Super Screener: Penultimate Derby Preps Analysis

Super Screener: Penultimate Derby Preps Analysis

At this point in the Kentucky Derby prep season, all serious contenders have logged their penultimate prep race leaving just one prep to go.  Derby point earners in both the Spiral Stakes and Sunland Derby leave their connections with an option to run one more time before the Kentucky Derby, but winners of those races have what they need to get in.   


I thought it would be interesting to look back at the penultimate prep races of the top 5 finishers in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and compare their outcomes to the penultimate preps of the current top Derby point earners gunning for a spot in the gate on the first Saturday in May.  


The chart below shows the top-five finishers in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, their penultimate prep, Energy Distribution Profile and BRIS Pace and Speed Ratings earned in their second-to-last Derby prep. 

Clearly, California horses did quite well last year taking 3 of the 5 top spots with I’ll Have Another and Bodemiester completing the exacta.  Take a look at the penultimate prep pace line patterns of these top-five finishers. Note that the exacta makers each punched up a 90+ at the 2nd call and produced monster 109 and 108 Late Pace ratings (time from top of stretch to the finish), respectively.  Creative Cause and bomber Went The Day Well tore it up late in their penultimate preps posting eye-popping 112 Late Pace ratings. 


Now, let’s take a look at the top Derby point earners (to date) second-to-last preps and see if we can unveil any early clues that would indicate a potential big showing in Louisville.



Vyjack and Orb both produced super impressive 110+ pace figures in their respective penultimate preps to lead this early pack of 12 Orb’s line was the more impressive of the two as he is a confirmed closer that was required to stay relatively close to the blistering pace set in the Fountain of Youth and yet still finish the best of the rest. 


 The San Felipe was a very good prep with Hear the Ghost getting the benefit of another “fast early” affair.  He is the only horse of the top-12 point earners to show a Derby-preferred 90+ 2nd Call Pace Rating and a 100+ Late Pace figure. Flashback and Goldencents  put up big early pace numbers in the San Felipe before tiring late. 


Oxbow impressed in the Rebel running arguably the best race that day…strong 108 2nd Pace call while holding on with courage for 2nd.   Kudos goes to Verrazano and Shanghai Bobby, as these two put up the most consistent elevated numbers across their entire pace and speed lines. 


So, in the final analysis, historical penultimate Derby prep pace/speed patterns would put these six horses as the top Derby contenders (in order) going into the final Derby preps: 


  1. Orb 

  2. Shanghai Bobby 

  3. Verranzo 

  4. Vyjack 

  5. Oxbow 

  6. Hear the Ghost 



Remember, once the final preps are in, Horse Racing Nation will be publishing the first release of our exclusive and ever-popular Kentucky Derby Super Screener.  Last year, out of the top 5 horses ranked by the Super Screener, four finished among in Super High Five.  Go to to learn more. 



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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