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The 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail: The Education of a Horseplayer

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. 


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Older Comments about The 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail: The Education of a Horseplayer...

Great read good sir. I am also on the South Shore of Mass and I am also a die-hard fan of the greatest day of the entire year, Derby Day. I will definately be looking forward to your thoughts each prep!
The year Make Music for Me foiled my chances, I loved Super Saver and keyed him on top of a super while boxing like 8 in the back. I placed my bet and jumped on a plane for Cabo San Lucas. I touched down not knowing what happened in the Derby. Got a call from my buddy and he read back the 1-2-3-4 finishers. I was so close, it paid over 100k. If I hit that thing there would have been one heck of a party in Mexico!
I did like Golden Soul, just not to win or place. I know what you mean though, those horse can blow up the tote.
I go into the Derby looking for horses like Golden Soul, Make Music For Me, Bluegrass Cat, Animal Kingdom, etc., because they have the potential to turn what would otherwise be a chalk ticket into an IRS ticket. A jockey change, slop, or equipment change can do wonders for an under performing horse. Or backfire in the case of Palace Malice last year.
Thanks guys for the kind words, it's appreciated. Speaking of Golden Soul, he joins the club of 'horses that fouled up my Derby superfecta' along with Make Music For Me, 2 names I will never forget. I needed GS I finish 3rd or 4th to score that day
Good stuff, Mike. It's a shame that Orb never won again after the Derby, but, it's nice that he showed up that day for you. Look forward to your future posts.
Orb was peaking for the Derby and he was the right choice; workouts are huge! Look at Golden Soul; he peak don that day too and has done nada since but his workouts were off the charts.
I will be handicapping the races leading up to the Derby and would like your input too.
Couldn't agree more Matt. At the time though, it felt real good doping him out. I thought I'd share that story of learning as oppose to picking Gemologist over Ill Have Another at the last minute. It still haunts me I did that haaa
As the year progressed it became clear that Orb's Derby victory was all about the pace of the race.

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