05/03/2009 3:02PM

Oaks 108, Derby 105

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For the first time in the 19-year published history of Beyer Speed Figures, the Kentucky Oaks has received a better figure than the Kentucky Derby. Rachel Alexandra's 20 1/4-length victory Friday received a BSF of 108, making it the highest ever by a point over Silverbulletday's 107 a decade ago. Mine That Bird's 6 3/4-length victory Saturday received a 105, tied with Sea Hero's as the second lowest (to Giacomo's 100 in 2005) during that span.

As the chart below illustrates, it's only the third time since 1990 that the Derby has not come up at least five points better than the Oaks. The average spread is nine points and has been as much as 19 (Barbaro's 111 vs. Lemons Forever's 92 in 2006):

The Derby figure may seem low for a winner whose 6 3/4-lengths margin was the largest in 63 years, but that's what it comes up using the same variant as was applied to two earlier dirt routes on the card and the seven-furlong race that followed the Derby. The track did seem to slow down in the middle of the card, and while one can never be 100 percent confident in gauging the race-to-race speed of a messy and ever-changing track, the figure seems perfectly reasonable.

A winning fig of 105 gives the three horses who finished in a photo for second -- Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem -- BSF's of 95. The six Beyers they ran in their combined last two starts were all in the 92-to-101 range, and it's hard to argue that any of them took some big step forward yesterday -- they were losing steam and falling farther behind with each stride.

It's amusing to imagine what we'd all be talking about today if Mine That Bird hadn't been in the race or turned in the nifty performance that he did. People would be marvelling at the closest three-way Derby finish ever; comparing it to the Silver Charm-Captain Bodgit-Free House thriller of 1997; focussing on the apprarent contact between Pioneerof the Nile and Musket Man nearing the wire; promoting Pioneerof the Nile as a likely Triple Crown winner who would be the savior of racing; pronouncing this a trio of game, gutsy and above-average colts; and then marching on Castle Beyer with torches and pitchforks when the race got a 95.

Early reports are that few from the Derby field will return for the Preakness, but I suspect that will change in the next few days as handlers decide, with some justification, that the track condition gives everyone an excuse to try again.


--Derby Day betting (see the full chart at the end of the previous post) was down 20 percent year-over-year after the first five races but picked up later in the day. The final commingled-pool total (excluding two-day and futures bets) was $153.0 million for 13 races as opposed to $161.6 million for 12 races a year ago, a 5 percent decline if you ignore the additional race. Betting on the intrarace Derby pools -- straight, exacta, trifecta and superfecta -- was down 10 percent year over year, right around where the industry as a whole has been running all year, and a lot better than the 20+ percent declines in casino gambling amid the recession.

The gains in Derby betting were all in multirace pools: the pick-3 ending with the Derby was up 13 percent year over year, the pick-4 was up 9 percent, and the pick-6 (aided by a $131k carryover) was up 57 percent.

In addition to the $781k pick-six carryover into the Wednesday Churchill card, there's a $251k carryover in the Super High Five -- a bet that seems to have lost steam nationally and which was down 25 percent on the Derby this year from its introduction in 2008.

I think Churchill could give itself an immediate handle boost next year simply by allowing dime superfectas instead of banning them on Oaks and Derby Day. Since the vast majority of these bets are placed offtrack, fears that they would tie up betting lines seem unfounded.

Here's the pick-6 lineup for Churchill on Wednesday, an understandably thin and modest card after 25 straight stakes, allowance and maiden races on Oaks and Derby Day:

--P.S.: I'm getting tired of reading that the Derby exacta somehow came back "light" or "short" from people who seemingly can't do simple math. How much more than $2,074.80 do you want a $2 exacta to pay for a 50.6-1 shot over a 6.3-1 shot? In fact, the payoff was much larger than the win odds would suggest, reflecting that Mine That Bird may well have been over 100-1 in most pools, as he was with European bookmakers and on betting exchanges such as Betfair.

