When the University of Louisville Marching Band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” before the 11th race on Saturday we all hope that the first line rings true, “The sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home…” However, in the history of the Kentucky Derby, that hasn’t always been true.
After Monday morning’s
thunder and lightning storm that accompanied the deluge of rain, people began
to worry about the chance of a wet track on Derby Day.
On sixty-five of the 139
Derby days, there has been at least some precipitation. The good news is that
there has only been seven “SLOPPY” tracks. The bad news is that four of them
have come in the past 10 years: Orb 2013, Super Saver 2010, Mine That Bird 2009, and Smarty Jones (2004). The other three
sloppy victories came from Go for Gin 1994, Citation 1948, and Flying
The prevailing wisdom
about handicapping sloppy tracks is that the advantage goes to the
front-runners. However in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs that hasn’t
been the case. In the last five there have been: two deep closers (Orb and Mine
That Bird), one closer (Super Saver), one stalker (Smarty Jones), and one
front-runner (Go for Gin in a field of 14).
If there is any sloppy track advantage
in this year’s Derby it may go to Ride On Curlin who will be ridden by three-time winner Calvin Borel. Borel found his way into the Racing Hall of Fame
after his two dramatic ground-saving victories on Super Saver and Mine That
Bird when the rail was the best part of the very wet Churchill Downs track.
Historically there have
also been seven “MUDDY” tracks, but there has not been one of these since Sunday Silence won in 1989 and before
that it was all the way back to Tim Tam in 1958. So lately it seems when it
has rained that it has poured and the track has been very wet.
The good news is that the
extended forecast for Derby weekend has now improved.