Archive for May 2019

Kentucky Derby Undercard Picks

May 4, 2019

churchill-downs-og

6- Humana Distaff, 7f, 12:13

1) Spiced Perfection (7-2)- Winner of three of last four at this distance, and the other was a 2nd place finish by a nose, so she’s really found her niche at 7f and is well-aimed in this spot. Received a brilliant ride from Castellano who retains the mount here when winning the Grade 1 Madison, sitting just off the pace behind today’s foe Amy’s Challenge and pouncing late, earning career high speed figures (100 Brisnet, 96 Beyer). Should be even sharper second off the lay for Peter Miller as her figs have been ascending over her last three.

2) Marley’s Freedom (7-5)- BRIS Prime Power selection cuts back to 7f in her third start off the lay for Baffert, who wins with 27% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle. Owns the best speed at the distance for her score last summer on Travers day (103 Brisnet, 100 Beyer) and also has a 7f win over dirt labeled “good” at Santa Anita (97 Brisnet, 99 Beyer). Fired a bullet at Churchill on 4/25, the fastest of 25 workers; all systems go, a must-use on top.

3) Amy’s Challenge (4-1)- Front-running type took them as far as she could last out while seeking her first win beyond 6f, but couldn’t quite hold off the top selection. With a bullet work under her belt from 4/27, the fastest of 79 that day, she should be keen to make the lead again, but the fear is that there’s enough pace signed on to keep her honest, and she may meet a similar fate beyond her ideal distance of 6f.

4) Mia Mischief (12-1)- Held her own against this group last year, as she defeated Talk Veuve To Me to win over this track and distance on Derby weekend (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer) and ran within a neck of Amy’s Challenge at 6f. She’s run twice over muddy tracks this year, finishing 1st and 2nd, and is 5-2-2-0 lifetime at Churchill. Should be involved early third off the lay for Steve Asmussen, who wins with 22% of his starters in that form stage.

7- Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, 8f, 12:55

1) Proctor’s Ledge (5-1)- Defending winner of this race (99 Brisnet, 96 Beyer) returns to her ideal distance a bit under the radar after having experimented and failed going longer. She still owns the best speed figures at 8f in the field from the narrow runner-up finish on Belmont Day that followed that score (100 Brisnet, 99 Beyer), although she’s had three declining figures since then. Wasn’t disgraced when beaten a neck for the win by today’s foe Valedictorian in her last when cutting back to this distance from 10f after a nearly six month layoff, and will be sharper for this; daughter of Ghostzapper hasn’t been out of the exacta in her last three 8f starts.

2) Precieuse (3-1)- Chad Brown on turf can’t be ignored, especially with the girls, and he has this one in form. BRIS Prime Power selection exits a half length win over today’s foe Valedictorian at this distance after a 7 month layoff (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer). Has another shorter layoff to contend with here, but Brown wins with 27% of his runners off a 46-90 day rest and this one in particular appears to run well fresh, and has handled surfaces ranging from soft to firm.

3) Valedictorian (6-1)- There’s little separating the top three here based on recent head to head results, and she merits inclusion based on race shape considerations. In a race with no “E” designations, she’s the only one to have wired a race, which has happened in two of her last three, and also shows a wire to wire win over yielding turf from last year at 8.5f. Looms potential lone speed, dangerous at this distance which hits her right between the eyes, although the wide post is a concern.

4) Environs (8-1)- The “other Chad” looks to be potentially ignored here, and that might be a mistake. Stakes winner in France won her stateside bow at this distance in allowance company and earned a 94 Brisnet figure; fits here with a move forward in her second off the lay for a trainer that wins with 24% of his runners in that spot. Leaving Chad Brown out of races like these in multis is generally not wise.

8- Churchill Downs Stakes, 7f, 1:45

1) Whitmore (4-1)- When we see a race that sets up with this much pace, the first thing we ask ourselves is who the best closer is at the distance. It’s true that Whitmore has been racing closer to the pace of late but his best races emerge from more of a stalking trip, and consistent six year-old continues to run his race every time out; he hasn’t missed the exacta in his last seven races, and he’s run triple digit Beyers in 8 of his last 10. He ran a great race when 2nd over this track at 6f in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and owns the top Beyer in the field at the distance (104) from last year’s Forego. That’s appealing in a race full of types that may prefer a panel shorter. It’s true that he was no match for likely favorite Mitole in his last, but that one has never raced beyond 6f and will meet pace pressure the likes of which he hasn’t seen before, and he’s one that we will try to keep him off the board entirely.

2) Do Share (10-1)- His last race may fall into the category of “show me that again before I believe it”, but at this price it’s worth finding out if he can. Deep closer finds a spot here that fits his style perfectly following a career best where he saw his high Brisnet speed figure at 6f explode from 105 to 116, which by far tops the field. Enters off a long layoff and has lost head to head to some of these, and while he does have a win against weaker at 7f, his closing kick hasn’t been duplicated beyond 6f; a head scratcher for sure, but must be used if there is any chance his last was real, especially as he figures to be flying from off the pace.

3) Promises Fulfilled (4-1)- Our BC Sprint selection from last year makes his first stateside start following a 4th place finish in the world class Dubai Golden Shaheen. He’s the only pace colt we have any faith in to hang around for a piece, as he’s far more battle tested than Mitole and has indeed won at 7f. But the feeling is that he might simply be better at 6f and that he may need this race to regain his top form after the Dubai trip. An interesting speed figure paradox we stumbled upon today: both he and Whitmore covered 7f in and identical 1:21.2 on Travers Day last August in separate races. Beyer awarded the top selection a figure five points higher, while Brisnet, perhaps more logically, awarded equal figures (102).

