Handicapping Tip #29 – The Quarter Pole in Horse Racing

The big red and white pole at Churchill Downs

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Art Parker

There two critical points in the running of the Kentucky Derby: the start and the quarter pole. Located at the very top of the stretch at Churchill Downs is the quarter pole, meaning it is a quarter of a mile to the finish line from that point. The race does not end there but one should always view the race, in some ways, as if it does stop at the quarter pole. Why? Because if a horse cannot gain position by the time he hits the quarter pole his chances of winning the roses are greatly diminished.

All too often we hear the talk of distance runners that will close with all the extra ground in the Derby, but that really doesn’t happen much. Those that are on or near the lead at the top of the stretch have the best opportunity to win the Derby. So when you handicap the Kentucky Derby, ask yourself the question, “Who can win the race, without emptying the tank, if the race were only one mile?”

Handicapping Tip of the Day #28 – Who Can Win the KY Derby?

2013 KY Derby contender Verrazanoby Art Parker

In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Spiral Stakes, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.

On occasion there will be exceptions to this rule but it is hard to ignore the Derby results these races have posted.

There are a couple of reasons for these races being so important to the Derby. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.

It’s unlikely the winner on the first Saturday in May will exit a race other than one these major preps.

KY Derby Watch: Super Saturday 4-9-16

Animal Kingdom - Derby Museum The Super Saturday of the Kentucky Derby prep season is upon us. With it, comes the last chance for already established contenders to shore up their cases for classic success and for those outside the velvet rope of contention to try and bust into the club that only allows for a maximum crowd of 20. There… [Read more…]

KY Derby Watch: Influence of leading sire Tapit continues to be far-reaching

Kentucky Derby Top Dozen

churchill downs ky derby day If one buys into the concept of Derby Gods, it is hard not to think this could be the year ‘The Powers That Be’ reward a certain, well-respected figure. The fact he already has a classic winner, not to mention multiple Breeders’ Cup victors, makes his legacy secure regardless if he ever gets a Kentucky Derby… [Read more…]

Visiting Louisville for Derby? A Quick Guide

 KY Derby 2015LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – When the azaleas and dogwoods burst into springtime bloom, thoughts in Louisville turn to parties, fashion and fast horses in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby. This city along the Ohio River spends weeks celebrating a two-minute horse race on the first Saturday in May. It has a growing reputation…

Sisters are ‘Riding the Dream’ of Thoroughbred Horse Racing

 Metaboss DRF03215As young girls growing up in Oakville, sisters Denise Bond and Julie Wright were so crazy about horses that their parents purchased a family pony, rather than make them take piano lessons. They watched anything to do with horses on television, but both were particularly drawn to thoroughbred racing. As teenagers, they maintained a healthy debate…

What’s in a Name? A Derby Winner. Top 10 List for 2015.

The first time I see some of these names I instantly send up a prayer and ask that this horse not win the Derby because of the ridiculous name.



Every year about this time I take a look at the list of two year olds that are receiving wagers in the Kentucky Derby future books in Vegas. I always thought it amazing that folks would wager on horses six months or so before a race. It is even more amazing that they wager on them with such limited information.

Last week I looked at a list of about 300 juveniles. Like most folks I only know or remember a few from their two old year season, and most I have never heard of. The majority, I am assuming, have never raced as of this date. It’s still fun to look at the list and see the odds and take particular note of the few with odds anywhere close to reality.

2013 Derby contender Verrazano

2013 Derby contender Verrazano

The other thing that is interesting is looking at the list and noticing the names the owners give their stock. The first time I see some of these names I instantly send up a prayer and ask that this horse not win the Derby because of the ridiculous name. Of course I think that some have great names and I praise the owners for their effort.

I took this year’s list and marked about 20 names I liked. My wife is not a handicapper but she enjoys the races and loves horses. She gets a big kick out of the names. I handed her the latest list of those in the Derby future book and told her to pick her top 20 to see where we could agree, as far as names are concerned. When it was over, we agreed on 10 names that were suitable for a great champion and Derby winner. Here are the current 2 year olds on the list the Parker’s have decided were “good ‘uns.”


Carpe Diem, Danny Boy, Eagle, Exodus, First Down, Lord Nelson, Moon River, Titan, War Envoy, War Story.


The only one with a solid track record worthy of a Derby wager, as far as I know, is Carpe Diem, which happened to be my pick to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he finished second. According to some translations his name means “to seize the day,” and I cannot think of a better way to describe the winner of the Run for the Roses after the Derby field crosses the line. But he is just one of many that have a chance.

