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Analyzing the Top 2013 Kentucky Derby Contenders

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horse racing kentucky derby

Goldencents, winner of the 2013 Santa Anita Derby, is one of 3 horses tied for the top spot.

© Kelley Carlson
Updated April 29, 2013

Using historical trends and the past performances for 20 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 Kentucky 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 the new Road to the Kentucky Derby points system used to determine who makes the gate, some of the angles that we used to eliminate horses no longer apply. All 20 had Dosage Indices under 4, and all but 2 had a sharp final prep (defined as an in-the-money finish or within 4 lengths of the winner). If, 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 last year 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky Derby and Oaks are available here from BrisNet.com.

Given that it will take at least 20 points to make it into the Kentucky Derby field this year, it is no surprise that there is a three-way tie for the top spot, and a five-way tie for fourth in this very evenly matched group of 3-year-olds.

The first three horses tied for first in number of points and are listed alphabetically.

Goldencents is one of two who topped this year's analysis. The Santa Anita Derby winner scored on all but one of the factors we were looking for. He has enough starts at 2, 3, and lifetime, has competed in juvenile stakes (won the Delta Jackpot, second in the Champagne), won stakes races at 3 (Santa Anita Derby and Sham), is coming off a 4 week layoff from a sharp prep, satisfies both Beyer requirements, and is a dual qualifier. The only knock against him is his front-running style, as he is generally within a length of the lead if not leading. Although we did not consider jockeys, Kevin Krigger will attempt to follow in Mario Gutierrez's footsteps, winning the Derby in his first attempt, coincidentally for the same trainer, Doug O'Neill.

Normandy Invasion represents trainer Chad Brown and also scored on all but one factor. Unlike Goldencents, this dual qualifier can rally from off the pace. He may appear under-raced but with his 3 starts last year and 2 this year, for a total of 5, he actually qualified with the minimum number of starts allowed. He also satifies both Beyer requirements in one race, his 99 effort finishing second in the Remsen. His only knock is his lack of a stakes win this year, his best effort being his runner-up finish in the Wood Memorial, which is a sharp prep 4 weeks out.

Overanalyze stands alone in third place. The Arkansas Derby winner made 5 starts as a juvenile, 4 in stakes company, and raced twice this year, 5th in the Gotham followed by the win at Oaklawn. The Todd Pletcher-trained dual qualifier satisfied our Beyer requirement with his 99 in the Remsen. Like Goldencents, his only knock is running style, as he usually stalks the pace from about 4 lengths out (we define rally as coming from at least 6 lengths out).

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