4) Majestic Dunhill (30-1)- Bombs away underneath, playing for a complete pace meltdown. George Weaver trainee has run four straight times at this distance, and has posted Brisnet Late Pace figures above 100 in three of them; holds the best average closing number and makes sense to blow up the trifecta at a price if the pace sets up as we imagine.

9- American Turf, 8.5f, 2:37

1) Social Paranoia (10-1)- In a race that sets up as fairly paceless, Pletcher entry figures to sit a ground saving trip near the lead as the only colt in the field to have run a triple digit Brisnet E1 Pace figure. He takes a class leap having just broken his maiden in his first start of the year after five unsuccessful attempts last year, but if the figure earned in his last at this distance is to be believed (95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet) they are all running for 2nd, as no other foe has broken the 90 Beyer threshold. Morning line price seems unlikely to hold, but half of that seems sufficient.

2) Avie’s Flatter (6-1)- Winner of last three dating back to last year, all at distances at or beyond this one, including the field’s only win over yielding turf last October, where he posted a competitive 92 Brisnet (81 Beyer) speed figure holding off today’s foe Henley’s Joy as that one charged late.

3) Henley’s Joy (8-1)- Encountered traffic in both of his last two turf starts but rallied strongly in both to just miss, son of Kitten’s Joy could work out a better trip at a price here and fits on form going back to his 8f win in last year’s Pulpit Stakes (94 Brisnet). Ran poorly in only start on off-going.

4) A Thread of Blue (3-1)- Perfectly logical favorite draws the rail and should show some speed early. Winner of last three owns the field’s second best speed figures at the distance (95 Brisnet, 88 Beyer) but hasn’t raced in over two months; may need a sharpener, and lost only race over yielding turf. Include in multis but doesn’t jump off the page at this price in a wide open race.

5) Seismic Wave (8-1)- Closing type stretches out for Bill Mott third off the lay following a 9f Stakes win. We don’t really like Bill Mott third off the lay, but will include son of Tapit reluctantly in multis. Shows ascending Brisnet figures in all four career races but moves up in class here.
10- Pat Day Mile, 8f, 3:28

1) Last Judgment (5-1)- This race is a shitshow, but hopefully not on par with last year’s result, which saw slop transform the race into a catastrophic win by a colt named Funny Duck that destroyed the Pick 4 dreams of the entire planet. We digress. At 8f on the dirt, eager and ambitiously placed speed colts will ensure a wicked pace up front, so again we look for a closer with upside, and land on this lightly raced Pletcher trainee, who cuts back from 8.5f after winning in optional claiming company. Drawn wide in 14, he may be slightly overlooked, but the feeling is that he wouldn’t be entered here if he couldn’t win (read: wasn’t GOING to win). His Brisnet Late Pace Last Race figure (99) is best in the field after having run at least a 75 E1, and that is the stat that we are banking on here.

2) Instagrand (6-5)- By far the most likely winner, but far from a lock or an advisable single in our eyes. The two “Ps”- pace and price- render this race worthy of a spread, but son of Into Mischief must be used off his field high figures at this distance (100 Brisnet, 93 Beyer). Provides some security in this spot as his form towers over these, but far from a sure thing, especially at these odds. He’ll have company on the lead, including Mr. Money Bags, who doesn’t appear to be bred for this distance.

3) Durkin’s Call (15-1)- Rail draw can’t hurt, and neither can experience… Bill Mott charge has raced his last five at this distance and has gone 3-1-1, winning his last two (89 Brisnet, 87 Beyer). A class leap looms large here but he has finished races well, and he is the only colt in the field to have won twice at this distance in 2019. Versatile runner runs off a layoff here but can be competitive fresh.

4) Frolic More (20-1)- How about a closer that is also a horse for the course? Son of More Than Ready is 3-1-1 at Churchill and gets a cutback following a 90 Brisnet figure, which is competitive here. Still has just a maiden win to his credit, however, and that came at 7f, but he did earn a 94 Brisnet figure when 2ndover an off track at 8f three back, and was flattered when the colt that beat him just 1.5 lengths came back to win the Lexington.

*** We could make a case for nearly anyone here. Dream Maker, specifically, continues to puzzle, as he works bullets and then refuses to run when the gates open; he’s burned us one too many times at this point to play again despite our affinity for Monarchos, but would be no surprise to win this outright. Also, Hog Creek Hustle offers value at 30-1 in the event of a full blown pace meltdown, and Captain Von Trappe is the other colt to win at 8f this year. Dumph and Mr. Money are also appealing on the cutback, and Mr. Money Bags could be any kind despite the fact this will be a massive stretchout for him. ALL key is in play here with a likely even money favorite, which isn’t great news.***

11- Turf Classic, 9f, 4:25

1) Bricks and Mortar (5-2)- Son of Giant’s Causeway should be the star of the entire day, and would be an absolute steal for the win at these odds, as he is the most likely winner of the sequence by far in our eyes, and holds the largest BRIS Prime Power advantage (+12.9). The race doesn’t appear to be loaded with speed to set up his late move, but look at how impressively Irad Ortiz sat close to a slow pace in his last and was able to overtake the leader. The fractions of :51 and 1:15.1 he closed into are almost impossible to imagine regardless of the lack of speed, and the defection of Brisnet E designation Prime Attraction from the Alysheba back into this race ensures at least a target to run at. Simply put, his figures tower above these (106 Brisnet, 107 Beyer), and he’s won over both yielding and firm turf. A very logical single in a sequence where one is badly needed, and it merits mention that this “S” designation still holds the highest average E1.

