Ky. Derby Trail: The Key Word is Prep


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I agree that the Graded Earnings method of determining Derby starters needs to be fixed.  An easy solution would be to use Grade 1 earnings as is, but divide Grade 2 earnings by 2 and Grade 3 earnings by 3.  This means that a $200,000 G1 has as much influence as a $400,000 G2 or a $600,000 G3.  You could also do the same for 2 year old earnings:  cut them in half.  This would insure that the horses competing in the top preps as 3 year olds would have an advantage over horses running in lesser preps that offer huge purses and over horses that picked up a lot of purse money as 2 year olds but have tailed off.  

03 Apr 2009 11:26 AM
Travis L

I agree it might be able to be better, but think about it, the horses can race in whatever races they want, so if the trainers and owners put them in cheap purse races they are idiots, and ultimitly it's there own fault, For example why didn't Pletcher run Dunkirk in the Rebal then back in the Arkansas Derby, Dunkirk whould be in the Derby forsure, think about it all that speed in the rebel with Silver City and Ole Fashioned, then back 4 weeks later to face the same compitition, Win Willy cmon, they also new QR would be tough to beat with no speed, pick your races smartly, and the best 20 horses due get in.

03 Apr 2009 12:21 PM

Steve... I think you said in a long winded kind of way something very simple..... anything can happen on Derby day... the field is wide open...... You have forgotten more than I will ever know about horse racing but you remain a realist... I love it!

03 Apr 2009 12:54 PM
For Big Red

TO STEVE: Brilliant column. You wrote, "While they are all prestigious events, let’s not forget the fact that they are indeed preps...Consider these preps as pool shots. Sinking your ball is fine, but it doesn’t do much good if you don’t position the cue ball for the next shot." Then you went on to give a master's class in the factors a real handicapper takes into consideration.

About Friesan Fire (my emotional favorite this year), you wrote, "Friesan Fire’s trainer, Larry Jones, was so fearful of his colt peaking in his final prep, he decided to forego it altogether and train him up to the Derby off a seven-week layoff and no 1 1/8 miles races, despite the move going against all conventional wisdom. You also don’t want to back up too far at this point..."

That's what I fear Mr. Jones has done with FF. While I don't like second-guessing trainers, nothing about FF's schedule since the LADerby makes sense -- unless there's some fragility about the colt not known to us in the general public. I can't escape the feeling that the connections still see Old Fashioned as their big horse. Apparently Jones doesn't plan to work FF until 4/12, leaving room for three, maybe four works before the Derby.

Over on Jason Shandler's B-H blog, I wrote the following yesterday:

"Contrast Hollendorfer's work schedule for Chocolate Candy and Jones' for Friesan Fire, who both last raced on Feb. 14. There have been no reported works for FF since then. CC has had six in steady progression: 3/2, 3/8, 3/13, 3/19, 3/25 and 3/31. My heart wants FF to win the Derby. My head wonders what the heck Jones is doing with this colt. There are only 30 days left before the Derby."

About Chocolate Candy, I wrote:

"His work tab suggests Hollendorfer is looking for a good race, but not necessarily a win. It's the schedule of a horse being prepared to peak at 1 1/4m."

03 Apr 2009 1:40 PM
marc w

As for the word prep--Grade 1 or 2 status (most) and big pots--I truly believe the trainers are not happy "just with a good race." Peek in these races or not--you run to win. Street Sense got a great "prep" no doubt out of the Bluegrass, but trust me, watch the race, Borel was into him to win.

On a side note, I certainly would like my horse coming in to the Derby off a win rather than a OK race. Winning is a great habit to have with thoroughbreds it is infectious.

03 Apr 2009 1:52 PM
For Big Red

TO STEVE: Re the graded earnings criteria for Derby starters, I think the system should be more simple. All starters must have at least one stakes win as a 3-yr-old, with preference given to graded/group stakes. Combine that with top 20 by lifetime earnings, and the overall field should be of sufficient quality.

Personally, I'd like to see them limit Derby fields to 15, but that's a separate issue.

03 Apr 2009 1:52 PM

Steve, could not agree w/you more in the theme of a prep with the Derby as the ultimate goal.How anyone can take odds on with IWR is not what I am looking for when I make my wager[s] on Saturday. I know you're a fan of his and I will tip my hat to all that nailed him[you can even watch me tear up my tix]...but the negatives are so many[plus like you said certainly not IEAH goal]...added weight, cross country flight[s] for a 3yo.,obvious class test,change in surface,added distance and the added pressure of a young jock with a new owner. Add that up, and if you still think that 4/5 is not a terrible price, then God Speed! To Travis I[and I have no quotes for you] really believe that Pletcher went in to the Fla.Derby w/ the idea of win fine, lose go to plan B and life goes on. They played their hand, and don't think they are losing sleep over woulda,coulda,shoulda!

03 Apr 2009 2:06 PM

Steve: Why does the graded stakes criterion for making the Derby field need to change, all of a sudden?  I'm interested in your answer and hope that it has nothing to do with Dunkirk's predicament.

03 Apr 2009 2:23 PM
Mike Relva


Great read! I like IC for the homerun,also Pioneer will win.

03 Apr 2009 2:57 PM
Steve Haskin

of course, everyone would like to win, and of course Borel is riding to win, especially races with pots this big, but as fas as the Derby goes, the trainers know it's not a necessity. As I demonstrated, more horses have come out of losses to win the Derby. It's better to win the Derby than peak the race before.

The graded earnings has nothing to do with Dunkirk. Racing has changed, with more and more fresh horses pointing for the race, many of them top-class. It's time to reward 3-year-old stakes more than 2-year-old stakes, which are rarely won by Derby type horses.

03 Apr 2009 3:21 PM

To For Big Red.

Friesan Fire raced on 3/14 (La Derby) and 2/7 (Risen Star), not 2/14. He had 2 works between those races, coming on 3/2 and 3/9.  Friesan Fire also has made 3 starts this year. I think FF will be ready to go come Derby time as he has the foundation of 7 lifetime starts and 3 preps. I like the fact his BRIS figures have him improving 3 lengths in each start this year.

Chocolate Candy has 8 lifetime starts and 2 preps this year (1/17, 2/14).  He will have to step it up big time as his best BRIS number (1/17) is 11 lengths slower than FF's best figure, and 6-7 lengths slower than POTN and the Mousse.

Two different ways to get to the Derby. FF got his 3rd prep in earlier than CC so he gets more rest leading up to the Derby.  I guess only time will tell which pattern was most effective.

03 Apr 2009 3:22 PM
Travis L

To Nickie

I agree with you on the end that Pletcher can do what he want's, but if a trainer decides to take a big gamble on one race, then there can not be any discussion or disagreements on whether or not the best horse get's into the derby or if the systems not fair or needs to be changed or altered to get the best horses into the derby. So my original point still stands, it's truly in the hands of the trainers and owners who runs in the derby, changing purse money or restructuring any thing won't make a difference.

03 Apr 2009 3:27 PM

Travis, the problem is that currently early developing horses have an advantage, and those who take drastic steps up in their development later are at a disadvantage. The trainer decides, but he also has to do what his horse tells him. If the horse is not ready to run a stakes, then he has to wait. So again, the system reward early-developing horses and is a disadvantage to those who develop in the month before the Derby.

03 Apr 2009 4:41 PM

Does anyone know what the plans for Square Eddie are? He is back in training, that much I know, but he is listed on KD earnings list and I don't think he is planning on running in the Derby! Thanks in advance!

03 Apr 2009 4:48 PM
marc w


I am not completely disagreeing --although Steve, it is pretty safe bet to say more horses come off losing efforts to win the Derby-odds are very strongly in your favor. Prep wise I like Chocolate Candy as a shot/contender in the Derby although not in the SA Derby, but not all fit that bill. I am a big believer in confidence in racehorses. Getting beat, doesn't on the whole--- help.

Going back a ways--- Wild Gale I believe and but won't swear to it, ran third in all three triple crown races, I watched him run later in a nothing stake in Canada and seen to have lost all confidence and will to win. I also had a horse that I owned that had run in stakes and made a couple hundred thousand when young (I bought him for 2K so obviously I didn't have him then) but had gotten beat up by better horses continually because of his early success. Even as a 5K claimer and in many races where he was the best he wouldn't go by the leader if off the pace (3)---let him make the lead in a 10K and he'd win. All confidence.

(Try to tell a jock to go to the front at all costs-and see if they listen? I heard three times "but I was sure I had the front horse" One time after betting $3500) So much for past stories.

Steve this is way off topic but is there any way you can find out about a horse in S.CA called Hannah's Classy Boy--you have access to so much more info than I can get. He is seemingly off the work tab after racing a couple weeks ago---it was a number of months between his first and second start---I was very impressed with his first win. Since it is off topic and doesn't fit here, maybe you could email me direct? It would be greatly appreciated.


03 Apr 2009 4:48 PM
For Big Red

TO TAMMY: Thanks for catching my error. Note to self -- proofreading and double-checking are your friends. :)

My problem is that I've allowed myself to become emotionally attached to FF, something I haven't done since 1988 and Risen Star. I'm scared witless by the unconventional way he's coming up to the Derby. So thanks for your reassurances.