Matt W More than 1 year ago
Well, most everyone, including myself didn't use MTB to win, but there was some rationale to look at him. I am a big believer in the reports pages on breedingwinners.com and MTB had the 2nd highest Sire and Broodmare sire number in the 19 horse field. In many races that is enough for me to play the horse but it wasn't in the Derby.
vikingrob More than 1 year ago
Another thing that had me thinking was whether prepping for the Derby at high elevations might help, given that you have Olympic athletes training in Colorado Springs (elevation over 6,000 feet). Sunland Park's elevation is around 3,700 feet.
Bruce Friday More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed your rumination regarding post derby chat had Mine The Bird been removed from the photo. Now try to think what would have been written had the Derby been run on Poly with exactly the same result. The anti-poly crew would have been outraged. I can hear Zito: "This would never have happened on god-made dirt!". Well it did happen so get over it.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
Watching the Canonero youtube races on Illmans blog reminds me of him being questioned as much if not more than MTB (albeit in the print media, no blogs then), then shocking the world a second time with his Preakness victory in one of the best forgotten races of the century. There is no reason he can not do it again, right now there appears plenty of cheap speed lining up and the also rans have the same questions they did coming in. And if he does, the Belmont figures to be right up his alley. Long way to go of course, but if he gets through the Preakness watch out.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
How To Win $2,80 On Derby Day March 15th, 2009 (2 pm): Rachel Alexandra might be in the Derby! RUN to the Meadowlands. Bet on "Other/ALL" in the inaugural Derby Exacta Future Pool. Return home. News Flash (4 pm): Rachel's connections have declared her OUT of the Derby. Pool Two closes (9 pm). May 1st, Friday: 1) Race Up to Saratoga Springs to catch the Zenyatta race at rancid harness track. 2) Arrive. She's scratched. Leave. 3) Drive Around in the beautiful, sunny late afternoon countryside. Stop in at Sergio's. Bartender remembers you. Waitress has exactly the same Derby bet - To win, at 54-1, on I Want Revenge, in Future Pool One (January). Exchange nervous glances. Watch Rachel win Oaks. Five minutes later, see 2nd horse cross finish line. Regret, ruefully, March Derby Exacta Future Pool bet on Rachel. 4) Go Back to the track. Cash half of a $186 harness exacta playing favorite numbers. Wife wants to know why the same exacta numbers weren't played for the $1,000 triple (they too came in). 5) Stay Up all night figuring out to do rolling Pick Threes, Races One Thru Thirteen. Find out you're not very good at it. 6) Say Hello to insomnia. Get, maybe, two hours of sleep. May 2nd, Saturday (9 am): 7) Go Back to Slumdog Millionaire The Sequel movie set (harness track). 8) Walk In. Overhear someone say, "I Want Revenge is scratched." Mullins has started his 7-day suspension 24 hours early. Future Bet (possible $550 payout) is dust. 9) Get Scratches. Fight off sleep. Teller windows open at 10 am. Read off bets. Pay. Exit Casino Stage Left. 10) Luck Out. Find the very last available table in upscale golf club lounge. Three big screen plasma TVs on the wall; express gratitude that boisterous crowd is drowning out moronic NBC announcers. 11) Get Previous race results. Throw away Pick Three bets. All of them. 12) Derby: They're off. Durkin Stretch Call: "Street Sense's got another gear! " You Lose. Vamoose. 13) Hotel (10 pm): Suddenly realize that Mine That Bird in all three Future Pools was an "Other" entry. 14) Subtract Race 1-13 losses & the cost of the inaugural Future Exacta Pool bet ($254) From the $256.80 inaugural F.E.P. payout. Congratulations. You're rich. Do It again, next year.
dee r. More than 1 year ago
Well that's twice Baffert's horse has run second to Grindstone, or his get, in the big race. Smarty Jones lost his triple crown bid to Birdstone, and yet this horse has a dosage of five? It seems Bird is not a chef-de-race yet, we know he he is bred to go long, and an offtrack favors extra stamina, which says volumes about the failure of Pioneer of the Nile to launch. Note also that Sunland is an up and coming track and maybe the 800K Derby overwhelmed the usual purse/speed formula the speed boys use. Advice came out of the Sunland derby, and won the Lexington. Mine finished ahead of Advice in the Sunland race. To go back to the last time Pioneer and Mine ran together you go the BC Juvenile, and while Mine was beaten he won the contest on the odds board, where Pioneer was 32-1. The bettors thought more of the Woodbine interloper. Most handicappers glance at the speed ratings and move on. If you give Mine the same bump in the numbers that Advice had going into the Lexington, you can put him on an even footing with the Baffert horse. The bad loss in the BCJuv is Mine's best race number to that date. Were there failures? Sure, the speed numbers didn't tell the truth, the dosage numbers didn't tell the truth, and the best horse won. Handicappers who let this one go at 50-1 (me too) need to look past the numbers.
Bill_M More than 1 year ago
Can't wait until the next sloppy track Derby when the jocks run single file on the rail like a Merry Go Round. Cut Durkin a break he was surprised as everyone else was at the outcome. Almost impossible to pick up silks or saddle cloth with all the mud.
bob ginnerty More than 1 year ago
an overlooked handicapping angle was the fact that pioneer of the nile, mine that bird and west side bernie had by far the best earnings as two year olds. in addition, they were the only ones to run in the breeders juvenile. before the race much was made that the three top finishers did not run in the derby.
RH More than 1 year ago
I was in the infield near the turn for home and remember saying to my buddy, "oh my word, the 8 horse is flying, who is that?" He answered incredulously, "Mine that Bird?" I hoped he would get shut off, check, be forced wide. He did not. The first thing I said was: "Drugged." Then I recalled that that is probably less likely. The next morning I read the Louisville paper on my way out of town then YouTubed all the angles of the race. Conclusions: MTB handled the cakey, sealed, wet track better than everyone else. Borel said his horse was just skipping along while others were digging in harder to cope with the track. MTB got a perfect, ground saving ride from Borel. He didn't have to exert a bit of extra energy. He ran the shortest path, never went wide or got blocked. MTB just picked up momentum and being a smaller horse certainly helped him. No conspiracy. Just a horse who loved the track, got a perfect ride, and was coming into a big race. I do not however fault myself for missing him. It happens. I take solace in the fact that I drilled the 12th and 13th races including the final superfecta of the day ; )
Dan Baedeker More than 1 year ago
According to the Beyer numbers, if Rachel Alexandra had run in the Derby... Assuming an unhampered trip (and ANY jockey), she would have taken the lead at the top of the stretch and galloped home handridden by 3 lengths. Bird and Borel would be flying on the rail for a respectable second. POTN, MM and PC ran their expected day at the races, but staggered home like the Marx Brothers. Dunkirk and Friesan Fire joined Old Fashioned and I Want Revenge as the lick-your-wounds maybe-still-possible best of their generation. In the meantime, Rachel Alexandra challenges Zenyatta for Queen Of The Nile - and Empress Of The World. Will Dubai ever produce/purchase a KD winner? Will Todd Pletcher ever saddle a Derby Winner?