04/28/2011 2:32PM

Kentucky Derby questions: Prep races worth a second look


Which prep race is most likely to be misinterpreted?

Dan IllmanBecause of The Factor’s meltdown as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby, the performances of Archarcharch and Nehro may be underestimated. Some handicappers will conclude that the one-two finishers merely benefited from The Factor’s poor performance and breathing difficulty, but I believe they both ran extremely well. Nehro, despite being eligible for an “n2L” race, showed some late gumption and galloped out nicely, and Archarcharch seems like an honest, tactical, hard-knocking sort. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Arkansas Derby turns out to be an excellent prep and if Archarcharch and Nehro’s efforts were somewhat lost in the shuffle. They may offer good value in the Derby.

Marcus HershThe Santa Anita Derby will be overrated. It’s a Grade 1 on a major circuit, and the top finishers got solid enough speed figures for their performance. But my take is that none of the highest-quality California 3-year-olds − The Factor, Premier Pegasus, Jaycito − even made the race and that the 2011 Santa Anita Derby will in the end be seen as a subpar heat. No Midnight Interlude or Comma to the Top for me, thanks.

Mike WatchmakerThe Blue Grass just hasn’t had as much of an impact as a Derby prep in the four years it has been run on Polytrack. Those four runnings have been won by Dominican, Monba, General Quarters, and Stately Victor, who came back to finish 11th, 20th, 10th, and eighth in the Derby. This year’s Blue Grass resembled a turf race more than any other Blue Grass in the last four years. Only a nose and a head separated the first three finishers – Brilliant Speed, Twinspired, and King Congie − who have a combined five previous starts on dirt. Their beaten margins in those dirt outings were 19 1/4 lengths, 21 lengths, 11 3/4 lengths, 20 1/2 lengths, and 11 lengths. The result of this year’s Blue Grass, it would seem, was just another example of the huge disconnect between racing on synthetic surfaces and racing on dirt.

Next: Surprise prep winners who can contend »

• After Uncle Mo's disappointing third in the Wood Memorial, does he deserve another chance?
• Which horses are live longshots, and what should their approximate odds be?
• Which horse can't you wait to bet against?
• Which horse hasn't won a prep race but can win the Derby?
• Not one of the most recent major prep races produced a winning Beyer Speed Figure of 100. How does that change the way you will handicap the Derby?
• Which prep race is most likely to be misinterpreted?
• Among the surprising prep race winners, which one is for real?
• Who is the horse to beat?