It’s Post Time by Jon White: Omaha Beach Still Atop Kentucky Derby Rankings

It was 10 weeks ago that Omaha Beach debuted on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. All he had done at that point was win a maiden race. But his Feb. 2 maiden performance impressed me to such an extent that, even though he had not even run in a stakes race yet, I decided to go ahead and put him on my Top 10 at No. 9.

This was what I wrote back in early February:

“New on my Top 10 this week is Omaha Beach, who found a cure for second-itis in a big way at Santa Anita last Saturday. The War Front colt, trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, registered a resounding nine-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race contested on a sloppy track. Omaha Beach’s final time was an excellent 1:21.02 after he carved out fractions of :21.75, :43.74 and 1:08.24. He posted a 90 Beyer to equal the figure earned by Mucho Gusto later in the card when he won the Lewis.”

Omaha Beach made his stakes debut in a division of the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 16. He had to face none other than Game Winner, the undefeated Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2018. Game Winner was coming off a victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. Omaha Beach was coming off his maiden win.

Not surprisingly, Game Winner was sent off as the strong favorite in the Rebel at 4-5. But Omaha Beach did get respect from the bettors at 4-1.

Omaha Beach won a thriller, defeating Game Winner by a nose.

After that race, I deliberated long and hard whether to put Game Winner or Omaha Beach at No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. I wrote:

“Despite Game Winner’s loss last Saturday, I seriously considered keeping him in the No. 1 spot this week. I questioned whether I should lower him from No. 1 after he lost by such a minuscule margin following a layoff.

“But while it is true that Omaha Beach, unlike Game Winner, had raced this year prior to the Rebel, it’s to Omaha Beach’s credit that he won last Saturday despite taking a quantum leap in class. Omaha Beach went into the Rebel off a maiden victory.

“At this point, Omaha Beach is my choice to win the Kentucky Derby. Hence, I have moved him to the top of my rankings this week. But let’s just say Omaha Beach is occupying the No. 1 position by only a nose over Game Winner.”

Game Winner would go on to finish second in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on April 6. Roadster, also trained by Baffert, won the Santa Anita Derby by a half-length.

In the April 13 Arkansas Derby, Omaha Beach again was asked to run against a talented colt from the powerful Baffert barn. This time it was Grade I winner Improbable, who had lost the other division of the Rebel by a neck to Long Range Toddy.

Omaha Beach, ridden by Mike Smith, was sent away as the 8-5 Arkansas Derby favorite. Improbable, with Jose Ortiz in the saddle, was a close second choice at 9-5. Improbable was racing with blinkers for the first time. Long Range Toddy and Galilean each started at 6-1. Country House, off at 8-1, was the only other runner in the field of 11 to start at odds lower than 19-1.

The track for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby this year was sloppy. Omaha Beach, as mentioned earlier, relished the slop at Santa Anita in his maiden laugher. As for Improbable, this was the first time he had ever raced on a sloppy track.

Before the Arkansas Derby began, Improbable thrashed around in the gate and was backed out. He momentarily balked at going back into the gate before being reloaded. Despite his tantrum, Improbable did break alertly. Omaha Beach also was away alertly despite having to stand in the gate during all the time that Improbable delayed the start.

One Flew South, a 61-1 longshot, showed the way through an opening quarter in :23.08. Omaha Beach made an early move, advancing quickly from fifth to take over soon after entering the backstretch. Omaha Beach ran the initial half in :47.50, then led by one length when completing the first six furlongs in 1:12.46.

Improbable, sixth through the early stages, made a move of his own nearing the far turn. Omaha Beach remained a length or so in front of Improbable as they made their way around the far turn. Improbable then seriously tested Omaha Beach coming to the top of the lane. It appeared that Improbable briefly got to within about a neck of the Fox Hills Farm colorbearer at that point. But Omaha Beach shrugged off the challenge and increased his advantage back to one length at the eighth pole while running one mile in 1:37.54.

All the way down the stretch, Improbable never, ever threw in the towel. He kept after Omaha Beach with the tenacity of a cop in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal. But Omaha Beach staved off Improbable throughout the entire final furlong.

As it turned out, the one-length margin between Omaha Beach and Improbable at the end of the race was identical to the margin between them earlier in the race at both the three-eighths pole and at the eighth pole. Country House finished third, 5 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Improbable.

This was yet another masterpiece in terms of Smith’s ride on Omaha Beach. Smith even managed to float Improbable out just a bit coming into in the lane during this $1 million event, a perfectly legal tactic employed by a rider of considerable experience and guile.

They don’t call him “Big Money” Mike Smith for nothing.

