What does it take to win the Kentucky Derby? Speed, talent, staying power, and courage are all prized qualities for a racehorse, but are those assets that really pay off on the first Saturday in May? Sure, all of those things can help a horse prove victorious in the most magical two minutes in sports, but as much as anything, in this age of twenty horse fields in the Run for the Roses, it is racing luck that decides the big race. One thing you simply don’t hear anymore is, “he won the Derby despite of his trip.” And for good reason, with all that horseflesh jammed into the starting gate, and all that traffic throughout the key points of the race, it has become near impossible for a horse to recover from trouble. Did 2012 Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another receive a perfect trip on the way to collecting the trophy? You better believe it … check out this revealing video from my friends at Trakus, as you ride along with Mario Gutierrez for the entire mile and a quarter.
Wasn’t that fun? Let’s run down the I’ll Have Another checklist of a winning, and a perfect, trip in America’s most prestigious race…
-Breaking smoothly from the gate? Check
-Easily coming over from an outside post position to grab an ideal position into the first turn? Check
-Not letting the super-sized field squeeze you or cause too much stress the first half of the race? Check
-Having an opening on the backstretch to run through to maintain momentum and to stay in touch with the leader? Check
-Moving into a perfect striking position on the far turn, outside the tiring horses, but inside the competition coming from behind? Check
-Clear sailing down the lane in order to run down the leader? Check
Did your selection have this kind of smooth sailing in the Derby? Unless his name was I’ll Have Another, the answer is no.
Other interesting information from the folks at Trakus includes the total distance run for each horse. Using the 6,680 feet covered by I’ll Have Another as point zero, let’s take a look at the other key contenders…
Bodemeister -41 (41 feet less than I’ll Have Another)
Went the Day Well -4
Creative Cause +29
Union Rags -27
Rousing Sermon -36
As you can see, despite the smooth trip, I’ll have Another did have to run longer than most of the other main contenders from his #19 post position. Bodemeister, from his front-running position, actually ran approximately five lengths less than the winner, while Creative Cause ran nearly three-and-a-half lengths farther, or slightly more lengths than he was beaten.
Trakus also tells us that the trouble plagued, Union Rags ran the fastest final sixteenth in the Derby. His closing time of 6.37 was just a shade better than fourth place finisher, Went the Day Well.
What does all this mean for the Preakness? Was luck the biggest factor in I’ll Have Another’s win in the Kentucky Derby? It may have been, but remember the old saying, that we make our own luck. This is true for racehorses as well. I’ll Have Another did all the right things to make his own luck. Sometimes bad racing luck is unavoidable, but more often than not, it comes down to a jockey making the right decisions aboard a horse able to do everything he needs.
Clearly this was the case for I’ll Have Another. If you are siding with horses like Bodemeister, Creative Cause, or Went the Day Well, there is no reason to get off them now, but just know they will all have I’ll Have Another to beat in the Triple Crown’s second leg.