Examining Kentucky Derby trends
May, 2, 2014
By Chris Fallica | ESPN Stats & Information
The 140th Run for the Roses takes place Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs. Here are a few trends to keep an eye on:
Odds are California Chrome will not win
While 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman winning the Derby with the Cal-bred California Chrome would be a great human interest story, recent history says backing short-priced favorites is not the way to go. Since 1980, there have been 23 favorites made 5-2 or shorter on the morning line, with California Chrome being the 24th. Of the previous 23, only Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 won the race. The last time a horse was made 5-2 on the morning line was 2005, when Bellamy Road was favored and finished seventh behind 50-1 shot Giacomo.
Tough to back Todd too
Todd Pletcher is one of the best trainers around, but for whatever reason his horses rarely seem to fire on Derby Day. Pletcher is 1-for-36, winning in 2010 with Super Saver. Since 2007, Pletcher has started 22 horses in the Derby and just two have finished better than sixth -- Super Saver in 2010 and Revolutionary (third last year). Both of those horses were ridden by Calvin Borel, who is not riding any of Pletcher's four entrants Saturday. Pletcher has two of the top four betting choices in the race in Danza and Intense Holiday. He has had nine horses sent off as a top-four wagering choice, with seven of the nine finishing 10th or worse. The only two which ran well (you guessed it) were the two Borel rode -- Super Saver and Revolutionary.
Steve Asmussen overdue to win
Steve Asmussen has started 12 horses in the Derby without winning one. That's the most Derby starters for a trainer who does not have a Derby win. He's come close twice though, finishing second with Nehro in 2011 and third with Curlin in 2007. That drought is seemingly nothing compared to Todd Pletcher's, as he entered 2010 0-24 before winning with Super Saver.
And so is Corey Nakatani
Dance with Fate will be Corey Nakatani's 17th Derby mount. He's never won the Derby, as his 16 mounts without a Derby win are the most for any jockey without a win. Nakatani’s best finish was second in 2011 with the Steve Asmussen-trained Nehro.
Avoid the inside
Since Alysheba won in 1987, only one horse has won from post 1, 2 or 3 -- that being Real Quiet in 1998 from post 3. Those 78 runners combined for one win, four runner-ups and six third-place finishes. Last year, the late-running Golden Soul finished second from post 3 and stretch runner Revolutionary finished third from post 2. If you limit the study to posts 1 and 2, those 52 horses have combined for two seconds and five third-place finishes. Eleven of those 52 horses were bet down to single digits. Only three of those 11 -- Risen Star in 1988, Curlin in 2007 and Revolutionary last year -- managed even a third-place finish. All three horses on the inside are 20-1 or longer, so it appears the true contenders avoided the trouble here.
Far outside? No problem
Each of the past three and seven of the past 15 winners have started from the auxiliary gate -- posts 15 and out. So don’t discredit anyone’s chances because of posts 15-20. The past three winners from the main gate were all rail-skimming rides by Calvin Borel (Super Saver, Mine That Bird and Street Sense).
Borel and Stevens shooting for fourth win
Calvin Borel and Gary Stevens will be looking to join Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack and Bill Shoemaker as jockeys to win the Derby four times. Borel has won the Derby three times in the past seven years, while Stevens' last Derby win came in 1997 aboard Silver Charm. With the scratch of Hoppertunity, Stevens' horse Candy Boy will now break from post 17. Stevens is all too familiar with that spot, as he broke from post 17 in 2001 with favorite Point Given and in 1996 with Editor’s Note, having little success each time.
Experience not needed
In the past 11 editions of the Derby, 10 were won by a trainer who had never previously won the Derby -- that includes each of the past six. Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert are the only trainers in the race who have previously won the Derby, so this trend is likely to continue.