Empirical Derby Data

The Kentucky Derby is 10 day away. Looking at past trends is one way to put this year’s edition into historical context. It can lead to eye-opening information, or it can be fool’s gold.

Trends are often coincidental or muddied by live runners with terrible trips. But if the data pool is big enough, anecdotal information can illuminate a pattern worth knowing. To wit:

NEW YORK PREPS: The NY pathway to the Kentucky Derby has been significant. There have been quite a few Derby Winners exiting the Wood Memorial. In fact, from 1980 to 2003, six Kentucky Derby Winners last race was the Wood. But the road has been a bit icy since FUNNY CIDE outran EMPIRE MAKER in 2003. In the 18 years since, 52 Derby starters have raced in at least one of the major 3-year-old New York preps – Wood, Gotham, Withers. Only REVOLUTIONARY was able to hit the board. He was 3rd in the 2013 edition.

ASMUSSEN: The likely favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby will be EPICENTER, trained by Steve Asmussen. You’ll hear again and again how Asmussen is 0-for-23 in the race. But he has saddled only four runners at 10-1 or less in the Kentucky Derby. He ran in the money with three of those lower-priced horses – GUN RUNNER, 3rd in 2016; NEHRO, 2nd in 2011; CURLIN, 3rd in 2007. He also hit the board with 33-1 long shot LOOKIN AT LEE when he was 2nd to ALWAYS DREAMING in 2017.

PLETCHER: Todd Pletcher couldn’t Win the Kentucky Derby… Until he could. He had a miserable record in the Derby for many years but now has Won the race twice in the last 12 years. Like Asmussen, he has done pretty well with his live runners. Of the 13 Derby starters he has had under 10-1, he has Won twice and been in the money six times. Pletcher often has multiple starters. Since a few of those lower-priced runners faced each other, he actually has Won two of 11 years he has had a Derby starter go off at under 10-1. That is an excellent 18 percent Win ratio.

NEED TO BE CLOSE: Every Derby first-place finisher since 2015 either has been on the lead or was sitting 2nd within a length of the leader in the early going. This is a departure from the prior years. From 1986 to 2014, there were exactly zero years in which two runners on the pace both finished in the Superfecta. Since 2015, it has happened five times in seven years. Moreover, the first across the wire led at the top of the stretch five straight years and was no worse than 3rd since ORB closed from fifth in 2013.

NEED A 106 BEYER: Beyer Speed Figures started appearing in the Daily Racing Form in 1992. Since then, only CALIFORNIA CHROME has Won the Kentucky Derby without a Beyer of at least 100; his was 97. The average Beyer earned by the Winner in the Derby has been just over 106. Additionally, only five Derby Winners regressed from their previous Beyer earned and still Won.

FIRST TIME IN AMERICA: Horses who last raced overseas are 0-for-25 since 1992 in the Kentucky Derby. The best finish was 5th by MASTER OF HOUNDS in 2011. In recent years, the UAE Derby has been the most notable prep. Those horses are 0-for-16 with an average finishing position of 11th.

TURF OR SYNTHETIC: There have been 72 horses in the Derby who last raced on either turf or synthetic. They produced two Winners – ANIMAL KINGDOM in 2011 and STREET SENSE in 2007. Overall only 5 of 72 (7%) hit the board during that span.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE: Since 1994, 80 horses have lined up in the Kentucky Derby who had run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a 2-year-old. They produced only three Winners – NYQUIST in 2016, MINE THAT BIRD in 2009 and STREET SENSE in 2007. Thirty-three of the 80 (38%) who had been in the Juvenile went off under 10-1 in the Derby.

The Daily Racing Blog will continue with insightful 2022 Derby information right up through next week, when we will preview the entire field. So be sure to stop back.

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