Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Les Dangereux

I think we've all noticed the trend of fewer prep races leading up to the Derby and even fewer career races in general but this year I think we've been blessed. I think it's significant that virtually all the major derby horses have already raced once this year. In past years we've had to wait until mid-March for horses like Street Sense, Favorite Trick, Lion Heart, Peace Rules and Point Given to make their debuts. Just last year the bookends of the Derby superfecta only made their 3yo debuts in March.

Although they may be few in number this year I wanted to highlight a group of horses that have statistically overachieved in the Derby for a number of years. They are the horses with two preps that earned triple digit figures in their seasonal debut.

There had been a stigma against horses with only two Derby prep races. it was said that no horse could win the Derby with just two races to get them into shape. Street Sense and Big Brown dispelled that myth in the past two years and hardly anyone has mentioned it since. Still horses with two prep races have only gone 40-2-4-1 in the Derby since 1996.

The most dangerous subset of those 40 was always the horses who managed to finish in the money in both of their prep races. Amazingly only 17 of the 40 horses finished in the frame in both starts. Those horses compiled a 17-2-3-1 record in the Derby. One could almost say that this was a positive angle to look out for.

Refine this group even further and you'll find that the best of these 17 horses earned high speed figures. It only makes sense as good horses tend to both earn high figures and finish placed in their races. Limit the criteria to horses who finished in the money in both preps and earned a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure in their first start as a 3yo and you get a group of 9 that went 2-2-1 in the Derby. More than half of these horses hit the frame. It's true that there has only been 9 of them in the last 13 years but it's definitely a group worth keeping a close eye on.

Terrain is the only stakes tested candidate I can think of right now who has a chance to fit the criteria. Of course the hard part is all in front of him, all he's managed so far is to have himself in a position to only have two preps. Affirmatif almost joined the ranks as a candidate with his 98 debut Beyer. Who knows, there still might be one or two out there. If someone makes it into the Derby and fits the bill it would be wise to consider them most dangerous indeed.

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