How will Omaha Beach's scratch affect the Kentucky Derby pace?

May 02, 2019 12:11pm
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With Omaha Beach scratching from the 2019 Kentucky Derby 2019 due to an entrapped epiglottis, Saturday's race pace scenario will certainly change. After all, Brisnet listed Omaha Beach as an E8 type -- in other words, a pacesetter -- and he showed a tendency in his prep races to move early and take control.

When Omaha Beach was still in the race, setting the pace or showing close-range speed for others seemed like a tough task given the favorite’s running pattern. His defection undoubtedly makes it easier on speed horses.

Given the remaining Derby field, who will set the pace, and will it still run at a fast clip? In what ways will the scratch specifically help the speed horses? These are important questions to consider before wagering.

First of all, TimeformUS' Pace Projector still projects fast fractions.  
Because War of Will drew the rail, he will attempt to gun for the lead and steal this race like War Emblem, who led the Derby field gate to wire in 2002. The Pace Projector puts War of Will sixth or seventh, but it is not taking the post position into account. Trainer Mark Casse wants to go.

Without Omaha Beach, Maximum Security and Vekoma are the two biggest threats to challenge War of Will in the opening half mile. Because the maiden Bodexpress drew in as well, perhaps he might apply early pressure, too.

Even Spinoff or Tax can find themselves closer despite the latter contender listed only as a “Tracker” on TimeformUS.

The Pace Projector does not show Maximum Security up front because he ran in slow-paced races. He still may want the lead, but he wouldn't be the horse setting an ultra-fast pace.

The feeling is that Maximum Security will ultimately sit off War of Will’s flank. If one of them fails to break clean, then a War Emblem-type scenario is possible for either, as Omaha Beach won't be there to force them into a faster mid-race pace.

Pace Projector puts Vekoma on an uncontested lead with Omaha Beach scratched, but his running lines indicate he is not a crazed pacesetter. He prefers pressing or sitting in third. Vekoma’s placement in first by Pace Projector is only a testament to his high pace figures from his prep races, specially when third in the fast Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).   

His situation is also helped quite a bit as he drew Post 6 and Omaha Beach had drawn Post 12. With Omaha Beach gone, Vekoma will not need to worry about Omaha Beach breathing down his neck and discouraging him.

Bodexpress’ presence keeps the Derby coded in red, with TimeformUS making his early speed rating a 11. But again, this is not a crazed speed type. He chased Maximum Security through slow fractions in the Florida Derby, and none of his previous four races show red fractions.

With Omaha Beach gone, it is also easy to imagine Spinoff or Tax getting more aggressive early -- if not by their natural speed -- then through planned tactics. The connections know the pace will be easier without Omaha Beach. 

How likely is it that the field plays safe after the scratch? But at the same time, all those stalkers and mid-pack runners are unlikely to cause a collapse.

Spinoff had the task of following Omaha Beach on the outside from Post 19. Now, he relax up front and attack more freely.  

Tax is in Post 2, and he likes to sit around second or third as well. He was projected to fall a little farther back, with the Pace Projector putting him sixth or seventh. Because War of Will and Maximum Security loom a threat to steal the race now, why not stay on the rail horse early on and press?

Without Omaha Beach, there is less penalty for showing more speed. 

And what about Roadster? The Pace Projector puts him third or fourth, even though he lost contact on the far turn of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) before rallying to win.

Now from the 16 hole -- post positions can change, but program numbers will not as a result of the sceatch -- Roadster might find himself moving along the same lines as Spinoff. That sounds easier than matching strides with Omaha Beach on the far side, and it might give him some confidence, as out-kicking Spinoff should prove an easier task.

In other words, Omaha Beach’s defections helps the entire front half of the field. The overall pace projects slower, but the mid-pack horses may be tempted to reveal their hand earlier now that the favorite is out of the way. 

TimeformUS' Pace Projector lists the pace as “fast,” but within the category of fast, there are different types. This particular Derby is turning from a difficult kind of fast to surprisingly moderate without Omaha Beach in the running.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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