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How I Picked The Top 3 Derby Finishers


Every year via my horse racing blog of five (5) years, my Derby installment contains my opinion of the entire field, listing them in my predicted order of finish, providing a “Why he can/cannot win the Derby” and my suggested plays. Click here to read it before proceeding (if you wish).


























It’s the Tuesday morning after the running of the 139th Kentucky Derby, and I receive an email from a longtime friend and fellow horse racing enthusiast, who picked the Kentucky Oaks winner but wasn’t as fortunate in the Derby.

The Subject line read, “Now that the dust has settled”. In the body, he simply wrote, “   

I liked the Oaks winner because of so much speed in that race. I looked at that (Golden) Soul horse 4 times since the end of the Derby and STILL don't like him. So tell me why (you did)?”

A quick answer turned into a lengthy dissertation. Therefore, I figured why waste such an effort on one person, so here’s my story on how I picked the top 3 finishers when to date no one else has come forward with documented proof to claim the same, because Golden Soul was the runner most folks ignored. Hence the generous $981.60 Exacta and $6,925.60 Trifecta pay-offs based on a $2 wager.


Here is my reply to his question…

“As far as Golden Soul. You read my blog, right? I gave valid reasons WHY he could win. That obviously didn't convince you, so let me point out a few more things...


...Look at his last race (LA Derby) Beyer or Brisnet speed figure (I don't look at DRF anymore, so for me it's the Brisnet number). How many others had better number than that?

... his last 3 races were at FG. It favored SPEED throughout the meet EXCEPT in the LA DERBY. He finished 6th, but what, 3 lengths behind Revolutionary?! And he might have had undocumented traffic issues. Still he got a good speed fig for finishing 6th!


... In those last 3 races he improved on his previous speed figure (a handicapping angle I always make note of for any race) 


... here's something that (obviously) only I noticed on Wednesday when I was at CD on the backside. I saw maybe 14 of the Derby starters gallop. Of all of them ONLY 3 VISUALLY impressed me... Lukas' two, Oxbow and Will Take Charge (WTC) and Golden Soul. Over the past 2 years I've become pretty good on assessing good, positive, physical presence of a horse.  


So coming up with my Top 4 was easy. Revolutionary had the mental toughness that nothing bothers him (plus I had 13-1 on him in DFW Pool #1), so I had to stay with him on top. Before going to Louisville, I was skeptical about Orb (see what wrote in his "WHY he SHOULD NOT be able to win Derby). That was my real concern... the fact he ALWAYS gets worked up and sweaty (normally HUGE RED FLAG) in the Post Parade lessened my concern. I also had a short conversation with an unnamed racing analyst and asked him who he liked, and before I could finish the question he said, "Orb". I shared with him my concern, but he just shook his head in disagreement saying, "Nah, that's not going to be a problem".


So now I have my 3 longshot, physically fit specimens. WTC was a toss because he had never run beyond 1 1/16 mile. A few years ago I learned the hard way when I backed Friesan Fire in Derby having a similar resume'... he went off the 7-2 favorite and was nowhere (18th). Then there's Oxbow w/ Stevens' and Lukas, sounded like the perfect fairy tale, but I wasn't convinced the early fractions would be as soft as everyone expected, and I just couldn't see a gate-to-wire winner among this field, so he got my "lowest vote of confidence".

That brought me to Golden Soul, but I had to convince myself to overlook what I perceived as a negative. The early PP's (a week before Post Positions were drawn) had Brian Hernandez, Jr. as having the mount (who had ridden “Soul” twice in the past). After the draw, I see Robby Albarado will ride (who had NEVER ridden “Soul”). It's not that Robby rides more of Dallas Stewart's horses, because their win percentage over the past year was (only) 16%. That fact ALMOST got me OFF Golden Soul, but his physical appearance trumped it.”  


As Paul Harvey used to say, "... and now you know the rest of the story."


In the interest of full-disclosure, this was the first year I had ever picked the Top 3 Derby finishers (in any order) let alone the winner, over the past five years of documenting my selections on the worldwide web. So this year I was the recipient of racing lucky. Maybe next year the racing gods will shine down upon you?


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Older Comments about How I Picked The Top 3 Derby Finishers...