03 Apr 2009 4:48 PM

STEVE:  Wouldn't you agree that invariably the best 3YOs get into the Derby.  If you can you name two or three examples of horses over the last decade that has been prejudiced by the present system I'll believe that the Todd Pletcher/Dunkirk predicament has no bearing on this?  If Dunkirk, Theregoesjojo or Imperial Council fail to make the cut this year due to earnings shortfall it has to be viewed as an abberation and moreso failed placement strategy on the part of their respective trainers.  

It would be interesting to get a poll on how many people think that the graded earnings system is broken because if it aint broke, don't fix it.

03 Apr 2009 5:17 PM

marc W:

Wild Gale finished 3rd in the 93' Kentucky Derby and Belmont, this after finishing out of the money in his two final preps, the Lane's End(Jim Beam) and Lexington.

The horse that finished 3rd in all three Triple Crown races was Mane Minister in 91'. Mane Minister had run a solid 4th in the Santa Anita Derby behind Dinard, Best Pal, and Sea Cadet. Dinard was injured before the Kentucky Derby, Sea Cadet was burned up on a fast pace in the Kentucky Derby, and Best Pal ran 2nd.

03 Apr 2009 5:44 PM
Dreamer's Mom

marc W- I have  to disagree a little with your statement about losing not helping.  While there are some horses that applies to, there are others that just get tougher the next time around.  We had very nice gelding that got beat by a GIRL in a stakes race and it was like he knew it!  He was mad about losing and seemed really mad about losing to a girl.  Next out was a walk-over.  

03 Apr 2009 5:52 PM

watch out for hull dale romans has a plan. yesterday missed track record by 4/5 but won by 7 3/4. next start lexington stakes if he wins on to ky. derby

03 Apr 2009 6:56 PM


I agree that owners and trainers often do use races like the Wood and Santa Anita Derby as preps for the Kentucky Derby. They want to see their horses continue progressing w/o the race taking too much, and head for Churchill with a sharp, relatively fresh horse ready to peak.

I understand running with an eye towards the next race, but I really don't understand why so many owners and trainers have this attitude. If I was lucky enough to own or train a horse of such talent, I wouldnt take anything for granted. I would try my best to win the race infront of me, particularly if it was a grade 1 race with a purse of $500,000 +.  These horses can be so fragile, and the game so cruel, there is absolutely no guarantee your horse is going to be in the starting gate for the "Next" race. I suppose some owners and trainers can be so cavalier to view a grade 1 $750k race as merely a prep, but I would assume there are many others who, like myself, want to take full advantage of every opportunity presented them.

The fact is that, unfortunately, at least 2 or 3 of the horses being considered for the Kentucky Derby at this point will be afflicted with some injury or illness that forces them to miss the race.

Looking at the Santa Anita Derby between 1991 and 1995, three of the 5 winners of the race during that period did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Dinard (91' SA Derby winner), AP Indy (92' winner), and Larry The Legend (95' winner) were all injured or became sick over the subsequent 4 weeks and were forced to miss the Kentucky Derby. Best Pal, 2nd to Dinard in that 91' Santa Anita Derby, came back to be a good 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, suggesting that Dinard, with his excellent acceleration and closing kick, would have been a major factor at Churchill. Dinard was able to return to the races 9 months later, running a huge 2nd (w/ a 117 Beyer)to Best Pal in the Strub; sadly, Dinard was injured again following the Strub and forced to retire just as he was coming back into his own.

Most are familiar with the plight of AP Indy, scratched on the morning of the 92' Kentucky Derby. He would come back to win the Belmont and Breeders Cup Classic, as well as Horse of the Year. Somewhat forgotten, is that Bertrando, 2nd to AP Indy in that 92' Santa Anita Derby, also was forced to miss the Kentucky Derby.  Bertrando would come back at the end of 92' and in 93' would be Eclipse Champion older horse. Casual Lies, 3rd in the 92' Santa Anita Derby, went on to run 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, leading many to conclude the two best 3 year olds were not in the Kentucky Derby field that year.

Larry The Legend, the gutsy 95' Santa Anita Derby winner, was stricken with an injury and forced to miss the Big Dance. While it's debatable whether Larry would have performed well at 10 furlongs at Churchill, Santa Anita Derby also-rans, Timber Country and Jumron, ran 3rd and 4th respectively in the Kentucky Derby. Although not a starter, Larry did end up having a huge effect on the Kentucky Derby. Gary Stevens had committed to Larry following the Santa Anita Derby. However, when Larry was withdrawn, Stevens was able to find a replacement ride, but the horse was only D Wayne Lukas' 3rd string horse. Fortunately for Stevens, that 3rd stringer was Thunder Gulch, and he would give Stevens the 2nd of his 3 Derbys.

Over the same period, two of the Wood Memorial winners were also forced to miss the Kentucky Derby due to injury. Cahill Road, Carl Nafzger and Frances Genter's full-brother to Unbridled, won the 91' Wood only to be injured pulling up. Irgun came from California to sweep the Gotham and Wood in 94'. In that 94' Wood, he outran a horse named Go For Gin from start to finish to win by almost 2 lengths. Of course, Go For Gin came back to win the Kentucky Derby wire to wire, with Irgun on the sidelines.  Lastly, there is Buddha, the 2002 Wood Memorial winner, also injured before the Kentucky Derby.

I hope no horse is injured in the next 4 weeks. However, it is very possible that for some horses, owners, and trainers, there will be no tomorrow; there will be no Kentucky Derby.

03 Apr 2009 7:09 PM


Rock Hard Ten was forced to miss the 04' Kentucky Derby due to the graded earnings system, then went on to run 2nd in the Preakness. The problem for RHT is that he finished 2nd across the wire in the Santa Anita Derby, but was dq'd to 3rd for interfering w/ Imperialism. The drop in money from 2nd to 3rd cost the lightly raced horse a spot in the Derby.

03 Apr 2009 7:13 PM

Just one more thought on this ill-conceived idea to skew the graded earnings derby qualification system away from 2YOs.  If Vineyard Haven and Midshipman had remained in the United States under the care of their high profile trainers, Messrs Bobby Frankel and Bob Baffert respectively, to maintain their high ratings from their 2YO form, would this notion of changing the system be on the table?  

This question requires an honest answer because the truth is hidden in who stands to gain and who stands to lose if the idea was implemented right now.    

03 Apr 2009 7:49 PM

Does anyone know exactly why Larry Jones dumped Ramon Dominguez?  I know he is close to Terry Thompson and has become his default rider, but come on Larry, what did Ramon do wrong to lose the mount???

03 Apr 2009 9:01 PM
marc w

Gun Bow --I wasn't sure I do know he was trained by Mike Doyle-not one of my favorites--Gee, he has done well since Josie Carroll when on her own and horses for Kinghaven Farms went on a tear when he left.

Mom's Dreamer--OK some horses get better by getting beat-always exceptions---but I would think on the WHOLE it is better to have confidence established.

How many times have you seen a horse win 4/5 in a row and the after losing follow up with another loss at very short odds.

03 Apr 2009 9:07 PM


    Ramon rode a very questionable ride on OF in the Southwest by chasing rapid fractions on a heavy track behind a horse he'd already had beaten handily. Not only that but he moved OF midway through the turn, which was very premature, considering the fractions. Had Ramon rate OF more, and made a later move maybe OF would've had enough left in the tank to hold off the freak one race wonder Win Willy. I too would've replaced Ramon if i were Larry. That jock just handed that colt his first defeat and set him back.

03 Apr 2009 9:40 PM
residents of Thompson House, Brattleboro, Vt. have no idea how interesting it is for the residents of this Nursing Home to follow your blogs and articles.  We will all be picking our derby are the best and thanks for hats and signed books. We sent you pictures today...go Quality Road....

03 Apr 2009 9:40 PM

I think my problem with the idea of owners and trainers viewing a grade 1 $750,000 race only (or mostly) as a prep is that it is part of the same culture that exalts training over running in a race, and breeding over racing. As a fan, all 3 detract from the sport.

As a fan, I want to see the best horses race, not train, and I want to see them trained and ridden to win the races they are in, not merely get "good preps". I am sure those who gamble on races agree strongly with the latter point.  

Even if I try to jump out of my shoes as a fan, I am not convinced that training instead of racing, or prepping instead of trying to win, actually benefit the horse. How many times have you seen a horse kept out of races in order to train up to a big race and then get injured anyways, or run a bad race in that "big" event?  How many times has a horse been trained and ridden to use a race as a prep, only to never make it into the starting gate of the bigger race? Nothing is guaranteed in this sport; why take tomorrow for granted?

My feeling is, if you own or train a horse that is happy and healthy, run the horse in a race, and try to win. Training won't make you any money, and why risk losing money to "prep" for a race you may never run in? I understand leaving something in the tank, or not squeezing the lemon dry, but that doesnt mean sacrificing today's race for tomorrow's race.

Imagine had Bill Mott or Sonny Hine conditioned Cigar and Skip Away with a preference for training over racing? Would they have run more than 4 or 5 times a year? Imagine if they had used wonderful races like Oaklawn Cap', Mass Cap, Woodward, or Jockey Club Gold Cup solely as preps for bigger races (for the latter two races, the Breeders Cup Classic). Imagine if Mott and Hine had trained with a constant fear of "bouncing"; how many races would they have skipped? And let's see, did Cigar bounce? In his last 17 races, Cigar never ran lower than a 111 Beyer! Never! At least a 111 for 17 races! Skip Away never ran lower than a 109 Beyer during a 15 race span, while in 14 of those 15 races he earned a Beyer of at least 114! In Skip Away's final 25 starts, he ran lower than a 108 Beyer only 2 times! 23 of 25 races with a Beyer over 107!

