05/03/2016 3:40PM

Kentucky Derby 2016: Inside the numbers

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Exaggerator earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Let’s look at a few contenders for this Derby and see how they stack up in terms of similar Derby runners since 1991. Caveat emptor: These stats are mostly intended to be fun, playful, silly, or just interesting discussion starters, so use them at your own risk when upgrading or downgrading who you’re likely to bet Saturday.

Beyer Speed Figures

Beyer Speed Figures have been used in Daily Racing Form past performances since the beginning of 1992, so there are 24 Kentucky Derbies that have been run using those figures and seven of those Derbies were won by the horse with the top last-out figure (or tied for the top figure). That stat bodes well for Exaggerator, who earned a 103 in winning the Santa Anita Derby in his last start.

It’s also worth noting that all but two of those Derbies were won by a horse who had run as fast as a 95 Beyer at some point in their career prior to the Derby. Those two were Animal Kingdom in 2011, following a best Beyer of 94 in the Spiral Stakes, and Mine That Bird in 2009, who could only muster a Beyer of 81 in eight starts prior to his Derby shocker at odds of 50-1. The overall Derby record for those who’d never run a 95 Beyer before the Derby is 85-2-3-2. Horses in this year’s field who’ve never run that fast on the Beyer scale are Gun Runner, Brody’s Cause, Suddenbreakingnews, Oscar Nominated, Shagaf, Whitmore, Tom’s Ready, Majesto, Trojan Nation, and Mo Tom.

Undefeated horses

Likely favorite Nyquist will be the 13th horse since 1991 to enter the Kentucky Derby without a loss. Five of those previous 12, though, had never raced as juveniles, and don’t forget the most famous of Derby stats: No horse has won the Kentucky Derby without at least one start in their 2-yeard-old year since Apollo won the Derby in 1882. One other, China Visit, was making his North American debut when he ran in the 2000 Derby, and no runner even hit the board in the Derby without at least one prior start in North America (more on that later). So that means there have been six undefeated runners in the Derby since 1991 who were North American-based and had competed as 2-year-olds. Three of those six won the Derby—Smarty Jones, Barbaro, and Big Brown—and two more ran third; only Gemologist in 2012 failed to hit the board.

Late bloomers light on wins

Four horses likely to start in this year’s Kentucky Derby—Creator, My Man Sam, Majesto, and Trojan Nation—never won a race as 2-year-olds, and Trojan Nation will be the first maiden to compete in the Kentucky Derby since Nationalore ran ninth in 1998. The 1993 Derby is the only one since 1991 where every runner had won as a juvenile, and in that time, there have been 70 Derby runners without a juvenile win on their resume. Their combined record is 70-2-4-3 for a $0.42 ROI, and those two winners were Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Monarchos in 2001.

My Man Sam, Majesto, Trojan Nation, as well as the Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready, are also eligible to compete in first-level allowance races (meaning they don’t have more than one lifetime win). Since 1991, only one Derby was won by a horse with just a single lifetime win (Giacomo in 2005). Forty-eight others were unsuccessful in their attempt, although four did run second, including Golden Soul in 2013 and Commanding Curve in 2014, both of whom were also trained by Stewart.

:: Kentucky Derby Day 2016 previews, analysis, and plays

Destin trying unconventional route

The 100 Beyer that Destin earned in his last start in winning the Tampa Bay Derby is the best last-out Beyer, aside from the 103 that Exaggerator earned in his last race. The Tampa Bay Derby was run on March 12 at 1 1/16 miles, eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and Destin is the only runner in this year’s field coming off a layoff of more than six weeks, as well as the only one not to have run at least 1 1/8 miles before attempting the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. Since 1991, 30 runners had never gone 1 1/8 miles before the Derby, and Eight Belles’s second-place finish in 2008 was the only in-the-money result. In that same time, only eight horses have attempted to win the Derby following a layoff of 45 days or more. None of those eight finished in the money, and the best finish was sixth place for Circular Quay in the 2007 Derby off an identical eight-week layoff for Destin’s trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Foreign invader

Lani enters this year’s Derby as the latest in a long line of foreign horses to compete in the Kentucky Derby, after running five times in Japan before winning the UAE Derby in Dubai last start. Canonero II in 1971 remains the only horse to win Kentucky Derby as a foreign shipper, although he did run twice at Del Mar as a juvenile. Since 1991, 19 horses ran in the Derby after competing overseas in their previous start; the best finish of any of them was fifth place by Master of Hounds in 2011, and the most notable flop was the eighth-place finish by Arazi in 1992 as the 4-5 favorite. Like Lani, eight of them were competing in North America for the first time, and 11 used the UAE Derby as a prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Undesirable post positions

Much has been made about the rail post being undesirable in the Kentucky Derby, and for good reason. Just watch the replay of Lookin At Lucky’s journey from the rail post in the 2010 Derby and then note there have been 39 Derbies since 1965 that used the auxiliary gate (i.e. posts 15 and higher), and the record for horses from the rail is 39-1-0-3. Last year, I asserted that breaking from the auxiliary gate was not a disadvantage, at least not statistically, a point seemingly validated in part by American Pharoah’s win from post 15. However, the last post before the auxiliary gate – post 14 – may be another one to avoid. Since 1965, runners breaking from post 14 in the Derby are winless in 42 attempts, with just two second-place finishes and three thirds. Notable runners who recently failed to hit the board from post 14 were Dunkirk in 2009 at 5-1, Scat Daddy in 2007 at 7-1, and Came Home in 2002 at 8-1.

Ed Kelly More than 1 year ago
Great read mike thank you
Henry Hill Sr More than 1 year ago
this derby i like,suddenbreakingnews,my man sam and nyquist.
RaceTote More than 1 year ago
I take it back. Accuweather changed the forecast. Now they say mostly sunny with just s 25% chance of rain. Thank heaven!
Bob Blake More than 1 year ago
slow down man. it's beach weather there come fri/sat
RaceTote More than 1 year ago
Accuweather extended forecast is "afternoon thunderstorm," Saturday, with a better than 50% chance of rain.
sumonaronno2 More than 1 year ago
Visit here for Kentucky derby 2016>>   http://kentuckyderby2016live.com/
sumonaronno2 More than 1 year ago
Nice post
billybudd16 More than 1 year ago
Mike. thanks for doing the leg work on this . Appreciate the info.
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy, and Outwork would all love a fast track. Exaggerator's connections are praying for rain. Nyquist, however, will perform on any surface. His connections (Reddam, O'neill & Gutierrez) won this race a couple of years ago with I'll Have Another. IHA went on to win the Preakness and would have won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown had he not bowed a tendon just prior to the Belmont. These people know what they've got and are licking their chops.
George Mayo More than 1 year ago
Bet ya house and farm.
George Mayo More than 1 year ago
Bet your house and farm on him.