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 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 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 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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Updated 2012 Kentucky Derby Future Book Odds

Who will win the Run for the Roses on May 5th? Here are the Kentucky Derby 2012 Future book odds courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas – as March 27, 2012

AFFORD 200/1 275/1
AFRICANIST 125/1 200/1
ALPHA 50/1 12/1
AMERICAN ACT 275/1 150/1
BIG BLUE NATION 175/1 125/1
BIG BLUE SPIRIT 225/1 200/1
BIG SCREEN 85/1 175/1
BLACKY THE BULL 300/1 350/1
BLINGO 225/1 85/1
BODEMEISTER 100/1 20/1
BOLTZAPPER 500/1 300/1


Visit our Future Book odds page for the complete list.

Updated KY Derby Future Book Odds direct from Vegas

This weekend is the Kentucky Derby 2012 Future book pool # 2, which allows players around the country to wager on who they think will win the Run for the Roses. That is no easy task over two months out from the big race. To help a little bit in that evaluation, offers the Wynn Las Vegas future book odds set by the best oddsmaker in Nevada, John Avello.

A BOY NAMED EM x 200/1 200/1
A SINGLE MAN x 225/1 400/1
A TOE BY THREE 250/1 350/1
ACTUARIAL 250/1 400/1
AFFORD x 200/1 275/1
AFRICANIST x 125/1 200/1
ALGORITHMS x 150/1 15/1
ALPHA x 50/1 12/1
ALSVID 300/1 500/1
AMERICAN ACT x 275/1 225/1
ANCIENT ROME 300/1 250/1
ANGEL’S TUNE 300/1 500/1
APPLAUDING (F) 150/1 250/1

Get the complete list of future book odds here.