05/12/2009 12:32PM

Deceptive Margins?


Mine That Bird's 6 3/4-length Kentucky Derby victory May 2 was the largest in 63 years. But is there any correlation between the size of a Derby winner's margin and his likelihood of success in the Preakness?

Here are the last 40 Derby winners, ranked from largest to smallest margins by number of lengths, and how they fared in Baltimore:

The quick answer appears to be that there's no positive correlation at all:

--In the last 40 years, Derby winners are 16 for 37 in the Preakness (Grindstone, Spend a Buck and Gato del Sol did not run.) The Derby winners with the 20 largest margins are 7 for 18 in the Preakness.  Those with the 20 smallest margins are 9 for 19.

--Breaking it down further by quartiles, the top 10 margins are 3 for 9; the next 10 are 4 for 9; the next are 3 for 10; and the 10 smallest margins are 6 for 9.

--Horses who have won the Derby by three lengths or more since 1969 are 3 for 9 in the Preakness. Horses who have won the Derby by less than a length are 6 for 8.

It's not a huge sample, but it's enough to discourage anyone from equating a lengthy Derby win with a higher chance of success in the Preakness. The common-sense explanation for the lack of correlation is that big margins of victory may say as much about the quality and performances of the beaten horses as they do about the winner.

This can make one sound like a killjoy about runaway winners such as, say, Rachel Alexandra and her 20 1/4-length Kentucky Oaks victory. But it doesn't diminish her excellent performance to note that the six fillies behind her were as weak a supporting cast as has ever run in an Oaks, and that most of them failed to fire even their tepid best shots. One who did run her race was the runner-up, Stone Legacy. A typical Oaks runner-up runs a Beyer Speed Figure of around 90 to 95; Stone Legacy ran a 75, consistent with her five previous Beyers, all between 70 and 74.

Imagine for a moment that Justwhistledixie, who would have been the strong second choice in the race, had run instead of being scratched, and had finished second, beaten 5 or 6 lengths. Would people be quite as excited about Rachel Alexandra and her Preakness prospects?  

JerryLupu More than 1 year ago
This blog is far and away the most intelligent of all the similar ones I have looked at. I do think RA is the most likely winner, even from post 13, but the odds of approx. 3 to 2 will be way too low. I'm rooting for her though, because she MAY be the great horse we are looking for. Gimmicks still entice with strong possibility that a longshot runs in 2nd, making for a juicy exacta; i.e. Friesan Fire, Big Drama.
C More than 1 year ago
stonefish51, You're right. I think the 12 other horses should withdraw and MTB should run uncontested. Let's do the same in the Belmont so that the little gelding that could can win a triple crown. Yeah, putting up big bucks for a filly and running her against the best, instead of her outmatched peers, is so sleazy and wrong.
Pat C More than 1 year ago
I agree that Barbaro should be listed as DNF, not 9th. Everywhere else in the world, fillies take shots against the boys on a regular basis. US racing are the strange ones.
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
I respect everybody on this board and there opionions but a win on Saturday by her is huge in terms of value. What is a baby out of a preakness winner dad and mom worth? Guess what who knows but I bet somebody will be willing to pay top dollar to find out. This of course is all based on her winning Saturday. As far as how I will be playing this race I think she wins by 10 or doesn't hit the ticket and thats how I'm going to play because nobody knows what will happen if she has to get into a fight will somebody look her in the "eye" and she cave in or will she get mad and run off and win by 10 time will tell but I think she is a very special animal. I will add this to the mix the weather is beginning to get warmer who knows when she will cycle because if thats day she might not be interested in running. Filly's are very strange creature thats happened a few years ago in SA derby when that filly ran against the boys she ran 6th and her trainer said she went into heat that day. So this is one of the reasons why I will play with her on top and with her completly out. Big Drama will make her work like nothing has prior. Good luck to all Saturday. Rob
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
I often wonder how much energy Smarty Jones left in Pimlico when Stewart Elliott alowed him to win the Preakness by 9+ lengths? Never think that a horse doesn't use up a lot of gas when they win off by 20+ lengths............and just maybe in the case of both RA and MTB the very off track moved them both up.Food for thought guys.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Let me say I have the utmost respect for Rachel Alexandra.No matter how weak her competition has been, she has done what has been asked of her. I made a solid case for eight starters in the derby.They finished 2,3,4,5...........the others far back...........with legitimate excuses. I do envision the filly being pressured throughout. Horses usually get gigantic figs when they are unpressured early on.She will be under the gun on saturday. I think Larry Jones will have FF ready to roll. He was coming off a seven week layoff; a really bad trip;and a gash on his leg. He will be fresh, fit and tighter. Too many of the horses who finished in front of him have been to the well once too often. Let's hope it's a cleanly run race.
Jeff Tatus More than 1 year ago
I think we are all forgetting (and as gamblers, we really shouldn't forget) that Jess Jackson/Asmussen were on a 2 year binge with Curlin and had to get off that ride. What I think they're looking for is another adrenalin rush and RA was the quickest prescription to fill that need. Is it any different for us (gamblers) when we go on a nice tear and win some money? After a short break, JJ/SA are really just looking for some action to get their juices flowing like it flowed for 2 years with Curlin. My problem with JJ is that he will soon discover that Wiggins should have retained the training duties for RA. I wonder if JJ really thinks RA has a shot from the 13 hole and if he should have retained and listened to Wiggins regarding the welfare of the horse. That's a lot of money and risk to take on two weeks rest against boys from the 13 hole.
ray flack More than 1 year ago
I watched the Oaks in awe as RA crossed the finish line, then waited what seemed like 10 seconds before another horse appeared on my tv screen. I knew right away that lots of folks would say who did she beat? It makes no difference. She is what she is. A splendid racehorse. But can you really lay money on her at less than 2-1 odds? Not me. I'll look elsewhere for value and right now there are value bets to be had on Papa Clem, Pioneer of the Nile and Musket Man. And who knows what the Bird will do this time?
Larry Thiel More than 1 year ago
The thing about Rachel Alexandra is not just the Oaks win. All of her recent wins have looked just like that. She does just enough to win and then coasts home. I really hope someone does get close enough, that Borel has to ask for some run. Could be breath-taking.
cat thief More than 1 year ago
Mine That Bird = Giacamo POTN = Afleet Alex RA = that big horse that got in Afleet Alex's way ... watchout RA, here comes POTN!