As we embark on that long journey towards the 2014 Kentucky Derby, I am reminded of what a great learning experience the road to the first Saturday in May has been for me personally over the years as a horseplayer. Everything is under the microscope, and therefore gives us as horseplayers, an even closer look at the game we love. It is such a fun time of year and the build up never gets old, in my opinion. Over the course of the next few months, as the Derby preps are scrutinized over and over again in search of this year’s winner, you will get an on the job education in nearly every aspect of handicapping. You will receive lessons in pace, class, track bias, pedigree, workouts, physicality, and how to visually watch a race. I suggest you turn your brain into a sponge and soak up every bit of information you can get your hands on.
For a recent example of a few things I have learned by studying the Derby Trail closely, you have to look no further than last year’s winner Orb. I learned a tremendous amount about pace, physicality, and workouts just by following him closely last year, to name but a few. From a pace perspective, it did not seem to matter if they were flying up front, like in the Fountain of Youth, or going a very average clip like the Florida Derby. Orb seemed to be immune to it. A quality I thought would serve him well in the Derby. He could stalk or close and he always seemed to be coming at the end. From a physicality standpoint, in my eyes he looked like a very strong and fit horse. He definitely stood out on looks alone. In the Fountain of Youth, I was against him, but once I saw him in the post parade I got really nervous I had left him off my tickets. That turned out to be a wise assumption. And as for the workouts, the lead up to the Derby is a great this time of year because there is a lot of video out there for us to watch ourselves that normally isn’t available. We do not have to rely on other people’s opinions, or by just checking the work tab. When Orb turned in his final work, his exercise rider Jenn Patterson did not move a muscle and he was moving like a machine. All of these factors lead to me picking him on top last year.
This year, I would like to serve as your official guide on the road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Hopefully we will be able to find this year’s winner while sharpening our skills in the process. I will be Handicapping races with you, and then breaking them down afterwards. I got a little behind lately, but I will post my thoughts on the Jerome and Sham for future reference as soon as I can. In breaking down the races, I will try to focus on pace, trip, perceived strength of field at the time, overall impressions, what horses to watch moving forward, and anything else of significance that I feel may help us out moving forward.
As always, I am here to help. I love talking about anything to do with the Kentucky Derby so if you have any questions, or want to discuss any of the prep races, be sure to throw me a line. I’d love to hear from you. Best of luck on the Derby Trail, everyone. I hope we can gain some knowledge and find the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby, in the process.