Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kentucky Derby Prediction 2013

By John Woods

This year Churchill Downs instituted a new system of determining which horses make the Derby field. The old method was simply determined by a horse’s earnings; this year horses earned points for racing in stakes. Andrew Beyer claims the points system is better because it eliminates the speed horses that have plagued the Derby in the past. Many times a trainer would run a horse that clearly had no business being in the field, simply because a field of 20 horses meant that anything could happen.

The best solution would be to limit the field to 14, but that will never happen. See my Belmont post last year on why a 20 horse field has cost as many as 4 Triple Crowns since 2001.

But this system has one gaping flaw. Fillies cannot earn points for the Derby in a filly graded stakes race. Their points go instead to the Kentucky Oaks, the filly equivalent of the Derby. If they want to run in the Derby they have to run against the boys, and as no trainer has a set of balls, no filly will ever be entered in such a race. This is wrong.

The top 3 yo Beyer this year belongs not to a colt, but to a filly: Dreaming of Julia, who posted a 114 Beyer in her 21 ½ length win in the Gulfstream Oaks. That’s 9 points higher than any other horse in this race. It is an absolute crime that she was ineligible under the current rules. It also doesn’t matter that she finished 4th in the Kentucky Oaks after one of the worst trips I’ve ever seen; that happens. What matters is that she was a better horse than half of the field in the male race. (Which could be said of half the field in this year’s Oaks, one of the deepest fields in the race in years.)

The favorite for much of this year has been Verrazano, undefeated winner of the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial. I’ve been on him for a few months now, and I’m not going to switch now. Verrazano has been the favorite for so long now that most of the wiseguys are going away from him. Not only the CD oddsman, who made Orb the morning-line favorite, but also the bettors themselves are giving him no respect. I would have picked him at 5-1. At 11-1, his price as I write this, I have no reason to not pick him.

For the rest of the field I turn to the words of Homer Simpson.

Now it’s time for the easiest part of any coach's job. The cuts.

I can eliminate most of the field very easily. Golden Soul, Giant Finish, Palace Malice, Falling Sky, Charming Kitten, Will Take Charge, and Frac Daddy are all longshots that are the first to go. Oxbow has decent enough Beyers, but has been regressing lately and has the second worst post in the field. Java’s War has an equally bad post and has his biggest win on polytrack. Black Onyx is scratched.

Two other horses can be eliminated not because they are bad horses, but because of the sheer number of casual bettors on the race. Revolutionary will be bet down because Calvin Borel is riding him. Calvin is the world’s most overrated jockey, but because he happens to have 3 recent wins in the Derby the idiots think he has magical powers to win. Mylute doesn’t have the breeding to go 10 furlongs, but will be bet down because his jockey is A.R. Napravik. The A.R. stands for “Anna Rose,” or “Rosie” for short. All the women bettors will go with her. And before the cries of sexism come down, in her previous Derby (2011) her mount of Pants on Fire was bet down from 20-1 to 8-1. The only thing that changed about the horse was the jockey. Figure it out.

That leaves five other horses to choose from. Normandy Invasion is this year’s wiseguy horse thanks to his closing run against Verrazano in the Wood. I don’t trust closers in 20 horse fields, and especially not in mud. Goldencents is Andrew Beyer’s pick, which reminds me of one of my rules of picking horses: “Never pick the horse that Beyer did.” Aside from that, he’s a front runner. Bodemeister tried (and failed) to wire-to-wire the field last year, and Bodemeister was a much better horse than Goldencents. Overanalyze won the Arkansas Derby, but only put up an 88 Beyer in the victory. The pundits have been debating whether or not this win was a fluky race or if he’s just not a great horse. I lean towards the latter.

Which leaves Orb and Itsmyluckyday. Orb, the morning line favorite, is mandatory in any exotic bet. Itsmyluckyday, unlike most of the horses in the field, actually has a 100+ Beyer, and like with Orb I like his running style. Most of the horses that do well in classic races have a stalking pace. Orb, Itsmyluckyday, and Verrazano all do.

Two interesting longshots remain. Lines of Battle is an Irish trained horse who won the UAE Derby. On paper he doesn’t look good at all, but he’s only had one race in the US. He hasn’t proven to me that he doesn’t suck, unlike the above horses. My father would like him for what Andrew Beyer once called “the logic of illogic.” Why is he here at all? Unless his trainer knows something we don’t. Vyjack has won multiple stakes races with 90+ Beyers, but somehow is 43-1 at present. He’s 15-1 on the morning line.

I’m tempted to go with a three horse trifecta, but if I don’t I’ll throw either of the above longshots in along with the three below.

Pick: Verrazano (win); Orb (place); Itsmyluckyday (show).