It's a 20-horse field and quite frankly, horseplayers can
make a compelling case for a dozen to wear the roses when the two most exciting
minutes in sports is over. We looked at a bunch of different angles and data
points to see what the Derby Champs shared since moving to the new qualifying
system in 2013.
Here is what we found.
The first thing comes to attention is that every winner from
ORB to AUTHENTIC amassed at least 100 points along the road to the Kentucky
Derby. That narrow the 12 potential contenders to a lucky seven:
ESSENTIAL QUALITY – 140 points
HOT ROD CHARLIE – 110 points
SUPER STOCK – 109 points
LIKE THE KING – 104 points
KNOWN AGENDA – 102 points
ROCK YOUR WORLD – 100 points
BOURBONIC – 100 points
It's not surprising that most of the pre-race favorites are
in seven. After all, they won all the big races along the way to Louisville.
The luck of the draw can damage a contender's chances long
before the race begins. Every Derby champion since 2000 wore a 4 or higher,
that makes it hard work for #1 KNOWN AGENDA and #3 LIKE THE KING. The last rail
horse to wear the Churchill Crown on the fist Saturday of May was FERDINAND in
1986 and REAL QUIET brought the 3 to the winners' circle in 1998. It can be
done but both will have to overcome the inside obstacle.
Running style is another quality the last seven to hold the
hardware have in common, all were in the first three at the quarter, half and
three-quarter mile markers. Six of the seven took the lead for good after 1
Here are the ones with some ones in their past performances.
LIKE A KING flashed 1s, 2s and 3s on his lines early in his
HOT ROD CHARLIE wired the field in his last race, winning
the Grade II, Louisiana Derby.
ESSENTIAL QUALITY collected two of his five Ws as the
co-pilot through the first half of the races before taking over for good.
ROCK YOUR WORLD wired the field in his first dirt race,
scoring in the Santa Anita Derby.
Key races before the Kentucky Derby are a leading indicator
too. The Santa Anita or Florida Derby have produced seven of the eight KD's
winners since the new qualifying rules went into effect. AUTHENTIC was the only
to win without winning one of the two key races, he finished second in Southern
California last year. We also include MAXIMUM SECURITY in our count as he was
first to Churchill's finish line but was disqualified.
Unfortunately, for ESSENTIAL QUALITY, every horse that won
the Blue Grass Stakes and ran in the Kentucky Derby saw its Equibase speed
figure drop in Louisville after running in Lexington.
If you put it all together, the typical Kentucky Derby
Winner since 2013 has 100 or more qualifying points, is an early speed type,
has an outside draw and raced in either the Santa Anita or Florida Derby. The
horse that checks all those boxes is ROCK YOUR WORLD.
Interestingly, his winning time in the Santa Anita Derby was
on par with last year's Kentucky Derby winner and a little faster than the
number Triple Crown winner JUSTIFY put in the Santa Anita history books.
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