Some recent message board conversations inspired me to highlight some of the traps that fans and handicappers fall into when considering the Derby.
I think the biggest one has always been the love that flows for those late running closers. If only they had some extra distance! They'll really come alive at 10f right? Generally the answer is wrong. If your horse hasn't shown enough speed to get into the top two places by the 1/8th pole in either of their final two preps then they're likely a sucker horse and you're getting trapped. 61 horses have entered the Derby since 1996 without showing enough tactical speed and none of them have won, only 6 even continued to do what they'd been doing in the preps. Plod up into a second or third place finish.
Tactical speed is king people, tactical speed. Even Giacomo showed it, if your horse isn't as tactically speedy as the plodder Giacomo then you're on the wrong horse. Amazing to think that 61 Derby entrants had shown LESS tactical speed than Giacomo.
Another popular derby sinkhole is that of consistent horses who fail to run fast races. As fans we become attached to the little horses that just get it done whether it be winning minor stakes or running in the money each time. The theory is that whatever the competition their consistency will stand them in good stead. Unfortunately running consistently slow races never helped a horse in the Derby. Since 1996, 33 entrants have come into the Derby without having missed the frame in any start as a three year old while also having never achieved a Beyer Speed Figure that equaled the prep winning average figure. Only Victory Gallop and Steppenwolfer hit the frame again in the Derby.
It must be noted that Victory Gallop is somewhat of an exception because although he did not achieve the prep winning average figure, which was 106, he did run a 101 and 105 so he was not really a slow horse like the rest of the 30+ on the list.
Consistency does you no good if you're consistently not good enough to compete in the Derby.