2) Synchrony (8-1)- He was our pick in this race last year, when he ran out of ground chasing a very slow pace and finished 3rdover yielding turf. He is the only other runner to have duplicated triple digit Beyers at or beyond the distance outside of the top selection, but considering the similarities in their running style, it is very hard to imagine this six-year-old turning the tables given the fact that they both chased the same slow pace in their last.

3) Breaking The Rules (15-1)- Sneaky type won his last two races of 2018 before a three month layoff, and his return at the shortened 8f distance did not result in a win, but he was gaining ground late to finish 2nd. Son of War Front out of an AP Indy mare merits a look in this spot as a mid-pack runner in a race loaded with what appear to be deep closers; if the pace is a crawl, he can have a say here from a more tactical position.

4) Ticonderoga (8-1)- We’d be remiss to not include a Chad, so this is the one. To view this son of Tapit as a win candidate is likely a bit of a stretch, but deep closer will be flying late, and shows ascending Brisnet speed figures over his last four races dating back to last May.

***We are generally not a fan of the 8f Makers at Keeneland form, as all of the runners that exit it appeared to be losing ground at a shorter distance. Markitoff and Prime Attraction will not get away with easy fractions given that they are here together, so both will be tossed. Next Shares deserves respect but the feeling is that he is better suited to 9f races, and his recent form has been in decline. ***

Kentucky Derby 2019 Picks And Analysis

May 2, 2019

Below, our Derby picks and analysis for every colt in the field are organized by projected running style. Included are the sire and damsire for each, as well as the top Beyer and Brisnet speed figure earned beyond 8f as a three-year-old, and the Tomlinson Distance Rating, which attempts to quantify 10f distance pedigree. The defection of morning line favorite Omaha Beach, who was going to be our selection, leaves the race in unique shape from a historical perspective for two reasons:

  • There are now no colts in the race designated as an “E” by Brisnet. This designation attempts to predict a colt’s running style, and in this case indicates early speed. This is somewhat of a rarity, having occurred only 4 times in the last 18 editions of the race. Historically, this would seem to indicate a slower than usual pace, but the fact that all of the main speed is all drawn next to each other on the inside adds a bit of a wrinkle to that assessment.
  • There is now only one colt in the field to have earned a triple digit Beyer figure around two turns. This is also extremely rare, having occurred just once since the inception of these figures in 1992; that race was won by 21-1 longshot Animal Kingdom. The average top Beyer earned by the winner before the race over that time has been 103, and no colt here equals that figure. That has happened only twice in the last 27 years (2010, 2017), and implies an extreme lack of separation among the top contenders.

Improbable-Work-CD-042219-001

 PACE:

#7 MAXIMUM SECURITY (New Year’s Day/ Anasheed), 8-1

101 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

Pros: Undefeated in four career starts, son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion New Year’s Day wired the Florida Derby after being allowed to set slow fractions on the lead (:48.4/ 1:12.4), and then powered home in a stunning :35.96 for the final 3/8. That’s the fastest in the field, the first sub :36 9f prep fraction since the Blue Grass was still run on synthetic in 2011 and the fastest on dirt in over two decades. That effort earned him a 123 Brisnet Late Pace Figure, which is the fastest figure ever for a Derby prep. Somewhat amazingly, he is the only colt in the field to post a triple digit Beyer around two turns and he shows ascending Brisnet speed figures over his four starts. His pedigree is a bit of an unknown quantity but he does get bonus points for having Mr. Prospector in his immediate sire line, and his female family seems fairly laden with stamina influences, as damsire Anasheed boasts a 7.7 AWD. Won a 6f race over a muddy track, one of just two colts to win on off-going.

Cons: Having only four career starts, he has some history to buck, as only three colts in the last 100 years have won the race without having run at least five times. However, all three came in the last decade, so perhaps trends are changing. More specifically, he has extremely limited route experience, having run just once beyond 7f. For the sake of comparison, of the aforementioned three that won this race with four or fewer career starts, Animal Kingdom had run beyond that distance all four times, Big Brown had done so three times, and Justify had done so twice. For a front-running type, it’s fair to question how brilliant his speed truly is, considering he has never run a Brisnet E1 pace figure higher than 90. Will he be able to duplicate his powerful finish after facing real pressure on the lead? His sire doesn’t have much of a sample size in terms of measuring distance pedigree, but Tomlinson and AWD (6.7) numbers are on the low side.

Conclusion: In a race that figures to be somewhat devoid of early speed relative to previous Derbys, he stands to benefit from a tactical edge as the likely pacesetter drawn centrally and outside most of the other speed. While many will dismiss his powerful closing move in the Florida Derby based on how slowly that race was run early, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle- many preps are run slowly, and we still have never seen numbers like that, so it has to at least count for something. Still, the four fastest final 3/8 times and Brisnet Late Pace figures in the field did all come out of that race, so handicappers would be wise to approach that data with some uncertainty. However, he may offer inflated odds based on that as well as the fact that he ran in a 16k claiming race when he broke his maiden (more than a few horsemen are likely wishing they had forked over that dough). The feeling here is that this one could be any kind and offers upside potential that makes him a must use on top, at least defensively. A trendy angle that is beginning to emerge involves the idea that he either wins the race or misses the board entirely, with little room in between; we will not fall into this trap, as it stands to reason that he could surely lead most of the way and get nailed on the wire. This general mentality also seems to indicate value for him in the 2nd and 3rd slots in exotics relative to his win odds.

