1) Include your favorite horses rather trying to guess a pace factor (which is out of our hands). Derby 142 presents a unique challenge in that pure speed horses are limited and most of my choices are not only closers, but "from the cloud" closers! Rather than thinking they may not get enough pace to run at and moving up horses I don't like as much, I'm sticking with the merits of each horse hoping the jockey can make needed adjustments to get the job done. Creator is my lesson learned from this category.
2) Look at key races/competition, NOT the highest Beyer speed figs to assess quality of the field. Whether you try to beat him or choose to key him on top, there is no denying that Nyquist is the CLASS of this field! To think multiple 3YO males have Beyer or Equibase speed figures greater than him is absurd. He has also beat every "key horse" angle going back to last year's BC Juvenile over Swipe and Brody's Cause. Interestingly, Brody's Cause is the next "proven" horse with his 3rd place BC effort finishing ahead of Exaggerator and others, yet his 3YO speed fig is the lowest of all major contenders. Brody is a real threat in my book! Also worth noting is Destin's two very average losses in Fair Ground's Lecomte Stakes (where a clean trip Mo Tom easy winner) and Gulfstream allowance race before reeling off two fast wins at Tampa Bay. Can he duplicate those efforts elsewhere against better?
3) Young sires (1st or 2nd crops) have great success throughout triple crown series, including Pioneerof the Nile's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in his 2nd crop last year. This year we have a classic battle shaping up between new (Uncle Mo) and old (Tapit) sires. However, since over 60% of TC race winners of the last two decades hailed from the Mr. Prospector sire lines (mainly via Fappiano), this shapes up as much as a battle of sire power as it does for the individual horses. My vote is that Tapit finally breaks through with a Derby winner. While he comes from the Seattle Slew line, he is by an Unbridled mare which is close enough Mr. P for me!
4) Do not hold grudges against a horse, jockey or trainer. This will be a tough one for me this year since I'm not an Uncle Mo or Repole fan (recall his disrespectful comment to other Derby owners that Uncle Mo was "five to seven lengths better than any of those horses" upon being scratched from the Derby). I'm not necessarily doubting the Uncle Mo's on distance either but Into Mischief also loaded the starting gate with his early runners, yet Vyjack, Goldencents and Vicar's in Trouble all came up short at Churchill Downs with a lot of hype. Nor am I crazy about several rides by Luis Quinonez aboard Suddenbreakingnews and other closing horses at Oaklawn this spring. Yes, this rule will surely test my patience!
5) Forgive one bad race, but not two. This was a painful lesson when Bluegrass Cat entered the Derby at huge odds (2nd place finish) off a leg weary 4th place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. Mohaymen would be the candidate to draw a line through the FL Derby, especially on a sticky race track. Several horses recently bounced back from a previous poor finish (Brody's Cause, SBN, Creator). Where does Mo Tom fit into this? Were those bad races or toss races due to horrible trips? The way he's working at Churchill and with his back class, he'll be hard for me to leave off relevant spots in my exotics. Nyquist, Gun Runner, Exaggerator, Mor Spirit and Outwork fall into the consistent category with solid runs each time they face the starter. However, some of these fail to wow with the turn of foot expected by a Derby winner.
Hope this helps your Derby handicapping! Final analysis will be out following post position draw, so stay tuned!