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Thinking About Running Styles in Kentucky Derby 142

Thinking About Running Styles in Kentucky Derby 142: Twenty horses make up the Kentucky Derby, and to handicap the race, variables such as the post positions, final workouts, pedigrees of the horses and their running style must be considered. We’re going to focus this week on the running style, a very important aspect to predict how the race will unfold.

Mo Tom Horse Kentucky Derby

Mo Tom trains at Churchill Downs on Monday, April 18, 2016 in preparation for the 142nd Kentucky Derby.
Coady Photography | Churchill Downs

There are three types of running styles: the front-runners, stalkers and closers. However we are adding the definition of grinders and tactical speed horses to explain everything more clearly.

Front-runners are horses with early speed and usually are sent to win the races wire to wire. Also called one-dimensional horses, they just know to run in front to win races. Those kind of horses are dangerous when there are no other front-runners in the race.

Stalkers just sit behind the leaders and wait until the right moment to make a move. The jockey would have the ability to know when to move the horse to pass the front-runners. They do not possess the early speed to take the lead, and lack the sudden late-running ability to stay in the back of the pack.

Closers are horses with no early speed and run in the back of the pack from the beginning of the race. Those horses show a strong late kick to win the races coming from behind. Certainly their wins are very exciting, but sometimes they can find some traffic in full-field races.
But, some horses are not specifically front-runners, stalkers or closers, but they entered into another definition; the grinders and horses with tactical speed.

The grinders are horses with very little acceleration. In fact, they run with practically the same pace through the race and just pass the front-runners if they get tired. If the pace is slow or moderate, they can sit just behind the leaders, but if it is a hot pace, they sit a bit far back. It is possible that some horses with more acceleration can pass them at some stage of the race, but they are able to close the gap and catch them again running at his own pace.

Then there are horses capable of tactical speed, which means they can show early speed if the pace is slow or moderate and also can sit behind the leaders if the pace turns hot. Those horses are versatile and hold a huge advantage because they don’t depend on one running style.

The Kentucky Derby is a race really tough to win by the front-runners and the closers. The first group usually fades in the Churchill Downs stretch and the closers just find traffic due to the 20-horse field or arrive late to the meeting and finish in the money.

The stalkers and grinders offer the most appropriate running style to win the race since they avoid trouble, just pass the front-runners, and hold off the late-runners while grinding and grinding.

Now that we clarified the running styles, the next step is to separate the hypothetical 20 Derby horses to figure out the pace of the race.

Danzing Candy

Mor Spirit (Grinder)
Majesto (Grinder)
Gun Runner
My Man Sam
Tom’s Ready
Oscar Nominated

Brody’s Cause
Mo Tom
Trojan Nation

Tactical Speed

The 142nd Kentucky Derby will be televised on NBC from 4:00-7:30pm ET. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is currently set for 6:34pm ET.