#1 WAR OF WILL (War Front/ Sadler’s Wells), 15-1

94 Beyer, 96 Brisnet, 368 Tomlinson

Pros: Held in high regard after breaking his maiden over a sloppy Churchill track in his first try on dirt, Mark Casse trainee won his first two starts of 2019 before an injury in the Louisiana Derby caused him to fade to 9th in his last. From a pedigree standpoint, checks in with a powerful Tomlinson, and owns the highest damsire AWD in the field (10.7). Fired a bullet 4f work over the track in :47.3, the best of 73 that day, and had worked equally well at Keeneland before that; Casse has already said that he will be sent straight to the lead from the rail post.

Cons: We never like to see a colt encounter obstacles in the run up to this race. The six week layoff since his last race is enough to overcome (only two colts in the last 90 years have won off a similar lay) without having to worry about an injury; now, despite the strong pattern of works, he may be at a fitness disadvantage after not getting what he needed out of that race. His speed figures never really did jump off the page even when he was healthy and winning and remain a cut below here. Closing fractions of :39.89 and :13.94 at 9f would make him a virtual toss if he didn’t have excuses, but he only posted an 83 Brisnet Late Pace figure in his prior race when healthy. A colt that finished worse than 4th in its final prep hasn’t won this race since 1957, excuse or not. Draws the dreaded #1 post, a particularly tough spot this year with all of the speed nearby to his outside, which will force jockey Tyler Gaffalione’s hand early.

Conclusion: One of the early favorites in the future pools this winter, he appears to have a lot of catching up to do to make an impact here. Supporters who choose to stick with him will be well compensated by the price, but his talent never suggested that he is capable of overcoming a setback like this to pull the upset from the post of death. Passing.

#6 VEKOMA (Candy Ride/ Speightstown), 15-1

94 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 313 Tomlinson

Pros: Scored a front-running win in the 9f Blue Grass, earning a competitive 101 Brisnet speed figure and 119 Timeform rating. Sire Candy Ride was a winner at 10f and a descendent of Mr. Prospector, a sire line that has won more than half of the last 27 editions of this race, and that side of the pedigree seems to account for the relatively strong Tomlinson Distance Rating. Holds BRIS Prime Power selection designation and if the track ends up sloppy, his 469 Wet Track Tomlinson tops the field.

Cons: Despite triple digit Brisnet E1 and E2 pace figures in his Blue Grass win, he didn’t close strongly, finishing his final 3/8 in only :39.33 and his final 1/8 in :13.45. Only one colt in the last 28 years has won this race after finishing the final 1/8 of his 9f dirt prep  more slowly than :13.07. The 84 Brisnet Late Pace figure he earned there is a huge cause for concern, as just one colt in the last 20 years has won this race with a figure below 95 in his 9f prep. This doesn’t appear to be an anomaly either, as he has never run a Brisnet Late Pace figure above 100. With only four career starts, he has seasoning questions to contend with. Out of a Speightstown mare (6.5 AWD, second lowest damsire number in the field), it’s worth wondering if he isn’t better suited to 8-9f races. The Beyer figure he earned in the Blue Grass (94) appears to disagree with the Brisnet (101) and Timeform (119) figures, and the strength of that race leaves something to be desired. He isn’t the prettiest mover, to put it mildly, and may have benefited from a speed-favoring track that day.

Conclusion: It’s hard to get past the combination of the speed-oriented bottom of the pedigree and the historically slow closing fractions. Trainer George Weaver doesn’t excel third off the lay either, winning with just 15% of his runners in that spot, and we like others better in that stage of their form cycle. Should be part of the early pace from an inside post and fade off the board.

#2 TAX (Arch/ Giant’s Causeway), 20-1

96 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 338 Tomlinson

Pros: Boasts arguably the most well-rounded pedigree in the field as the only runner showing both sire and damsire AWD above 7.7, and combines this with a solid Tomlinson. He’s run three times at 9f, a rarity in this day in age for a Derby entrant, and earned three 100+ Brisnet Speed Figures each time at that distance, which no other runner can claim. Finished 2nd last out in the Wood Memorial off a two month layoff after briefly leading in the stretch, earning a solid 102 Brisnet speed figure; should be more fully cranked in this spot for trainer Danny Gargan, who wins with 22% of his starters second off the lay. Going back to last year, the 103 Brisnet Speed figure he ran in the 9f Remsen in defeat is equal to Game Winner’s number when victorious in the BC Juvenile, and is tied for the top figure here around two turns. The 121 Timeform speed figure (adjusted for trip) he earned when 2nd in the Wood Memorial is also the highest in the field.

