By guest contributor Tony Kelzenberg ** Speed map (pdf) updated after the barrier draw. ** As I write this article the Kentucky Derby is 11 days away. We won’t know the exact field until the barrier draw on Wednesday, April 30th, but to help prepare Australian fans for the horses to watch for I am writing a primer, with a supplement coming on April 30th with a speed map and an odds line and weather report. Conditions of the Kentucky Derby The Kentucky Derby is a 2,000m race with a $2,000,000 purse run on dirt, going the same way as the Melbourne tracks (left handed). There is an elaborate scoring system that limits entry to no more than 20 starters. Fillies can enter, but there is a 1,800m, $1,000,000 race exclusively for 3 year old fillies called the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby, so most of the filly stars go in that race. There will be 160,000 people on course (including the infield), and over half of them will be drunk. Horses that can stay cool and collected in front of this mass of humanity have the edge. The track, Churchill Downs, is located in a very humid river alley and rain can hit hard at any time. In this primer I will propose horses that may like it wet. Kentucky Derby – Pace Matchups CALIFORNIA CHROME, the heavy pre-race favorite has been meeting inferior horses in short fields in California, and he looked good crushing them. But now he must face horses near his ability from the East. The numbers I use to evaluate “On-speed” horses have him a close 4th on “Effort Rating.” That means there is a good chance he will not be able to get away from his pursuers easily and would vulnerable to horses coming from the back of the field. At 5/2 or 2/1 he is a hugely unders. Of the top Effort horses, WICKED STRONG comes out of the hardest race and he does not really need to be on the speed, he can take a sit. Wicked Strong will probably be the 5/1 second choice but has never run well outside of New York, and his jockey is considered a second- or third-tier rider. Certainly a good horse for the Quaddie but probably a marginal win bet. Off track/wet Danza and Intense Holiday should handle the wet, and Wicked Strong probably will handle it. California Chrome’s sire gets 25% wet track winners from starters, and Vicar’s In Trouble and Uncle Sigh have sneaky-good wet track pedigrees. THE BET With all the speed in the race, I will advocate betting two horses: INTENSE HOLIDAY and DANZA. They are two horses trained by Todd Pletcher, and he is infamous for scoring with lightly regarded horses in big races (in fact, Danza won the Arkansas Derby at 41/1 ten days ago). Pletcher’s record in the Kentucky Derby is very poor (1 win in 31 starters – largely because he enters at least three or four horses every year). Intense Holiday and Danza are decent animals that can run mid-pack with strong late kicks – they own the best final sectionals in the field – and with the right trip either one can get home first. Most likely Intense Holiday will be 20/1 and Danza will be 15/1.

Best “On Speed” performances, last two races (Dirt)
Horse Race Distance (m) Effort Rating
Vicar’s In Trouble Louisiana Derby 1800 218
Samraat Wood (New York) 1800 217
Wicked Strong Wood (New York) 1800 217
California Chrome Santa Anita Derby 1800 216
Intense Holiday Louisiana Derby 1800 210
California Chrome San Felipe 1700 209
Hopportunity Santa Anita Derby 1800 207
Chitu Sunland Park 1800 207
Wildcat Red Fountain of Youth 1700 206
General a Rod Fountain of Youth 1700 206
Candy Boy Santa Anita Derby 1800 205
Uncle Sigh Wood (New York) 1800 202
Danza Arkansas Derby 1800 201
Commanding Curve Louisiana Derby 1800 200
Ring Weekend Tampa Bay Derby 1700 199

 

Best “Final Sectional” performances, last two races (Dirt)
Horse Race Distance (m) Late Pace Rating
Intense Holiday Risen Star 1700 108
Danza Arkansas Derby 1800 106
Ride on Curlin Arkansas Derby 1800 101
Hoppertunity Rebel 1700 100
Wildcat Red Florida Derby 1800 99
Tapiture Rebel 1700 99
Candy Boy Robert B. Lewis 1700 98
California Chrome Santa Anita Derby 1800 97
General a Rod Florida Derby 1800 97
Chitu Sunland Park Derby 1800 96
Samraat Gotham 1700 95
Vinceremos Tampa Bay Derby 1700 95
Wicked Strong Allowance race 1800 94
Vicar’s in Trouble Risen Star 1700 94
Uncle Sigh Gotham 1700 94
Commanding Curve Risen Star 1700 94
Ring Weekend Tampa Bay Derby 1700 88

 

Highest Class Rating, last two races (Dirt and Synthetic)
RUN STYLE
E = Early leader
P = Presser (midpack)
E/P = Can lead or press
AGGRESSIVENESS (0-8):
8 is highly aggressive, into the bit.
0 is nonaggressive. 4 is typically mid-pack.
Horse Race Distance (m) Class Rating
California Chrome (E/P 7) San Felipe 1700 122
Danza (E/P 5) Arkansas Derby 1800 122
Wildcat Red (E 8) Fountain of Youth 1700 122
General a Rod (E/P 8) Fountain of Youth 1700 122
Vicar’s In Trouble (E/P 5) Louisiana Derby 1800 121
Dance With Fate (P 3 synth) Blue Grass Stakes 1800 121
Wicked Strong (P 0) Wood (New York) 1800 121
Chitu (E/P 8) Sunland Park Derby 1800 121
Samraat (E/P 6) Gotham 1700 120
Hoppertunity (E/P 4) Rebel 1700 120
Intense Holiday (P 2) Risen Star 1700 120
Ring Weekend (E/P 6) Tampa Bay Derby 1700 120
Medal Count (P 3 synth) Blue Grass Stakes 1800 120
We Miss Artie (P 3 synth) Spiral 1700 119
Ride On Curlin (E/P 5) Arkansas Derby 1800 119
Tapiture (E/P 4) Rebel 1800 119
Candy Boy (E/P 4) Robert B. Lewis 1700 119
Uncle Sigh (E 5) Gotham 1700 119
Vinceremos (E/P 5) Tampa Bay Derby 1700 119
Harry’s Holiday (E 6) Spiral 1800 119
Pablo Del Monte (E 6 synth) Blue Grass Stakes 1800 119
Commanding Curve (P 1) Louisiana Derby 1800 118