Actually, Improbable also benefited from a terrific ride by Oritiz. They simply were second best on this particular day.

While Omaha Beach did get a flawless ride by Smith, the colt himself also merits much praise for his performance. Exhibiting the admirable trait that jockeys term as being pushbutton, Omaha Beach rushed up early to take the lead soon after entering the backstretch, but he was not rank and trying to run off. And once Omaha Beach did reach the front, he settled into a nice, rhythmic stride for Smith. While this victory after making such a rapid move on the clubhouse turn was by no means as impressive as Secretariat’s Preakness, Omaha Beach also is to be commended for being able to run so strongly all the way down the stretch after expending as much energy as he did early in the race.

Omaha Beach’s final time was 1:49.91. This clocking was faster Curlin’s when he won the 2007 Arkansas Derby by 10 1/2 lengths in 1:50.00 on dry land. Curlin would go on to finish third behind Street Sense and Hard Spun in Kentucky Derby. Curlin did win the Preakness Stakes before losing the Belmont Stakes by a head to the filly Rags to Riches. Voted Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008, Curlin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Rags to Riches is a Hall of Fame finalist this year.

After losing his first four career starts, Omaha Beach now has reeled off three victories in a row. In his two stakes wins, he has defeated a pair of Baffert-trained toughies in Game Winner and Improbable.

Moreover, Omaha Beach’s upward trajectory in the Beyer Speed Figure department has been truly remarkable. He has earned a bigger Beyer with each successive start. Beginning with his first race, Omaha Beach’s Beyers have been 62, 78, 80, 83, 90, 96 and 101. A pattern like this is rarely seen.

Omaha Beach and Maximum Security are the only two horses to have ever recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher among all those who currently have secured a berth in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Maximum Security has the distinction of being the lone prospective Kentucky Derby starter to have two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures to his credit. He produced a 102 Beyer when he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 18 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20. When Maximum Security took the Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby by 3 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream on March 30, he recorded a 101 Beyer.

MY KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10

Following Omaha Beach’s Arkansas Derby victory, he retains the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. Here are my current rankings:

  1. Omaha Beach
  2. Maximum Security
  3. Game Winner
  4. War of Will
  5. Roadster
  6. Improbable
  7. Tacitus
  8. Vekoma
  9. Code of Honor
  10. Long Range Toddy

For yours truly and anyone else now on the Omaha Beach bandwagon, it was big news when Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported Monday that Smith has chosen to ride Omaha Beach in the Kentucky Derby. Seven days before Smith’s Arkansas Derby win aboard Omaha Beach, the Hall of Fame rider collaborated with Roadster to capture the Santa Anita Derby.

Many expected that Smith would opt to ride Roadster for Baffert in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Smith and Baffert teamed up last year to sweep the Triple Crown with Justify.

In a BloodHorse story written by Christine Oser, Smith said part of his decision to ride Omaha Beach in the Kentucky Derby stemmed from the fact that Omaha Beach has defeated both Game Winner and Improbable, two leading contenders trained by Baffert.

Smith noted that Omaha Beach “hasn’t beaten Roadster yet,” but he has defeated two of Baffert’s big three, “and two out of the three is good.” Smith went on to say that Omaha Beach “just seems to be the horse that’s coming around at the right time right now.” Smith said he also picked Omaha Beach to ride on the first Saturday in May because he “probably has a little bit more speed” and he “has more races under his belt” than Roadster.”

Choosing between Omaha Beach and Roadster was an “extremely difficult” decision, Smith acknowledged.

“They’re both so talented,” Smith said. “It wouldn’t be surprising if either one of them won.”

Meanwhile, I have moved War of Will up a notch on my Top 10 this week to No. 4 in light of his marvelous workout last Saturday at Keeneland. He was timed five furlongs in a bullet :59.00 from the gate, fastest of 44 works at the distance. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was in the saddle. David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, supervised the drill.

After an opening quarter in :22.80, War of Will zipped three furlongs in :34.60 and a half in :46.20. He galloped out with verve, six furlongs in 1:11.60.

“He broke sharp and had running on his mind,” Gaffalione was quoted as saying in the Keeneland barn notes. “He did everything very easy. Mark said he wanted a good five-eighths, so I just let him do his thing. He cruised along, pulled up great and came back happy.”

Carroll expressed his delight with War of Will’s workout.

“He broke very sharp, worked beautifully and the gallop-out was tremendous,” Carroll said. “He cooled out really well. We are very happy.”

War of Will, who like Omaha Beach is by War Front, won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by four lengths and Grade II Risen Star Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in his first two 2019 starts. But he then ran ninth as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 23.

