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2012 Kentucky Derby Picks: NHC Champ Doyle Says It's the Big Three

THE 2012 KENTUCKY DERBY

by John Doyle

(2011 National Handicapping Championship Winner)

 

The Derby is always the most exciting and challenging puzzle for handicappers; this year is no different. Many handicappers think 8-9 horses have a legitimate chance to win and, with recent results, who could argue? The past 11 derbys have produced huge payouts, and in some cases, head-scratching results (remember Mine That Bird).

 


Bet Type

*Median Payout

*Highest Payout

Win

$23

$103

Exacta

$330

$1301

Trifecta

$3,952

$41,501

Superfecta

$119,678

$864,254

 

 

The DERBY PREPS


Like most players and avid racing fans, I have tracked and analyzed all the Kentucky Derby prep races (see below, ranked from best to worst). The most noteworthy preps of 2012 were the Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial, and the Sunland Derby where we saw the emergence of Gemologist, Bodemeister , and Daddy’s Nose Best as true Derby contenders.

 

However, the best of all Kentucky Derby Preps for me was last year’s BC Juvenile.  It served as the ultimate key race with many in that field coming back to run well in subsequent Graded Stakes races. The top 3 BC Juvenile finishers, Hansen, Union Rags and Creative Cause, are still the head of the class. The BIG three, as I call them, have matured physically and been well-managed and carefully pointed to the Derby by able horsemen. Plus, not one of the BIG three has run a bad race in 2012.

 

RATING THE DERBY PREPS 

 

Month

Stakes

Track

Distance

Comments

Nov

Breeders Cup Juvenile

CD

1 1/16M

The ultimate key race and on Derby track

Apr

Arkansas

OP

1 1/8M

Winner dominated huge effort, rest of field close on wire

Apr

Wood Memorial

AQU

1 1/8M

Top rated prep to date, does race take too much out of winner

Jan

Holy Bull

GP

1M

Off charts on pace and speed ratings, but in slop @ 1M

Mar

Sunland Derby

SP

1 1/8M

One of best on ratings scale under radar?

Mar

San Felipe

SA

1 1/16M

2nd best final ratings of all preps

Apr

Blue Grass

KEE

1 1/8M

Top-2 ran well, pace ratings fast for synthetic surface

Feb

Southwest (Div 2)

OP

1M

Very good race, not Derby prep distance

Jan

Sham

SA

1M

Good race, not Derby prep distance

Mar

Gotham

AQU

1 1/16M

Nice effort from winner from PP #12

Feb

Robert B. Lewis

SA

1 1/16M

Upgrade off pace types

Mar

Florida Derby

GP

1 1/8M

Upgrade off pace types

Apr

Santa Anita Derby

SA

1 1/8M

OK, expected more, but top-2 OK

Apr

Lexington

KEE

1 1/16M

Better than most will think, too close to Derby?

Mar

Rebel

OP

1 1/16M

Upgrade front runners, but pace balance ?

Feb

San Vincente

SA

7F

Upgrade off pace types

Feb

Fountain of Youth

GP

1 1/16M

OK, upgrade closers

Feb

Risen Star

FG

1 1/16M

Upgrade closers

Mar

Vinery Spiral

TP

1 1/8M

Another synthetic prep similar to Camino

Feb

El Camino Real

GG

1 1/8M

Hard to gauge on synthetics close to the bottom of preps

Mar

UAE Derby

MEY

1 3/16M

No ratings-winner ok more like grass race

Apr

Jerome

AQU

1M

OK race just distance wrong so close to Derby

Feb

Southwest (Div 1)

OP

1M

Much weaker than other division

Feb

Hutcheson

GP

7F

Wrong distance and not great time

Apr

Louisiana Derby

FG

1 1/8M

Bad pace balance

Mar

Tampa Bay Derby

TB

1 1/16M

Too slow

Apr

Illinois Derby

HAW

1 1/8M

Slow final time

Feb

Withers

AQU

1 1/16M

Too slow

Feb

Sam F. Davis

TB

1 1/16M

Too slow

Jan

Lecomte

FG

1M 70Y

Too slow

 

 

 

KENTUCKY DERBY SUPER SCREENER: Read About the 20-1 Win Contender Nobody Is Talking About 

 

 

The BIG THREE

Union Rags speed figures might be a bit light, but I think his expected speed figure move forward has been stymied by soft pace races and an indecisive ride in the Florida Derby v. a loose-on-the-lead frontrunner. For those who think he is ploddy and doesn’t have the turn of foot to overcome trouble, go re-watch last year’s Champagne Stakes. He has developed well physically and should be sitting on a huge race.

