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Analyzing the Top 2012 Kentucky Derby Contenders

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horse racing

Creative Cause took the top spot this year

© Terence Dulay
Updated April 29, 2012

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. 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.

If, as often happens, some of the short-priced horses fail to hit the board, it could lead to some big payoffs like Giacomo or Mine That Bird who both were big upsets at 50-1. Such winners broke several "jinxes" to win and so, were low ranking under this analysis.

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 here from Daily Racing Form.

Given that it will likely take over $200,000 in graded earnings to make it into the Derby field this year, it is no surprise that there are ties in this very evenly matched group of 3-year-olds.

Creative Cause, a dual qualifier, tops the 2012 list under this system. Winner of the San Felipe two starts back followed by a close second in the Santa Anita Derby as the favorite, he has the required stakes win this year and a sharp prep race. His 102 figure in the San Felipe qualifies him in the Beyer category. He ran 5 times as a juvenile, three in stakes company, and goes to Louisville off of 3 starts as a three-year-old. The only knock against him is his running style, as he usually stalks the pace rather than rally.

The next two horses tied for second in this analysis and are listed alphabetically.

Gemologist, undefeated in 5 starts, ranked just behind Creative Cause. Like our top choice, he is a dual qualifier, he has a stakes win this year (the Wood Memorial, also giving him a sharp prep), he has run at Churchill Downs, has run to the Beyer par of 98, and lacks starts in our two "jinx" tracks, Saratoga and Tampa Bay. His two knocks are his front-running style (he pressed the pace in the Wood) and his lack of foundation this year, going to the Derby off just 2 starts this year.

Hansen, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile over the Churchill Downs strip, figures to be one of the favorites. He won the Gotham, giving him a stakes win at 3, then was second in the Blue Grass, giving him a sharp prep. He is a dual qualifier, has never raced at either "jinx" track, has enough starts at 2, 3, and lifetime, and is coming off a 4 week layoff. He fails on two major requirements, however, as he is a need-the-lead type (his only "stalking" trip being in the Gotham), and his best Beyer is a 96, earned in the Holy Bull and the Blue Grass.

Alpha finished a close second behind Gemologist in the Wood, giving him a sharp prep, after winning 2 stakes races, all this year (Count Fleet and Withers), and stands alone as our fourth choice. He ran in the Breeders' Cup, giving him Churchill Downs and juvenile stakes experience, and has the required number of starts at 2, 3, and lifetime. On the downside he needs to be close to the pace (stalking trip) to win, he is not a dual qualifier, and he broke his maiden at Saratoga. Horses that raced at the Spa as juveniles are usually poor bets 9 months later in Louisville.

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