Cons: He enjoyed a favorable trip in the Wood and still couldn’t get the job done late, earning just a 93 Brisnet Late Pace figure. He finished slightly better than that when winning the Withers (96), but still lost ground in the stretch as he has in all three 9f tries, and this tendency to hang late in races gives pause to the idea that he will relish the added ground here, despite the strong pedigree. Additionally, the Beyer folks don’t view his races quite as kindly, as he tops out at a 96 for his Withers win. Connections can’t be super thrilled by his post position, as he’s pinned down on the rail inside of most of the speed and will have to be involved early to avoid playing bumper cars.

Conclusion: Never off the board in five career starts, consistent type has the pedigree and the bottom to get a piece of this, and should benefit from being tactically placed potentially saving ground here in a race expected to have moderate fractions up front. Worth consideration for the underneath spots in exotics as a potential bomber; it’s not often one finds the colt tied for the highest Brisnet and Timeform speed figures sent off at these odds. Value play.

#4 GRAY MAGICIAN (Graydar/ Johannesburg), 50-1

N/A Beyer, N/A Brisnet, 227 Tomlinson

Pros: Secured entry via a runner-up finish overseas in the UAE Derby after running wide most of the way in his first attempt beyond 8f and best career race to date. Forwardly placed type has tactical speed and some favorable pedigree on the top, descending from Mr. Prospector.

Cons: No colt has ever won this race after using the UAE Derby as a prep, and he didn’t even win a weaker than usual edition of that race. He took three tries to break his maiden and didn’t run competitive speed figures while contesting three straight races at 8f after doing so, topping out at 93 per Brisnet and 80 per Beyer (has no available speed figures beyond a mile). Finds a tough spot to seek his first graded stakes win and holds the lowest Tomlinson Distance Rating in the field.

Conclusion: Barring a transcendent improvement, he appears to be the poster child for limiting the points allocated to overseas races; many more talented runners are sitting on the sidelines as a result of his inclusion. He could have a say in the shape of the race, however, as connections could feel his only chance to be competitive is to be sent early from his inside post.

JUST OFF THE PACE:

#17 ROADSTER (Quality Road/ Silver Ghost), 5-1

98 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 294 Tomlinson

Pros: The most lightly raced of an absolutely loaded Baffert contingent enters off a strong win in the Santa Anita Derby, where turned the tables on two-year old-champion stablemate Game Winner from off the pace. Runs third off the lay for a trainer that wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle. Hot sire Quality Road descends from Mr. Prospector, and this is a colt with upside that may be ready to take another step forward, entering off ascending Beyers in each career start.

Cons: Despite winning his last from off the pace in a race that appeared to set up perfectly, finishing his final 3/8 in an impressive 38.13 considering the slow track at Santa Anita, the Brisnet Late Pace figure earned for that effort was only a 98. In fact, he has never run a Brisnet Late Pace figure above 100.​ While eligible to improve, he hasn’t crossed the triple digit speed figure threshold per Beyer or Brisnet, and the Timeform figure assigned to his win (113) is both well below the best here and slower than his beaten stablemate, who covered more ground while chasing a hot pace. With only four career starts, he will have seasoning questions to answer, and it bears mention that jockey Mike Smith had jumped off to ride Omaha Beach, although that is likely a greater reflection of that colt’s quality than anything else.

Conclusion: At a likely short price, we’d like to have seen something from him that stood out as above average relative to past Derby winners. As it stands, the lack of triple digit speed figures and late pace figures leave us with a somewhat middling feeling. Broadly speaking, he’s benefited from favorable trips in small fields in both of his wins this year and now draws a challenging wide post. While cautious of his upside, he’s the one Baffert we will try to beat on top and in the exacta, and use only underneath.

#5 IMPROBABLE (City Zip/ AP Indy), 5-1

 99 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 306 Tomlinson

Pros: Runner-up in both his graded stakes starts this year, he now runs third off the lay for Baffert, who as mentioned wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle. Interestingly, he is the only runner in the field to post three Brisnet Late Pace figures above 100 around two turns, including a 104 in his last at 9f where he covered the final 3/8 in an impressive :37.45 and final 1/8 in an even faster :12.38, which is the second fastest final 1/8 in the field. The heavy stamina breeding on the bottom of his pedigree out of an A.P. Indy mare (8.2 damsire AWD, second highest in the field) should help to balance out any questions on top. He won a stakes race over this track as a two-year-old, one of just three runners in the field with a win at Churchill, and has never been worse than second in five career starts. The 120 Timeform rating he earned in his last is tied for the second fastest here, as is his Beyer speed figure, and both are the fastest over a sloppy track. Eligible to move forward, as his Thoro-Graph pattern has shown a new top with each race, indicating he may be sitting on a career effort.

Cons: Son of the sprinter City Zip, whose AWD of 6.5 would be tied for the lowest ever for a Derby winner. Other than that he doesn’t have any historical red flags, but it does give pause that he was so difficult to load at the start of the Arkansas Derby, a race in which he made a move and was ridden hard, but was never getting past the winner, who would have been deservedly favored here. Goes blinkers off now after wearing them in that race; the equipment changes seem to imply some trainer tinkering that shows uncertainty, and no colt has ever won this race after such a change. He gets a new rider in Irad Ortiz, whose brother jumps off to ride Tacitus, and he’ll need to break more sharply this time from an inside post.

