to the major prep season on the trail to the 2013 Kentucky Derby. On Saturday the countdown to the first Saturday May reaches 5 more weeks until we crown the winner of the 139th edition. So, things will be heating up from here and to spice it up even more, the long awaited monster point season begins this weekend as well (100-40-20-10). Over the next couple of weeks the points that are up for grabs and eventually awarded will also bring an answer to the lingering question we’ve all been waiting for; how many points will it take to make the starting gate?
before we speculate any further on that pressing query let’s look at another
subject that revolves around the two legendary preps that are set to kick things
off this weekend; the Florida and Louisiana Derby. Both of these well known preps
have a long history on the Kentucky Derby trail but the difference between them producing a Kentucky Derby winner is like comparing Secretariat to the rest of the field in the Belmont Stakes. The margin is
so great that it begs the question: how will this trend begin to reverse and when will the other prep start catching up?
begin with the runaway winner in this match-up. Inaugurated in 1952 the Florida Derby has become
the most well known Kentucky Derby prep and the most influential in modern
racing. Because it has produced so many Kentucky Derby winners
it can be validated as the most prominent prep of all time. Here are the numbers to support it.
Toasting its 61st anniversary last spring the Florida Derby has produced a
total of 21 Kentucky Derby winners. That’s basically an average of once every
three years that a Florida Derby horse will wear the roses. The list
does not include a Triple Crown winner but without further ado here they are:
Brown ’08, Barbaro ’06, Monarchos ’01, Thunder Gulch ’95, Go for Gin ’94,
Strike the Gold ’91, Unbridled ’90, Swale ’84, Pleasant Colony ’81, Spectacular
Bid ’79, Foolish Pleasure ’75, Cannonade ’74, Forward Pass ’68, Kauai King ’66,
Northern Dancer ’64, Carry Black ’61, Venetian Way ’60, Tim Tam ’58, Iron Liege
’57, Needles ’56, Dark Star ‘53
these illustrious champions a total of 12 of them also won the Florida Derby.
So, if you ever wonder why the Florida Derby winner tends to get so much
attention then this might be the reason why. Pushing the hype even more is that the last four Kentucky Derby winners from this prep happen to be examples of that stat. Therefore, don't be surprised if the winner this weekend is talked about over and over again through out the next 5 weeks.
As you can clearly see, the Florida Derby is very successful. If you ask me why
the race has enjoyed so much such success I point to one of the biggest things
often left out when talking about the most successful horses or stakes races; who
the winners beat or in the case of Florida Derby non-winners but eventual
Kentucky Derby champions, who they raced against.
one thing about the Florida Derby that is absolute year in and year out is that
the field is always top class. In my opinion that is the key contributor for
the Florida Derby’s success. It takes a good horse to win this stakes or at least
finish in the top three so like in everything sports, when you play
or race against some of the best you're in position to become the best. The Florida Derby has a track record of making it's contenders better and more prepared for the
main event and that it hard to argue but also hard to find in Louisiana.
this race goes so much farther back in horse racing history the stats are not
as impressive. Dating back to 1894 only three Louisiana Derby horses have ever
gone on to claim the roses at Churchill Downs. I could look at that stat fifty
different times and I could never interpret it any differently. I’m always
shocked at how low that number is and I’m always curious as to when it will
Cide ’03, Grindstone ’96 and Black Gold ’24. Of the three Black Gold and Grindstone actually won both the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby while Funny Cide finished 2nd.
Now, the good news is that the seventy one year drought was broken by Grindstone in
1996 and the gap between the next was only six years. So, the Louisiana
Derby is heading in the right direction. A little bit more about the race that
proves it’s come a long way in recent years is that since Churchill Downs took over the Fair Grounds in 2004, they have since helped promote the
Louisiana Derby to becoming a more attractive prep.
2009, the decision was made that Louisiana Derby would be moved from eight
weeks prior to the derby to five. That verdict also included a change in distance
(back to 1 1/8 miles for the first time since 1988) and that the purse would
increase. In 2011, the Louisiana Derby reached a milestone when it became the
very first that was raced at a purse of $1 Million.
purse has held steady and now that the race has been included along with the
other major preps in the new qualification system (170 points) brighter days
and more Kentucky Derby winners may be ahead. So, gone are the days when this
race was just a prep for the major prep races. It should be noted that
Gindstone moved on from Louisiana to finish 2nd in the Arkansas Derby and Funny Cide moved north to Aqueduct to also finish 2nd in the Wood Memorial.
how soon should we expect for the Louisiana Derby to make some more noise? I
think that the better days could be as soon as 2013, but that is up for debate.
Leading the probable
Kentucky Derby winners from the Louisiana Derby entries is Revolutionary followed in no particular order by
Titletown Five, Code West or Proud Strike. But, when you stack these guys against
the Florida Derby entries, Orb, Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, it looks like the Florida Derby has much better odds at maintaining the upper hand in the 139th Kentucky Derby.