On the other hand, there a plenty of examples of horses being injured when the preference was for training rather than racing, or using certain races as preps rather than approaching the race to win. Last year, the owner of Dennis of Cork was convinced his horse was going to "bounce" from a win the Southwest and then run a peak effort in the start after that. So, rather run in the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, and then the Kentucky Derby, which would have had Cork' running his top race in the Arkansas Derby, they skipped the Rebel and went shopping for an ideal "prep". They finally settled on the Illinois Derby, but the horse ran so poorly, getting 5th, that it was in danger of missing the Kentucky Derby due to insufficient graded earnings. Cork' did make the Derby, and did run decently to get 3rd, but he was beaten 10 lengths and it all could have been for naught.

Last year IEAH kept Big Brown out of possible match-ups with Curlin in the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup under the belief that with the Breeders Cup Classic on a synthetic surface, a turf prep would be more beneficial.  So, while fans were denied the clash they had been waiting for so long, Monmouth went out and created a one-time turf stakes especially for Big Brown. What happens? Big Browns wins the turf race and is then injured before the Breeders Cup. Who were the big losers in all that? The fans.

What about Barbaro? Michael Matz ran Barbaro in the Holy Bull, then gave him 8 weeks off until the Florida Derby and then 5 weeks after that until the Kentucky Derby. The point of the spacing was to have a fresh horse not only for the Kentucky Derby, but for the rest of the Triple Crown. What happens, Barbaro breaks down in the first few hundred yards of the Preakness. Was it Matz fault? Absolutely not. It just goes to show that nothing can ever be taken for granted in this sport, and that the best laid plans can go up in smoke.  

Then there is Holy Bull. After winning the Woodward, his trainer Jimmy Croll decided to pass on the Breeders Cup, hoping to have a strong horse the next year. In trying to uplift those disappointed in not being able to watch Holy Bull in the 94' Classic, Croll said they would be back next year for the Breeders Cup at Belmont, stronger and better. What happens? Holy Bull breaks down in his 2nd start of 95' and is retired. Was it Croll's fault? Absolutely not. However, by having skipped the 94' Breeders Cup Classic, Croll ended up denying Holy Bull the chance to prove he could win a 10 furlong race, at Churchill Downs, against the very best (unlike the 5 horse Travers field), and redeem himself for his failure in the Kentucky Derby.

Given these cautionary tales, and how the best laid plans can be chewed up and spit out by this sport, I am surprised so many  owners/trainers choose to look past opportunities in the present for those in the future. Why there certainly are times such a decision can be prudent, I do believe training instead of racing and prepping before winning is done too often. If a horse is ready, why keep it in the barn? And if a horse is entered in a prestigious race with a large purse, why not go for the win? I suppose if I was an uber-rich owner/trainer, and had other quality horses, I could afford to take such an approach. However, for fans like myself, some of the current trends in the sport are extremely frustrating. Too often, the "great" horses fans of today are rewarded with are like Ghostzapper.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper was a sensational, brilliant horse, and ran monster speed figures sprinting and at classic distances. Frankel trained Ghostzapper very cautiously, and preferred to train the horse up to big races, while spreading those big races out. As a result, in Ghostzapper's 2004 Horse of the Year campaign, Frankel only ran him 4 times, with 2 of those races being grade 1 events. Frankel adopted such a conservative approach because he wanted to avoid any bounces, and wanted to bring Ghostzapper back as a 5 year old. Ghostzapper did come back in 2005, and promptly won the Met Mile like a freak. As a fan, I had been disappointed that Ghostzapper had run so infrequently in 2004, but felt the disappointment would be offset by the opportunity to see the horse run in 05'. Of course, Ghostzapper was injured after the Met Mile and never ran again.

As a fan I am frustrated with the ever more conservative approach of trainers and owners. I know the logic of taining more and racing less (and spreading out starts) is to keep horses healthy for a longer period of time and have them peak on the biggest days. Is it successful? I am not convinced. I do know that if these changes were benefitting the horse, I would accept them. Are horses staying sounder longer? Does spacing out starts, and emphasizing training over racing, keep horses healthier? Does it make more money? Do horses trained in such a manner perform better in the bigger races? What I do know is that these trends in training mean we, as fans, get to see our star horses run far less often than in the past.

As for the idea of using a racing solely as a prep, is it actually more succesful? Do horses that use one race solely to prep for a second race win that second race more often? Or does that horse that tries its best to win that first race run just as well in the second? I totally understand keeping on eye towards the future, particularly if a race such as the Kentucky Derby is on the horizon. However, I do not agree with those trainers and owners who view races like the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial ONLY as preps. These are great races in their own right, and their purses aren't too bad either.

Think of a horse like Broad Brush and his trainer, Richard Small, and owner, Robert Meyerhoff. What made Broad Brush such a good horse is not just that he ran 3rd in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Preakness, and won the Jim Beam Stakes (Lanes End), Wood, Meadowlands Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, and Suburban Handicap. He also RAN in and WON lesser races such as the Tessio Stakes, the Ohio Derby, Pennsylvania Derby, the General George Handicap, the John Campbell Handicap, and the Trenton Handicap. Broad Brush ran often, and was trained to win whether it was a big race or small race.

03 Apr 2009 10:04 PM

Steve is dead-on with the "prep" article.  Good point made regarding Calvin in an all out drive in the BG.  However, all near the wire at the end there were just about in the same boat as they went slow early and quickened late.  More importantly, is was SS second race off the lay off.  He was not meant to win that day of his training and racing schedule.  He was meant to win on the first SAT in May on the track he loved on BC day as a 2 yr. old.  Would Nafzger have liked the BG, G1 too, sure, but it was not the goal.  When I go through my winners in the past, Silver Charm, Grindstone, War Emblem and Funny Cide --- all ran a "winning race" at one mile and one eighth versus the generation of the three year old crop.  Funny Cide loses a close finish in the Wood on an off track, granted with Bailey perhaps nursing Empire Maker (while thining Triple Crown); in the next engagement on a fast track with a better trip and no training setback, FC beats him.  I really think we are in for a great Derby this year, with some quality horses running a good time.  (By the way, with Mr. Beyer's article noting the adjustment in the FL Derby figures; are we to take his figs. with a plus or minus 8 points "grain of salt?"  Thank you Mr. Beyer for "your certification" of QR's status.  We really could not SEE he was very talented.  

03 Apr 2009 11:48 PM

Sorry for my negative emails. Just decided to gripe.

Actually, I feel very lucky that just a week after Quality Road vs. Dunkirk, there is I Want Revenge vs. Imperial Council, The Pamplemousse vs. Pioneerof the Nile (and Chocolate Candy), as well as the $500,000 Illinois Derby. Last week, it looked like Quality Road and Dunkirk were definitely being ridden to win, and I expect this weekend's races to be spirited and exciting. The Kentucky Derby will be great, but this is good stuff too.

04 Apr 2009 12:02 AM

Looking over the past 20 years of the Kentucky Derby, it is abundantly clear that the best race to have before the Derby is a good, stern test in which the horse either runs 1st or 2nd. Of the last 10 Derby winners, 6 of them won their final "prep" (Big Brown, Barbaro, Smarty Jones, War Emblem, Fusaichi Pegasus, Charismatic). Of the other four, three of them ran 2nd in their final "prep". Street Sense famously ran 2nd in the Blue Grass on Keeeneland's Polytrack, but it wasnt like it was an easy race or that Borel wasnt riding to win. Street Sense was in a driving 4 horse finish in that Blue Grass, losing by a nose.  Now, could Borel have asked Street Sense earlier, and put him in a longer drive? Probably, but the Blue Grass was the tough, "winning" effort that typically leads to a good run at Churchill.  

Funny Cide ran 2nd in the Wood prior to his Derby triumph in 03'. However, no one would say Funny Cide wasn't all out in the Wood, given that he engaged in a strtch-long battle w/ Derby favorite Empire Maker. Funny Cide's Beyer for the Wood, 110, was easily the highest of his career to that point. However, rather than bounce, Funny Cide ran right back to that figure in Kentucky.

Monarchos ran what is widely considered a "perfect" prep when 2nd in the 01' Wood before winning the Derby. However, Monarchos was going to have a hard time winning the Wood, whether it was a prep or not. In the Wood, Monarchos was at a huge pace disadvantage to the speedy Baffert colt, the brilliant Congaree. Monarchos could have been ridden in the Wood to show more speed and lay closer to Congaree early, and the fact he didnt is because John Ward didnt want to take the colt out of his game before the Derby, nor did he want to engage Congaree in a protracted duel. Realistically, though, Monarchos was probably not going to beat Congaree that day anyways. Congaree came back and ran huge 3rds in Derby and Preakness, and ended his career with 5 grade 1 wins, not including the Wood (which was only a grade 2 that year).

Giacomo was the only Derby winner of the last 10 years not to run 1st or 2nd in his final prep. Giacomo ran a tough 4th, beaten 2 lengths, in the Santa Anita Derby, but not for a lack of trying.

