The Kentucky Derby and the trail leading towards it is one of the most captivating aspects of this sport. Derby Fever as it's called grips just about everyone involved in racing from the hardened old fan to the small time trainer with a promising three year old.
One of the ways my Derby fever manifests itself is through statistics. I love to do is to compile statistics and specifically I have spent a good deal of time compiling statistics for the Derby and Breeders Cup. Not all statistics are relevant, not all statistics are useful but I think there is some value to be derived from using good statistics to help shape your view of a race. I don't think one should blindly rely on numbers but it can help you identify some false favorites or some intriguing longshots.
I have spent a great deal of time developing a statistical model for the Derby that combines what I believe to be 20 relevant factors. It's called the 20-20 system and last year in this space we took an in depth look at prior to the Derby. Unfortunately for the model's sake it had Scat Daddy as the primary selection. We all know how that turned out but it was a good reminder not to bank too heavily on just what the numbers say. Statistics can paint a lie and because of several unique factors last year (like the Bluegrass being run on Polytrack) it threw a few figures off.
Still I think the 20-20 is a system worth keeping, it still shows a flat bet profit of 25.9% and if you only took the perfect qualifiers you'd have made 382.17%. All that without doing any handicapping at all. Hopefully with a little good sense you could make it even better.
Every Wednesday from now until the Derby I'll pick one interesting statistic to highlight. The stat may or may not be part of the 20-20 system. Sometimes the best advice you can get is knowing which statistics to stay away from, because there are a lot of crazy ones out there, especially with the Derby.
Let me start of this years statistical look with saying that I'm glad the Juvenile Jinx has been put to rest. There has never been any validity to it just like years ago people thought it was bad luck to be the favorite. It was simply a case of the wrong kind of horses winning the Juvenile. Street Sense was the first juvenile winner in a long time who had a legitimate chance in the Derby.
As we all start to compile our Top 10 lists we will most likely be picking through a list of accomplished 2yo's but there is always the temptation to toss in a name that perhaps no one else thought of. Often times those unknown underdogs failed to race as a 2yo. For whatever reason they got off to a late start but they appear to be very impressive so we keep close tabs on them.
Curlin was exactly that kind of horse last year. He burst onto the scene at Gulfstream as a 3yo and made a meteoric rise through the ranks. He ended up running a decent third in the Derby. So are unraced 2yo's a good group to keep an eye on?
Statistically Curlin would appear to be an exception to the rule. I think looking at what he went on to accomplish confirms the notion that indeed he was not an ordinary horse. Since 1955 44 3yo's have contested the Derby without having started at two and they achieved a Derby record of 44-0-1-2. Curlin, Strodes Creek and Agitate were the only exceptions. In recent times many of these horses looked quite promising like Pulpit, Greeley's Galaxy, Trippi and Showing Up but all of them found the Derby too tough at that stage in their careers. This one is not a myth or jinx folks. It takes an exceptional horse to go through the conditions and overcome the lack of foundation. The Derby is a very tough race and horses need all the experience and foundation they can get.
Also when considering horses who ran as 2yo's but failed to win be wary. The statistics do not suggest that it is impossible as Fusaichi Pegasus and Monarchos won the Derby without winning as 2yo's. But the cumulative record of such horses is 30-2-1-1. Some big name horses like Medaglia D'Oro, Crypto Star, Ten Most Wanted, Flower Alley, Bandini and Balto Star all failed to live up to the hype on Derby day.