KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
FEBRUARY 14, 2013
by James Scully
The first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager took place last weekend and the lowest individual-priced horse, Verrazano (11-1), was bet primarily on confidence given that the lightly-raced colt has yet to try two turns or face stakes rivals. The next three in the betting -- Flashback (12-1), Violence (13-1) and Itsmyluckyday (13-1) -- are graded stakes winners.
The "Prep Season" portion of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" new scoring system concludes this weekend, with Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park both offering 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers.
Next comes the first leg of the "Championship Series," which features eight races offering a 50-20-10-5 point scale: the Fountain of Youth (2/23), Risen Star (2/23), Gotham (3/2), Tampa Bay Derby (3/9), San Felipe (3/9), Rebel (3/16), Spiral (3/23) and Sunland Derby (3/24).
With no point races last week, this is a good opportunity to look at some trends for the Kentucky Derby:
Mr. P influence
Look no further than the direct sire line for the most significant breeding influence during this era, Mr. Prospector. A son of Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector is directly responsible for 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and his descendants have accounted for another nine wins in the last 18 years.
That's more than 50 percent since 1995 for the late, great sire.
Contrast those numbers with Seattle Slew. He threw 1984 Derby winner Swale, but Seattle Slew is not found in the direct sire line of the last 20 Derby winners. His notable descendants include A.P. Indy, Pulpit, Tapit and Bernardini.
Awesome Again, Giant's Causeway and Tiznow are three prominent names that are still looking for their first Derby success at stud (as a sire or through one of their sons). Nobody questions their ability to throw top-class performers at classic distances and all three ran big at Churchill Downs, with Awesome Again and Tiznow both winning the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic under the Twin Spires and Giant's Causeway finishing a neck second in the 2000 edition, but the Derby remains an elusive prize on their resumes.
Awesome Again and Giant's Causeway are descendants of Northern Dancer, which is the most successful direct sire line outside of Mr. Prospector in the last 20 years, accounting for three Derby wins.
So how does that apply to this year's Kentucky Derby contenders? Let's break down the individual 23 horses from Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wage by sire category:
Mr. Prospector descendants:
Capo Bastone (by Street Boss)
Delhomme (by Dixie Union)
Dynamic Sky (by Sky Mesa)
Revolutionary (by War Pass)
Only four of the 23 individual horses in Pool 1 hail from the direct sire line of Mr. Prospector and substantial odds were available on each one, with Capo Bastone closing at 58-1, Code West at 56-1, Mylute at 123-1 and Will Take Charge at 61-1.
Curly Top, Fortify and Palace Malice are three other promising prospects from the Mr. Prospector line that were included as part of the mutuel field in Pool 1.
BRIS Speed ratings
A triple-digit BRIS Speed rating from the final two prep races used to be given for a Kentucky Derby winner. From 1984 to 2008, every Derby winner reached the century level at least once and 10 of the 15 received a triple-digit number in their final two starts. But times have changed recently.
I'll Have Another returned some semblance last year by netting a 102 Speed rating in his penultimate prep, the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita, but his three immediate predecessors -- Animal Kingdom, Super Saver and Mine That Bird -- all failed to reach the threshold.
Here are the last two BRIS Speed Ratings earned by Derby winners since 1994:
Big Brown laid over his rivals with a 110 BRIS Speed rating from his Florida Derby score in 2008 and it's a shame that the leading performers in 2010 and 2011 (from a Speed figure perspective) Eskendreya and I Want Revenge, were both sidelined by an injury before the Kentucky Derby.
It's still early, with several top prospects awaiting their first start of the year, so we will revisit this category after the final round of prep races. But here are the leading BRIS numbers earned so far this year by the individual horses listed in Pool 1:
The final round of prep races carry the most weight in the new points system, but only eight of the last 20 Derby winners captured their last start. The same number finished second and four recorded a fourth in their final prep race.
Here is the breakdown of how Derby winners fared in their last two starts:
From the last 20 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, 10 winners were based in Florida over the winter, but only two -- Big Brown (2008) and Barbaro (2006) -- made their final prep in the Sunshine State (Florida Derby).
Seven Derby winners were based in California during the same time frame, but only four -- I'll Have Another (2012), Giacomo (2005), Real Quiet (1998) and Silver Charm (1997) -- remained on the West Coast for their last start.
Kentucky leads the way with five of the last 20 Derby winners prepping at either Keeneland or Turfway Park, but three of those -- Charismatic (1999), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Sea Hero (1993) -- competed over the old dirt track at Keeneland. Animal Kingdom (2012) and Street Sense (2007) both raced on Polytrack, with the former taking the Spiral at Turfway and the latter finishing second in the Blue Grass.
New York is tied with California, with four Derby winners prepping in the Empire State, and Arkansas comes next with three. Illinois and New Mexico are responsible for one apiece.
The best region can vary from year to year, but identifying it holds real handicapping value. Last year, the California colony proved to be extremely deep, with I'll Have Another defeating the well-regarded Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby after that rival had toppled Bodemeister in the San Felipe. Bodemeister came back to win his next start, the Arkansas Derby, by 9 1/2 lengths.
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