The Brock Talk

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Death Of The Dual Qualifier


As the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum looms closer and folks begin to formulate opinions, calculations and taro card results into their "picks", the term dual qualifier is likely to make an appearance. It is a system designed by the late Daily Racing Form pedigree columnists Leon Rasmussen in his efforts to define the qualifications of a Kentucky Derby winner.

In the early 1980s, Rasmussen studied the dosage profiles of every winner of the Kentucky Derby going back to 1929 and discovered that every one had a dosage index of less than 4.00. While researching the Derby winners, Rasmussen also noticed that most of them had achieved significant success during their two-year-old seasons. So using the Experimental Free Handicap and the dosage index, Rasmussen designed the dual qualifier system.

The Experimental Free Handicap, published annually by The Jockey Club since 1935, is a ranking by weight of the year’s leading two-year-olds racing at a mythical distance of 1-1/16 miles on dirt. The 2009 weighting committee was composed the racing secretaries at Churchill Downs, the New York Racing Association, and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Last year the top weighted 2-year-old males were Lookin at Lucky and Vale of York, both at 126 pounds.

Rasmussen defined a dual qualifier as any horse that is weighted within ten pounds of the high-weighted horse in the Experimental Free Handicap and has a dosage profile of 4.00 or less.

The system had it's glitches in the 1990s as outlined on The Brock Talk Tuesday, but in the last ten years have only produced one dual qualifier. In 2007 winner Street Sense won the Kentucky Derby with a 2.14 DI and was top weighted at 127 lbs. in the previous year's Experimental.

Excepts for Giacomo's close 4.33 DI in 2005 and Mine That Bird's 5.40 DI last year, the dosage qualification has held up for the other eight winners.

It is the Experimental Free Handicap that began to become more literal in terms of predicting a Kentucky Derby winner over the last decade. But before you go cussing the racing secretaries, (they get plenty by definition of their job), look at the freshman race records of the Derby winners during the oughts.

Both 2000 and 2001 winners, Fusaichi Pegasus and Monarchos respectively, were maidens when they turned three. The next Derby victor, War Emblem won an Arlington Park maiden race and an allowance at Fair Grounds in three 2-year-old races but never started in a stake.

Funny Cide (2003) and Smarty Jones (2004) were both stakes winners at two, but both against state-bred company. Smarty Jones won at Philadephia Park and Funny Cide took the BF Bongard and Sleepy Hilo at Belmont.

None of the first five Derby winners of the decade were even rated by the committees essentially making them not among the top 100 or so juveniles of their respective years.

Giacomo broke that streak in 2005 being weighted at 122 pounds in the Experimental, just four pounds lower than co-top weights Declan's Moon and Wilko.

Barbaro also missed the dual qualifier mark because of the Experimental Free Handicap, only because his 114 pound assignment was 12 pounds below that of Stevie Wonderboy. In a bit of a handicap quirk, Barbaro was ranked as the 18th best juvenile of the year by the committee, which is normally within the 10 pound parameters. When dual qualifier Ferdinand won the Derby in 1986 with 116 pound credentials in the Experimental, he was tied for 36th best among the two-year-olds of 1985.

Street Sense (photo) revived the dual qualifier system with his Derby victory in 2007 with a 2.14 DI and credentials as the top weighted 2-year-old in the Experimental at 127 pounds. As the winner of the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Street Sense also broke the 22-year Juvenile/Derby double jinx and gave jockey Calvin Borel his first Derby win.

But the string of Derby winners not rated in the previous year's Expermental Free Handicap has begun again with the last runnings.

Big Brown had a 1.67 DI, but was not ranked after only starting once as a 2-year-old, in a 11-1/2 length win over maidens. Mine That Bird had only three minor stakes in Canada and a last-place finish in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile to unsuccessfully impress the committee.

So take the following list of this year's dual qualifiers with a grain of salt perhaps, but realize also, that there continue to be pro-dual qualifier arguments and there is some validity to rational behind the system.

Horse, EFH Weight, DI
Lookin At Lucky,126,3.33
Vale of York (IRE) 126, 2.08
Noble's Promise 124, 3.36
Buddy's Saint 123, 1.67
Pounced 122, 1.07
Super Saver 122, 3.00
Aikenite 119, 2.60
D' Funnybone 119, 1.77
Bridgetown 118, 3.00
Make Music for Me 118, 3.31
Awesome Act 117, 3.57
Dublin 117, 2.33
Homeboykris 117, 3.67
Interactif 117, 2.83
Discreetly Mine 116, 2.76
The Program 116, 3.00

Qualifying Fillies
She Be Wild, 123 2.69
Hot Dixie Chick,121 3.00
Beautician, 120 2.20
Negligee, 120 2.08
Tapitsfly, 119 2.33
Biofuel, 118 1.86
Mi Sueno, 118 3.00
Sassy Image, 118 2.25
Always a Princess,116 1.67
Awesome Maria, 116, 2.23
Devil May Care, 116, 2.53
Rose Catherine, 116, 4.00
Tizahit, 114, 1.75
Ailalea, 113, 3.27

3 comments:

James S. Trager said...

When dosage was introduced, there were not as many qualifiers as today. That is because it WAS/IS a good indicator for a 3YO going 1 1/4 mi. early in May -- so most owners/trainers took it seriously.

You have hit upon the weakness in the Experimental Free Handicap as a qualifier. The average number of races of a Derby winner can today be frighteningly low. Therefore, it is UNLIKELY that these lightly-raced horses will have accomplished enough on the track as a 2YO to qualify. Barbaro is a classic example.

So something new is needed, but I'm not sure what it is.

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Waquiot said...

Dosage was always garbage with only a few fans. It did sell some Racing Forms and got some articles published. As most people know it was "tweaked" whenever it did not work. Alydar was moved twice in the classification system to make Alysheba a qualifier as was Mr Prospector as he bred different types of mares after moving to Kentucky.