CARDIFF GIANT'S 2016 DERBY HANDICAP
Three hundred thirty-five days ago, I stood on the Belmont Park apron, watching American Pharaoh break off from the field and run into racing immortality, leaving in his wake so many years of disappointment, heartbreak, and losing tickets. Without question, one of the 10 best sports moments of my life. And yet, while wandering around Queens, trying to find my Uber, my mind jumped forward to the 2016 Triple Crown. After breaking a more than three decade drought in such convincing fashion, I worried that the Derby (now bereft of the “Who’s the next Triple Crown horse” buildup) might lose some of its mojo.
Indeed, for this year’s edition of the Run for the Roses, the fanfare has been noticeably subdued. But I do not believe that is indicative of the level of entertainment that this race will provide. After our one prohibitive morning line favorite, the board is pretty much wide open. Picture 3-on-3 overtime playoff hockey, except with 20 horses instead of 6 human hockey players. And on dirt instead of ice. And outdoors. Ok, not the best analogy but the fact remains that, with well-defined and talented groups of speed runners and deep closers, the 142nd Kentucky Derby should make for exciting viewing.
For the third consecutive year, your likely Derby favorite will ship into Lexington out of SoCal, as NYQUIST leads this year's crop of 3-year old thoroughbreds. However, unlike American Pharaoh last year (and California Chrome the year prior) NYQUIST hits the track with comparatively less buildup, while possessing the same world-class talent and form. But what’s most interesting about this year race is that (in my opinion) the disparity in morning line odds between the favorite and the rest of the field is not commensurate with the relative levels of talent in the race. In fact, I can remember fewer Derby’s in recent history that have been as difficult to handicap. While the pace dynamics of the race appear to be somewhat predictable on paper, anything can and will happen once the gates open. NYQUIST is just as likely to win by 20 lengths as he is to pull a U-turn from the gate and run a lap around the turf course.
Once the horses settle in after the cavalry charge to the first turn, the race could shape up in any number of ways, depending on the pace. And if the speed is not contested up front (as expected), then it’s anyone’s race. And THAT, my dear friends, is exactly why you are here. You surely know by now that our job here is to filter out the static that makes for an entertaining Derby Day broadcast, but has little to do with the actual race. The key, as always, is in finding VALUE in a talented, yet wide open field. So, this year, I didn’t read one puff piece or watch one tasteful-yet-overwrought ESPN biopic on the why you should root for horse XYZ because their owners are hard-working down to earth people (spoiler alert: they’re all obscenely rich). Instead, I poured over the sheets and focused on the fundamentals of form and race dynamic. I hope the result is one that will benefit us all.
One final thing…please remember that the key to making it through the day (or until the race, for that matter) is to stay adequately hydrated. One water for each…soda. Anyway…
Advice from our resident Horseman:
1) MOR SPIRIT 17
2) DESTIN 9 WILL BE BOXING IN AN
3) NYQUIST 13 EXACTA/TRIFECTA/SUPERFECTA
4) BRODY’S CAUSE 19
LONG SHOT – MY MAN SAM 6 (LIGHTLY RACED COLT GETS BACK
PREFERRED RIDER AFTER OVERCOMING WIDE TRIP TO PLACE IN THE BLUE GRASS)
KEY FACTS & FIGURES
· The Kentucky Derby winner is draped in a blanket of red roses, a tradition that dates back to 1896. This is why the race is commonly referred to as the "Run for the Roses"
· The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep, a positively delicious concoction of Bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint served over crushed ice
· No horse in the #1 post (TROJAN NATION this year) has won the Derby since Ferdinand in 1986. No horse from the #1 post has finished in the money since 1988 (RISEN STAR)
· There are only three horses in this year’s race with the top Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or more on fast dirt tracks: NYQUIST (101), DESTIN (100), and DANZIG CANDY (100). By comparison, last year there were five such horses, with Beyers ranging from 104-110.
· Every horse in this year’s race has run at least once as a two year old. This means that, for one more year, APOLLO (1882) retains the distinction of being the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby despite having never raced at age 2. Of the fifty-nine previous horses that have tried to buck that trend, three have finished in second place (BODEMEISTER, STRODES CREEK, COALTOWN)
· Of the 20 horses currently entered, 18 were bred in Kentucky, and 2 were bred in Pennsylvania (TOM’S READY & MOR SPIRIT). Only two Pennsylvania-bred horses have ever won the Kentucky Derby – LIL E TEE (1992) and fan-favorite SMARTY JONES (2004).
· Since 1930, horses running from the #10 post (WHITMORE, 20-1 this year) have had the greatest success (11.5% winners). Horses running from the #17 post (MOR SPIRIT, 12-1) have never won over that span.
· MO TOM (20-1), GUN RUNNER (10-1), WHITMORE (20-1), TOM’S READY (30-1), and BRODY’S CAUSE (12-1) have all won races at Churchill Downs. However, those wins were all in maiden races.
· 74 Derby winners lifetime have had a 2-word name (52%)
· The weather forecast for race time is 75 F with a 0% chance of rain
Remember, these are just our thoughts and are in no way an endorsement to wager on these horses (or to wager, period). Good luck and enjoy!