Where are you at for The Belmont....still believe in Golden Soul? Jerry VV Austin Tx
exactly he was getting better with each race and just blew the turn in the la derby. i was a fool and bet a small win show on him as a back up.
what post was the winner from?
that victim of track conditions was right smack dab in the middle of all the values each and every Derby winner save one since Charismatic had and NONE of those numbers (since they were not available PRE-RACE) were gleaned elsewhere, so NO LOGIC to that silly conclusion.
Golden Soul will be no further impact on the preakness nor belmont stakes. Will not even be in the money if he races in either. Simply ran well on the mud where he did well. Inside posts were golden when everyone on the outside was bying for the lead. Golden Soul was a victum of track conditions where it helped him to a second place finish in the KD. There will be no further impact on the last two remaining triple crown races from him. He has had his day in the sun!
Saw a poor but gallant nag at Calainte..Good breeding but he had HUGE feet. Ran on a muddy sticky course and it stuck to those plates in mass. Poor little guy tried his best but must have been carrying 15 pounds per foot down the lane...Dropped right back too.
Wagering on an off track other than for entertainment value is sheer lunacy. Unless you're in a position to measure the size of the horses feet of course.
there are new arenas of handicapping based upon energy that are NOT main stream and they workd quite well. STIL the last frontier of the game is wager creation not handicapping.
anyone who could honestly reduce this field to anything less than about 8 colts, was using the dart method and was lucky at it
Mine was the easiest of all.. Knew Orb would win have 50 years of racing experience behind me...I just wheeled Orb on top...Then I hoped for the magic behind him...This horse has a tremendous shot at the crown he runs on different tracks and any surface as we know now...He is special nad has a special trainer
  • marylandgq · Lenny I certainly hope you are correct. This sport needs a hero, and the connections are first class. · 1656 days ago
truly,i hope you crushed the race more than you lead on.but seriously pal whether in jest or being is amazing how all of us look like poindexter geniuses when we win and the horses ass when we lose. there is no secret to how to handicap.if you have been doing it for a learn that it fails more than it works.the best handicapping advice i ever got. rather be lucky all the time,than good a few of the times.
  • marylandgq · Amen and agree 100%. Hence the "full-disclosure" final paragraph. The intent of the article was to answer the proverbial question, "How did you come up with THAT horse?!" · 1656 days ago
Did you write this knowing it was going to be an off track or didn't it matter to you anyway? Congrats on the hit but I sure didn't see Golden Soul hitting the board along with many others. Congrats again on a nice piece of handicapping. "You're a better man than I Charlie Brown"!
  • marylandgq · I capped based on the prediction of an OFF TRACK (it seemed like a save assumption based on the forecast), but earllier in the day when the track was not sloppy, I began to second guess myself. · 1656 days ago
You got ery lucky on your bet with a 19 horse field and the mud with me it was just a matter of Orb handling the mud.. But you did your thing and it paid off congrdulations.
IF verrazano didnt turn the keys off and actually tried finishing 6th or whatever golden sould would have gotten pinched n not allowed the clear traffic to zoom up into 2nd, he would have been dodged up n made to go around him, friggin verrazno p'd me off, killed trifectas for alot ofppl.
Robby's decision to leave the rail, shoot out wide and trail Orb was a brilliant move.
Nice, very nice.
Golden SOul figured Verrazano did not
golden soul shouldnt had gotten the distance ....#14 verrezano was stepped on...its bullcrap or is it horseracing.....golden soul stole my bankroll i shouldve had the tri and supa
So, Gary, we will count on some big numbers for the Preakness, too.
Nice 'capping >>Although some would say WTC was a toss you got away with.
  • marylandgq · So true, thanks to Verrazano, but I was counting on WTC to hit that same wall Normandy Invasion did at the 1/16th pole. As I said, racing luck was on my side. · 1657 days ago

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                Meet Gary Quill

  I am the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing! One sunny summer day in 1964 at Timonium Race Track is where my Dad and mentor introduced me to “The Sport of Kings”. Since that day, I have had the pleasure to visit over 40 different tracks across North America. Though an IT professional by trade, I’ve had a part-time gig with the Maryland Jockey Club since 1988.

here are thousands of rail-birds who claim to be great handicappers. Well, I don’t claim to be the best… just the most passionate and one that won’t tout “chalk”. Like a savvy stock broker, I look for value and often find it. Unlike the talking heads on horse racing television networks and the dozens of websites featuring handicapper’s opinions, I’m ACCOUNTABLE. That is, good or bad, you’ll always know how my previously posted picks performed along with a running record of my BEST BET and LONGSHOT Play of the Day selections for Maryland tracks (Laurel and Pimlico) at TheRacingBiz, see "The GQ Approach".

   In addition to focusing on the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit, each year I follow the Derby Trail and post “GQ’s Derby Double Dozen” in early February. 

   My personal mission is to rejuvenate interest in thoroughbred horse racing. Being able to share my energy, thoughts and opinions on this sport via HRN will certainly help the cause.


"I lost $2 at Santa Anita and I've spent $3 million trying to get it back." - Mickey Rooney

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