For the 10 Kentucky Derbys run from 1989-1998, only 2 Derby winners won their final prep (Strike the Gold 91', Sunday Silence 89'). However, 5 of the other 8 ran 2nd, with another running a 3rd.  Silver Charm (97' Santa Anita Derby), Grindstone (96' Arkansas Derby), and Lil E. Tee (92' Arkansas Derby) all dropped tough, photo finish decisions when they ran 2nd.  So, you know they were ridden and trained to win. The stretch-long duels those 3 horses had in their preps gave them the foundation and sharpness to excel at Churchill.

Go For Gin and Real Quiet both ran very similar 2nd place finishes in their final preps before winning the Derby. Real Quiet ran 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby to stablemate Indian Charlie in 1998. Indian Charlie, though lightly raced, was brilliant, particularly from 8-9 furlongs, and was able to get the jump on Real Quiet in the Santa Anita Derby. Real Quiet ran huge that day, running the same 107 Beyer he would run in winning the Kentucky Derby, but just wasnt good enough. In the Derby, however, the pace scenario, larger field, and added distance swung the advantage from Indian Charlie to Real Quiet. Go For Gin ran a strong 2nd in the 94' Wood, tracking the speedy California invader, Irgun, the entire way while earning a career best 107 Beyer. Irgun was injured before the Kentucky Derby, and Chris McCarron was able to control the pace with Go For Gin to win at Churchill as Holy Bull never flashed his customary speed.

The three horses that won the Derby between 1989 and 1998 without running 1st or 2nd in their final prep were Unbridled, Thuder Gulch, and Sea Hero. Unbridled ran 3rd in the 90' Blue Grass, but was at a serious pace disadvantage in a small field to the very gifted soon to-be Derby runner-up and Preakness winner, Summer Squall. While Nafzger and Perret were not going to beat up Unbridled to win the Blue Grass, a victory was going to be extremely difficult no matter what. Thunder Gulch ran 4th in the 95' Blue Grass after winning the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. That 4th place finish in the Blue Grass was certainly not by design, nor was it a reflection of Lukas asking less of him. Thunder Gulch just didn't like the ridiculously fast Keeneland track that had unheralded Wild Syn going wire to wire. As for Sea Hero, his 4th in the Blue Grass was part of a 4 race losing streak going into the Derby, 3 of which he didnt even place. Sea Hero was just one of those horses that ran well about 25% of the time, but when he ran well he REALLY ran well, with wins in the Derby, Travers, and Champagne but a career record of 6 wins in 24 starts.

The Last 20 Kentucky Derbys (89'-08')

- 8 Derby winners won their final prep.

- 8 Derby winners ran 2nd in their final prpep.

- 16 of the 20 Derby winners, therefore, ran 1st or 2nd in their final prep.

- 1 Derby winner (Unbridled) ran 3rd in his final prpep.

- 3 Derby winners ran 4th in their final prep.

- All 20 Derby winners ran at least 4th in their final prep.

Going back before 89', Winning Colors in 88', Spend A Buck in 85', Sunny's Halo in 83', Pleasant Colony in 81', Spectacular Bid in 79', Affirmed in 78', Seattle Slew in 77', Bold Forbes in 76', and Foolish Pleasure in 75' all won their final starts before the Derby. Alysheba crossed the wire first in the 87' Blue Grass, his final Derby prep, but was dq'd to 3rd. Ferdinand ran 3rd in the 86' Santa Anita Derby before winning the Roses, while Swale (84' Lexington) and Gato del Sol (82' Blue Grass) ran 2nd and Genuine Risk 3rd (80' Wood) in their final preps. I'm not sure what Cannonade's final prep was in 74', but Secretariat ran 3rd in the 73' Wood, Riva Ridge won the 72' Blue Grass, Canonero ran 3rd in a 71' Venezuelan handicap, Dust Commander won the 70' Blue Grass, Majestic Prince won the 69' Santa Anita Derby, etc..

From 1975 to 1988, 14 years:

- 10 Derby winner crossed the wire 1st in their final prep (including Alysheba).

- 2 Derby winners ran 2nd in their final prep.

- 2 Derby winners ran 3rd in their final prep.

- All 14 Derby winners placed (1st, 2nd, 3rd) in their final prep.

For 1975-2008, 34 Kentucky Derbys:

- 18 Derby winners won/crossed the wire 1st in their final Derby prep.

- 10 Derby winners ran 2nd in their final prep.

- 3 Derby winner ran 3rd in their final prep.

- 3 Derby winners ran 4th in their final prep.

- ALL 34 Derby winners finished at least 4th in their final prep.

While trainers may have their eyes on the Kentucky Derby during the prep season, those who have had the most success in the Kentucky Derby have tried to put a stiff race into their prospects right before the big race. Since horses that go on to win the Derby are usually very good, the attempt to get a strong prep usually results in a win or a placing in that final prep. My guess is that those trainers that view that final race as JUST a prep are probably not going to have horses with enough foundation or sharpness in the Derby. The historical record demonstrates that the best way to win the Kentucky Derby is to get the most out of that final prep while not squeezing the lemon dry. Typically, this results in the Derby winner having won or placed in that final prep.

As a note, I am not labelling this as a statistical analysis. I know that to understand the effect of a final prep on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby I would need to look at the results of the final preps for every horse that has run in the Kentucky Derby during this time frame. Given the number of prep races, each year there is going to be alot of horses that won their final prep but did not win the Kentucky Derby.

04 Apr 2009 4:02 AM

A few more numbers.

For Derby runners-ups 1989-2008:

- 11 of the 20 Derby runners-up won their final prep.

- 2 of the 20 Derby runners-up ran 2nd in their final prep.

- 5 of the 20 Derby runners-up ran 3rd in their final prep.

- 2 of the 20 Derby runners-up ran 4th in their final prep.

- ALL 20 of the Derby runners-up ran at least 4th in their final prep, with 18 finishing in the money in that final prep. So, like Derby winners, Derby runners-up also have run well in their final start. Horses than ran poorly in their final prep are probably not going to find their form in the Derby. Usually, most of the horses that fared poorly in their final prep are, thankfully, not going to be entered in the Derby. Those horses trained and owned by people blinded by Derby fever, people who ignore or excuse poor performances in a final prep, are bad bets. For those looking to pick the Derby winner or the exacta, look for horses that, at the very least, ran decently in their final prep, finishing in the top 4. All 40 of the Derby winners and runners-up ran 4th or better in their final prep.  Last year, 6 of the 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby had run worse than 4th in their final prep;  Cool Coal Man, Anak Nakal, Big Truck, Visionaire, Denis of Cork, and even Pyro could have been quicly eliminated for the Derby exacta.  In 2007, however, only 3 horses could be eliminated using that criteria.

For horses that run poorly (worse than 4th) either by accident or by design (trainer went easy on the horse just trying to get a prep in), the following is probably true: 1) The horse is not good enough or not in good enough form to win or run 2nd in the Derby; 2) The horse didnt get enough out of the race to run 1st or 2nd in the Derby.

One could narrow the candidates for the Derby exacta further, remembering that 35 of the 40 Derby winners and runners-up over the last 20 years placed in their final prep race. In 2007, that would have eliminated 4 more horses, in addition to the 3 horses that ran worse than 4th for a total of 7 throw-outs. So, in the last two years about a third of the Derby field could have been safely eliminated for the Derby exacta at the very beginning of one's handicapping.

For those looking to find the Derby winner, even more horses can be eliminated. Keep in mind that 12 of the last 13, 16 of the last 20, and 28 of the last 34 Derby winners ran 1st or 2nd in their final prep. Looking for those horses than ran worse than 2nd in their final prep would have allowed one to eliminate half the field in 2007 and 40% of the field last year. It still leaves alot of handicapping, but it simplifies it somewhat. Of course, I wouldn't advocate dismissing a horse out of hand just because it ran 3rd or worse in its final prep. Alot of factors should be considered. However, know that it is unusual for a horse to win the Derby w/o running at least 2nd in its final prep.  

The story is fairly similar for horses that ran 3rd in the Derby over the last 20 years. 8 of them won their final prep, 6 ran 2nd, 1 ran 3rd, 3 ran 4th, Denis of Cork (08') ran 5th, and Wild Gale (93') was worse than 5th in the Lexington. So, a person can ignore form in that final prep more when looking for a live longshot to fill out the trifecta.

Ok, enough writing.

04 Apr 2009 5:42 AM

I don't know why you are leaving out Big Drama, even though the horse was disqualified for bumping, he still broke a track record and ran with his ears up all the way, and  this horse had  surgeory early in the year. Thats  the  triple crown Horse!

04 Apr 2009 7:01 AM

Gunbow, that PA. Derby that Broad Brush ran is one of the most unusual victories I have ever seen.  I don't know whether you saw it, but the horse bolted on the turn entering the stretch after seemingly having put away the field.  He bolted all the way over to the outside fence and came to what appeared to have been a "California Stop", meaning he drastically slowed down without stopping altogether.  By the time Cordero got him together again most if not all of the field passed him and was winging off towards the finish.  Somehow, the horse mounted a furious charge from almost a standing start and ran down the entire field to win going away.  I have never in my life seen anything like.  To me, that stamped that horse with greatness.  Simply unbelievable.

