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Analyzing the Top 2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders


horse racing california chrome

California Chrome is likely to be the Kentucky Derby favorite this year

© Kelley Carlson

Using historical trends and the past performances for the top 21 top Kentucky Derby contenders by points, 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.

As we saw last year, again it looks like the cutoff to make the field will be 20 points, and the tiebreaker (non-restricted stakes earnings) will play a role. We also have a much tighter group under our analysis, suggesting that the points system has served its purpose, eliminating true no-hopers from entering. Unlike past years, we will use the Derby points ranking list as our tiebreaker when horses scored equally in the analysis, rather than merely calling it a tie between x number of horses. We will note where this tiebreaker was used. In another change, we are using the BRIS Speed Figures instead of the Beyers; the figures are comparable, but tend to be about 5 points higher. We had been looking for 95+ BSF's so the benchmark for us is 100 on the BRIS scale.

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.

The first 2 horses scored equal points and are listed in Derby qualifying order.

Dance With Fate comes to Churchill Downs off his win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1). This earns him a stakes win and a sharp prep inside 4 weeks, which is preferred. He qualifies on number of starts, stakes starts, and Dosage Index and Profile. More importantly, he is a Dual Qualifier and is able to rally from off the pace to win, the most advantageous running style in this 10 furlong classic. He has yet to run a 100 speed figure and has never raced over the Churchill surface. Corey Nakatani, who rode him at Keeneland, should get the call for trainer Peter Eurton.

Tapiture shares top billing in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Analysis, despite being #13 on the points list at time of writing. The Steve Asmussen trainee is one of two Dual Qualifiers in this year's Derby, and one of only three who has raced at Churchill Downs, breaking his maiden winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November. He qualifies on number of starts, stakes races and wins, layoff length, has points on the stamina wing of his Dosage Profile, and best speed figure as a juvenile. However two of his knocks might be considered "automatic toss" angles for some players. He tends to run close to the pace rather than rally from well out, and he did not have a sharp prep, finishing a distant fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Ricardo Santana Jr. is expected to ride.

The next 4 horses scored equal points and are listed in Derby qualifying order.

California Chrome carries the hopes of the Golden State, and is ranked highest under the Road to the Kentucky Derby points. The expected favorite qualifies on number of starts at 2, 3, and lifetime, speed figures, and Dosage Index. He comes to Churchill off a sharp prep inside 4 weeks, a 5 1/4 length romp in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). On the negative side, he races close to the pace and has never come from more than 2 lengths out, he lacks stamina points in his Dosage Profile, and has no starts outside California let alone at Churchill Downs. Regular rider Victor Espinoza is expected to ride for trainer Art Sherman.


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