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Analyzing the Top Kentucky Derby Contenders


Churchill Downs works

Workouts as seen from the barn area at Churchill Downs.

Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated April 30, 2004
Using historical trends and the past performances for the 15 top Kentucky Derby contenders according to my Derby Contenders Poll plus Rock Hard Ten who may or may not get in because of low graded earnings. I have weighted many factors to develop the following ranked list. Each horse was given points for his conformation to a Derby winner's profile, and points were subtracted for negative aspects. Of course this does not guarantee that the horse with the most points will win, but it does give you a good idea who to eliminate from the winning position. It follows that if a horse doesn't fit the winner's profile, he may still finish in the money.

For more information on the trends and statistics used in this analysis, check out my article on Handicapping the Derby and the book Triple Crown Handicapper 2004 by Jim Mazur. There are slso a couple of older article you may find useful, one on angles from American Turf Monthly and a 10-step program from Kentucky Connect. On Thursday night before the Derby, Daily Racing Form will have their selections and analysis here and past performances are available here.

The Cliff's Edge - He is a dual qualifier, although he lacks stamina points in his dosage profile, is trained by a successful Derby trainer, and is ridden by a jockey with Derby experience. He has not paired Beyer tops, meaning he is less susceptible to bounce at Churchill, but has a respectable 111 best Beyer in a route race, two wins at Churchill Downs, and the correct running style. Unfortunately he stands a good chance of being the favorite which is generally a jinx, but still has a good shot.

Borrego - It was a bit surprising to see this guy come up second, but he does have an experienced trainer and jockey, has run the right number and type of preps, has a top Beyer of 105, and finished second in three major preps. His dosage is in the proper range and his has stamina points in his profile. He has the right running style and has been working well at Churchill Downs. He could be a sleeper pick this year.

Pollard's Vision - I don't know if a one-eyed horse has ever won the Derby, but this one has a chance. He has one of the top Beyers of the contenders at 107, an experienced trainer and jockey, and a win at 1 1/8 miles. His last win was on the front, but he has shown he can stalk or rally in the past which is the preferred running style for a Derby winner. He definitely has a shot.

Limehouse - He may be a bit over-raced coming in with 9 starts lifetime, but he did win two major preps and is undefeated in two starts at Churchill Downs. He has an experienced trainer and jockey, the right running style, and a 1 1/8 mile prep. Where he falls short is no stamina points in his dosage profile and a top Beyer figure of only 100.

Smarty Jones - At first glance he seems to have everything going for him, coming into the Derby undefeated with a 108 top Beyer and bullet works at Churchill, but he also has some negatives. The biggest are having a Derby rookie trainer and jockey and a front running style. He has a lot of sprinters in his pedigree but still meets the dosage limit and even has some stamina points in his dosage profile. If The Cliff's Edge isn't the favorite, this guy probably will be which can be the kiss of death.

Master David - While he does have 3 races this year, the 2 month gap between the Sham and the Wood may make him come up a bit short still plus has only gotten a 100 top Beyer. He does have an experience trainer and jockey and stamina points in his dosage profile plus a good try in his last prep at 1 1/8 miles.

Lion Heart - This guy has shown a lot of talent with a top Beyer of 110, but he only has 2 starts this year and didn't race until March 6 so is probably a bit under-raced. His running style is pure speed and he will probably set the pace from the start which isn't a good thing. He does have an experienced trainer and jockey and while staying at Keeneland has shipped over for a work at Churchill.

Friends Lake - The biggest problems with this horse are he only has a top Beyer of 99 and hasn't raced since winning the Florida Derby. He has an experienced jockey and trainer plus the right running style, but can he be prepared for the Derby off just works for almost 2 months?

On to the next page with 8 more horses.

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