HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Kentucky Derby Profiling

Many will say that late November is much too early for Derby Fever to kick in. They will tell you that we, most likely, have yet to see the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner emerge. Those who make those assumptions, do not do so based on the facts. Sure, it might be too early to get overly excited, but the claim that we have yet to see our Derby winner run could not be any farther from the truth. With that in mind, I’ll be giving you some Derby facts and trends to look out for.
The biggest myth, as I stated above, is that we have yet to see our Derby winner run. Truth is, the last 10 Derby winners averaged, approximately three starts their Juvenile year. Eight of those 10 had already run in their first stakes, six of them were stakes winners, and two were champions. Only two horses didn’t enter stakes competition, and ironically enough, both had never run on dirt at that point in their career. Looking at these 10 horses easily disproves the theory that the Derby winner has yet to run. In fact, chances are that our Derby winner has already run in his first stakes.
Another unfounded fact is that a horse needs at least three starts in his three-year-old season to win the Kentucky Derby. Look at past years and you will see that in the last six Kentucky Derbies, all of the winners had no more than two starts before they made their bid in the Run for the Roses. Many will tell you that it takes a horse three races before they hit their peak form, after a layoff. The last six winners of the Derby give that claim a very solid foundation to stand on.
Finally, while many will be looking for the Derby winner to come out of Arkansas, I say turn your eyes to Florida. Arkansas has done extremely well in the Derby, and the Triple Crown in general recently, but it has not produced as many winners as it has runners that place fourth through second. Florida on other hand seems consistently produce a winner. Barbaro, Street Sense, Big Brown, Super Saver, and Animal Kingdom all made at least one start in Florida before taking the Kentucky Derby.
If one needs help narrowing down some potential prospects, then I would suggest looking to Brian Zipse’s Derby Sweet 16. As of now we know the Kentucky Jockey Club top three are all headed to Florida, and the top two look especially promising. We also know that Shanghai Bobby, Violence, and Archwarrior, being trained by Todd Pletcher will at least train in Florida. Bern Identity is also pointing for start in Florida. All of these fit the first two trends I talked about. Now all that is left is to see if they remain in Florida and which impresses us most.
Of course this is not full proof, but the facts behind it are sound. I hope they help everyone in picking an early favorite or at least narrowing their choices down before the big day. Let the Derby madness begin!


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby Profiling...

I think with the new Kentucy Derby point system we will see a more often raced horse winning the Derby. At the same time we also may see points chasing/shipping more this Derby trail too with smaller barns and shallower pocket owners giving way to the bigger better funded connections.
The image used for this article fits very well with Animal Kingdom, Muchu Macho Man, and Shackleford all there. All whom have done so well since that picture was taken. And of course you cant discount Nehro, whom we will hopefully see next year. All top four finishers. I think it is a much stronger crop than I did back then.
Funny. Many promising 2011 juveniles made it to the Derby, even the Preakness and Belmont. It was after that we started to see the drop off.
Wager? about 25% of these or less will make it to the big dance the first Saturday in May TOPS!!
I like him, know more and he's had enough. Those are who i have money on now.
If he stays sound, my money is on Normandy Invasion. Loved the sustained run from far, far back to lose by a nose in the Remsen. Has the look of a 10 furlong colt.
railbird, I'm linking a chart showing the points assigned to the various prep races. Basically, as dani said, they estimate that ~40 points will get a horse into the gate. The early preps (BCJ) give only 10 points to the winner; the middle preps (Gotham, etc.) give 50 points; the final preps (Bluegrass, etc.) give 100 points. BH, DRF, and Paulick Report all have detailed information--it is easy to find via their sites or Google. Just Google "Kentucky Derby points system".
railbird, i believe they estimated that a horse with 40 points should be able to make it. Last year i believe there was a chart made of the points each of the contenders would have earned as well as their earnings and both charts were relatively close. Not placing wise, but on which horses made the gate or not, the two were fairly similar. This does put more emphisis on the 3yr old season, but i wouldn't be surprised to see some of the top earners from this year make it in the field either.
I would like to see more inormation on how the NEW points system could determine which horses go into the gate on the first Saturday in May. IMO-that looms the largest in the 2013 3YO campaigns.
Mike, i would agree, but I believe most horses last year had three preps. 4 of the top 6 finishers did. I honestly thought that it would have to be a horse with three starts just because a vast majority of them had 3 starts. I also am looking forward to Palace Malice. Florida looks like a hot spot this year, though it did last year too before the defections and trainers looking for softer competition.
same here goblin. I can't wait to see how PM does
It should be really interesting to see how the trainers work the new point system into their Derby prep strategies. The closer to the date of the Derby, the higher the prep points become. I'm looking forward to seeing Palace Malice begin his 3y/o season in Florida--hoping he does well.
There is no question that horses are winning the Derby off of only two 3 year old preps, but I don't believe that is because it gives a horse an advantage, instead I believe it is because almost all the competition is doing the same thing. Most of the top trainers want 6 weeks between races today, it is hard to get in many races with that schedule. I must admit I don't understand this change. For decades horses ran much more often and with shorter time between races, remember that the Wood and Arkansas Derby used to be 2 weeks before the Derby and the Blue Grass used to be 10 days before the Derby. And it worked! Look at the schedule for the great 3 year olds of the 1970's. In the last seven years four Derby winners weren't able to complete the year and two others didn't win another race, only Street Sense had a good complete year. I always wonder what would happen if Woody Stephens or Charley Whittingham were around to train some of these top 3 year olds.
and also, he has come from off the pace in most of his starts. This time he was farther back, placing wise than normal. When the paces get quicker he'll either fall farther out of it early, or he could get burned by the pace.
He will most likely end up being one, and the race you chose to use to make your point about having the right type of move was the race in which he closed. A horse can have grit. Doesn't mean they will win. Union Rags showed he was gritty in the Juvenile and Belmont, yet the traffic did him in, like most closers.
DeadHeat, He's NOT a closer, but ended up being one that day, and has the grit to get through 19 other horses, and that's a fact.
Only LATE winner in all that time? Secretariat with a median percentage down in the 66 range, but that one is all alone in many categories.
Just about every winner since I have recorded energy distribution has won as a sustained/presser, every one and many a favorite, who lost were later like Afleet Alex or earlier like Peace Rules 3rd
Dead closers very rarely win the KY. SS and MTB both ridden by Borel. Giacomo, stayed out of trouble and is the only recent one to take the overland route to win. The first two in this year's Derby both had speed. One stalked the other set the pace. That is more of a fact than believing a dead closer can win the race when most get stuck in too much traffic. Just look at Dialed In, Union Rags, Dullahan, Ice Box, i can go on and on. Again, another fact is to stay away from closers.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track,, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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