04/11/2012 10:59AM

Looking At Derby Prep Beyer Figures


There are only two truly major Kentucky Derby preps left, they being Saturday’s Blue Grass at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. And if one of these races is won by a horse who runs fast enough to earn a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, it would mark only the third time this year such a winning Beyer was assigned to a next-to-last round, or final round Derby prep.

Here’s a list of this year’s major final, or next-to-last round Derby preps, followed by the winning Beyer:

Wood Memorial               98

Santa Anita Derby           94

Illinois Derby                   85

Louisiana Derby              90

Florida Derby                   95

Sunland Derby               100

Spiral                               92

Rebel                               92

Tampa Bay Derby            90

San Felipe                      102

Gotham                            95

Fountain of Youth             95

Risen Star                         98

There was a time not very long ago when Beyers like these in late Derby preps would cause a skeptic to think that no one was worthy of winning the big one at Churchill. But that might no longer be the case.

Take a look at the following list. It encompasses only the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners, which admittedly is a small sample size, but it still makes for interesting reading. Here are the last 10 Derby winners, their winning Derby Beyers in parentheses, and their 3-year-old Beyers prior to the Derby, with the most recent one listed first:

Animal Kingdom (103)    94 – 83

Super Saver (104)          98 – 93

Mine That Bird (105)       80 – 81

Big Brown (109)            106 – 106

Street Sense (110)         93 – 102

Barbaro (111)               103 – 95 – 97

Giacomo (100)                95 – 93 – 98

Smarty Jones (107)       109 – 112 – 95 – 97

Funny Cide (109)           110 – 99 – 87

War Emblem (114)         112 – 98 – 85 – 86

One thing that really jumps out is the winning Derby Beyer has declined five years in a row, and it's easy to wonder if it is more than a coincidence that the last five Derby winners all had only two prior starts at three. Another thing that strikes me is, Smarty Jones and War Emblem were relative iron horses with four starts at 3 prior to the Derby. Yet both also won the Preakness, and Smarty Jones very nearly swept the Triple Crown.