The Brock Talk

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Does Big Wood Equal Derby Win For Eskendereya?

There are many things that can happen between now and May 1 when the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands is run, but something significant will have to happen to keep Wood Memorial (gr. 1) winner Eskendereya from being honored as the post time favorite. In fact, he may be a quite heavy favorite by Kentucky Derby standards - maybe in the 8-5 range depending on what happens in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 1) at Oaklawn Park and the Bluegrass Stakes (gr. 1) at Keeneland this weekend.

Eskendereya is currently second behind Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy in the TBA standings sponsored by OCD Pellets.

But recent memories of Derby favorites coming out of the Wood Memorial winner's circle have not been positive for the most recent 20 years. Going back to 1982, eight winners of the Wood have become the post time favorite for the Derby. During that span, only Fusaichi Pegasus (photo right) in 2000 has managed to win the Derby coming out of the Wood as the favorite. Last year I Want Revenge was the morning line and early betting favorite, but scratched the morning of the race. Trainer Nick Zito brought Bellamy Road to Kentucky after he won the Wood by 17-1/2 lengths and equaled Riva Ridge's track record set in 1973. Bellamy Road finished seventh in the Derby as the 7-2 favorite.

Two years earlier, Funny Cide, after finishing second to Empire Maker in the Wood, turned the tables and won the Derby. Empire maker was second as the favorite at 5-2 odds.

The 1970s was a good time for Wood Memorial winners as Foolish Pleasure (1975), Bold Forbes (1976) and Seattle Slew (1977), all took the Wood/Kentucky Derby Double. However, Bold Forbes missed favoritism at 3-1 behind Honest Pleasure who was bet down to 2-5 before finishing second.

Before that, one has to go back more than 40 years to find a Wood Memorial winner that took the Derby as a favorite. Although Wood winners Dancer's Image (1968) and Assault (1946), both won the Derby, neither was the favorite for the Run for the Roses.

In 1943 Count Fleet won the Wood Memorial and then took the Derby as the heavy 2-5 favorite on his way to becoming the sixth Triple Crown winner. Thirteen years earlier, Gallant Fox won the Derby at even odds after taking the Wood. He would later become the second horse to win the Triple Crown.

Between those two, Twenty Grand took the 1931 Wood/Derby double at even odds in the Derby and Johnstown did the same with 3-5 Derby odds. Both were favorites.

In all, 26 winners of the Wood Memorial have made their next start in Louisville as the favorite but only seven have won. That's about a 27% win percentage and about 6 points lower than one-in-three, the industry's generally accepted level of percentage of winning favorites give or take a few points depending on the track.

There have been some historical names at short prices go down in Kentucky as the favorite coming from New York as well. Native Dancer (53), Olympia (49) and Easy Goer (89) were the only odds-on favorites of the group but both Damascus and Nashua were defeated as very popular 8-5 choices. Bold Ruler topped the win pool at 6-5 in the 1957 Derby but finished sixth. Fighting Fox (38) and Stir Up (44) were also highley regarded New Yorkers at 7-5 but they finished sixth and third respectively.

Now logic will tell you that none of these past races have little bearing on whether Eskendereya will win, be the favorite or even start in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. He has a few races to go before he can attract legitimate comparisons to Native Dancer, Damascus or Easy Goer but in fairness he appears likely to achieve additional accolades from the media and fans alike. At least I hope so. Super stars are always good for racing.

But before you tell somebody that Eskendereya can't lose in the Derby. I'm just sayin'.... it's happened before.


SamTurf said...

So very true. I like Sidney's Candy also.

Maddie4361 said...

I too thought Bellamy Road could not bet beat coming out of the Wood and he tanked. I like Odysseus this weekend in Blue Grass.