On Friday night, a mere eight days from the Kentucky Derby, I found myself answering some questions about the Kentucky Derby. I was at a great local community fund raiser where I proudly donated boxes for food donations, hung signs, and did odd and end tasks to help the Cranford Jaycees pull off their 13th annual Beefsteak Dinner.
I love talking about horse racing to anyone who will listen. I love talking about horse racing to anyone who doesn't want to listen either.
As the room got fuller and louder, I kept running into friends and acquaintances from all aspects of my life - kid's sports, scouts, the Jaycees, etc. Several beers into the night the conversations were generally short and cordial, but many had a common theme.
"Who do you like in the Kentucky Derby?"
I was flattered. I am still flattered. I am thrilled that so many people actually pay attention to the articles and blog posts I write to want to know what I think when there are so many other "experts" on the interweb for them to follow.
I had to explain to some that I still haven't locked on my winner yet. That I have a "process" for handicapping the Kentucky Derby.
After eating what amounted to about a cow and half in filet mignon, but before the meat sweats kicked in, I did explain to one guy what I meant by the "process".
Three Weeks Out
After the last set of qualifying prep races, I get the past performances for all the contenders. I am usually so busy with work and coaching I don't do a darn thing with them at this point.
Two Weeks Out
I have unsuccessfully prayed for rain to cancel soccer practice, however I do get a clear Wednesday night and the fun can begin!
The first thing I do is select a running line from each horse for pace analysis and create my pace based speed ratings. I assess the strength of each horse's running styles, including all of the top 30 horses at this point. I start to populate a matrix with jockeys (if named), trainers, sire and dam sire pedigree, and any of my handicapping angles that each horse may meet.
No contenders are selected at this point.
One Week Out
After seeing reports that every Derby entrant has just had the "exact workout we wanted" and they are all "primed for a big race", I get back to work. By now I have started to manually chart out my pace scenarios. Using an engineer's pad, I lay out probable fractions and adjust the positioning of each horse based on their comfortable fractions and the expected.
I will repeat this process with alternate pace scenarios.
Finally, I will have a list of contenders - both for the top spot and for the underneath. There may be as many as five contenders for the top spot and another five for the exotics.
What factors play into the selection of contenders? Pace, pedigree, class, jockey, trainer, strength of prep races, and my pace based speed figures.
The Week Of
My approach to the Kentucky Derby is different than other stakes races. If this was just the ninth race at Monmouth Park that happened to be a stakes race, I would just pass on the race at this point.
I start to refine my contenders, After all it is the Kentucky Derby and you have to at least pick one horse to be on top, right? I finish assessing the strength of the prep race fields and pace. I will "thin the herd" further at this point and land on my top contender, other top contenders, and exotic contenders.
When the post positions are drawn and final field is announced, I will go back and double check my pace analysis and pace based speed figures based on the final field.
I finalize my pace analysis. I challenge myself and each contender I have selected to this point under different pace scenarios.
Given the night off from soccer means I have a lot of work to do. I start to prep my graphics for my pace video and start cranking out a blog post. This is when my top choice will be ready!
Time to record the audio and create a pace video. My picks are set. My blog analysis is 90% done. I have started to layout my wagering structure (if any).
Production time! I try to get all my media out on Friday (or Saturday morning at the latest).
This year I'll have to figure out how to get home from soccer in time for the race.
While the Kentucky Derby never falls into the "play" category based on my handicapping, I always throw a few bucks on the race. It is always a great betting race given the amount of chaos that can happen with horses that are still developing.
Check back for my pace video at US Racing and my detailed analysis here at the end of the week.
So get ready to "Talk Derby to Me"... Who do you like???