 

Prior to the Arkansas Derby, Creative Cause had run the highest 2-turn derby prep number, running past Bodemeister who went on to run the fastest Derby prep in the Arkansas Derby. He has done nothing wrong and the recent equipment change (blinkers off) should help him relax and maintain a straight path in the lane.

 

Hansen consistently runs good races in the fastest paced preps, including a rating win in the Gotham from Post 12 and a fast Holy Bull over a sloppy track. Even though the 1 1/4m might be just beyond his scope, he has a way of emptying horses kick behind him. I think the switch back to to the dirt and Dominguez sticking with him makes him a viable “up close” win candidate.

 

Yes, there has been the emergence of some nice contenders this year and they cannot be ignored: Bodemeister, Gemologist and Daddy Nose Best to name a few. For me, one of the BIG three will end up in the winner's circle the first Saturday in May. Many players may be kicking themselves if last years BC runners go 1-2-3 again over the same track and the trifecta pays over 500-1. The BIG three also represent the potential for a regional rivalry (East v. West v. Central) which could make this Triple Crown series one to remember.

 

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THE REST OF THE CONTENDERS

My wagers of choice are the multi-race bets like the Pick-4, Pick-5 and Pick-6, however I tried to develop my contender list with some information for all wagering styles.  The A,B,C and X beside each contender is for multi-race wagerers using DRF TicketMaker or something similar to construct tickets.  For win bettors, I have also included an acceptable WIN odds line for each based on 100% probability scale. And, for exotic players, I check each contender’s chances in the vertical exotics (exacta, trifecta and superfecta).

 

Finally, remember to adjust for weather, post position draw, last minute changes, and demand value. Good luck.

 

 

Rank Horse Odds EX TRI SFC Comment
A Union Rags 5-1 Yes Yes Yes

Has not moved forward number-wise since last November, but both Florida races the pace were soft. He won the Fountain of Youth without much ask and in the Florida Derby he received an indecisive ride trapped behind slow pace and a controlled pace winner. He has had plenty of time since and his trainer knows how to win this race. With his foundation, talent and improved physicality I expect a big move up on Derby Day.

 

A Creative Cause  6-1 Yes Yes Yes

Has not done much wrong this year has run 2nd fastest derby prep around two turns should finally get some pace. Hopefully the blinker experiment helps keeps him relaxed and straight down the lane.  He can handle any pace scenario and should get jump on deeper closers. 

 

A Hansen 9-1 Yes Yes Yes

The best of early pace types. Most likely compromises the rest of the early pace types. He is the kind of horse that takes starch out of those who chase him. He is bigger and stronger than last year. I think he is on cusp concerning distance but he ran too fast early in the Bluegrass and I think his return to dirt really helps his chances. He was able to rate in the Gootham and is a proven winner over the CD surface against many of these.

 

B Gemologist 10-1 Yes Yes Yes

He ran a game race in Wood Memorial and that race was one of the better preps in terms of pace and final time ratings. He visually dug in to easily hold off Alpha. His numbers are moving in the right direction. In the Derby, he will probably need to run faster early to stay within striking distance and I am just concerned this might be a little too much to soon v. more seasoned competitors. If not Derby Day this horse will be a force down the road.

 

B Bodemeister 10-1 No Yes Yes

He was brilliant in the Arkansas Derby running them off their feet earning a big final speed rating. However, he was able to control the lead and the horses behind him seem to stagger late. There was a crowd on the wire for second suggesting the field was loaded with 9F horses. However, you must always respect the top figure horse and Bob Baffert. The big concern is his ability to rate and how much does Hansen and Trinniberg take out of him early.

 

B Daddy Nose Best 15-1 Yes Yes Yes

His Sunland Derby was a real nice effort. He seems to be working well for a top conditioner. I am still not sure he was facing the toughest of fields and his preferred surface might still be turf, but can’t be discounted.

 

B El Padrino 20-1 No Yes Yes

I think, like Union Rags, he was compromised by some slow paces. I expect him to improve; probably will not be enough to get past Union Rags, but he could really spice up exotics at a price and he is a quality horse from a quality barn.

 

B Take Charge Indy 20-1 No Yes Yes

He got ideal front-running trip in Florida Derby He is probably not front runner, but will not want to be too far off pace which should be solid and it might hurt finish. I think the trainer is managing this horse well and you should never completely ignore a Borel horse in Derby.

