May 5, 2017

Speed kills baby -- don't discount the Early/Pressers in The Derby

Why can’t Early/Presser types be used as long-shots?  I will present evidence of speed oriented horses sticking around for the bottom of tris/supers/high five payouts.  Last year was a faster than typical Derby with splits of 22.58, 45.72 and 1:10.40, yet both Nyquist and 3rd place finisher Gun Runner comprised two-thirds of the trifecta after running in the lead group from the opening bell. Granted, they were clearly a notch above the competition at this point last year, where cream rises to the top.  I expect this year’s pace to be comparable to 2014-2015 - an average paced Derby.

In Chrome’s victory in 2014 the internal splits were 47.37 and 1:11.80 and in addition to Chrome going from 3rd to 1st, Samraat was 5th early and hung around for the High Five payout at 17-1.  But 2015 makes the strongest case for Early/Presser types faring well, when the internal splits were average 47.34 and 1:11.29.  Four of the top five finishers were in the top flight all the way around – Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund and Danzig Moon at 23-1.  Only highly regarded Frosted was able to close his way into 4th place finish. Going back even further, Shackleford hung around for 4th in the 2011 Derby at 23-1 and in 2008 49-1 longshot Recapturetheglory held onto 5th after being part of the lead group from the get-go. Finally, some of you may recall the zippy bred Limehouse, who in 2004 rebounded from a tiring and distant 3rd place loss by over 6 lengths in the Blue Grass to finish in the Derby superfecta at odds of 42-1 after being only a few lengths off the early lead set by Lion Heart and eventual winner Smarty Jones. This is relevant due to the sloppy track that day, where often horses running up front have an advantage of less kickback and being able to steal races (hint for Saturday with rain likely).

Now let’s take a look at some mid-priced closers who did NOT fare well, perhaps due to their trip line often associated with closers (included);

2016 closers (had very fast pace to close into): Brody’s Cause 7th (5w, slight response), Mo Tom 8th (steadied, fanned 7w), Creator 13th (checked, bumped hard).
2015 closers (average pace): Keen Ice 7th (wait 5wd 3/16, altr bid), Mubtaahij 8th (rate bk, in chase), Far Right 15th (lagged, very wide).
2014 closer (average pace): Dance With Fate 6th (rough trip, angl 5w), Ride On Curlin 7th (rail, stdy 1/4 angl 9w), Medal Count 8th (shuffled early, chkd 1/8).

So please keep talking up the deep closers and I’ll take my chances with a horse with tactical speed, even getting a bit leg-weary, but without having to navigate the far turn stampede. Even if you happen on the RIGHT closer on that day, they still need a lot of luck to get to the lead group before the finish line. I know this first-hand after being burned with Creator’s rough trip last year, even though we saw he bounced back smartly in the Belmont that didn't present the log-jam that is The Derby!

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