The Pi-Rate Ratings

May 1, 2015

PiRate Ratings Kentucky Derby Preview

Filed under: Horse Racing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:45 pm

Kentucky Derby 141 has been handed over to American Pharoah by the public and the horse racing media, but when have either been correct on something they both agreed upon? If you said the 1977 Belmont Stakes, then you may be correct.

Here’s a little secret about this year’s Deby field: It may be the strongest since 1969 when Majestic Prince, Arts & Letters, Top Knight, and Dike chased away a lot of contenders. Those four quality horses represented half of what was a tiny eight-horse field.

With 19 probable starters now that El Kabeir is likely to scratch tomorrow morning after the deadline for another supplemental entry to make it into the field, there are upwards of seven or eight quality horses that could compete for the win at 10 furlongs.

The key to winning the Kentucky Derby as a fan is to pick a winner that will return you a good price. Betting the favorite and often the second best horse will not return a profit over time. Of course, selecting a 99-1 longshot is simply the same thing as donating your cash to the track.

The way to make money is to find a horse with odds of 5-1 or better and determine that he has a good chance of winning. If you have a game longshot in the 15-1 to 30-1 range, you might consider taking him to show or taking him across the board (win-place-show).

This year, we have many reasons to go against the favorite, but it is really hard to eliminate the next horse, because he looks like a real star. Let’s take a look at the horses in order of odds and tell you what we think. We do not recommend that you invest your money on what we have to say. For full disclosure, we will not lose a penny, because we will not wager a penny. For us, this is all about the race, no betting.

American Pharoah (5-2)

What’s to Like: With the exception of his first race, he has run away from the field every time, gaining in the stretch run without being asked to go by jockey Victor Espinoza. The Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby runs were similar to that of former Derby winner Smarty Jones.

He loves the Churchill Downs track as evidenced by his impressive five furlong workout in 58 and 2 earlier this week.

Ran the final 1/8 mile in 12-3 at the Arkansas Derby with Epsinoza not going to the whip.

Showed two different moves in a two-turn race.

Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to train Derby winners. Jockey Espinoza has two Derby wins, including last year aboard California Chrome.

What’s Not to Like: This horse has not been bred to run 10 furlongs on the first Saturday in May as a three year old with a high Dosage Index. Horses with his DI have won past Derbies, but at 5-2 odds, we do not like his pedigree.

Although he has not been asked to run full out in the stretch this year, his early and late pace are not among the best in this field.

Breaking from the 17-hole, he will have to use up a lot of energy to get to the first turn where he likes to be early in the race. It’s likely, he will use up too much energy if he gets up within a couple lengths of the leader at no more than four wide, and it’s unsure if he can win a race from well off the pace, especially when he will have to pass several horses.

His Beyer Speed Figures and Bris Speed Ratings are not as impressive as others, and his low odds make it easy to throw him out of our wagering strategy.

Analysis: He may prove to be another Smarty Jones and run away from the field, but American Pharoah is not our favorite or even a pick to finish in the top three.

Dortmund (3-1)

What’s to Like: This horse is 17 hands tall and is undefeated, having won three races as a two year old and three more this year. The great Seattle Slew was 16 hands tall, and he too was an undefeated colt when he won the Triple Crown.

He has been a little faster in successive races this year, showing a propensity to love increasing distances, and with his pedigree, he is bred to have good speed at 10 furlongs. In fact, his Dosage profile is similar to the entire lot of past Triple Crown winners.

He has shown an ability to get to the lead and wire the field and to also win by coming from off the pace, and he has two definite kicks in his races–one early and one in the stretch.

Jockey Martin Garcia has won big races on Bob Baffert horses in the past, with Lookin’ at Lucky winning the Preakness and the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

He has consistently posted Beyer Speed Figures and Bris Speed Figures strong enough to win the Kentucky Derby.

He has won a race at Churchill Downs, somethng that bodes well for a Derby horse.

His father is Big Brown–‘nuf ced

What’s Not to Like: Very little is not to like about this horse except that his odds are still too low to make money given his chances of not winning against his probable payout.

Even though he has won his most recent races in stretch runs, his speed in the final 1/8 of those races have been slower than American Pharoah–13 seconds in the Santa Anita Derby.

Extremly slow late pace in the SA Derby may hide the fact that this horse may not be fast enough to beat late charging horses with much better late speed

Analysis: At 3-1, he is too expensive for our tastes even if he has the stats of a winner. There are other horses in this field with impressive stats that will return a better bang for the buck.

Carpe Diem (8-1)

What’s to Like: Jockey John Velazquez has a past Derby win on Animal Kingdom, and Trainer Todd Pletcher has numerous Triple Crown race wins including a Kentucky Derby win with Super Saver.

Two for two as a three year old, including the Bluegrass Stakes.

Ran the final 1/8 in 12-4 in the Bluegrass win.

Has the classic Derby racing style–coming from off a pace but not from so many lengths that he will have to pass the entire field.

What’s Not to Like: His wins have not been all that impressive, and he did not look like the best horse in the Bluegrass.