 

B Went The Day Well 25-1 No Yes Yes

He probably will get more buzz than the typical Spiral winner because of his connections won last year’s derby with Animal Kingdom while taking a similar path. He did run well and the Spiral was a credible prep, but he is not facing the softies Animal Kingdom hooked last year. A threat for minor awards, but that’s all I see.

 

B Dullahan 25-1 No Yes Yes

He ran well in Blue Grass a new speed rating top, but he got right set up and it was on a synthetic surface. I really respect his trainer and I think he is close to taking down his first Derby, but I do not think it’s this one. I still think Dullahan is more of synthetic and turf horse. He will probably take some decent action so I would try and play against him in underneath slots. Also not really sure breeding is meant for 10F.

 

C Alpha 35-1 No Yes Yes I think he already might have peaked for now. I do not like the fact that Dominguez has taken off and he seemed spent at end of Wood Memorial. His pedigree says he should stay 10F, but I am not so sure.
C Rousing Sermon 50-1 No Yes Yes

This deep closer will probably get some pace and does have decent finishing kick. He is not a WIN candidate, but clearly Superfecata and maybe even trifecta candidate to pick up some pieces.

 

C I’ll Have Another 50-1 No No No

He has benefited by soft pace races and his style does not suit the expected pace flow.

 

C Daddy Long Legs 50-1 No No Yes

It’s really hard to gauge his form this year. You have to respect connections, but until it happens I will let a horse taking the Dubai path beat me. Anyone one who could contend to pick up minor award.

 

X Mark Valeski 75-1 No No No

Presser type who will be sub-optimized by pace scenario. Also think pedigree doesn't scream 10F.

 

X Sabercat 99-1 No No No

A lot of people will probably putting him to fill out super and tri tickets. I don’t think he really is a closer or 10F horse so I am taking stand against.

 

X Prospective 99-1 No Yes Yes

He is not fast or good enough to win here, but could fill out exotics. His numbers, while not that good, are inching forward and he has the right run style for this race based on expected pace scenario

 

X Liason 99-1 No No Yes

His current form is a bit suspect. He might be more of synthetic horse. The pace scenario doesn’t help because I think he going to outfinish better horses off a warmer pace. Also pedigree doesn’t scream 10F.

 

X Done Talking 99-1 No No No

He just doesn’t seem fast enough. The Illinois Derby was one of the worst Derby preps. The bottom of superfecta rung for the brave of heart. I am passing.

 

X Isn’t He Clever 99-1 No No No

Presser type faces same kind of negative pace scenario he faced in Arkansas Derby only worse. I am not seeing it.

 

X Trinniberg 99-1 No No No

Pure sprinter should stay one. Not bred for this long. Pass.

 

X Optimizer 99-1 No No Yes Only big effort was in Rebel which I think was false. He looked to be visually flying late, but race was slowing down and he was all out on wrong lead. Lukas has been ice cold with graded stakes wins.

 

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Older Comments about 2012 Kentucky Derby Picks: NHC Champ Doyle Says It's the Big Three...

So basically box 16 horses in the triple and 13 in the exacta? Thanks but I'll use my own cheese shredder to cut this sucker down
this guys likes them ALL
I like your picks a lot!
Thanks for your insights!
When the champ speaks, I am going to listen! Really excellent breakdown of this race, John. Loved the evaluation of the preps. I think if fans take Union Rags and Creative Cause and wheel those two in the top three slots of the trifecta and fill with their other top horses in the other slots, that could be a winning strategy. Can't say I disagree with you on much here. I would probably switch Hansen and Dullahan but that's about it. Hansen he will determine his own fate. He is the Speed of the Speed and, as you pointed out, anyone close to him early will be compromised, but didn't like the fact that Maker said workmates in his works make him aggressive early. He'll have a few "workmates" to deal with among his 19 rivals. Unlike other pace types that have won the Derby, I can't see Hansen's incredible energy reserve being rationed the way it needs to be for a Derby victory. Also, I think more highly of Dullahan as he was asked to run swifter than he prefers into a hot Bluegrass pace and still finished with authority. If you watch that BC Juvenile race at CD, especially the NBC arial shot...after being so far back post the knock around at the start, he was moving fastest of all late. CD surface should be no problem. Thanks for his outstanding analysis, John!
Sabercat only has to be a 10F horse, not 12F.
Congrats to you! What a thrill for you to win.
I like you chart. When playing the exotics, I can't "X" out any horse that has a "Blue Hen" mare in his pedigry line.

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