04 Apr 2009 7:49 AM

To For Big Red:

Getting emotional about a horse, in your case FF, is the only way to go as far as I'm concerned.  That's the way I feel about "my baby boy" Curlin ... and I haven't found a horse to replace him this year - it's such an open field.  Preps or no preps, traffic is what will determine who wins the KD.  Period.


Please do tackle the subject of reducing the KD field.  Right now it's not a real horse race to me, just who can get out of the traffic jam.

04 Apr 2009 9:48 AM
Karen in Texas

bill---Dominguez was taken off OF because he rode only one race the day of the Rebel and did not pay attention to how the track was playing, but rode as though it was "good", as listed. That was the story told to a local turf writer, however many think it was Porter's call entirely.

04 Apr 2009 10:57 AM

The Pamplemousse was just scratched from SA derby by state vets.

04 Apr 2009 1:10 PM

Pamplemousse is vet scratch.

04 Apr 2009 1:16 PM

Pamplemousse out of SA Derby, scratched by track vet.  No reason why.  

04 Apr 2009 1:45 PM

Slightly inflamed tendon. They are now saying it is not a vet scratch, even thought the state vet pointed out the issue.  And gave the trainer the chance to do the right thing which of course he did.  

04 Apr 2009 4:44 PM

Thank you LDP and Karen in Texas.  I wasn't quite sure exactly who called the shot [Larry or Porter].  Can't blame them for being upset about the ride.  Usually, a jock of Ramon's stature would be given more consideration and another chance, but I can't blame them.

04 Apr 2009 5:09 PM

Yikes! That was a hell of a race by I Want Revenge. Very impressive.

Oddly run race in the SA Derby.

04 Apr 2009 6:12 PM
Karen in Texas

The Wood was strangely stunning--Mullins looked to be in shock! Between the two cross country flights and the race itself, I Want Revenge proved to be tough and adaptable. I hope he comes out of this effort in good shape.

If the plan to send Take the Points to California was for him to have a comfortable place to accrue earnings, then that didn't work very well. I never quite understood why the synthetic surface was an optimum choice. Where does he go now?

04 Apr 2009 6:43 PM

The Wood was light in competition. The pace was slow and the times were slow.  Pioneer of the Nile proved he was better than average horses winning in a very average time.  Quality Road is simply too good for these horses.

04 Apr 2009 7:45 PM
Matthew W

I Want Revenge will be the Derby Fav! Santa Anita plays like turf so not suprised to see them so bunched--Pioneerof Nile/Chocolate Candy will represent in Kentucky--they're both nice colts...West Coast guys are "street fighters" this year....not sure if that will be enough against Freisan Fire/Quality Road/Dunkirk---but with I Want Revenge and Pioneer they'll know they're in a horse race!

04 Apr 2009 8:04 PM

Those two Cali boys needed to be separated for their own good.  You can add two more victories to the already impressive tally of POTN, IWR, and, for that matter, ChocCandy.  I just hope Papa Clem can add to it.  I Want Revenge is a monster (do his legs look like tree trunks to anyone else but me?)  And Baffert's horse is so versatile, Oh My Goodness.  Wait till (God willing) they meet up in THE KENTUCKY DERBY.  But, I have ultimate respect and love for Quality Road, he physically reminds me of Barbaro.  And, maybe this situation with The Pamp could be a blessing in disguise.  If his injury were to turn out to be minor, and he were to win the Blue Grass Stakes... how cool would that be?

04 Apr 2009 8:26 PM
Matthew W

Cali horses have been shipping/winning this year! NOT sure about Florida--NOT sure about the "QUALITY" they were facing!  Based on I Want Revenge/Papa Clem shipping/running well-- I'd say Pioneerof The Nile is probably the most "battle tested"---and he's been WINNING those battles.....something to consider and ya get Baffert and ya get GoGo and ya get a nice price (cuz of those "low" speed figs)....

04 Apr 2009 8:30 PM
Matthew W

Dray you crack me up! Talking about times/pace likes it was all about the #'s today at The Wood Memorial! Like "Hmmmm..I Want Revenge...slow pace/times..his huge Gotham #'s must have been a total fluke--he's a throw out!"

04 Apr 2009 8:46 PM

Draynay--I knew you'd spin-it one way or another.Fact is with all the trouble IWR had,he should've won by over 8 lengths in 1:47,if he'd had a clean trip,no doubt.Come on,admit it.You know IWR is all Class & Grit...and ditto with POTN,he's a gamer when it comes to adjusting to any scenario.Also CC ran pretty good too,considering there was no pace in the race.

Bottom line is: the spoiled,perfect tripping,lightly raced,never faced adversity QR has his work cut-out against these tough,battle hardened Vets,per say.

I Want Revenge is a BEAST!!  He'll eat your children and spit them out.   I told everybody that IC wasn't anything

04 Apr 2009 8:47 PM

Wow performance from I want Revenge. This horse is going to be dangerous in the derby. I think his connections & the handicappers learned  something very special about him today and that he is versatile. They didn't plan for him to have a slow start and spot the field 3 lengths and be at the back of the group today  but it could have been a blessing in disguise.

I was looking for his time to be 1:48 and he ran 1:49. I hope there will be a lot of speed in the derby to soften up  Quality Road. If thats the case this is the horse to fear down the lane not Pioneer of the Nile.  

04 Apr 2009 8:57 PM

Does anybody remember that classic wild west movie called the Magnificent Seven?  I believe that we have such a group of 3YOs this year.  Apart from most of them having a summit meeting in the Kentucky Derby, they are "kicking butts" every time they run.  Quality Road, Big Drama, I Want Revenge, Rachel Alexandra, Friesan Fire, Pioneer Of The Nile and ..."killer" Willy (got his fame from gunning down Old Fashioned in the aptly named Rebel Stakes).

Does anybody know if Julio Canani and the"Mousse" are playing "possum" like a "snake" in the Blue Grass?  And what about the muched hyped Imperial Council?  He showed that he was nothing more than a mere puff.  The Musket Man was firing some shots down in Illinois.  The magnificent seven has got to beware of him.  he is really creeping up under the radar for an ambush in Louisville.

Say a prayer for the vanquished Dunkirk and hope that he makes it to the summit meeting.  It would really be a pity if this highly regarded "silver bullet" turned out to be nothing more than a "blank shot".  He should never have faced the magnificent one Quality Road so soon or without his rabbit.  Anyway there is always the Preakness and the Belmont but there's no race on the planet like the Kentucky Derby.  Stay tuned for more on this  developing drama.

04 Apr 2009 11:47 PM

Not much has changed since the Cash Call.  Pioneer of the Nile, Chocolate Candy rolling late, and IWR hit the wire together.  LOVED how the 2 year old IWR split horses along the rail in deep stretch back in December.  Little separated the top 2 then.  Little separates them now.  QR may not have to live with the jinx of early line favorite after all.  Tri-box the first 3 finishers of the Cash Call in the Derby or continue to talk about IWR "bouncing" POTN not taking to dirt, or CC being too slow.  

05 Apr 2009 3:14 AM

Amazing isn't it how the Dray (better known as Ann Coulter of the Blood horse blogs) had Imperial Counsel winning the Derby before and after the Gotham -picked him again in the Wood,--no apologies or reason when he fails to even get close at 2-1 - has switched to QR lately.

I wouldn't mind seeing a Jerkens win the Derby with their place in the game, now have downed his chances because QR  probably can't carry the extra weight of being Dray's selection.

I always try to pick with logic and what I see---but suspicious as any gambler is---when I see someone who never is right betting on the same horse as me I think I am toast. I have even canceled tickets at times. How QR can carry that extra 100+ pounds. Hoping for the hall of fame family he can.

On the plus side I had 100 ex and 5 tri wheel-but for honesty's sake WSB was only a bonus as I liked the other half AR to be second. WSB was my third choice. As to IC, although at times I certainly can be wrong, his win in FL was nothing to write home in my eyes about or his 2nd in the Gotham when he passed a tired horse for the place while a long way back. I think the connections (Shug) although wonderful, get hype for who they are rather than on the facts. By default, not liking him and the rest of the field I ended up cashing.  

Now to the preps--MM was good and likes to win-suspect field ---the fact I bet a small ticket with Giant Oak on top says volumes of what I thought of the field. BUT- Over the years have found unwise to completely dismiss a horse that does like to win---they don't know who they or have any choice to who are running against. Gets better every race. Makes the top 10-barely but there are a few more races to see.

Steve's starting topic "PREP"says volumes of what I thought CC got out of the SA Derby although if they went another 1/4 mile I doubt he would have gone by. Never the less he should be in the ticket now at Churchill although he doesn't seem to be explosive which makes a winner when in a good crop as this years 3 yr olds--but he has a shot---POTN does nothing but win so how can anyone not like him and have him in their top 5? Will he like dirt?

IWR-awesome against an very average field--no matter-top 3 for sure. Doesn't seem to have any chinks in armor as the others do running well on poly. Side note- Hope WSB looks to easier spots and doesn't take a position in the KD from a better horse with less earnings. Nice horse, but should go to the money where he could win.

On to the Bluegrass and AR Derby to finalize the betting decisions although as mentioned I got 60-1 on WW early and he's down to 14-1 (very bad price)  but not being so sure like some--I still don't know how good he is--just very impressive in my eyes last time. Won't be favored next week.

