The Kentucky Derby Points System – Does it provide us a clue who the Derby winner will be? Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 25th 2017

The Kentucky Derby points system for entry into the Derby was created in 2012 and first used for the 2013 Derby trail season. Although we have a small of sample size with just four Derby prep seasons where this has been used, I thought it would be interesting to see if this points system is beginning to give us analytics that can be used to predict future Kentucky Derby winners.

Below are the top 3 finishers in the Kentucky Derby from 2013 through 2016 and where they ranked in the final Kentucky Derby points system along with the number of points they earned.

2013 – 1st – Orb (1st with 150 pts),  2nd – Golden Soul (39th with 14 pts), 3rd – Revolutionary (6th with 110 pts).

2014 – 1st – California Chrome (1st with 150 pts), 2nd – Commanding Curve (28th with 20 pts), 3rd – Danza (7th with 100 pts).

2015 – 1st – American Pharoah (4th with 160 pts), 2nd – Firing Line (12th with 58 pts), 3rd – Dortmund (2nd with 170 pts).

2016 – 1st – Nyquist (2nd with 130 pts), 2nd – Exaggerator (3rd with 126 pts), 3rd – Gun Runner (1st with 151 pts).


What the point system has taught us thus far is that the eventual Kentucky Derby winner was ranked 4th or better in the final point standings and accumulated at least 130 points. So let’s take a look at this year’s final Kentucky Derby points standings.

The top 4 are:

  1. Girvin – 150 points
  2. Classic Empire – 132 points
  3. Gormley – 125 points
  4. Irap – 113 points

Classic Empire and Girvin are the only two horses who fit perfectly into the previous Derby winner/points system mode with at least 130 points and a 4th or better placement in the standings. The 2015 points leader International Star did not compete in the Kentucky Derby so this means that the overall points champion won the Derby twice and finished 3rd in the other. So in three attempts, the overall points champion finished no worse than third. It will be interesting to see if this holds to form in this year’s Kentucky Derby and perhaps something to consider for your Trifecta wagering.

Below are my Top Six Kentucky Derby Contenders. I feel rather strongly that the Kentucky Derby winner will be one of these six horses provided that the Derby is run on a dry, fast track. This group of six has speed horses and closers.

Top Six Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Always Dreaming   Always Dreaming is #1 in my rankings because he is the fastest horse in this Kentucky Derby field. His 1:47.47 in the Florida Derby is the best 9 furlong time in this class. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that will bode well in the Kentucky Derby. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Florida Derby

2) Classic Empire  – The 2-year-old Male Champion proved he is back with his brilliant run in the Arkansas Derby (94 Beyer Speed Figure). He ran a great race and showed me something I hadn’t seen from him before dealing with traffic. For a brief moment, I didn’t think he was going to win. Somewhere between the 1/2 mile and 3/4th mile mark, he got boxed into group of horses. However, he managed to get clear, and when he did, he started making his move and then mowed down the field in the stretch. Classic Empire is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He will try to join Street Sense and Nyquist as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions who went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 2nd in the 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

3) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby times were both faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year. And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.  He has moved up in my rankings because he fits every analytic I like in a Derby winner.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd>1st–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.77 – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

4) Gunnevera  – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot and 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes winner. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. His closer style of racing, late speed and the additional furlong he’ll get in the Kentucky Derby should make him more of a factor at the end than he was in the Florida Derby. Having finished third in the Florida Derby should keep him a bit under the radar on Derby Day. I would recommend putting a closer or two in your Superfecta bets and Gunnevera has the most upside of any of the closers in this class.

Career: 7 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 972017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

5) Hence – If you read my blog a few weeks ago on Kentucky Derby sleepers, you will understand why I like this Steve Asmussen-trained colt. His 9 furlong time, speed figures and final 3 furlong fraction time in his last race put him squarely in the top 5 of this class. He probably won’t get this same respect from bettors or other national handicappers. But if you are looking for a Derby Day sleeper in what has been a chaotic and unpredictable Derby trail season thus far, Hence and Gunnevera are probably your two best choices. With the way that Conquest Mo Money ran in the Arkansas Derby, Hence’s 3 3/4th length win over Conquest Mo Money in the Sunland Derby looks better and better.

Career: 6 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>7th–>1st
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Alfredo Juarez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

6) Irap – The son of Tiznow has the same trainer/jockey combination of two previous Kentucky Derby winners in I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016). Since jockey Julian Leparoux will opt for his Classic Empire mount, trainer Doug O’Neil hired Mario Gutierrez. The two hope for back-to-back Kentucky Derby wins. Irap appears to be peaking at the right time and his Beyer Speed Figures (73,79,93) are ascending in his 3-year-old campaign.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.39 – 2017 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  932017 Blue Grass Stakes

Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Girvin (150), Classic Empire (132), Gormley (125), Irap (113), Irish War Cry (110), Always Dreaming (100), Thunder Snow (100), Gunnevera (84), Practical Joke (74), J Boys Echo (63), State of Honor (62), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), McCraken (40), Battle of Midway (40), Patch (40), Battalion Runner (40) and Untrapped (34).

Lookin At Lee (32), Sonneteer (30), Royal Mo (30) and Local Hero (30) are on outside looking in and hoping for defections or scratches.  

Projected Kentucky Derby Odds 

Below are my early projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds that Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia will set.  Battaglia has gone on record stating that he saw enough from Classic Empire to make him the favorite.

Classic Empire (3/1), Always Dreaming (4/1), Irish War Cry (10/1), Girvin (10/1), Irap (10/1), Gormley (12/1), Gunnevera (12/1), McCraken (15/1), Hence (15/1), Patch (15/1), Malagacy (20/1), State of Honor (20/1), Thunder Snow (20/1), Practical Joke (20/1), Battalion Runner (20/1), Battle of Midway (30/1), Tapwrit (30/1), J Boys Echo (30/1), Untrapped (30/1) and Fast and Accurate (50/1).

On the docket…

My next blog will provide a more in-depth look at the projected Kentucky Derby field.

My next contribution to the Cyberworld is going to be a food, wine and cooking blog. I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and my travels to Italy left me with a desire to recreate the same awesome dishes I had there but can’t get here in the US in Italian restaurants. Stay tuned!


One comment

  1. Peter Setiawan · April 26, 2017

    ” snafu ” waiting for the pp.


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