Most of the American public does not follow horse racing year-round anymore, but the spectacle and history of the Kentucky Derby manage to make racing fans out of most Americans- and many worldwide- even if just for one day a year.
Even if you do not follow the sport at large, there is an indescribable allure to Derby fashion, Kentucky bourbon, and of course the opportunity to make a few bucks at the betting window.
In order to make a profit, though, one has to bet wisely. Picking a winner- much less one with long enough odds to net a serious profit- is difficult for any race, much less a field of twenty of the world’s best horses going a distance they’ve never before tried. However, analysis of the horses involved as well as recent historical trends gives one the best shot of victory.
Any bettor’s journey, however, should begin here, where you can find the latest Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks information: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/odds
Horses for Courses
Churchill Downs’s one-mile oval is similar in shape to most racetracks in America. However, the finish line at Churchill Downs is placed so that the stretch- the distance between the second turn and the wire- is far longer than most tracks.
This can spell trouble for a jockey unfamiliar with two-turn races at Churchill Downs. Jockeys who misjudge the length of the stretch could expend their mount’s energy too soon and come up short at the wire.
Churchill Downs has a unique surface consistency as well, and some horses tolerate it while others do not. Finding a horse and jockey team who have run over the Churchill Downs strip and won or performed well is a good step toward picking a winner.
One of the biggest races for two-year-old horses – the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes– is run at Churchill Downs in the fall. Key contenders who ran well in that race last year include Smile Happy, Classic Causeway, White Abarrio, and Ben Diesel, who ran first through fourth, respectively.
It’s In The Genes
One key indicator for getting the Derby distance of a mile and a quarter is pedigree. Full pedigree analysis can take years, but simply looking at a horse’s sire (father) and damsire (maternal grandfather) can provide some clues, especially if there are Triple Crown race winners in those slots. Winners of Triple Crown races are especially likely to produce winners of subsequent Triple Crown races.
Of the major Kentucky Derby hopefuls this year, Forbidden Kingdom (American Pharoah), Messier (Empire Maker), and Slow Down Andy (Nyquist) have sires who won Triple Crown races; Classic Causeway (Thunder Gulch) and Un Ojo (A.P. Indy) have damsires who won Triple Crown races. Classic Causeway’s sire, Giant’s Causeway, was also the winner of the Two Thousand Guineas, a Triple Crown race in England.
Prep races- races that a horse runs in to prepare for the Kentucky Derby- can tell you a lot about a horse’s ability level. To even enter the Kentucky Derby, a horse must prove capable of racing at the top tier of talent. However, this does not always mean winning every single prep race.
Although a win of some kind is more or less a requirement- the last maiden (racehorse who has yet to win) to capture the Kentucky Derby was Brokers Tip in 1931- several of the most recent Kentucky Derby winners did not win their final prep race. Last year, for instance, both the official Kentucky Derby winner and the disqualified first-place Derby finisher lost their final prep races: Mandaloun was sixth in the Louisiana Derby, and Medina Spirit was second in the Santa Anita Derby.
Therefore, a horse who has run well in defeat and may be forgotten by casual bettors can prove to be of value. A horse like Barber Road (second in the Louisiana Derby) or Simplification (third in the Florida Derby) could show up at Churchill Downs at a nice price, as could some of the horses who run well in defeat in the upcoming Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Santa Anita Derbies.
Author: Lindsay Griffin