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Analyzing the Top 2007 Kentucky Derby Contenders

By

Great Hunter

Great Hunter is one of two horses tied for the top position

© Cindy Pierson Dulay
April 29, 2007

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.

Many will say this is one of the weakest Derby fields in recent history, as well as one of the most contentious, and this year's renewal of our annual analysis bears this out. Three angles which are usually very strong indicators are weakened this year, and these will be explained in the analysis.

For more information on the trends and statistics used in this analysis, check out my article on Handicapping the Derby and the book Triple Crown Handicapper 2007 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.

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

Great Hunter could be a value play based on his top ranking here. He raced as a 2-year-old, has made at least 6 career starts (he has 9), has a stakes win this year in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, and is coming off the optimal layoff having made his final prep in the Blue Grass Stakes, credited as a sharp effort despite finishing 5th since he was only beaten 1 3/4 lengths. As well, he is a dual qualifier, having met the dosage requirement and weighted within ten pounds of Experimental highweight Street Sense. Although he did not meet the Beyer par of 105 he did hit triple digits in the Lewis, and his running style (closing from off the pace) is considered optimal for the Kentucky Derby.

Street Sense is looking to buck the Breeders' Cup Juvenile jinx, a factor not used in this analysis, so he ties for top ranking here and will likely be overbet on Saturday. He scored on all factors as Great Hunter as expected, with an extra point for meeting the Beyer par of 105 with his 108 effort in the Juvenile over the same Churchill Downs track. However, that advantage is negated by the fact that he has one start at Tampa Bay Downs, his nose victory in the Tampa Bay Derby. Horses with any prep at the Oldsmar oval usually went there to "duck" tougher competition elsewhere and this bears out in the fact that no Tampa-raced horse has won the Derby in recent years.

The next 5 horses scored an equal number of points and are thus presented in alphabetical order:

Any Given Saturday is the first of several Todd Pletcher trainees listed here. He just made the experience requirement with his 6 career starts, has run triple-digit Beyers twice (but none over 105), and is a dual qualifier. His major knock is the same as Street Sense, as he raced at Tampa Bay twice, winning the Sam F. Davis and then losing by a nose to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby. As well, he races with a stalking runstyle which is not preferred in the Derby, which drops him a notch below the top two.

Circular Quay, another Pletcher trainee, suffers from a huge knock in that he is attempting to win the Kentucky Derby having made his final prep in the Louisiana Derby, an immense layoff of 8 weeks. It was a sharp effort and he ran a 102 Beyer that day, he satisfies the Dual Qualifier angle, and likes to close from off the pace. Interestingly, John Velazquez chose to stay with Circular Quay, but this may be more out of loyalty to owner Michael Tabor than choosing the more likely Derby winner in the Pletcher barn.

Nobiz Like Shobiz brings trainer Barclay Tagg back to the national stage, and this son of Albert the Great looks like a top contender on paper here, with a winning effort in the Wood in his final prep. However, this dual qualifier has not run a triple-digit Beyer, and prefers to stalk the pace, as seen in the Fountain of Youth and the Remsen, rather than rally. A fast Derby pace up front could leave him flat at the end.

Storm In May had made 13 career starts including a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby for his final prep, albeit beaten ten lengths by Curlin. Although he does qualify with a stakes win as a 3-year-old, that win came in the restricted Sunshine Millions Dash at a sprint distance, making that point suspect. As well, he has no triple-digit Beyers and is not a dual qualifier.

Tiago shocked everybody with his upset victory in the Santa Anita Derby for his first career victory, where he ran a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He did make one start as a 2-year-old, and rallies from off the pace like his stablemate and half-brother Giacomo. However, with his 4 career starts he falls short in the experience department, and he is not a dual qualifier.

On to page 2 for more horses

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