In the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby, War of Will left the gate with alacrity. But a few strides after the start, he lost his footing behind. According to Casse, War of Will emerged from the race with a strained patellar ligament.

However, all indications are that War of Will is totally back on his game as he gears up for the Kentucky Derby. Casse has called it “a small miracle.”

Thanks to War of Will’s Louisiana Derby debacle, his price in the Kentucky Derby will be greatly inflated from what it should be, in my opinion. He was 23-1 in the April 7 Kentucky Derby Future Wager. If War of Will had won the Louisiana Derby, it is certain his price would have been much lower, probably no better than 10-1.

Consider what a couple of War of Will’s victims in the Risen Star have done since that Feb. 16 race.

Owendale finished eighth in the Risen Star, 10 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Owendale who won last Saturday’s Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Plus Que Parfait finished 13th in the Risen Star, 20 1/4 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Plus Que Parfait who won the Group II, $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai on March 30.

Exiting my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week is Anothertwistafate after he finished second last Saturday to Owendale in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington. It looks iffy at this point as to whether Anothertwistafate will have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby.

In the Lexington, Anothertwistafate earned eight qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby, raising his total to 38. Ever since the points system was introduced in 2013, 38 would have been more than enough to get into the Run for the Roses. But that’s not the case this year. Anothertwistafate’s total of 38 points currently puts him at No. 23 on the standings, meaning he needs three defections to get into the Kentucky Derby. Prior to this year, Mo Tom’s 32 points in the 2016 Kentucky Derby were the most required to snag one of the coveted 20 starting spots.

Owendale, trained by Brad Cox, rallied from ninth to win the Lexington by 1 3/4 lengths. He was credited with a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure. For Anothertwistafate’s runner-up performance, he recorded a career-best 95 Beyer.

The eight qualifying points Owendale earned in the Lexington boosted his total to only 20. That puts him way down at No. 29 on the points standings, meaning there is virtually no way he can get into the Kentucky Derby. According to Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, Cox plans to run Owendale in the Grade I Preakness at Pimlico on May 18. If Anothertwistafate does not run in the Kentucky Derby, he likewise will go in the Preakness. Anothertwistafate earned an automatic berth in the Preakness by virtue of his victory in Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 16.

Anothertwistafate’s defection this week opened the door for Code of Honor to move back onto my Top 10. After winning Gulfstream’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2, Code of Honor finished third behind Maximum Security and Bodexpress in the Florida Derby. He worked four furlongs in :49.00 at Keeneland last Friday, with his final quarter reported to be a strong :23.20.

Long Range Toddy ranked No. 7 last week. He moves down to No. 10 this week after finishing sixth, nearly 15 lengths behind Omaha Beach, in the Arkansas Derby.

I have kept Long Range Toddy on my Top 10 this week despite his disappointing effort last Saturday because there is a possibility that he disliked the sloppy track. He had never raced on a wet track before. Long Range Toddy did show what he’s capable of doing on a fast track when he won a division of the Rebel by a neck over Improbable. It’s also possible that Long Range Toddy regressed in the Arkansas Derby after posting a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure when he won the Rebel.

CURRENT STRIKES SITUATION

I formulated my Derby Strikes System in 1999. The system consists of nine key factors that attempt to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column.

According to the Derby Strikes System, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike.

Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017).

Though it’s not out of the question for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby, it is a tall order. Of the last 46 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird and Justify are the only two horses to do so with more than two strikes.

Because horses just do not race as much these days, I now view Category 6 as by far the least important of the nine categories. Category 6 no longer is as important as it was during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only Kentucky Derby winner to get a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six career starts prior to the Run for the Roses.

But from 2001 through 2018, seven Kentucky Derby winners -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6.

Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category.

In terms of the Derby Strikes System, it’s not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined. When Churchill Downs issued the updated points standings on April 13 after the Lexington Stakes and Arkansas Derby, 30 horses were listed as not having been ruled out of the May 4 classic.

Omaha Beach and Game Winner are the only two of the 30 horses who have zero strikes. Ten of the 30 have only one strike. According to the Derby Strikes System, there is a very good chance that the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be one of the 12 horses with zero strikes or one strike.