Conclusion: He is starting to seem like the forgotten Baffert, which is great news considering we prefer him of that bunch. In the Rebel, he had excuse as he likely needed the race after a long layoff, and was arguably best when racing wide the whole way before being caught by today’s foe Long Range Toddy. The Arkansas Derby was quite simply the strongest prep in our eyes and this notion is supported by Beyer, Timeform, Thoro-Graph and Racing Post figures, and he’s appealing in general for his lack of statistical drawbacks. While many will be turned off by his pedigree, we’ve seen nothing in his races to suggest he can’t get the distance, and are encouraged by the fact that he ran the final eighth in his last faster than the two that preceded it. Recall that Collected, a Grade 1 winner at 10f, also shares the same sire, and that his female family (out of a Johannesburg mare) is not nearly as accomplished in terms of stamina influence. Additionally, City Zip also sired Dayatthespa, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at 10f. For those concerned about the equipment changes, perhaps there’s a method to the madness, as over the last five years in graded stakes, Baffert is 5/15 winners and 12/15 in the money when removing blinkers. A colt racing third off the lay has won 8 of the last 12 editions of this race, and at likely higher odds than both his stablemates in that same stage, this one looms potentially the best overall value in the field. The pick.

#19 SPINOFF (Hard Spun/ Gone West), 30-1

 95 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 372 Tomlinson

Pros: Has posted ascending Beyer and Brisnet Speed Figures in each of his four career starts, and earned a competitive 102 Brisnet figure for his runner up finish in the Louisiana Derby after a wide trip. Pletcher trainee is eligible to improve third off the lay, as his trainer wins with 24% of his runners in that spot. Owns the highest Tomlinson Distance Figure in the field.

Cons: Enters the race off a six week layoff since the Louisiana Derby, which is a historical obstacle, as only two horses in 90 years have won this race after such a long rest. Also, has only four career starts. 2nd place finish in the Louisiana Derby was solid enough, but that was a race he probably should have won after leading in the stretch, giving cause for concern that he may be better suited to 9f races. Speed type faces the strong possibility of another wide trip from post #19.

Conclusion: With the Pletcher connection, lightly raced campaign and long layoff, he looks awfully similar to Noble Indy last year, who finished 17th. Velazquez spurns both Pletcher colts in this spot to ride a pace dependent 15-1 shot. Has upside, but we’ll pass and look towards the summer races for this one.

#18 LONG RANGE TODDY (Take Charge Indy/ AP Indy), 30-1

95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 293 Tomlinson

Pros: Upset winner of the Rebel over today’s foe Improbable posted a 104 Brisnet Late Pace figure for that effort.

Cons: Disappointed when 6th over the slop in the Arkansas Derby, backing up an ugly 8 lengths in the stretch and coming home in a dismal 40.00 for the final 3/8 and an even worse 14.13 for the final 1/8. Remember that a colt that finished worse than 4th in its final prep hasn’t won this race since 1957. From a speed figure standpoint, even his Rebel score came back on the weak side.

Conclusion: Maybe he didn’t like the mud at Oaklawn, but this pedigree screams 8-9f and the closing fractions seem to agree with that notion. He will be left off our tickets.

#21 BODEXPRESS (Bodemeister/ City Zip), 30-1

96 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

Pros: Tracked the leader in the Florida Derby to finish 2nd, coming home impressively in :36.46 for the final 3/8 and earning a 118 Brisnet Late Pace figure, the second highest in the field. His sire nearly won this race after contesting a torrid pace, and descends from Mr. Prospector.

Cons: Let’s address the giant pink elephant in the room- he’s a maiden. That’s technically his only statistical drawback, but it’s an enormous one, as no maiden has won this race since 1933. Moreover, only one colt of the last 92 colts to hit the superfecta since 1996 had even contested a maiden race two starts before trying their luck in Derby. He sat behind a slow pace in the Florida Derby when 2nd and earned the points to draw in here after the incredibly unfortunate scratch of Omaha Beach, but was never a real threat to the winner. The waters get deeper here out of the field’s widest post, and he may find the distance a bit beyond his scope, as he doesn’t have much route experience. It bears mention that his worst career race came over a sloppy track.

Conclusion: Depending on how one feels about the somewhat enigmatic nature of the Florida Derby in combination with the chance that this pace is slower than expected, he is endorsable on some levels. However, it would take quite the leap of faith to use him on any tickets and it is simply hard to justify including him in this spot, as he certainly benefited from the slow pace that day and will likely find this test a different animal altogether. The class leap simply looms to a monolithic degree. Would need to take a massive leap forward in terms of figures, as he earned just a 112 Timeform rating in his last.

STALKERS:

#16 GAME WINNER (Candy Ride/ AP Indy), 9-2

97 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 323 Tomlinson

Pros: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and two-year-old champion runs third off the lay for Baffert, a trainer that wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle, off of what have to be considered two very solid preps despite losing them. ​Undefeated in 2018, including the BC win at Churchill, he’s lost both of his 2019 races after racing wide in each attempt, being caught late by his stablemate in his last when he was arguably best after receiving a bit too eager of a ride from Rosario (Timeform and Thoro-Graph figures agree), and failing to run down Omaha Beach, losing by a whisker in his debut. From a pedigree perspective, there is no better-bred runner in the field for this distance; sire Candy Ride holds the track record at this distance at Santa Anita, and damsire A.P. Indy needs no introduction.

