That figures: Spinoff looks like legit Kentucky Derby contender

April 24, 2019 02:15pm
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Handicapping the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Brisnet past performances offer a few advantages compared to the competition. For one, it is cost effective, as the PPs are made available for free.

Plus, in addition to final speed ratings, Brisnet offers early and late speed ratings (its version of pace figures). The PPs also separate horses into appropriate pace categories.

In a recent VSiN column, Ron Flatter wrote an article explaining how Dr. Bill Quirin separates horses into their initial and middle pace positions, and Brisnet adopted that for their past performances. He also points out the most successful Derby running style in recent times – E/P 7.

Since 2014, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify won as E/P 7 types.

This year, expected favorite Omaha Beach is an E 8. There are only two E/P 7s: Maximum Security and Spinoff. If defections occur, Anothertwistafate is a third within that category.

In addition to pace tools, Brisnet also helps pedigree handicappers with a handy average winning distance or AWD statistic for the horse’s sire and damsire. While nothing beats taking the time to research the family, those in need of a quick pedigree fix can use it. 

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Here, I'll cross examine one E/P 7 horse using Brisnet Pace and Speed Ratings, and then the AWD tool. With Maximum Security the focus of last week's article on speed figures, this time I'm honing in on Spinoff, who will make his third start of the year in the Derby.

First, what does E/P 7 mean? Well, the speed of each horse is rated on a scale of 0-8, with 8 considered a pacesetter (example, Promises Fulfilled from last year's crop).

The “E” part of E/P 7 designates where the horse positions himself at the second call. E stands for early, while “P” means presser and “S” stands for sustainer.

According to this model, Spinoff is an early presser who will show speed without necessarily needing the outright lead. If he draws a good post position, Spinoff can sit off the pacesetter and in the clear -- an ideal trip in the Derby's points era.

Is Spinoff good enough to follow through on that? There are some important points to make.

For one, earning a 102 BRIS Speed Rating or higher is important.

The cutoff point is especially important for horses with three prep races.

Spinoff earned a 102 for his runner-up Louisiana Derby (G2) finish in only his second 2019 start. Unless he topped out in that race, Spinoff is supposed to move forward.

Furthermore, there is a cutoff point for the late speed rating, too.

Derby winners tend to come into the race with a 95 Brisnet Late Speed Rating or higher. In Spinoff’s last start, he ended up with a solid 100.

For speed horses, they are more likely to pick up a higher late speed rating if the early pace is moderate to slow. Brisnet does think the opening quarter of the Louisiana Derby was below average, as it marked the first call with a “-6.” It is something to consider. 

Regardless, Spinoff meets the cutoff point for the final and late Brisnet Speed Ratings, and he falls into the successful E/P 7 pace category. Those are strong qualifications.

Now to discuss Spinoff’s pedigree using Brisnet's tools. At first glance, it might look discouraging to see that Spinoff’s sire, Hard Spun, only shows a 7.4 AWD with his progeny. His damsire, Gone West, gets a similar number with his foals, as he shows a 7.3.

But those AWD statistics are actually decent numbers, even for a 1 1/4-mile race. In today’s racing world, few horses are bred for longer distances.

Consider the AWD numbers for Omaha Beach’s sire and damsire: 7.4 and 7.3 as well.  Roadster’s sire is similar with a 7.4, but his damsire is low on the AWD scale with a 6.8.

As a last comparison, check out the Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards, whose sire shows a 6.3 AWD, while his damsire Muqtarib displays a woeful 5.8 AWD. By My Standards' routing pedigree is dreadful on BRIS. It makes Spinoff look great in comparison.

If it rains, BRIS displays mud statistics for the sire and damsire too. According to BRIS, Hard Spun progeny hit at a solid 17 percent clip on wet dirt. Omaha Beach is already proven on wet dirt, making his sire’s percentage irrelevant. Roadster’s sire Quality Road wins at a 16 percent rate with mud runners, meaning Spinoff fits. 

In any case, most everyone remembers Hard Spun finished runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, making it likely that his progeny handle 10 furlongs. He also finished second in the mud to Curlin in the Breeders' Cup Classic the same year.

Spinoff’s dam side is a little more suspect, even if Gone West shows a 7.3. His dam Zaftig and second dam Zoftig both seemed more comfortable at one mile or shorter. But the shortcomings on the bottom do not disqualify Spinoff from handling 1 ¼ miles.

Going off Brisnet's numbers, it is difficult to eliminate Spinoff from win consideration, making him a legitimate contender trained by Todd Pletcher. The key, as with others who tout the E/P 7 running style, is a nice draw and cozy position sitting off the leaders.

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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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