The number of strikes for all 30 horses is listed below:

ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE

Anothertwistafate (Category 2)

By My Standards (Category 6)

Code of Honor (Category 6)

Cutting Humor (Category 6)

Game Winner (0 strikes)

Maximum Security (Category 6)

Omaha Beach (0 strikes)

Owendale (Category 5)

Plus Que Parfait (Category 7)

Tacitus (Category 6)

Vekoma (Category 6)

War of Will (Category 5)

TWO STRIKES

Bodexpress (Categories 2 and 6)

Country House (Categories 2 and 3)

Gray Magician (Categories 2 and 3)

Haikal (Categories 3 and 6)

Instagrand (Categories 4 and 6)

Mucho Gusto (Categories 4 and 6)

Roadster (Categories 1 and 6)

Signalman (Categories 3 and 4)

Sueno (Categories 2 and 4)

Tax (Categories 6 and 9)

Win Win Win (Categories 2 and 3)

THREE OR MORE STRIKES

Bourbon War (Categories 2, 3, 5 and 6)

Improbable (Categories 4, 6 and 7)

Knicks Go (Categories 3, 4 and 5)

Long Range Toddy (Categories 3, 4 and 5)

Master Fencer (Categories 1, 2 and 3)

Outshine (Categories 2, 5 and 6)

Spinoff (Categories 2, 4 and 6)

WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018

Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973:

1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)

1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4

1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)

1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)

1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)

1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)

1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)

1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)

1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1

1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3

1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1

1984 Swale (0 strikes)

1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)

1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4

1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2

1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)

1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)

1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3

1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)

1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)

1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5

1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)

1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)

1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)

1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4

1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)

1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5

2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6

2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)

2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)

2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 9

2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)

2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5

2006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 6

2007 Street Sense (0 strikes)

2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 6

2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9

2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4

2011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 6

2012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 6

2013 Orb (0 strikes)

2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)

2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 6

2016 Nyquist (0 strikes)

2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 6

2018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8

WINX ENDS CAREER WITH YET ANOTHER WIN

Think of the long winning streaks by two daughters of Street Cry.

Zenyatta won 19 straight races in the United States until she lost the final start of her career by a head to Blame in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in 2010.

At Royal Randwick last Saturday, Australia superstar Winx made it 33 consecutive victories when she got the job done in the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Her glorious racing career concluded with 37 wins from 43 lifetime starts. Australia’s great Phar Lap won 37 of 57 career starts.

Now 7-year-old Winx will move on to the next chapter of her life, that of a broodmare.

Among Winx’s many accomplishments under silks, she made history last year by becoming the first four-time winner of Australia’s prestigious Group I Cox Plate.

Winx won a total of 25 Group/Grade I races, a world record. (I made a mistake last week when I wrote that, going into last Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth, she had 23 Group/Grade I wins, but the correct number was 24. Sorry about that, Winx.) The Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly racked up 22 Group/Grade I wins in Europe from 2008-15. America’s legendary gelding John Henry, with 16 Group/Grade I victories, ranks third on the all-time list.

The job trainer Chris Waller did to keep piling up win after win with Winx for such an extended period of time was nothing less than fantastic. Winx began her 33-race victory streak on May 16, 2015. American Pharoah won the Preakness Stakes that day by seven lengths while on his way to the first American Triple Crown sweep in 37 years. On the same day that Winx ran her final race, Monarch of Egypt became American Pharoah’s first foal to race, winning a race in Ireland.

The record for the longest winning streak in the history of Thoroughbred racing is held by Camarero, who won 56 straight in Puerto Rico from April 1953 to August 1955. Camarero, who became Puerto Rico’s first Triple Crown winner in 1954, was victorious in 73 of 76 career starts.

Kincsem, foaled in 1874, owns the record of 54 consecutive victories by a female Thoroughbred. Kincsem raced in Austria, England, France, Germany, Poland and Romania in addition to her native Hungary. She won 10 races as a 2-year-old, 17 as a 3-year-old, 15 as a 4-year-old and 12 as a 5-year-old. Kincscem won at distances ranging from a half-mile to 2 5/8 miles.

THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS

Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

  1. 341 Bricks and Mortar (11)
  2. 323 Gift Box (6)
  3. 261 Midnight Bisou (2)
  4. 244 McKinzie (1)
  5. 239 Monomoy Girl (7)
  6. 168 City of Light (11)
  7. 168 Roy H
  8. 110 Thunder Snow (5)
  9. 111 World of Trouble
  10. 10. X Y Jet (1)

Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

  1. 448 Omaha Beach (32)
  2. 370 Roadster (5)
  3. 344 Tacitus (7)
  4. 322 Game Winner (1)
  5. 271 Improbable
  6. 183 Vekoma
  7. 177 Maximum Security
  8. 87 Code of Honor
  9. 67 War of Will
  10. 57 By My Standards (1)

DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES

These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System:

  1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.)
  2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)
  3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
  4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
  5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)
  6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.)
  7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)
  8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.)
  9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)

It’s Post Time by Jon White: Omaha Beach Still Atop Kentucky Derby Rankings

It’s Post Time by Jon White |