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April 5th, 2019

The Derby Horse

By: Jonathan Stettin


On Saturday the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Santa Anita Derby will be run. Kentucky Derby points will be had, and there will be a more focused picture of who the favorite will be on the first Saturday in May. We will still have the Arkansas Derby and Lexington to go, but we should have a good idea where most of the contenders are at.

Many have already zoned in on a horse or two they like in the Run for the Roses. Some may have even made an advance wager or two. While I do have three horses on my radar, Tacitus, Code of Honor, and Bourbon War, I have many more on my pretender list.

I have some things I like to see, and that I look for when scouting a Derby horse.

First I like a horse that has shown raw ability. I like to have seen a quality race around two turns, and I am not all that concerned with the competition. These three year olds fluctuate this time of year, so I look more at the race than the field depth.

I will almost always make note of a horse that showed some agility like zigging in and out and between horses. That’s a big positive for me, and Animal Kingdom became my top choice when he won because of that at Turfway Park on a synthetic track. I look at the individual race and horse.

Courage is also high on my list. Very high. I like a horse that is not afraid or hesitant to go through a hole or charge up the rail a la Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Horses who ran decent or better against a bias is a good indicator for me. Code of Honor and Bourbon War both made up ground against a lone speed in Maximum Security who was able to set a very slow pace. He figured to draw off after a half in 48 plus; the other two had better set ups for the big dance in my opinion.

Horses I tend to downgrade are horses coming off races like Maximum Security ran. He got a lot of hype and attention, but as aforementioned he set a slow pace. He had a maiden chasing him. The race looks better than it was and will decrease his value come Derby Day. I’ll downgrade any horse who rode a true bias or pace advantage to victory.

I don’t like hiccups leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Missed races or workouts are a negative for me. I’d have to really be impressed with one to overlook that.

Steady and gradual improvement means more to me than big jumps in figures. I look for a horse who will peak, not who has peaked.

Rules were made to be broken. I pay little attention to dosage, Beyers, or Apollo curses. If the horse I land on comes from Dubai where you can’t win from so be it. I am not phased on any given Saturday, especially if the price is right. Hey, I bet Thunder Snow in the Derby knowing he had a big race in him. Wrong race but he had it in him for sure.

This is a fun time of year in the Sport of Kings. We have a lot of homework to do. The best opinion is your own. Go with it. Listen to some sharp ones but let yours be the sharpest.