05/09/2012 3:22PM

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


Leah Demeter More than 1 year ago
Beyer figures = FAVORITISM.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
maybe just maybe,the fact that the beyer people cant pick the winner clouds their analysis of what number to atribute to the winner ,are you telling me funny cide(109) super saver(104) are better or faster than ill have another(101) or animal kingdom(103)i would bet on the latter over the former everytime ,beyer speed figures are usefull but they dont give you the whole story,pace,track bias,wind etc are all subjective and youre just guessing at the exact figure on the best of circumstances,obviously horses are not breaking old track records like they should be but that is a in my opinion due to the fact that they are babied and not pushed to the limit in training like human athletes,it was not unusual for a derby horse to run many time in a short span of time and train hard leading to the derby today most of them have had only 2 preps,at much shorter distances and have avoided competion as much as possible,if the number of graded stakes for 2 and 3 year olds were reduced the top horses would race each other more often and times would get faster.
Alan Zukof More than 1 year ago
A far cry from Secretariat's 129 in 1973.
Vinny Chase More than 1 year ago
Class kills speed meaning an allowance race could be run faster then a stake race after it but if you were to put the horses in the same race the stake horses would win. Beyers compare horses times for that day. They are a good measure of a horse's ability, but cannot be used alone to judge the horse's performance and other factors must be used in determining how well a horse ran.
WTF More than 1 year ago
Training horses hard may be bad because the horse can't tell you he's hurt LOL!. But light training will NOT make you fast. As a former college cross-country runner I know that for a fact. I see nothing wrong with a blowout short sprint work. I don't know the training aspects of the game, so i'm guessing it's similar to track and field in regards to training. I'd like to see a comparison of timeform figs around the world to see if they're falling too. keep up the good work Hoops!
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
Is it possible that the winners of other races on the Derby day undercard ran exceptionally fast this year and so the Derby number came out moderately dull by comparison?
Larry Rudolph More than 1 year ago
The Derby winners from 2009-2011 which earned the low beyer figures never amounted to anything subsequent to the Triple Crown. They were just slow horses in a bad three year old crop. Horses improve when they run. In recent years horses do not run often enough to improve.and are retired too quickly to ever reach their potential.
Michael Sanislo More than 1 year ago
Starting in 2009 horses could not have steroids in their system 60 days out. I think this would explain the declining speed more than anything.
WTF More than 1 year ago
I did not know that. Was that Because of Big Brown? LOL! makes sense because them roids work. but I don't get if the euro's don't use rioids why do they kick our butts in turf races?
hialeah More than 1 year ago
I think that Beyer figures are totally misunderstood and misused. Everyone ignores the first rule when dealing with a BSF: How was the figure earned? The subjectivity lies with the user. But everyone wants a Magic Wand that produces juicy profits. I’ve used BSFs for 20 yrs, to great effect, and quote the last line from, “Picking Winners”: “Nobody ever said this was an easy game.” As for this Derby, the track was lightning fast. Groupie Doll set a track record for 7f in 1:20:44. Shackleford, in a separate race, went 7F in 1:21:06. The numbers figure in a slowing down at 10F, but I’ll Have Another came from 3 ½ L back to win by 1 1/2 , which means he ran the last ¼ in around 25.10 secs. The Bode stopped and given the fast track – similar to west coast tracks – the race gets a low score when you figure in a variant for a very fast surface. In FigWorld raw times are largely irrelevant. How you use the figs are up to you. Like many of those that comment – they are a tool.
Leah Demeter More than 1 year ago
well i am new to handicapping and I think they're more biased than anything else... I don't find them helpful. I just watch the videos and use the raw pp data to form my own opinions, not some Beyer opinion. Maybe if he had a breakdown of the formula he used to calculate the performance figure, maybe I'll find it more credible. But so far, no.
st More than 1 year ago
Give me the declining the news,,when the Derby winners are finishing first with 2:10 plus times for 10 years, until then, i don't care
Irish More than 1 year ago
Does Anyone have Individual times for the last Quarter in the Derby? Tx.