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Kentucky Derby 2013: An Early Look At Pace

The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports the Kentucky Derby, is typically run at a frantic pace from the second the starting gate opens. Will the 2013 edition follow the traditions?

Andy Lyons

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:

Rank Points Horse Trainer Bris Style
1 150 Orb Shug McGaughey III P2
150 Verrazano Todd Pletcher E/P8
3 129 Goldencents Doug O'Neill E/P8
4 110 Revolutionary Todd Pletcher S3
5 100 Lines of Battle Aiden O'Brien P4
6 70 Vyjack Rudy Rodriguez E/P5
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
12 42 Mylute Tom Amoss E/P4
13 36 Oxbow D. Wayne Lukas E6
30 Super Ninety Nine Bob Baffert E7
15 30 Uncaptured Mark Casse E/P5
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
27 10 Abraham Todd Pletcher E8
10 Elnaawi Kiaran McLaughlin E/P4
10 Giant Finish Tony Dutrow E8
10 Mr. Palmer William Mott S3
10 Narvaez Agustin Bzera E/P5
10 Overanalyze Todd Pletcher E/P5
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.

Horse Bris Style
Alpha P5
Bodemeister E8
Creative Cause P4
Daddy Long Legs NA
Daddy Nose Best S2
Done Talking S0
Dullahan S0
El Padrino P5
Gemologist E/P7
Hansen E8
I'll Have Another E/P7
Liaison P2
Optimizer S0
Prospective P1
Rousing Sermon S0
Sabercat P0
Take Charge Indy E/P5
Trinniberg E8
Union Rags P2
Went The Day Well P5