05 Apr 2009 3:18 AM
Saratoga AJ

Great race by IWR, but against a weak field. Will use him under QR in the Derby.

05 Apr 2009 5:05 AM

I Want Revenge ran one of the most amazing races I have ever seen. I'm typically not one to make much about trouble, but this wasnt' Giant Oak in the Risen Star; this was serious, undeniable, and impossible to miss trouble. IWR was left at the gate, then was boxed turning for home, bumped and forced to be taken back in midstretch, and then eventually was swung out a little wider before bursting home in a 12 and 1 final eighth. And he still won! 8 lengths? I really think he could have won by 10 or even more. The Beyer will not be strong, but only because IWR lost so many lengths due to the trouble. For a true reflection of IWR's performance, add at least 13 points to the Beyer (7 lengths).

Pioneer was solid once again. 4 consecutive graded stakes wins, 2 in grade 1s, over a million dollars in career earnings. An absolute winner; pure class. Chocolate Candy continues to march forward. He has done nothing wrong the past 6 months and is bred to like dirt and a distance. A definite contender for Louisville.

Musket Man is another definite contender. He has good tactical speed, accelerates nicely, and has already outrun his pedigree. His Beyer for the Illinois Derby should be at least 97 or 98, and he is a horse that likes to win. This crop continue to impress.

05 Apr 2009 5:25 AM
Matthew W

Really liked the way Pioneerof The Nile opened up on them--especially after the early move to the lead....that track isn't too kind to "early movers"---would hope to see this colt relax in derby as I think Bob Baffert has a real chance this year--a "real quiet" chance?! His times/figs are very low yet he wins and wins vs the tougher Western guys--This guy kinda reminds me of Street Sense as he wins but loafs on the lead---as I said, pro ride plays like turf--they finish closer but the best guy usually wins....Pioneer always seems to win....

05 Apr 2009 7:15 AM

Dray...... The wood was light in competition??? You were an IC guy once, weren't you?  There should be no surprise in what IWR did. He is a talented horse and this race only taught him more valuable lessons. He will be a force to be reckoned with on Derby day.  I think the outcome would have been different at Santa Anita had the Pamp not been scratched. I hope he is o.k. to run in the derby. I applaud his trainer for watching out for his best interest. The derby is anybody's race at this point.

05 Apr 2009 9:40 AM

Horse racing is a sport and this year my "team" for the Derby is Quality Road and my "team" is better than yours!  Quality Road won the FOY and the Florida Derby.  He beat This One's For Phil and Captain Candyman Can.  BOTH of those horses came right back to win GRADED STAKES races.  What does that tell you??? Someone name or tell me the horses I Want Revenge has beaten? Beating Mr. Fantasy and Imperial Council may do something for you but they are simply good allowance horses.  I Want Revenge found a very easy path to the Derby.  Is he a good horse....yes can he beat my "team" lol... no.

05 Apr 2009 10:33 AM

FYI: Quality Road's Beyer figure in the Florida Derby was upgraded from 103 to 111.  Dunkirk was upgraded to 108.

2009 is shaping up to be a very solid field.  Maybe even better than the 2007 field?

05 Apr 2009 10:44 AM
For Big Red

We'll probably have a fresh thread on Monday, so I'll save most of my comments for then. Just want to say here that I Want Revenge made a believer out of me yesterday. Any colt who gets left at the gate, clips heels at the head of the stretch, bulls his way through horses, and still comes on to win is as classy and game as they come.

Too bad The Pamplemousse is injured. Would like to have seen him tested in G1 company. Still, I picked POTN and Chocolate Candy, in that order, if Z Day couldn't show his early speed in the SADerby. With him and The P scratched, the two best colts finished exactly as I expected. Congrats to Mr. Hot Stuff for his decent third. He was in way over his head at this time in his career, but still shows a lot of promise.

05 Apr 2009 11:18 AM

IWR's Beyer figure yesterday will probably land within the range of 100-102.  Considering the bad break, he was realistically around 108.

Considering his versatile running style, he looks (to me) like the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby.

If anyone does, I figure Quality Road is the one to do it.  QR is more striking physically and probably the faster horse.

05 Apr 2009 11:45 AM

Marc15 I bought a future wager ticket on Imperial Council at long odds a month ago hoping he would make it into the Derby but he is just not that good.  But after watching the FOY and the Florida Derby is there really any doubt who the Kentucky Derby winner will be?  Quality Road wins setting a track record and two of his rivals from the FOY step up and win graded stakes in their next race. If he stays healthy and trains well this big strapping colt is your 2009 Derby winner.

05 Apr 2009 1:40 PM

Given the slow opening fractions (24.2 and 48), one has to wonder if Mr. Fantasy's handlers are kicking themselves, given that and IWR's slow break.  He could have wired that field.

05 Apr 2009 1:40 PM

I love this time of year and horse racing brings fans from all around the country to meet the first Saturday in May to decide who is the best 3 year old in the world.  California will bring their best and he is Pioneer of the Nile.  Dubai and that appears to be Desert Party. The East Coast is bringing I Want Revenge. The south is bringing Friesan Fire and Florida is bringing Quality Road.

Pioneer has won against average competition and has not been posting Kentucky Derby quality Beyer figures...he is too slow.

I Want Revenge has made himself a Derby favorite beating no one.  He has run against good allowance horses and that is it. He should be on the bottom of your ticket but he is not your winner. Friesan Fire cannot train for 7 weeks and never run 1 1/8th and then suddenly run longer and win.  That leaves Quality Road and his record against very good horses.  Remember many have Dunkirk STILL listed in their top 3 and Quality Road ran away from him.  Any way you want to look at it Quality Road is the horse to beat in the Derby and Pioneer of the Nile, I Want Revenge, and Friesan Fire are simply not good enough.

05 Apr 2009 2:05 PM

I would not be too concerned about POTN's final time or Beyer.  He loafs and the lead and had plenty of gas in the tank to hold off CC.  Baffert has said the time to hit a 110 Beyer is not now but on Derby day.  I thought CC did well coming into the race on just mile works after 7 weeks rest.  If he can get through traffic on Derby day he will be tough.  

05 Apr 2009 2:45 PM

SLEW.em.ALL:  I agree with you that IWR is a beast but I don't like your metaphors, talking about eating children and spitting them out ...yuk ...Quality Road is also a beast but he has more finesse.  He'll swallow nails and spit railroad tracks and never need revenge cause he wins everytime do you like that?

05 Apr 2009 2:57 PM

I Want Revenge ran a good race yesterday but I am surprised that West Side Bernie is being totally overlooked - He ran a very good 2nd to IWR and could improve off that race.

05 Apr 2009 3:05 PM

Dray, you were touting Imperial Council as the Derby Winner earlier in the season...after you were touting Vineyard Haven as the Derby Winner...(cough cough).  Now you're saying IC is nothing but a good allowance horse?  What did you lace your doughnuts with this morning?

05 Apr 2009 3:56 PM
Saratoga AJ

Shaping up to be one of the better crops of 3 yr olds, that's for sure. Like that of '07 and '97. Or even challenge the legendary 3 yr old crop of 1957...still considered by racing historians as the best ever. (Bold Ruler, Gallant Man, Round Table, Iron Liege, General Duke and Inside Tract).

QR, IWR, PotN, & Dunkirk are as solid a foursome as you can get coming into the race. The Derby field could be so strong that Musket Man, who has done nothing wrong, is sure to go off near 10-1 or better. And we still have the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby to add perhaps Old Fashioned and/or Wee Willy, among another one or two, to add to the mix.  

Still sticking with his style, size and connections.

05 Apr 2009 4:23 PM

Lol--draynay sounds desperate,mentioning the sprinters TOFP & CCC  does nothing to aid his cause.IWR can beat them even if he misses the break..good luck with that argument...IWR is a Beast with a lot of Class & Confidence,a Bully with no "chinks in his armour". Crown him!!!

05 Apr 2009 4:23 PM

GunBow, you obviously have not been watching thoroughbred racing for a long time. IWR got left at the gates but was able in a few strides to catch up to the field because they were crawling for G1 race. The trouble he got in was inevitable as his rider choose not to take him wide for his stretch run. When Flat Out got left at the gates in the Southwest, he trailed a long way behind because the first half mile of that race was run 45 seconds plus as compares to the 48 seconds plus in the Wood. There is no need to label IWR’s performance as sensational as he was the1-2 favorite. These types of favorites are expected to win in spite of adversity. Any of the top colts would have done the same with that kind of pace. Do not blow it out of proportion needlessly. He is a nice colt but the slow fractions in his race have allowed him to relax and closer. This will not be the pace situation in the derby. Below are the fractions for the Gotham, Wood and the average splits for the last ten Kentucky Derbies.

Gotham - 23.76, 48.45,1:12.69, 1:36.46, 1:42.65

Wood    -  24.50, 48.13,1:12.32, 1:37.33, 1:49.49

AKDS    -  22.84, 46.34,1:10.94, 1:36.46, 2:01.86

Now, IWR mile split in the Gotham was right in line with the Derby average for the last ten years but is was achieved following quarters that were two seconds slower. The mile split for Wood was a full second slower than the Derby average. IW Rruns the second part of his races fast because he is close to extremely slow splits. For IWR to win the derby he has to stay close to QR and Regal Ransom the two I expect to be on the lead. These horses are not going run a half mile in 48. He will have to be used to stay close because these horses are not going to be stopping like those he has faced in his last two starts. If they use their high cruising speed to get to the eight furlong marker without much stress, there are no way any closers will catch them. These are not horses with cheap speed. My take on IWR is that his speed for the first six furlongs served him well against average company but Its unlikely to serves him well against top class speed.

