Examining Top Derby Prep Days for Possible Track Bias

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A look at recent Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) dirt prep races in the United States could determine if any potential bias toward a particular running style on the main track existed on particular race days.

One less thing for handicappers to worry about? Note that all tracks for race days involved were listed as fast.

Sunland Derby (G3), March 26 at Sunland Park
Of the six races contested at two turns on the card, five were won by horses from off the pace, suggesting a strong bias toward closing-type runners. Irap who raced close to the pace in the Sunland Derby to finish fourth, came back to upset the field in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), further evidence that a closer bias existed on Sunland Derby day. 

Hence rallied from 10th to win the Sunland Derby, likely benefitting from the bias, but he did win. A bigger concern would be a closer who failed to take advantage of the bias. I note horses winning with the bias, but the best a horse can do is win, so it's not a fault against the horse.

TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), April 1, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
In the eight races on the dirt this day, a variety of running styles earned trips to the winner's circle. That trend suggests there was no bias in the Louisiana Derby that saw Girvin rally from fifth early, six lengths back.

Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) April 1 at Gulfstream Park
While a horse won on the front end, and two horses, including Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, both won from just off the pace, half of the six dirt races this day were won with big closing moves. While the other three race outcomes can't be ignored, I think the track was at least slightly favoring closers.

I'll give extra credit to the effort of Always Dreaming who raced near the lead throughout on his way to the five-length victory. A slight downgrade to Gunnevera who closed from 10th to third.

Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2), April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack
While there were a variety of running styles represented in the winner's circle this day, half the races were won by horses on the front end. With that in mind, I think this track was at least slightly favoring front runners, and I'll award a bit of extra credit to Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry, who tracked in fourth early before drawing off to the 3 1/2-length score.

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), April 8 at Keeneland
I didn't see any track bias on this card. A variety of running styles were represented in the winner's circle with Irap tracking in second early in the Blue Grass before scoring a three-quarter-length upset win.

Santa Anita Derby (G1), April 8 at Santa Anita Park
This track was strongly biased toward front runners on this day and I'm awarding big extra credit to Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley, who rallied from 5 1/4 lengths out and fifth position to win the 1 1/8-mile race. No winner of the card made a bigger move in a dirt race.

Consider two of the races on the card. One saw Rockport Babe challenged by two different horses while racing on the front end and winning at 18-1. The other race that caught my eye was the Echo Eddie Stakes that saw a three-horse battle early with two of those horses, Mr. Hink and B Squared, finishing a nose apart at the wire.

The Santa Anita Derby reinforces my opinion as Battle of Midway and Royal Mo, after battling through a quarter-mile in :22.66, continued well to the wire to finish second and third.  

Benoit Photo

Arkansas Derby (G1), April 15 at Oaklawn Park
With eight of the 12 winners on the card coming from off the pace, I rate this as a closer favoring track. As I said earlier, I don't discount horses that ran with the bias to win, as did Classic Empire. Runner-up Conquest Mo Money ran well against the bias and deserves extra credit going toward his planned start in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

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