There has been some great discussion in several recent posts about what kind of pace scenario is shaping up for this year's Kentucky Derby. It seems every year we see a cavalry charge of horses battling for the lead right from the starting gate, leading to quick, testing and demanding fractions. Whether it's Bodemeister going 1:09+ for six last year (and out sprinting the sprinter, Trinniberg, into the first turn), or Spanish Chestnut setting things up for the Giacomo shocker, a quick Derby pace is almost a "given" in recent years.
The changes to the qualifying system for this year's Derby might cause major changes into the way this and future Kentucky Derbies are run and won. With the new points system eliminating all sprint races from the equation, horses like Trinniberg no longer have a path to Louisville.
Just for fun, I went through the contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby based on their current points and noted their Brisnet Run Style.* (These were the designations prior to last weekend's prep races, so it's possible that some will change between now and Derby day.) Below is that data:
|1||150||Orb||Shug McGaughey III||P2|
|5||100||Lines of Battle||Aiden O'Brien||P4|
|7||60||Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||P3|
|50||Black Onyx||Kelly Breen||P4|
|50||Govenor Charlie||Bob Baffert||E/P5|
|8||50||Itsmyluckyday||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||E/P6|
|11||44||Normandy Invasion||Chad Brown||S0|
|13||36||Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||E6|
|30||Super Ninety Nine||Bob Baffert||E7|
|16||22||Java's War||Ken McPeek||P2|
|20||Code West||Bob Baffert||E/P7|
|20||Den's Legacy||Bob Baffert||P5|
|20||Departing||Al Stall, Jr.||P2|
|20||Falling Sky||John Terranova II||E/P8|
|20||Merit Man||Bob Hess, Jr.||E8|
|20||Tiz a Minister||Paul Aguirre||S2|
|20||West Hills Giant||John Terranova II||E/P7|
|24||14||Golden Soul||Dallas Stewart||P4|
|25||13||Dynamic Sky||Mark Casse||S5|
|26||11||Speak Logistics||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||E3|
|10||Giant Finish||Tony Dutrow||E8|
|10||Mr. Palmer||William Mott||S3|
|10||Palace Malice||Todd Pletcher||E/P6|
|10||Power Broker||Bob Baffert||E/P5|
Bris breaks down running style into one of four designations. From the Brisnet website:
E (Early) = A horse that exhibits this run style is one that typically vies for the early lead or whose best races are run on the lead. Most horses in this category do not successfully rate behind a pace setter.
E/P (Early/Presser) = A horse that exhibits this run style is one that runs second or third within a few lengths of the lead early before trying to run down the leader. An "E/P" horse, just like an "E" horse, may run on the front end but, unlike an "E" horse, it can be expected to successfully rate behind a pace setter.
P (Presser) = A horse that exhibits this run style is one that runs in the middle-of-the-pack early before trying to rundown the leader. A "P" horse may at times run close to the lead but rarely, if ever, challenges for the lead early.Unlike and "S" horse, the "P" horse doesn't typically run from the rear of the pack in its better races.
S (Sustain or Closer) = A horse that exhibits this run style is one that runs in the back of the pack early before
trying to run down the leader.
There are a few "E" horses in the above list, but a lot of them are sitting out of the top 20 and on the outside looking in. Abraham and Giant Finish are sitting on just 10 points, not nearly enough to get them into the Derby. Merit Man is at 20 with a whole host of horses and need to pick up some points make the field. If none of those horses make the field, we'd be left wit Super Ninety Nine and Oxbow as the only "pure" E horses in the race, based on the Bris designation. However, the presence of so many E/P types may push the race towards quick early fractions if only due to the rider using their horses a bit more out of the gate in order to secure the best running positions. So, we may still see a quick early pace but it might be less of a guarantee than in prior years.
As I continued to look at the Bris Run Styles above, it sure seems like this is going to be an extremely tactical race in the early stages; there are a lot of horses that want to be near the lead, and probably "could" be the leader into the first turn, but are more willing to sit just a couple of spots back. As usual, the race will probably offer up some surprises once the starting gate opens.
For comparison purposes, here is last year's Derby (which had three "E8" colts in the field) with their Bris Run Style designations.
|Daddy Long Legs||NA|
|Daddy Nose Best||S2|
|I'll Have Another||E/P7|
|Take Charge Indy||E/P5|
|Went The Day Well||P5|