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Analyzing the Top 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders

By

Uncle Mo

Not surprisingly, Uncle Mo is one of four horses tied for the top spot this year

© Cindy Pierson Dulay

Using historical trends and the past performances for 22 of the top Kentucky Derby contenders, we 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, much like how handicappers might bet anti-bias horses on the bottom of exotics. We also recommend checking workout patterns in the final week since these are a good indicator of who is ready. Preferably you're looking for horses that have at least two workouts over the Churchill Downs surface and at least one bullet work.

With some of the early favorites especially Uncle Mo and The Factor losing their final prep races, this may be one of the most wide open runnings in recent memory. The contenders seem to be quite evenly matched, and as often happens, some of the short-priced horses fail to hit the board, it could lead to some big payoffs like in 2005 with Giacomo or 2009 with Mine That Bird who both were big upsets at 50-1.

For more information on the trends and statistics used in this analysis, check out my article on Handicapping the Derby, the book Betting the Kentucky Derby by Dean Keppler, and Triple Crown Handicapper by Jim Mazur. This is an older article on angles from American Turf Monthly. On Thursday night before the Derby, Daily Racing Form will have their selections and analysis online. This is the most over-analyzed race on the planet, so there are lots of trends and angles you can use. Free past performances for the Derby are available from BRISnet.com for the full field and Daily Racing Form, but you have to view them one horse at a time as they don't have a single file available to the public yet.

Although it may not take $200,000 in graded earnings to make the field like last year, it is still no surprise that there is a three-way tie for top spot in this year's 3-year-olds. It is worth noting that unlike some years, no horse earned a perfect score (satisfying every requirement and avoiding all knocks). All but one horse satisfied the dosage index requirement of 4.00 or less, but only 3 have run a triple-digit Beyer. As well, only one earned the knock for $500,000+ auction price, as only 3 horses that sold that high have worn the roses, most famously the $4 million Fusaichi Pegasus. This race favors homebreds and lower sales prices.

Here are the three horses who tied for the top spot.

Comma to the Top has been off and on the trail for a number of reasons, but according to our analysis he belongs in the race and deserves a shot if healthy. He raced enough times at 2 and 3, has competed in stakes races as a juvenile, is coming off a sharp prep within 4 weeks (a close second in the Santa Anita Derby), and is a dual qualifier. However, he has not won a stakes race this year, his best Beyer is a 97 earned in his last prep, and he runs on the lead.

Soldat is a dual qualifier who comes to Louisville off a 5th place finish in the Florida Derby, which means he did not earn a sharp prep and is coming off a long layoff. He also generally runs on or close to the lead, where the Derby favors closers. He has satisfied most of the requirements, having raced enough times at 2 including 3 stakes appearances, won the Fountain of Youth, and has run a triple digit Beyer, a 103 in his 3-year-old debut in a Gulfstream allowance.

Uncle Mo is the juvenile champion and as expected would rank high on this list. He is a dual qualifier (being the Experimental highweight and having a dosage of 2.20), has run 100+ Beyers twice (his debut, and the BC Juvenile), is coming off a sharp prep 4 weeks out (3rd in the Wood Memorial),has a stakes win this year (the ungraded Timely Writer) and satisfied the required number of starts. His few negatives are important, with just 2 starts this year and 5 lifetime, and a front-running style not suitable for the 10 furlong Derby.

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