05/03/2013 9:59AM

Kentucky Derby: Wet track could affect outcome

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Barbara D. Livingston
Itsmyluckyday is one of two horses in Kentucky Derby with a stakes win over a sloppy or muddy track.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With Weather.com forecasting a 50 percent chance of showers Saturday in Louisville, as of this writing early Friday morning, there is the possibility for a wet track on Kentucky Derby Day.

Should that scenario unfold, which horses stand to benefit if rain results in the Derby being run on a sloppy or muddy track? Based on their past performances: Itsmyluckyday and Vyjack, stakes winners over such surfaces, and Palace Malice, who finished second in a fast allowance race over a sloppy surface.

Five others also have wet-track experience, although not with such success, or if victorious, their wins came over much harrowed racetracks that were labeled “good.” Horses with wins over “good” tracks include Revolutionary, Giant Finish, and Falling Sky.

[KENTUCKY DERBY FIELD: Contender profiles and handicapping videos]

Frac Daddy ran second in his lone wet-track start on a muddy track at Belmont, running erratically, either the result of struggling with the surface or from inexperience, as the race marked his career debut.

One to downgrade on a wet track based on a past try would be Will Take Charge, a well-beaten sixth behind Super Ninety Nine in a sloppy Southwest at Oaklawn Park in one of the few Derby preps not run on a fast track.

Longshot Giant Finish also has a poor race over a sloppy track, running fifth in the Damon Runyon Stakes over the winter at Aqueduct.

A brief tip for horseplayers - all these off-track races can be quickly spotted in Daily Racing Form’s Formulator online database by filtering the past performances to isolate wet-track starts on dirt. Once within Formulator, video replays of the given wet-track races can also be watched.

In another feature of Daily Racing Form, Tomlinson wet-track ratings provide other clues to which horses might relish an off track. Based on the wet track statistics of the sires and broodmare sires of the horses, the higher the Tomlinson rating, in general the greater the chance of wet-track success.

Runners whose sire and/or damsire have relatively small samples (fewer than 80 runners), are listed with an asterisk (*) following the rating. 

The average Derby entrant has a Tomlinson wet-track rating of 365, with highest-rated horses, in order, being Oxbow, 424; Normandy Invasion, 418; Revolutionary, 416; Will Take Charge, 413; Orb, 405; and Falling Sky, 400.

On opposite end of the spectrum, Black Onyx and Frac Daddy have the two lowest wet-track Tomlinson ratings, with a 300 for Black Onyx and a 297 for Frac Daddy.

One more important consideration for horseplayers – when Churchill Downs gets wet, jockey Calvin Borel often gets hot. As most are aware, he regularly places his mounts on the fence, closer than any other rider, usually within a few feet of the rail.

When the Churchill surface is wet, this narrow path often leads to success for Borel. Two of his three Kentucky Derby victories, in fact, came on sloppy tracks in which he rode his mount inside for much of the race – in 2009 with 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, the following year in 2010 with 8-1 shot Super Saver.

Borel is aboard Revolutionary in the Derby, who starts from post 3.

Rainfall could also change how the track is playing by tightening the surface, and by the flow of water toward the inside, where racetracks have a slight bank to allow for drainage.

Since the meet began Saturday and through the conclusion of Thursday’s card, races on the Churchill main track have generally favored horses with outside, stalking or pace-pressing trips.