Animal Kingdom -- A Derby Bomber Dark Horse?

Plenty of Derby prep action this past weekend and, as we anticipated, none of the chalk, including Mucho Macho Man and Astrology, managed to snatch a victory.  Are you starting to get the feeling that this three-year old crop may be one of the weakest (or at the very least, late developing) in years?  I am really hoping that we’ll see a few horses step up big time in the final preps over the next three weekends.


The horses of greatest interest this past weekend were Mucho Macho Man (3rd  in the Louisiana Derby) and Astrology (2nd in the Sunland Derby).  I thought both looked like 2nd tier 3 year-olds.  They ran “good” races but nothing worthy of praise.  While the loss of a shoe certainly didn’t help Mucho Macho Man, his stride and ability to grab ground were not hampered.  I think we saw his distance limitation on Saturday and I believe he is missing that necessary 2nd gear to compete with the likes of Uncle Mo and others.  5-week layoff won’t help either.  He’s certainly no Big Brown, the last horse to win the Derby off a 5-week layoff.


Astrology was clearly short after losing all that training time but ran better than expected.   Barn is wise to see how much the Sunland Derby effort took out of him before possibly running again prior to the Derby.  Regardless, he won’t be on my ticket come May 7th.  Will be much better later in the year.


If the race were run on dirt, the horse that most impressed me this weekend (relatively speaking) was Animal Kingdom.  Like how he overcame a slow pace to lay down progressively better fractions in victory.  Fear that he might be Polytracker.  Keep tabs on his CD works coming up.  Might be a Derby bomber candidate in the making.


Let’s take a look at each race to see how they stacked up against one another.


Fair GroundsG2 Louisiana Derby 1 1/8 miles

Winner: Pants on Fire (RANKED #22 – HRN DERBY CONTENDERS)

Beyer Speed Rating: 94

BRIS Pace/Final Pars:  First Call = 94; Second Call = 104; Final = 104

Actual Pace/Final:         First Call = 93; Second Call = 97;  Final = 97

Track Bias: None

Tough Trips: Mucho Macho Man lost a shoe at the gate

Impressive Effort: None

HRN Pre-Race Grade = C-

HRN Post-Race Grade = C-

Notes: Pants on Fire contested a modest pace and finished with some courage but can’t see other than a pace factor in the Derby.  People will make too much of Mucho Macho Man’s lost shoe and the impact that had on the outcome.  Watch his stride throughout.  He never looked hampered or uneven.  Just didn’t have enough and may have found his distance limitation. 


Turfway ParkG3 Spiral Stakes 1 1/8 miles Polytrack

Winner: Animal Kingdom (RANKED #234 – HRN DERBY CONTENDERS)

Beyer Speed Rating: 92

BRIS Pace/Final Pars:  First Call = 92; Second Call = 100; Final = 100

Actual Pace/Final:         First Call = 85; Second Call = 88;   Final = 97

Track Bias: None

Tough Trips: None

Impressive Effort: None

HRN Pre-Race Grade = C+

HRN Post-Race Grade = C+

Notes: As we projected, this came up as the best of a mediocre bunch of preps.  Animal Kingdom impressed a bit as he accomplished the victory unaided by early pace help.  If he can move up in his next race, he becomes a horse to watch.  One caution, the victory was achieved on Polytrack.


Sunland ParkG3 Sunland Derby 1 1/8 miles

Winner: Twice the Appeal (RANKED #54 – HRN DERBY CONTENDERS)

Beyer Speed Rating: 89

BRIS Pace/Final Pars:  First Call = 92; Second Call = 100; Final = 100

Actual Pace/Final:         First Call = 88; Second Call = 91;   Final = 95

Track Bias: None

Tough Trips: None

Impressive Effort: None

HRN Pre-Race Grade = D

HRN Post-Race Grade = D

Notes: Sinai cut all the fractions but the pace figures came back weak making Twice the Appeal’s win less impressive than it may have originally appeared.  Astrology performed better than I expected but he was clearly short and I believe he’s just too far behind to compete at the top level come Kentucky Derby time.







While we didn’t cover this prep in our blog, Swift Warrior put in a decent wire-to-wire effort earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 89 and a BRIS figure of 94 while carving out modest fractions.  He inherited the lead in what projected to be a very slow early pace.  Another that will need a big step up in the Blue Grass to be considered.  Gets an asterisk for the Polytrack victory.  We’ll give this race a D rating.


You have to see the amazing offer that DISH is offering to Horse Racing Nation fans.  Check out the ad on our home page.  Get 80 tracks in your living room, NOW!  It's like having your own simulcast center without ever leaving your house ! Incredible!!!  Don’t miss all the final Derby preps action.


Check back on Friday when we preview the G1 Florida Derby which is coming up huge with the likes of Soldat, Dialed In, To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty in a throw down to determine which of these are most worthy to take a spot in the Derby field.  Coming soon, you’ll get your chance to order this year’s Kentucky Derby Super Screener only from your friends at Horse Racing Nation.






About Me

Mike has been a passionate horseracing fan for over 30 years. He received his “handicapping education” through countless hours of deciphering the mystery that is embedded in every race. It was the tough beats at the window, however, that propelled him to never make the same mistake twice (well, maybe three times).

As Managing Partner of Horse Racing Nation, Mike serves as investor, business advisor, staff handicapper and developer of handicapping content.

Handicapping the Derby has always been one of Mike's favorite endeavors.  He spends weeks compiling notes, speed figures and analysis in preparation for the big race.  In 2010, his HRN pals pushed him into packaging his time-tested methods into what became the 2010 Kentucky Derby Super Screener, an e-book that became extremely popular with HRN readers and was downloaded over 3,000 times.   

In preparation for the 2011 Derby, Mike will be "Rating the Preps" each weekend on the Derby trail.  The goal will be to build a good picture for which prep races are most likely to produce the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner.   

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