His Beyer and Bris Speed numbers are decent but not as strong as other contenders.

His pedigree is acceptable, but he comes from a line that has not produced a Derby winner in numerous attempts.

Analysis: He could hit the board, but we do not give him a strong shot of wearing the roses.

Materiality (12-1)

What’s to Like: He too is undefeated with an upset win over Upstart in the Florida Derby.

He has two 9 furlong wins this year.

He’s another Pletcher horse with a quality jockey in Javier Castellano, who has a past Preakness and Breeder’s Cup Classic Championship.

He owns the top Beyer Speed Figure with a 110 in the Florida Derby, and his 105 Bris Speed rating is among the three best.

What’s Not to Like: He did not race as a two-year old, and no horse since the 19th century has won this race without running as a two-year old. It is asking too much for a horse to train up to this race starting this late in his career.

Like Dortmund, the late pace in his key prep was much too slow, and this horse will have to win from near the front of the pack. It’s likely, he will lose ground in the stretch.

His final 3/8 in the last two races are typical of a horse that will be out of gas in the stretch, further strengthening the liability just listed.

Analysis: A horse without two year old experience may win the Derby one day, but it will not be one that has our investment wagered on him winning.

Firing Line (12-1)

What’s to Like: Gary Stevens is the top active jockey in the nation.

He’s twice finished less than a length behind Dortmund in stakes races.

Has improved his speed ratings with each race and appears ready to run his best race on Saturday.

What’s Not to Like: It has been since March 22, since he last raced, 41 days.

He has not won a major prep race, with his last win coming in the Sunland Derby in New Mexico.

Analysis: It’s hard to see him in the winner’s circle, but it would not surprise us to see Firing Line hit the board.

Upstart (15-1)

What’s to Like: Even though he was a beaten favorite in his last race, his speed figures and class place him among the contenders.

What’s Not to Like: Appears to be best suited for shorter than 10f races.

Trainer and jockey have no Triple Crown wins.

Ran a rather slow final 1/8 mile in his top prep.

Analysis: There are better investment opportunities.

Frosted (15-1)

What’s to Like: Jockey Joel Rosario has a past Derby win on Orb in 2013.

Ran one of the best key prep races of the group with his victory in the Wood Memorial.

He’s a short closer, meaning he will come from off the pace but not from the back of the field, which has been successful more times in the Derby than any other style.

Ran a final 1/8 of 12-3 in the Wood.

What’s Not to Like: Looks like a possible bounce candidate after running the race of his career and improving on his speed ratings by a large number.

Has a tendency to get bumped by other horses, which has prevented him from contending in other races.

Lost twice against Upstart by considerable lengths.

Analysis: If he can return to his Wood form, he might be dangerous if he does not get boxed in at the mile pole. Look for him to be streaking by the 1/8 pole, but whether he has enough left in the tank to pass them all is a guess. He might be worth a shot to show.

International Star (20-1)

Analysis: This horse lacks the speed or the class to win this race, so there is no need to discuss his assets. He will be flying late in the race but figures to have too much ground to make up and better horses with closing speed ahead of him.

Mubtaahij (20-1)

Analysis: Until a horse shipping from the UAE wins this race, we will lay off him. However, he looked impressive winning two races at 9 1/2 furlongs.

Tencendur (30-1)

What’s to Like: Showed improved speed in his last race, a game second to Frosted in the Wood.

What’s Not to Like: Everything else.

Analysis: Not worth the 30-1 odds in our opinion.

Danzig Moon (30-1)

Analysis: He doesn’t have the figures of a winner, but of the longshots in the race, he piques our interest based on his pedigree and his second place finish in the Bluegrass with a nightmare trip.

Itsaknockout (30-1)

Analysis: Lacks the speed to compete.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1)

Analysis: The race rabbit who will run the opening 1/4 in 22 and change and allow for a likely short closer to win this race unless the top two don’t bite and let him run away at the start.

Keen Ice (50-1)

Analysis: Although he won at Churchill Downs as a 2yo, that’s the only race he’s won.

War Story (50-1)

Analysis: Still eligible for one other than maiden races, which is only a tiny step better than Keen Ice.

Mr. Z (50-1)

Analysis: D. Wayne Lukas always finds a way to enter a horse, even if he might be slower than the pony that accompanies American Pharoah to the gate.

Frammento (50-1)

Analysis: Allowed into the race when Stanford scratched, he has just one career win, and he did not race well in his previous Chuchill start.

Our Pick to Win: This is the toughest Derby we have handicapped in more than a decade. We do not like the top two horses in this race, because they come from a pedigree with zero Kentucky Derby success. It may be a stretch, because of his lack of racing at age two, but we believe Materiality is the best horse in the field. At 12-1, he offers a lot of value, and he is our choice across the board (Win-Place-Show).

We do not like any of the exotic wagers in this race, because there are nine or 10 horses bunched together in the middle of the pack, and any could hit the board. It would require too many wagers.

If we had $100 to wager, we would go with $50 on Materiality to win and $25 to place and show.

May 4, 2012

PiRate Ratings Kentucky Derby 138 Preview

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.

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