April 28th 2019
When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, there are several analytic tools that I use. The first is the points system. Since the creation of the point system for qualification into the Kentucky Derby, every Kentucky Derby winner earned 100 more qualifying points on the Derby trail. Who are this year’s candidates who scored 100 or more points?
- Tacitus – 150
- Omaha Beach – 137.5
- Vekoma – 110
- Plus Que Parfait – 104
- Roadster – 100
- By My Standards – 100
- Maximum Security – 100
This point system has only been in place since 2013, so it can only be viewed as a starting point for trying to figure out your Derby winner. My guess is, if we went back 10 or more years and attached the same point system to the Derby prep races, we would see that most Kentucky Derby winners would have achieved 100 or more points since most Derby winners finished strong in their final Derby prep races.
Another key analytic tool I use is late speed, last 3 furlong fraction times as the Derby winner has to have a strong late kick to win the race in a field of 20 horses. I desire a time under 38 seconds over the last 3 furlongs in their last 9-furlong Derby prep race to ensure that the horse has the necessary closing speed. I look at the time difference between the final time and the 3/4-mile (six-furlong) mark and estimate that a length is generally around 0.16 seconds. It is not exact science but a pretty good estimate if you don’t have times from Trackus.
To illustrate why this is important, below are the final 3-furlong times in the last Derby prep race for the last seven Kentucky Derby winners:
2018 – Justify (36.87 in Santa Anita Derby)
2017 – Always Dreaming (36.56 in Florida Derby)
2016 – Nyquist (37.64 in Florida Derby)
2015 – American Pharoah (37.82 in Arkansas Derby)
2014 – California Chrome (36.69 in Santa Anita Derby)
2013 – Orb (37.74 in Florida Derby)
2012 – I’ll Have Another (36.42 in Santa Anita Derby)
I crunched numbers and of the seven candidates listed above who had 100 or more Derby points, I only found two horses who eclipsed the 3 furlong 38 second mark in their last Derby prep race: Maximum Security and Omaha Beach. Improbable eclipsed this mark but he only finished with 65 Derby points.
1) Maximum Security – 35.96 (1st in Florida Derby)
2) Omaha Beach – 37.45 (1st in Arkansas Derby)
3) Improbable – 37.45 (2nd in Arkansas Derby)
Note that Omaha Beach and Improbable’s times were on a sloppy, wet track which should be slower than times produced on a dry, fast track. Also note that I had to estimate Plus Que Parfait’s last 3 furlong time from the UAE Derby using his last 700 meter time since that race is 1900 meters and not 9 furlongs. I came up with an estimated time of 38.31.
In summary, I think the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner will be one of the three horses listed above: Maximum Security, Omaha Beach and Improbable. That’s if this year’s Run for the Roses is on a dry, fast track. If it is wet, I am leaning towards Omaha Beach and Improbable since they have already performed well on a sloppy, wet track in the Arkansas Derby.
I will wait for final post-positions before declaring my Derby favorite.