Cons: Final 3/8 come home time of :39.08 and resulting 89 Brisnet Late Pace figure jump off the page, and not in a good way, as only two colts have ever won the Derby after posting a final 3/8 above :39 or a Late Pace figure below 95 in their 9f prep. It would be easy to point to the 102 Late Pace figure he posted in his shorter previous race at 8.5f, which came at Oaklawn over a faster surface than the tiring Santa Anita track, except for the fact that he only received an 88 for his BC win here at that same distance. He hasn’t shown much improvement figure wise from his two-year-old campaign and actually shows declining Brisnet speed figures since his BC score. (Beyers disagree and are slightly ascending over his last three).

Conclusion: It’s hard to get past the idea that what you see is what you get with him and that he has already reached his ceiling. It’s difficult to isolate what his particular strength is- it isn’t his speed or his turn of foot, but consistent type always seems to run his race, having never finished worse than 2nd in six career starts. Perhaps duplicating his two-year-old form will simply be enough to get the job done here. After all, no runner in 2019 has been able to top the Brisnet figure he earned as a two-year-old (103), and only two have matched it. The slow come home time seems somewhat forgivable considering the condition of the track, and the fact is that he did run his final 1/8 in :12.94, faster than the two before it, despite contesting the pace. We liked Omaha Beach to win this race before the scratch, so we have to like Game Winner at least a little bit considering all the ground he lost against Omaha Beach in such a narrow defeat. Likely favorite seems to be sitting on a big one and looms a contender for the win, and a must-use in the second and third spots at the very least. It’s worth noting that the favorite has won this race in every edition since the initiation of the points system in 2013, and he figures to offer a better relative price, as the last six favorites have averaged 3.45-1 on the tote.

#13 CODE OF HONOR (Noble Mission/ Dixie Union), 15-1

95 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

Pros: Pletcher’s preferred jockey John Velazquez maintains this mount for Claude McGaughey, which seems meaningful at least relative to the two Pletcher starters. Fountain of Youth winner had a perfect setup to close into in that race but won with authority and owns the field high Equibase speed figure (111) for that effort. He never had much of a chance when 3rd in the Florida Derby based on the speed-favoring fractions that ensued in that race.

Cons: Benefited from a complete pace meltdown while winning the Fountain of Youth, and the strong closing fractions and Brisnet Late Pace figure (115) for the Florida Derby he owns arose in large part from the opposite scenario (he earned only a 91 Late Pace figure when winning the Fountain of Youth). Outside of the Equibase number, his speed figures lag beneath the fastest here. The pedigree looks more like a miler-9f profile to our eyes and the low Tomlinson Distance Rating and AWD numbers (7.2/6.9) appear to confirm that notion.

Conclusion: With a moderate pace expected, he seems like a middle of the pack type that may find this extra furlong a bit further than he wants to go to maximize the impact of his closing kick.

#3 BY MY STANDARDS (Goldencents/ Muqtarib), 20-1

97 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 252 Tomlinson

Pros: Won the Louisiana Derby impressively from off the pace, coming home in :37.79 for the final 3/8 and :12.49 for the final 1/8, earning a 102 Brisnet Late Pace figure and a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure. Has been working sharply at Churchill.

Cons: Like the other Louisiana Derby runners, he enters off a six week layoff up to the race. A bit of a late bloomer, he didn’t break his maiden until this year in his fourth career race, and given the questionable quality of the Louisiana Derby as a prep, takes a bit of a class leap here. The AWD numbers and pedigree are by far the worst in the field for 10f; Damsire AWD of 5.9 would be the lowest ever for a Derby winner by a considerable margin.

Conclusion: He has developed a bit of a wise guy feel after working so well over the track and coming on so suddenly, but as pedigree plays a big part in our handicapping process, we can’t advocate playing him here as a likely underlay with that female family and weak Tomlinson in combination with exiting a prep that hasn’t historically been productive.

#10 CUTTING HUMOR (First Samurai/ Pulpit), 30-1

95 Beyer, 99 Brisnet, 244 Tomlinson

Pros: Came flying home to win the Sunland Derby over a wickedly fast track, finishing his final 3/8 in :37.01 and his final 1/8 in :12.18, the latter of which is the fastest in the field.

Cons: Jockey John Velazquez jumps off him here to ride Code of Honor, which has to speak volumes. The Sunland Park closing times can tend to be misleading as that surface usually plays like a race course, and the middling Brisnet Late Pace figure of 101 he received for those fractions relative to the raw time appears to bear that out. The Beyer and Brisnet speed figures also came back low considering the record breaking raw time of 1:46.4. That race was run six weeks ago, so there are seasoning concerns and historical hurdles to account for as well. He took three tries to break his maiden, and head to head losses to today’s third tier foes Plus Que Parfait and Long Range Toddy don’t inspire much confidence. The weak Tomlinson Distance Rating indicates that he may be better suited to shorter distances.

Conclusion: We are inclined to toss that final 1/8 fraction altogether based on the track condition. After doing so, there isn’t a whole lot that stands out about this one and there are several reasons to knock him. Seems to have the least upside of a weaker-than-usual Pletcher contingent.

#9 PLUS QUE PARFAIT (Point of Entry/ Awesome Again), 30-1

58 Beyer, 72 Brisnet, 329 Tomlinson

Pros: Owns a head to head win over today’s foe Cutting Humor when breaking his maiden last year in his third career start. By virtue of winning the UAE Derby, he’s the only runner in the field to win beyond 9f, and his pedigree should suit him well to get this trip. Ran a hard closing 2nd over this track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Cup as a two-year-old, and that came over the slop.

