standing at Crestwood
2007 11 Dominican N N None None Stakes Also ran
2007 12 Zanjero N N G2-Indiana Derby None Standing at Millennium Farms in KY
2007 13 Great Hunter N N None None Stakes Also ran; Standing in Venezuela
2007 14 Liquidity N N None None Stakes Also ran
2007 15 Bwana Bull N N None None Stakes Also ran
2007 16 Storm in May N N None None Stakes Also ran
2007 17 Teuflesberg N N G2-Woody Stephens None Sire of Trinniberg; Stands in NY
2007 18 Scat Daddy N N None None Retired Post-Derby; Standing at Ashford Stud
2007 19 Stormello N N None None Only ran one race post-Derby;
2007 20 Cowtown Cat N N None None Stakes Also ran

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