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Analyzing the Top 2010 Kentucky Derby Contenders


Awesome Act

Awesome Act is one of four horses tied for the top spot this year

© Vanessa Ng

Using historical trends and the past performances for 21 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 Eskendereya out of this year's Kentucky Derby, many of the contenders seem to be quite evenly matched. 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 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 take over $200,000 in graded earnings to make it into the Derby field this year, it is no surprise that there is a four-way tie for the top spot in this very evenly matched group of 3-year-olds.

Awesome Act started his career in England but has made his last three starts in North America. This dual qualifier made the cut for number of starts at 2, total lifetime starts, has a stakes win this year, the Gotham Stakes, and, after finishing third in the Wood Memorial he has a sharp prep within the recommended layoff of 28 days or less. As well, he likes to rally from off the pace which is preferable in the Derby, especially this year with so many speed horses entered. He does have two key knocks against him, having made just 2 starts this year, and he lacks a triple-digit Beyer error, his best being a 98 at Aqueduct.

Paddy O'Prado was originally a turf horse, winning the Palm Beach over that surface, before switching to synthetic to finish second in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. These give him a stakes win this year, and a correct layoff off a sharp prep race. He started 3 times last year and 3 this year, both in range, and has shown an ability to close from off the pace, which he did in all his starts as a juvenile. He may not be a dual qualifier, earning him a knock, despite having a dosage index under 4. His other knock is his lack of a 100+ Beyer effort, just best being the 93 earned on the Gulfstream lawn.

Sidney's Candy pulled off a mild upset in the Santa Anita Derby, which gives him a stakes win and a sharp prep 4 weeks out, three key positives. He made 3 starts last year and 3 this year for a total of 6, and did earn a 100 Beyer at Santa Anita. His two knocks are different from the above 2 horses, in that he is a need-the-lead runner and is not a dual qualifier.

Stately Victor is the fourth horse to score the highest points, and comes to Churchill off a 40-1 upset of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, which is a stakes win and a sharp prep 3 weeks out. He made 4 starts as a juvenile and 4 this year so far, likes to close from well off the pace, and has a dosage index under 4. On the negative side, he is not a dual qualifier and has not attained a 100 Beyer, his career best being a 94 in the Blue Grass.

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