Cons: A UAE Derby winner has never won this race, and this was an even weaker edition of that race than usual—perhaps the weakest ever. To put that idea into perspective, the Timeform and Racing Post figures earned for that race are the lowest of any of the final preps (111/110; Beyer and Brisnet did not calculate figures for Dubai.) Took three starts to break his maiden and has been beaten handily by today’s foes War of Will and Country House.

Conclusion: If colts like Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn couldn’t make an impact in the superfecta traveling over from Dubai, it’s hard to endorse one coming out of a far weaker edition of the UAE Derby that has head to head losses to colts we aren’t high on for the win. Someday, one these shippers may indeed crack the exotics, but until one does, they won’t be on our tickets.

CLOSERS:

#8 TACITUS (Tapit/ First Defence), 8-1

97 Beyer, 103 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

Pros: Notably, he is the only colt in the field to post a 100+ Brisnet Late Pace Figure after running a 90+ E1 Pace Figure. Owns the highest 2019 Brisnet Speed Figure in the field for his Wood Memorial score, and the Timeform rating he earned there (120) also stacks up well here, tied for the second highest in the field. He drew well and figures to work out a good trip as Jose Ortiz retains the mount.

Cons: Improving rapidly for Bill Mott but relatively inexperienced with only four career starts. ​As impressive as his closing move in the Wood looked visually, it doesn’t bear out in the numbers, as he finished the final 3/8 in just :38.37, and the final 1/8 in an even slower :13.42, which would be the second slowest closing prep dirt fraction for a winner in nearly 30 years. In terms of speed, Beyer did not look on that performance as favorably as Brisnet and Timeform did. It’s also possible that last race was the time to be on him, as Mott wins with only 13% of his runners third off the lay, and has never won the Derby.

Conclusion: Strangely, the Brisnet Late Pace figure for the Wood came back somewhat strong at 101, seeming to contradict the raw fractions, likely an indication of how tiring the Aqueduct surface was playing that day. We are drawn to the idea that he is able to run fast early and late, and cognizant of his upside, admitting that years ago he would have been the type of colt we’d have fallen head over heels for. But the dynamic has changed in the points era, and he has the feeling of a colt with a lot of steam on him in a race that doesn’t figure to be kind to off-the-pace types, and could wind up an underlay. Regardless, he should be expected to be in the mix late for a piece. A Tapit progeny has never won the Derby and his female family doesn’t scream distance, but there will be room for him underneath on exotic tickets.

#20 COUNTRY HOUSE (Lookin At Lucky/ War Chant), 30-1

91 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 360 Tomlinson

Pros: This colt is bred to run all day. He descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line and possesses a combination of robust AWD numbers (7.5/7.6) and a top three Tomlinson Distance Rating. While no match for the top two when 3rd last out in the Arkansas Derby, he came home well in that race, finishing the final 3/8 in :37.60 and the final 1/8 in :12.68, earning a 103 Brisnet Late Pace figure.

Cons: Consistently breaks poorly and loses a lot of ground early, which shouldn’t be a substantial drawback in a field this large and out of a wide post. Still, his speed figures lag well below the best here, and he hasn’t yet won a graded race. He took three tries to break his maiden and has only one career win.

Conclusion: Grinding sort has a bit more going for him than the average 30-1 shot and appeals as the “other Mott”, especially given his pedigree. He’d need a complete pace meltdown to actually win this but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him hang around to gobble up the bottom spot of the trifecta or superfecta and light up the board. It’s interesting to note the massive diversion between his published speed figures depending on who you trust- the weakness illustrated by Beyer and Brisnet is somewhat offset by a 115 from Timeform for his Arkansas Derby behind the top selection, which is equal to the number assigned to the favorite in his last. Not impossible underneath.

#14 WIN WIN WIN (Hat Trick/ Smarty Jones), 15-1

89 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 291 Tomlinson

Pros: Gets bonus points for closing into a slow pace for 2nd after a rough trip in the Blue Grass to earn a trip to the starting gate, finishing his final 1/8 in an impressive :12.55 and gaining 4.5 lengths in the stretch on the winner Vekoma after steadying hard.

Cons: Seems to always find trouble in smaller fields than this one, and speed figures have declined as distances have increased- he remains winless beyond 7f and hasn’t topped the 90 Beyer threshold beyond that distance in two attempts. Despite what appeared to be a powerful finish in the Blue Grass, he earned just a 90 Brisnet Late Pace figure for the effort, and his Beyer top around two turns is the lowest in the field outside of the Dubai and Japan shippers.

Conclusion: Another that fits the mold as a closing sprinter, and won’t be in an advantageous spot loading next to the auxiliary gate based on the combination of the expected pace and his tendency to encounter trouble in traffic. Hard pass for us.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Improbable
  2. Maximum Security
  3. Game Winner
  4. Tax
  5. Tacitus
  6. Roadster
  7. Country House
  8. Code of Honor
  9. Spinoff
  10. By My Standards
  11. War of Will
  12. Vekoma
  13. Bodexpress
  14. Plus Que Parfait
  15. Long Range Toddy
  16. Win Win Win
  17. Cutting Humor
  18. Gray Magician
  19. Master Fencer

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$0.50 Trifecta ($30):

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner/

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner, Tax, Tacitus/

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner, Tax, Tacitus, Roadster, Country House

Exactas ($30):

$4 Box: Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner

$1 Key: Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner/ Tax, Tacitus

$20 WIN, $20 PLACE: Improbable