Kentucky Derby Handicapping
Kentucky Derby Handicapping Opportunities
The Kentucky Derby offers a unique handicapping challenge: can you pick the winner among a large field of three-year-olds, all at different points on the developmental curve, who are facing the biggest test of their careers, at a 1 1/4-mile distance that's longer than they've ever run before?
Several important factors to consider are the contenders' running styles, BRIS Speed ratings, post positions, track conditions, and pedigrees.
The horses' running styles help us to envision how the race will unfold, and who stands to benefit. Some are front runners, while others prefer to stalk, and others need to drop back, saving their energy for one big rally in the homestretch. The more early speed on tap, the better the scenario for the closers. But if there's not much speed, the advantage could go to those who race up front.
The BRIS Speed ratings help to evaluate how fast each horse has run, and which prep races look the strongest. Top contenders have typically earned at least a 100 going into the Derby. While some horses can be on an upward spiral, others have hit a plateau and don't appear good enough.
Although post position 1 had been successful in the past, when smaller fields were the norm, it is a real hindrance these days. Horses drawn on the extreme inside often end up in a squeeze play early, as their rivals on the outside come over to secure better position.
If it rains on Derby Day, look for runners who are proven on muddy or sloppy tracks. Contenders who have yet to race on an "off" track, but might thrive on it, can be identified by their mud-loving pedigrees.
Pedigree is a key handicapping tool, identifying which horses are bred to excel at 1 1/4 miles. Horses with stout bloodlines who have been finishing well in the preps can be expected to improve with the added ground in the Derby. Conversely, some with iffy ancestry can be effective in the preps, but are worth opposing over the longer trip.