05 Apr 2009 4:25 PM
Karen in Texas

I Want Revenge's difficulties in the Wood yesterday and the way he overcame them to essentially bully his way to the front; reminded me of his great-grandsire, Seattle Slew, in his Kentucky Derby. Billy Turner's comment, "That's the sign of a racehorse", would be appropriate in describing IWR's performance yesterday as well.

05 Apr 2009 4:36 PM


    Now that IC loses, you say he's just a good allowence horse, when before the Wood, you pretty much crowned him the winner of this race. Can you please stick to your guns? Earlier this year you said VH was you pick and nobody could beat him, then you like IC, then when he loses and QR wins you switch to QR. Please pick a horse, your going to give me whiplash.

05 Apr 2009 5:06 PM
Karen in Indiana

It's too bad that The Pamplemousse is out. He's an interesting horse with interesting connections and I love to watch him run. Mr. Hot Stuff ran an impressive race. It was mentioned before the race that he still looks and acts immature, but that he's catching on. He ran into some trouble, was boxed in and bounced around, but when he was asked to go through a hole, he buckled down, did it and got third. He's going to do much better later this year. Musket Man ran a good race and looked impressive afterwards bouncing around like he was ready to go again. It does look, though, like IWR is going to be the one to beat. The horse did great and Joe Talamo made up for his ride in the Gotham.

05 Apr 2009 5:38 PM
Matthew W

I Want Revenge has answered the most questions---There's no question he is a horse of much quality--He'll have dead aim on them all in Kentucky and may the better horse win! That's the beauty of The Kentucky Derby! Nobody knows and HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL...There IS no better sport!

05 Apr 2009 6:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Can someone answer a question for me? What do you all think about Stardom Bound's ride? I didn't like what I was seeing as far as the ride goes and thought she was toast early on. Am i wrong on this?

05 Apr 2009 6:13 PM
Matthew W

Completely flying under the radar is Mr Hot Stuff and Corey--I would love for Corey to get the roses! Tiznow is top dog right now and a Derby would stamp him as firmly numero uno! Col John is probably the best older horse in training and this full bro can run all-day/will get plenty of pace but needs to draw in...Has taken the rail run in his two preps but I'd love to see them just go around and see if they can build that slingshot head of steam--Mr Hot Stuff will LOVE that extra 1/8...Tiznow/Turkoman (Alydar)/full bro won Travers on dirt....

05 Apr 2009 6:14 PM
Matthew W

Dray you build a strong case for Quality Road...I would like to see one more but if you're right that will be two for two cuz I know you had Brownie....I think Quality Road is like Freisan Fire, as we just don't know enough--you cannot throw out either horse as they are both precoscious! I have pretty reliable here-say that FF is the nuts! Also I cannot deny I Want Revenge is the one to beat....AM ROOTING for Corey/Mr Hot Stuff as the closer with hidden class! Tiznow did it with Well Armed/Harty.... now there's Mr Hot Stuff/Harty.....Tiznow bringing back tried and true stamina lines to The Sport Of Kings....1 1/4??...better watch out for the Tiznow colt....

05 Apr 2009 6:31 PM

Matthew W: I liked Pioneer's race in the Santa Anita Derby as well. He does have a tendency to loaf, but when horses come to him, he always finds more and holds them off. I agree, that he will need to relax better in the Kentucky Derby. However, Gomez was not happy with the way the SA Derby pace was unfolding, and asked Pioneer to move up early. What I like is that although the Santa Anita Derby is not the biggest prize on the horizon, Gomez rode to win the race. With a slow early pace, Gomez moved Pioneer up to the lead and took command of the race. Instead of being at the mercy of the pace or a victim of circumstances, Gomez took the race by its throat and decided to control things himself. In addition to winning the race, I think Pioneer will benefit from the race Gomez rode. Gomez could have sat back all the way and just accepted the slow pace and then come with his run late, unconcerned with winning or losing with the belief the SA Derby was just a prep for Kentucky. But would Pioneer have gotten much from that? Remember, 12 of the last 13 Derby winners ran 1st or 2nd in their final prep. To be sharp for the Kentucky Derby, a horse needs to get alot out his last prep, and Pioneer did.

The same is true for I Want Revenge. After missing the break, Talamo could have simply taken IWR around the track, not even attempting to win the race. After all, isn't the Wood just a prep? While it may have kept IWR safe, would it have given IWR any foundation for Kentucky? Has a horse won the Derby recently after basically running a non-race in the final prep? The answer is, of course, no. All of the 34 last Derby winners ran at least 4th in their final prep. Anyways, the Wood was a grade 1 race, with all the breeding implications that it holds, and carried a $750,000 purse. No, Talamo wasn't just going to carousel around out there; he tried to give IWR a chance to win, something I'm sure bettors appreciated. And then the amazing happened, IWR did win.

And it wasn't like Talamo, or Gomez for that matter, rode his mount all-out. Although Gomez and Talamo rode to win, they didn't get to the bottom of their horses, and should have left something in the tank for Louisville.

05 Apr 2009 6:39 PM

I am so dissapointed that the Pamp will not run in the derby. I don't usually pick a favorite this time of year but he won me over with his big stride and his big personality. I wonder if this is the common soft tendon injury that the trainers say they see much more of on synthetic. I hope to see him back in the races when he is healed. What a bummer.

05 Apr 2009 6:55 PM

LMAO @ draynay, first Imperial Council was having his coming out party in the Gotham and now he's merely an Allowance horse. Good one nay nay, you flip flop more than a politician. I'll give you this though you are on the right "team" now.  

05 Apr 2009 7:34 PM

Draynay your team is Vineyard Haven

05 Apr 2009 8:43 PM
Mike S

I WANT REVENGE has really come out, in a big way, and shown himself as the one to beat in the Derby. I thought THE PAMPLMOUSSE was going to be equally as tough, until his injury forced him to the sidelines. I also have to give a lot of credit to PIONEER OF THE NILE and CHOCOLATE CANDY. I also think MR. HOT STUFF is going in the right direction, and I think he deserves a spot in the starting gate.

06 Apr 2009 2:14 AM

COLDFACTS:  I just love your comparitive analysis of the Gotham, Wood and Average Kentucky derby splits.  Man you're on the ball and keeping all the IWR fans honest.  

One more twist and turn on the derby trail with The "Mousse" out due to injury.  It certainly alters the anticipated pace scenario in favour of "el numero uno" Quality Road unless Big Drama's connections take a second look.  Perhaps IEAH might even consider throwing in This One's For Phill to enhance the chances of IWR and Patena(if he gets in on his Blue Grass performance).  I've already taken Steve Haskin to task for ignoring the quality performances in the Swale Stakes and their potential impact on the Derby.  It wouldn't be to his credit if an amateur like Ranagulzion has more insight than the pro, would it?  The drama contines folkes.

06 Apr 2009 10:29 AM

I've liked CC from way back, I was happy with his race, with the steady fractions of the race he had nothing to run at and he he did a heck of a job getting up that much to POTN...I do think he's going to run best on dirt and more distance.

06 Apr 2009 10:31 AM

Like everyone I have my favorites and I really liked Imperial Council but lets face facts folks you don't need to get hit with a brick to figure out who is going to win the Derby.  I am a racing fan and like all of you I have my favorites but its now April and its time to pick your horse and I am picking Quality Road. He is simply too big and too strong and too fast for everyone else.  Now I know many of you like I Want Revenge but look at the easy pace he has run into the last 2 races and look who he beat. If you think I Want Revenge is really all that because he beat a weak group that couldn't get it together in deep stretch fine... but take a look again at what Quality Road did against a very hard charging Dunkirk.  How many horses have you seen get headed at the top of the stretch by a horse running a 108 Beyer that day and win?  How many lengths would Dunkirk beat the field in the Wood by?  I Want Revenge won by less than 2.  Will IWR have the same kick when he sees a 1:11 in the Derby?  Do you really think he is going to catch Quality Road when a flying Dunkirk could not?  After the Derby come back here and tell me how that worked out for you. IWR with his 19 year old jockey is not your Derby winner folks.  I will take Quality Road with Johnny V on board all day long over him....Experience matters.

06 Apr 2009 10:36 AM

I just read that tests done sunday revealed a lesion on the tendon of The Pamplemousse's left foreleg, and he is expected to be sidelined for 6-12 months.  (Thank God for Dr. Jill Bailey.)  When we first started talking about Pamplemousse, I mentioned that his running style reminds me of that of my favorite Georgie Boy.  And sure enough, this time last year Georgie was sidelined for 8 months with a soft tissue problem.  IMO, that unusual running style, exciting though it is, does lead to physical issues more often.

There are a couple folks here that are anti-IWR.  You know who you are (I don't want to embarrass you).  But it is funny to me because I know where it is coming from.  One person previously wrote that IWR had a better chance of sprouting wings then winning the Gotham, and the other person chastised Steve Haskin for devoting an entire article to IWR (before the Gotham), when in his opinion there were more deserving horses.  I think there is egg on some folks faces.

