|MAY 1998||VOL. 11, NO. 5|
Table Of Contents
by Richard Nilsen
When narrowing the large Derby field down to the most likely winner, begin by looking at the morning workouts. Many runners fail to handle the Churchill sand, so it is essential that the trainer has allowed his horse time to acclimate. Although fast times are nice to see, be more concerned about the length and frequency of the works. Almost every year, the runners who complete the Derby exacta have had two or more drills over the surface.
Even though most runners will qualify with a dosage index below 4.00, there will still be a few runners, most notably Favorite Trick, whose breeding leans towards speed. Give the edge to a horse whose sire has produced winners at the classic distance.
Closely analyze each horse's past two races, noting the closing kick that the horse has demonstrated in each event. Triple-digit BRIS Late Pace Ratings are what we are looking for from the contenders. The majority of the in-the-money finishers in the Derby since 1980 could be described as late speed types (P and S running styles). Typically, two of the top three finishers will be closers, with one speed horse hanging on for part. It is essential to select horses which figure to be closing down the long stretch at Churchill Downs.
As for key prep races, over 80% of the past 29 Derby winners have prepped in the Blue Grass S., Santa Anita Derby, or Wood Memorial.
Finally, post position can contribute to the outcome of this race. Many of the recent Derby winners have broken from middle posts 6 through 10. Riders along the inside often get knocked sideways soon after the start as horses cross over to obtain position. Riders on the outside are forced to take back early or use their mount to press the pace. The solution is to have a middle post.
A poor performance in the Kentucky Derby does not automatically translate into another poor performance in the Preakness. All too often, it actually translates into a winning effort.
There can be several explanations for what appears on the surface to be an inexplicably bad race. The Derby represents the first time these horses have tried one and a quarter miles. The field is full of the best sophomores in the country and is usually jam-packed, so anything and everything does happen. Add in a wild and unbridled crowd, unlike anything these animals have seen, and the result can be a crapshoot.
Many pretenders are weeded out in the Derby. With a smaller field and smaller crowd, the Preakness is often a more formful race. In fact, favorites have won just over 50% of the Preaknesses run!
Inside posts are extremely favorable in dirt routes at Pimlico, and the same goes for the Preakness. Research shows that not only do more winners break from the inside posts but so do more place and show horses in the Preakness.
Closely analyze each horse's performance in the Derby in order to best predict who will rebound at Pimlico. Look past the last race and see what the horse is really capable of doing. Does he have BRIS Speed and Class Ratings that can win here? Prefer a runner with good tactical speed and an inside post that can rate behind the early leaders. Wager on a proven winner who can sit in mid-pack and get the job done. Include the favorite in the exotics but look for that value horse who disappointed in Louisville.
Like the Kentucky Derby, distance plays a major factor in the final leg of the Triple Crown. One and a half miles is a long way, and many horses are simply not designed to get the trip. Breeding often determines if a horse has the makeup for the marathon, so handicappers are advised to look for stamina, preferrably on both sides of the horse's pedigree. The AWD, which is the average winning distance of the sire's progeny, is a good indication of stamina and can be found on numerous BRIS reports. The higher the AWD, the more stamina the sire passes on to his offspring.
In addition, look for a solid prep race prior to the Belmont. A strong finish in either the Preakness S. or a prep race such as the Peter Pan S. is ideal. Why? No Kentucky Derby starter has ever won the Belmont after not having raced since the Derby!
Tactical speed has been vital in the Belmont, so utilize BRIS Pace Ratings and Running Styles to determine the likely pace scenario. Plodders or Sustained closers do not typically fare well here. Narrow the contenders down based on their ability to stay within striking distance early.
Demand that a contender has run competitive BRIS Speed and Class Ratings during the Spring. Rarely does a runner step with an abnormal performance and pull the shocking upset. However, value can often be found among horses that have shown the ability to win at this Grade 1 level.
When preparing your Triple Crown analysis, stay up-to-date and informed with the The FREE daily newsletter provides all the latest workout information, trainer quotes, contender profiles, and daily happenings.
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