05/09/2012 2:22PM

Jerardi: Kentucky Derby Beyers are on the wane

Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another earned a 101 Beyer in winning the 2012 Kentucky Derby. The average winning figure from 1987 to 2011 was 109.

From 1987 to 2011, the average winning Kentucky Derby Beyer was 109. Until 2009, it was really a given that the winner had to get into that range. No more.

Once is an aberration. Four times is a pattern.

Mine That Bird got a 105 when he won in 2009 by 6 3/4 lengths. Which means the rest of them ran way below expectations.

Super Saver got a 104 in 2010 when Calvin Borel carved out a third perfect trip in four years.

Animal Kingdom got a 103 in 2011 when the rest of the field seemed to be going backward in the stretch.

I’ll Have Another got a 101 in his Derby win.

Do you detect a pattern?

At the rate we are going, 99 is going to become the new 109 in another year or two.

What exactly is going on here?

The 2011 2-year-olds were Beyer slow by historical standards. They never really got much faster.

Historically, the better 3-year-olds took a big Beyer jump in the winter or spring of their 3-year-old seasons. Did not happen last year. Has not happened this year.

Hansen and Union Rags, one-two in the Juvenile, are getting the same Beyers now they got six months ago.

The one horse that has really improved from 2 to 3 is I’ll Have Another. His best Beyer as a 2-year-old was an 84 in the Best Pal Stakes. This year, he has gotten a 96, 95, and 101 in an unbeaten season, but a year that would have gotten him nothing in just about every serious prep race and almost every Derby over the last quarter century.

Other than Bodemeister’s 108 in the Arkansas Derby, the prep races revealed nothing special. The horses were consistent, just not fast.

The average Preakness since 1987 has gotten a 110, the Belmont a 109.

Last year, Shackleford got a 104 in Baltimore and Ruler On Ice a 100 in New York. The year before, Lookin at Lucky got a 104 at Pimlico and Drosselmeyer a 94 at Belmont Park.

You have to go back to Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 Preakness to see an effort that fit in with the past. The great filly got a 108 that day.

Big Brown (109), Street Sense (110), and Barbaro (111) were serious Derby winners. So were Unbridled (116) and Winning Colors (113). By the numbers, any of those horses would have blown away this Derby field.

On my way to the airport Sunday morning, I asked fellow figmakers Andrew Beyer and Randy Moss what they thought was going on.

“Steroids?’’ Beyer wondered.

The last four Derby crops have been unable to use them. But it is also true for the entire breed. Yet, some older horses are still able to produce big numbers.

Moss recently went back into the archives to do some research on old Derby winners, trying to ascertain what kind of figures they may have earned. He thinks many of them were likely in the 120 range.

It is fascinating that there is now so much focus on drugs, legal, illegal, and should be illegal. Lasix is being debated again.

Does anybody really think it is worse than it was 30 or 40 years ago when drug testing was either unsophisticated or non-existent. Until the last decade or so, Kentucky was known as the Wild West.

Could drug use account for what appear to be amazing Beyers back in the day and the lack of drugs account for what we have seen over the last four years.

Is it possible the modern, light training methods just don’t lend themselves to 3-year-olds earning big numbers in the spring, that the harder methods back in the day were why so many horses ran so fast.

What ever happened to the 3-furlong blowout the day before the race? If a trainer did that now, he would be fired for malpractice.

Horses apparently can’t take the hard training so they don’t train hard.

Interesting that Bob Baffert really went after it in this Derby and Bodemeister ran great.

I am open to suggestions as to why the dramatic change in winning Derby Beyers, but something is up.

As to this Derby, I am now convinced that, unless your horse has top-end speed, you really want to be in the auxiliary gate. Since 1995, in races with 16 or more horses, the second gate has produced eight winners or exactly 50 percent.

I’ll Have Another’s trip was amazing. It was like he was in a race of his own, with no horses in front, in back, or even inside.

Others, notably Went the Day Well and Union Rags, had trips that were just about impossible to overcome.

By the way, did anybody notice that, as the horses went into the gate, Union Rags was 9-2 and Bodemeister 5-1? When they crossed the wire, Bodemeister was 4-1 and Union Rags 5-1. It was a $1 million swing in the win pool from a horse that broke terribly to a horse that cleared the field.

I was told the final betting cycle could have contained bets from some sites that had been held until then. While that may be true and there may be an innocent explanation, it was difficult not to be cynical when all that money broke in exact proportion to how the two favorites broke from the starting gate.

Recent Kentucky Derby-winning Beyers

Year Horse Beyer
2012 I'll Have Another 101
2011 Animal Kingdom 103
2010 Super Saver 104
2009 Mine That Bird 105
2008 Big Brown 109
2007 Street Sense 110
2006 Barbaro 111
2005 Giacomo 100
2004 Smarty Jones 107
2003 Funny Cide 109