The group of 3-year-old colts contesting this year’s Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) is a puzzling one indeed and will present a tall task to those who will try to handicap them and find a winner. Dialed In and Archarcharch are the only two starters with more than one graded stakes victory this year. Dialed In won the Holy Bull (gr. 3) in February and the Florida Derby in (gr. 1) April 3 – both at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. Archarcharch won Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes (gr. 3) in February and the Arkansas Derby (gr. 1) April 16.
Derby contenders Watch Me Go paid $89.40 in winning the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. 2); Twice the Appeal paid $53.20 to win the Sunland Derby (gr. 3) and Midnight Interlude returned $29.80 to his supporters in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1). Archarcharch paid $31.00 in the Southwest and $52.40 to win the Arkansas Derby.
The search for that extra bit of information that may be the breakthrough tidbit of handicapping insight is a difficult one indeed. If you believe history repeats itself, then perhaps a look back at where other Kentucky Derby winners came from will be of some aid.
Among all of the Kentucky Derby prep races, the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. 1) at Keeneland has produced the most winners of the Run for the Roses with 23. However, since Polytrack was installed on the main track at Keeneland in 2006, only Street Sense in 2007 had run in the Blue Grass,(finishing second to Dominican), before going on to win the Derby. Of the 23 horses that came out of the Blue Grass to win the Derby, only 11 were winners of the Blue Grass as well. The last to win both races was Strike the Gold in 1991.
The Blue Grass stats speak well for three potential starters in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, May 7, including Blue Grass winner Brilliant Speed, runner-up Twinspired and Santiva, who as the 2-1 favorite finished ninth. Twinspired is hoping to follow in the footsteps of seven Blue Grass place finishers that would go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Don’t fret too much for Santiva either. Derby winners Sea Hero (1993) and Thunder Gulch (1995) were both unplaced in the Blue Grass before they hit the Churchill Downs winner's circle on the first Saturday in May.
The Florida Derby has produced the second-most Kentucky Derby winners with 21, including two of the last four and three during the oughts decade. Barabaro (photo) won the Florida-Kentucky Derby double in 2006 and Big Brown achieved the same in 2008. Nine years ago, Monarchos won both the Florida and Kentucky Derbies in 2001 but sqeezed in a second behind Congaree in the Wood Memorial between the two wins. A dozen of the 21 Kentucky Derby winners who had raced in the Florida Derby won both races including Thunder Gulch in 1995. Like Monarchos, after Florida, Thunder Gulch raced again before going to Churchill Downs – finishing fourth in the Blue Grass.
This year, Dialed In won the Florida Derby in a close finish over long shot Shackleford. Both are probable starters in the Kentucky Derby along with Soldat, who finished fifth in the Florida Derby as the 3-2 favorite.
New York’s main prep race has also produced its share of Kentucky Derby winners with 20 of them coming out of the Wood Memorial. The last two Derby winners to come out of the Aqueduct prep race were Funny Cide in 2003 and Monarchos. Like Monarchos, Funny Cide also finished second in the Wood Memorial, but that was the final prep race for the New York-bred gelding. The highly regarded Empire Make defeated Funny Cide on his way to becoming the favorite in Kentucky, but Funny Cide turned the tables in Kentucky, winning by 1-1/4 lengths ahead of Empire Maker in second.
The last six years, however, the road to the Kentucky Derby has been a rough one for winners of the Wood Memorial. Bellamy Road won the 2005 Wood by 14-1/2 lengths and was headed to favoritism in Kentucky before he was withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby due to injury. I Want Revenge (2009) and Eskendereya (2010) followed eerily similar paths after their Wood wins, also scratched due to injuries in the days before being the Kentucky Derby favorites.
Toby’s Corner, winner of the Wood Memorial this year, will not have to worry about that curse as he will not be the favorite in Kentucky. Uncle Mo, third in the Wood this year as the 1-10 favorite, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the great Secretariat who got the show spot in the 1973 Wood before going on to Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown and fame beyond.
Next on the list of prep races producing the most Kentucky Derby winners are the Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) with 15 and the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. 2) with 12. The San Felipe Stakes (gr. 2) is the only other prep race to produce double digit Kentucky Derby winners with 11.
These races from the past logically have little to do with the 2006 Kentucky Derby and prep races thereof. But in attempting to find a winner among the Kentucky Derby cast of 2011, we need all the help we can get.