Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
As the 139th
running of the Kentucky Derby approaches, attention turns to picking a winner. Accordingly there is a lot of discussion about the running
style that will win the Run for the Roses.
Just the other day I heard
an expert on the radio say, “The big closers don’t win the Kentucky Derby.” He
also went on to mention, “That I don’t like horses that have a way of finding
trouble.” Does that point of view have any merit? If it does, then we can
certainly eliminate Revolutionary as
I have also been hearing
talk about how Goldencents is the
horse that has the kind of front running style that can lead to success in the
Derby. Or is that front-runner
going to be the speedy Itsmyluckyday? Can either of these horses relax on the
lead and carry their speed for the ten furlongs?
There are so many
questions to be asked and there will be even more people with the answers to
those questions. I am the kind of handicapper that prefers to stick to the
facts, so I made a chart that shows the running lines for all of the Derby
winners since 2000.
As you can see War Emblem,
in 2002, was the only horse to win the Derby as a front-runner, in gate to wire
style. None of the other 12 winners had a lead before the one mile point of
Five of the victors from
the first Saturday in May were what I have called deep closers. Those horses
trailed by more than double digits at the first point of call and rallied from
way behind: 19th, 18th, 18th, 15th,
and 13th place.
Three more of them, I
considered to be closers. Those
horses stayed mid-pack and began making their come from behind moves after
about a mile of the race.
Finally there were four
horses that won at Churchill Downs as stalkers. They stayed within a few lengths of the lead in the early stages
and took control of the race in the stretch.
Interestingly, only four
of the horses waited to take the lead until right near the finish (I’ll Have
Another, Animal Kingdom, Giacomo, and Monarchos). All the other winners had
gotten to the front by the “stretch” point of call.
I hope that this research
will help you make an educated Derby choice. I know that it has helped me make
my Derby pick. Revolutionary is a
closer or deep closer and that is the running style that has been successful in
eight of the last thirteen runnings of the Derby. It is OK for a horse to get behind and Revolutionary has
shown the courage and determination to find his way through a crowd of horses.