Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings, as we preview the 2012 Kentucky Derby today. Like we do with our NCAA Tournament selections, we have backtested several statistical data and traits of horses that have won past Derbies, with emphasis placed on the most recent runs for the roses.
We also carefully look at how each horse ran each of the 3 year old prep races. How did he run in the final 3/8 mile? How did he run in the final 1/8 mile? Did he gain or lose ground in the stretch? How did he handle traffic? What is his running style, and can he rate from off the pace if he is normally one to go to the lead?
These questions are just a sampling of the 53 different sets of data we examine. We try to isolate horses with the stamina to go 10 furlongs with speed at the finish. We want a horse that is in the top class of contenders and who competed in at least two of the key preps. We want a horse that appears to be improving coming into May with little or no chance of bouncing from its last race.
This year, we are faced with something similar to the 1989 Derby. In 1989, D. Wayne Lukas entered Houston, a horse that could not race past a mile. He had won the Derby Trial a week earlier, and all Houston did was set a blazing early pace, leading for the first mile. This allowed Sunday Silence to come from off the pace and upset the heavily favored Easy Goer, a horse that liked to press from just off the lead.
This year, we have Trinniberg, a horse almost assured of breaking from the #9 gate and heading to the lead. We’re talking about a horse with almost quarterhorse speed and stamina. He could go the opening quarter in 22 seconds and the half in 45! This blistering pace would be suicide for any of the contenders to try to press from just off the pace, while a half dozen excellent stalkers compete for the lead in the stretch as the pace-setters come back to the pack.
Trinniberg is going to almost stop after 7 furlongs, making this race very interesting at the end of the backstretch. This should be a jockey’s race for the handful of horses that can stalk from off the pace and then move at the right time. Some of these horses will be stuck and have a hard time finding a hole, while some may be forced to go 3, 4, and even 5 wide to stay in the clear. At 5 wide, a horse will have to run several yards more than a horse on the rail, but a horse on the rail may not get a clean enough trip to move at the right time. Thus, an experienced jockey will be very important.
In the end, we think the race will develop into a two-horse match down the stretch between Creative Cause and Union Rags. Creative Cause’s jockey Joel Rosario won the San Felipe on March 10 with a race that wins the Kentucky Derby. Of the 20 horses in the field, Creative Cause is the closest to the average Derby winner in our crucial statistics. Union Rags ranks just behind him, in what we would call a statistical dead heat. The only reason we consider Creative Cause to be our favorite is because we believe Union Rags may have peaked and will not move forward, while we believe Creative Cause is sitting on the best race of his career.
Bodemeister was the early line favorite, but he has since relinquished that role to Union Rags. Bodemeister did not race as a two year old, and he is a front-runner. He cannot go to the lead with Trinniberg, because he will have nothing left in the tank after 7 furlongs. He will have to rate from off the pace, and he has no history of doing so. Other horses have better late speed, and we do not see him making a big run when he is called on to do so.
Dullahan is the one horse in the race with a Dosage Index above 4. In the latter part of the 20th Century, a couple of high dosage horses won, but the trend has returned in the 21st Century. Horses with pedigrees that indicate 10 furlongs is not their best distance have not fared well. Also, Dullahan has not shown a propensity to run his best on dirt. He likes turf and the polytrack.
Hansen was once the top horse in this crop of horses, but he may have been his best as a two year old. Additionally, he has not impressed in recent training, and he may not be at top form for the Derby.
El Padrino is a dark horse contender. However, we believe he is going the wrong way in form.
Gemologist is undefeated, but that is about the only thing he has in common with Smarty Jones, Seattle Slew, and Majestic Prince. We believe he ran a bit too hard in winning the Wood Memorial, and he is liable to bounce some. You can throw out Alpha for the same reason.
Take Charge Indy has the hot jockey in Calvin Borel, and we all know where Borel will move his horse before the first turn. Can he keep his horse on the rail and then find a hole at the right time and make an impressive move down the stretch? Borel might be able to do so, but we do not believe this horse has enough stamina to stretch out to a mile and a quarter and hold off this class of competition.
We believe a couple of long shots have excellent chances to hit the board and make the exotic payouts very rich. Daddy Nose Best, Prospective, and Sabercat are three horses that will be flying down the stretch. They will have too much ground to make up and too many horses to pass to win the race, but any of these three could place or show.
NOTE: The PiRate Ratings will return in August for the football season. This is the last post until then. It has come to our attention that our Pro Football Ratings won the Pro Football Prediction Tracker 2011-12 championship against the spread, edging out Sportstrends, Dunkel, and 70 other national football ratings’ services.