The reason why I bring up the game Mrs. Parker and I play with names is because so many people do not know the rules associated with naming a thoroughbred. The Jockey Club makes the rules regarding names. The most important thing to know about naming a thoroughbred is to forget what you can do and understand what you cannot do.

There are many rules regarding the naming of a Thoroughbred. The most important rules for names NOT eligible for use are:

  1. Names consisting of more than 18 letters (spaces and punctuation marks count as letters);
  2. Names consisting entirely of initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc.;
  3. Names ending in “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any similar horse-related term;
  4. Names consisting entirely of numbers. Numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out;
  5. Names ending with a numerical designation such as “2nd” or “3rd,” whether or not such a designation is spelled out;
  6. Names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club;
  7. Names of persons no longer living unless approval is granted by The Jockey Club based upon a satisfactory written explanation submitted to the Registrar;
  8. Names of racetracks or graded stakes races;
  9. Names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups;
  10. Names that appear to be designed to harass, humiliate or disparage a specific individual, group of individuals or entity;
  11. Names that are currently active either in racing or breeding
  12. Names of winners in the past 25 years of grade one stakes races;
  13. Permanent names. The list of criteria to establish a permanent name is as follows:
  14. Horses in racing’s Hall of Fame;
  15. Horses that have been voted Horse of the Year;
  16. Horses that have won an Eclipse Award;
  17. Horses that have won a Sovereign Award (Canadian Champions);
  18. Annual leading sire and broodmare sire by progeny earnings;
  19. Cumulative money winners of $2 million or more;
  20. Horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf; and
  21. Horses included in the International List of Protected Names.

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Odds to Win the 2015 Kentucky Derby

Future Book Odds to win the 2015 Run for the Roses, courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas, the premier horse racing sports book in Nevada.

A LOT 200/1 225/1
A. ROD AGAIN 175/1 175/1
ACCEPTANCE 300/1 100/1
ADROSA SKY 250/1 250/1
ALDRIN 250/1 200/1
ALL RISE 275/1 275/1
APOSTROPHE 150/1 150/1
ASTOUNDING 250/1 150/1
ATTA’ BOY WOODY 175/1 175/1
AWESOME INDIAN 350/1 350/1
BAD READ SANCHEZ 200/1 200/1
BARBADOS 250/1 250/1
BATTLE RED 250/1 350/1
BAYERD 125/1 150/1
BENCH WARRANT 200/1 200/1
BIG SWAG 150/1 150/1
BLAME JIM 150/1 150/1
BLOFELD 100/1 30/1
BLUE DANCER 275/1 275/1
BOLD CONQUEST 100/1 75/1
BOLLYWOOD 275/1 275/1
BO TALON 225/1 225/1
BOW TIE BOSS 175/1 175/1
BRIDLED TRANZ 275/1 275/1
BROKEN CLOUD 325/1 325/1
BRONZE STAR 250/1 85/1
CALCULATOR 100/1 50/1


Click here for the complete list and bookmark this page 

Using Two-Year-Old Records to Find the KY Derby Winner?

Handicapper Art Parkerby Art Parker, author and handicapper

A couple of years ago the Kentucky Derby qualifying system changed from a graded earnings measurement to a new point system. The graded stakes earnings measurement that was used to determine Derby entrants for so long gave aid to those who, made some money as a two year old but failed to show much as a sophomore. The case to support the continuance of that system is Mine That Bird, who as a three old qualified for the Derby off the strength of one race he won as a two year old. On the first Saturday in May in 2009 Mine That Bird was considered to be a bum, and was so despised by bettors, that he left the gate at more than 50-1.

As my grandfather told me, “A blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while.” On occasion, something insane will happen, and it supposed to in horse racing. But there is more insanity in using two year old form to determine who should run or who should win, on the first Saturday in May.

When the leaves turn brown and the Breeders’ Cup rolls around, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile begins to initiate the usual conversation about next year’s Derby. The races leading up to the BC Juvenile help to frame that race almost like an election primary before a general election. The way the juveniles are promoted in the fall it would lead one to think that the Derby field is already set just after the BC Juvenile trophy is handed out.

Since the Breeders’ Cup began only one winner of that race went on to win the Derby and that was Street Sense in 2006 (2007 was his Derby year). Counting last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day, 6 of the last 7 BC Juvenile winners haven’t even made it to the Derby and the same can be said of 7 of the last 10.