06 Apr 2009 10:41 AM

I also think Mr.Hot Stuff deserves a spot in the starting gate.  Chocolate Candy and the Pioneer were great, but from rewatching a the race, it looked as though Mr. Hot Stuff encountered the most traffic problems before he could start his closing run, and Chocolate Candy got the jump on him.  I don't know what his graded earnings was for third,but he only had 24K before the race.

06 Apr 2009 10:54 AM
Greg J.


      I was wondering, What are the chances that "Rachel Alexandra's" connections will put her in the KD over the Oaks?, I am curious, After her performance in the fantasy stakes at Oaklawn Park it has to be considered !, I am sad the "The Mousse" is Out, Just hope he recover's and races another day....

"Friesan Fire" is still at the top of my list, BUT "I Want Revenge" was Incredible over the weekend..., Thanks...

06 Apr 2009 11:47 AM


    I too did not like the ride SB got. Keenland has a very short stretch, and i think because of that i think Mike Smith should've either had SB a little closer to the pace or made a much earlier move. I also think the track had something to do with it. Keenlands polytrack is quirky and i wonder if thats why SB only made a half hearted rally. What do you think?

06 Apr 2009 12:13 PM
For Big Red

TO KAREN2: You wrote, "I wonder if this is the common soft tendon injury that the trainers say they see much more of on synthetic."

I live in the Los Angeles area. Yesterday, I watched the "Trackside at..." TV show from Santa Anita, and they did a brief phone interview with Alex Solis (the son, not his father, the jockey). Alex essentially said the colt's tendon in his left front is torn. The ultrasound they did showed a small lesion/hole in the tendon. They won't know how bad it is or how long it might take to heal until they do more tests. At the moment, they think it could take up to a year to heal. Right now they are trying to be upbeat and hoping the colt can race again, but the possibility exists that he might be retired later this year on time for the 2010 breeding season.

To me, this sounds very, very similar to the injury that ended Risen Star's career (and broke my heart).

As sad as this is, I thank God the state/track vet called Canani on this. If that tendon had snapped during a race, it would have been a catastrophic injury of the type we've all seen way too many of in recent years. This way, it's a treatable injury that will heal in time. Even if he never races again, the colt will have his chance at stud.

06 Apr 2009 12:23 PM

PON was not happy with the way the Santa Anita pace was unfolding, and asked Gomez to move up early. . . .  :)

For what it's worth, Imperial Council flipped before the race.  Game over.

So sorry to hear about The Pamplemousse and condolences to his connections.  It was fun while it lasted.

06 Apr 2009 12:40 PM
For Big Red

TO ALL: What do you think of the situation with Jeff Mullins giving Gato Go Win medication with an oral syringe in the detention barn before the Gotham Stakes on Saturday?

According to the news posted here on B-H, the medication was "Air Power," an over-the-counter herbal cough formula. Product details on Air Power claim it does not "test positive in a race or show jurisdiction."

Mullins also trains I Want Revenge, but he didn't try to give that colt anything in the detention barn before the Wood.

Here's a link to the manufacturer's web page about the product:

06 Apr 2009 12:52 PM

We better hope the Bluegrass doesn't pop a dazzling winner this Saturday or Dray maybe hop the fence once again. LOL. I was at Hawthorne Saturday and must admit was surprised at Musket Man. I was down at the rail by the winners circle and he didn't even look like he had ran a race, looked like he could go around again. He may be a sleeper or a good exotics play for The Derby.

06 Apr 2009 12:54 PM

Thanks for the update Big Red. I am still trying to mend my broken heart. What a shame. But like you, I am thankful this was caught before the race. So just to recap on my question.... I have heard trainers such as Baffert and Zito complain about the injuries suffered on synthetic. More soft tissue injuries. Do you think this is the same type of injury they are referring to? Now I'm left searching for a new favorite for the derby. I really can appreciate all of them. QR is hard to look past for so many reasons. I was such a huge Smarty fan. He was a tough horse and not near the size of QR. If QR has Smarty's toughness and that much more in size...... he could be a freak. I've seen some good performances out of him but so far nothing that is over the top. It seems he is much like BB in the fact that he hasn't faced much adversity. Can he keep his cool when he does?

Greg: I also was wondering about RA connections and if they feel like taking on the boys in the Derby. How good is this horse? She doesn't seem to have any competition with the ladies.

06 Apr 2009 1:53 PM

For Big Red:  why can't they do ultrasound on the legs of all the horses the morning that they race, or the evening before a workout?  Disaster was averted.  Remember all the rumors that The Pamplemousse was not training well?  I talked myself out of going to SA saturday because I did have concerns about his running style, and the fact that a rabbit was to be entered to press him even more worried me.  But it all worked out, thankfully.

And this latest development with Jeff Mullins really looks bad on the face of it.  Still LOVE the horse though.

06 Apr 2009 2:18 PM
Greg J.

For Big Red,

     Thanks for update on "The Pamplemousse", So sad....But could have been worse...

As far as Mullins, I think it would be incredibly naive to think it was only that one horse, "Gato Go Win" that got "Air Power", So I believe they will come down hard on him to set an example, He will be suspended and "I Want Revenge" will be trained by someone else up to the derby...My two cents...

06 Apr 2009 2:19 PM
Karen in Texas

Big Red---I am appalled that Mullins attempted to administer anything to a horse in a detention barn given the current state of affairs with drug crackdowns and the decreasing tolerance for any race day medications. When I first saw the report on another blog, I tried to determine what Air Power actually was--what was the active ingredient? The "ads" call it herbal or enzymatic, but without a formulary or pharmacopoeia it is hard to know the chemical components. From what I can tell at this point, it contains "guaifenesin", a commonly used expectorant or mucolytic. It simply decreases the viscosity of mucous membrane secretions. I don't see how it could enhance performance per se, but what was he thinking??

06 Apr 2009 2:24 PM
For Big Red

TO KAREN2: Re your question, "Do you think this is the same type of injury they are referring to?" I don't have enough information to give you an accurate answer. The best I can do is provide you with the following:

In a July 2008 USA Today article, Dr. Mark Cheney, a Kentucky veterinarian, said injuries requiring surgery to remove bone chips from knees and ankles have been reduced in horses training and racing over synthetic tracks.

At the same time, he has seen an increase in the number of injuries to the hindquarters and soft tissue tendons and ligaments as well as fractures involving the sesamoid bones, part of the ankle structure. He said synthetic surfaces do not allow the front hoof to slide forward when it hits the ground.

A Feb. 2008 Blood-Horse article reported that Dr. Sue Stover of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Diane Isbell, who conducts pre-race exams in Northern California, noted that injury rates on synthetic surfaces often dropped when horses ran without toe grabs behind. Dr. Isbell said that some trainers have had success training their horses without shoes and urged the CHRB to allow horses to race barefoot.

All of the articles I've read on the subject indicate that synthetic tracks need excellent maintenance.

However, we can't forget the other half of the team in races, the jockeys. In the Blood-Horse article, Garrett Gomez, David Flores and Hall of Famer, Gary Stevens, praised the synthetic surfaces, despite the glitches.

"My body has felt tremendously better," said Gomez. "They really help with the wear and tear on our bodies."

Stevens said that the majority of his 14 knee surgeries during his career occurred due to jarring on hard, sealed, or inconsistent dirt tracks.

My comment is this: If Gary Stevens blames hard, sealed and inconsistent dirt tracks for shortening his career, imagine what running over such tracks do to the horses. It's no wonder Quality Road came out of the Florida Derby with a quarter crack. The hardness of Gulfstream that day was a disgrace.

06 Apr 2009 2:55 PM
For Big Red

TO GREG J.: Friesan Fire is still at the top of my Derby list, although I have to admit my heart, and not my head, is picking him. I'm just totally befuddled by the unusual training schedule Larry Jones is using to prepare the colt for the Derby.

06 Apr 2009 2:57 PM

For Big Red:  come to think of it, I believe you are incorrect about ultrasound being the tool used to diagnose the lesion on Pamplemousse's tendon.  I distinctly remember they said a scan (nuclear scan I assume) was to be done Sunday.  You know what's funny, I disclosed the scoop on The Pample's condition a couple hrs before you did Red, but you got all the credit... that's cool ;-), you are very likeable.  

And now we find out Quality Road has a quarter crack!

06 Apr 2009 3:16 PM

Coldfacts & Ranagulzion: the splits for both the Gotham & Wood Memorial were on a slow,drying-out track.It's obvious that IWR is very capable of adapting to any pace scenario,ditto for POTN...seems like you guys are shakin' in your boots,knowing that IWR is a Beast and Nothing fazes him.

Draynay: IWR has the same devastating kick no matter what happens on the front end,he's very tractable and paces himself.That long beautiful stride will certainly come in handy @ Churchill.And we all know he's a BullDog of a Horse,as athletic of a horse we've seen since Afleet Alex. You're right experience does matter...IWR is an experienced,hardened,battle tested tough son-of-a-gun,while QR has a mere 4 starts and only 1 two-turn race to his credit,while only proving that he can sit behind cheap sprinters speed and take over when they retreat.He's gonna' have to show more acceleration down the stretch in the Derby than what he had against a game,but tired Dunkirk(the allowance winner).Experienced ability overrides enthusiasm any day of the week.

06 Apr 2009 3:32 PM

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