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Analyzing the Top 2009 Kentucky Derby Contenders


I Want Revenge

Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge tops the rankings for this year's Derby contender analysis

© Vanessa Ng
April 26, 2009

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 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.

Although there are a few standouts going into 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 when Giacomo pulled off a huge upset 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. There are also a couple of older articles you may find useful, one on angles from American Turf Monthly and a 10-step program from Kentucky Connect. 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.

I Want Revenge tops the list this year as he scored on every positive angle and did not earn a knock. He is one of the five dual qualifiers expected to run, which means he had to have run as a 2-year-old in stakes company. He comes to Louisville with 8 lifetime starts, 3 this year, and his impressive 113 Beyer in the Gotham satisfies that par requirement. We give him credit as being a rallier as he demonstrated this ability in the Wood Memorial and in the CashCall Futurity, although he is more of a stalker. Even if we did not award him this point he would still rank first in the anaylsis. Update: Unfortunately I Want Revenge scratched the morning of the Derby (announced at 9am) with a sore ankle. Details in his profile.

The next 2 horses scored an equal number of points and are thus presented in alphabetical order.

Chocolate Candy is also a dual qualifier, coming into the race off a 9 race campaign with the minimum 3 starts made this year. He has two stakes wins this year, both at Golden Gate, before shipping down the coast to finish second in the Santa Anita Derby. Much like I Want Revenge, he can close from off the pace and can stalk. Where he fails is in the speed figures, where his top Beyer was his 94 at Santa Anita; we look for horses that can attain triple digits, or optimally, have run at least a 105.

Pioneerof The Nile looks to bring trainer Bob Baffert back to the Derby winner's circle, coming into the race off four straight wins including the CashCall Futurity as a 2-year-old and the Santa Anita Derby for his final prep in an 8 race campaign. Like Chocolate Candy, he has not hit triple digits on the Beyer scale, with his top effort being a 96 in the Santa Anita Derby. Even though his last two races were front-running efforts, he did close for the win in the CashCall and the Robert Lewis. As well, like the horses listed above, he is one of the five dual qualifiers.

Entries were taken and post positions drawn for the 2009 Kentucky Derby on Wednesday. You can check out all 20 horses entered with morning line odds and past performances here.

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