But the failure of the BC Juvenile winner to win the Derby just partially explains the situation. Let’s look at what the big juvenile race in the fall has produced the last 5 years.

2009 BC Juvenile produced only 2 Derby runners

2010 BC Juvenile produced only one Derby runner

2011 BC Juvenile produced 8 Derby runners

2012 BC Juvenile produced no Derby runners

2013 BC Juvenile will produce only one Derby Runner – We Miss Artie, who is a 50-1 shot

Not only does the BC Juvenile fail to produce a Derby winner, it has become a virtual non-producer of Derby runners. The BC Juvenile of 2011 appears to be an aberration. It is worth noting that 5 of the 8 in the 2012 Derby that ran in the 2011 BC Juvenile performed poorly in Louisville, and the last 3 finishers in that Derby were participants in the BC Juvenile the previous year. In fact, the best finish from a BC Juvenile participant in the last 4 Derbies has been a third place finish by Dullahan in the 2012 Derby.

Even if you include the unusual year of 2011, the BC Juvenile has only produced 12 Derby runners in 5 years, that’s less than 3 runners per year on average.

It is also interesting to note that the winners of the last three Kentucky Derbies have failed to win a stakes as two year olds. The last Derby winner that captured a stakes race at the age of two was Super Saver when he won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club.

After reviewing the Top 20 in points for the 2014 Derby there are 7 runners that have won stakes as 2 year olds, but only 4 of those were graded stakes winners last year.

2012 Kentucky Derby Contenders, Borderline Horses and Throwouts

It’s 17 1/2 days to the 2012 Kentucky Derby and this year’s race shapes up to be one for the ages. Just a few weeks ago it looked like Union Rags would be the prohibitive betting favorite on May 5, but with his loss in the Florida Derby (G1) and some huge wins by other horses, that has all changed.

Every day here on AGameofSkill.com I am going to analyze one or two entrants for Kentucky Derby 138. Is the horse a contender, a borderline player, or a complete toss? I haven’t always been right about the Kentucky Derby. A few years ago the New York-bred gelding Funny Cide made me look a tad foolish. But when you’re right on Derby Day, as I was last year with Animal Kingdom, it makes the opinions of horses like Funny Cide a distant memory.

Today we will look at Alpha and Went The Day Well.  The current Wynn Future Books odds are listed next to the horse name.

PPs for Derby horse Alpha

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase

ALPHA (12/1)

This son of Bernardini certainly has the pedigree to run all days and that bodes well for his chances. After back-to-back wins over the inner track at Aqueduct, he then finished a troubled 2nd behind Gemologist in the Wood Memorial (G1). He has only run one poor race in his lifetime and that came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), contested at Churchill Downs.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this colt is fast enough, and I don’t like that he campaigned over the Aqueduct winter track. Although he has run decent 100, 100, and 101 BRIS Speed figures in his three sophomore starts, he is tad slower than the best runners on May 5. Those are typically not the numbers of a horse sitting on a Derby victory. His Late Pace Ratings are decent as well, but again, he just doesn’t show the brilliance of a Kentucky Derby winner. He is certainly a horse that could hang on for a piece and get owner Goldolphin Stables their first in-the-money performance, but I don’t like him for the win.

Status: Throwout for the Win.  Contender for the Exotics.

KY Derby contender Went The Day Well

2012 copyright Brisnet.com and Equibase


The Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) was held at Turfway Park on Saturday, March 31, and again the red hot Team Valor stable had a live contender in the field in Went The Day Well. In 2011 Team Valor won the race decisively with Animal Kingdom, and Went The Day Well was nearly as impressive as his older stablemate’s victory. The son of Proud Citizen sat a stalking trip, covered up during part of the running. He moved into contention turning for home but then quickened when asked to maintain his position inside of longshot Heavy Breathing, trained by Todd Pletcher. That duo continued to outrun their rivals into the straightway, with Went The Day Well still on his wrong lead and racing a tad greenly. John Velasquez pulled on the right rein to show him the other horse and prompt him to switch leads, and Went The Day Well responded. He switched leads, quickened again and pulled away from Heavy Breathing to win going away at the wire.

It seems like every week that Team Valor International is capturing graded or group stakes somewhere in the world, and they have another live longshot this year with this runner. Their colt earned a 103 BRIS Speed Rating, a career best, for his Spiral win. He is certainly an improving horse at the right time of the year and has already proven that he can handle dirt. He hails from a female family that passes on a lot of class and stamina, and therefore, should have little trouble with the added distance that the Derby presents.

Status: Contender

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