Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Pletcher's television rant about the track condition at Gulfstream has been sparking debate all over webdom. Was there a bias? Was Dunkirk done in by the bias? How would they have fared on a fair track?

I think most fans would love that last question to be answered conclusively on Derby day. Dunkirk is on the earnings bubble but I think most people want to see him in the race and see how he fares against Quality Road in round two.

I decided to check back through my collection of statistics to see if there was any data that sheds some light on the likelihood of Dunkirk reversing the result in the Derby.

I isolated all the horses who were beaten by less than three lengths in their last prep race, then I looked at where they finished in the Derby in relation to the horse that defeated them. Unfortunately I found that there seems to be no edge at all given to either side. I found 45 separate rematches, 24 went to the prep winners and 21 to the prep losers.

I was actually a bit surprised that the prep winners didn't have any real edge over the prep losers.

I also took a look at horses who were beaten by more than three lengths in their last prep race. They fared a little worse against their prior conquerors having only reversed the order of finish 28 times in 71 rematches.

There isn't an easy answer on this one, at least not based on the statistics. It all comes down to the individuals.

I know the Breeders' Cup has fooled around with gimmick head to head wagers in the past but I wonder if the Derby couldn't get some interest in offering the same thing. Results are not as predictable as you'd think. Spanish Chestnut beating Bandini in the Derby still sounds like an impossible result years after the fact.


Wind Gatherer said...

Maybe you factored this in, but what happens to the numbers if you account for ground gained/lost in the stretch?

Kennedy said...

Great question but the results are not quite as i thought they might be. Horses that lost ground in the last 1/8th of their prep race came back to beat their conqueror 36 times in 85 rematches. That's a decent 42 percent.

One thing I did notice was that many of the horses who reversed the deficit in the Derby were ones that got totally killed in their prep race. In most cases if the horses were beaten by more than 10 lengths in the end it means they weren't handling the track. They got a different surface on Derby day and made the most of it.

Of course none of them actually won the race.