Lady and The Track | December 14, 2018

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Using Running Styles To Identify Contenders And Pretenders In the Kentucky Derby

Do Running Styles Matter?

By Derek Simon

Always Dreaming and jockey John Velazquez celebrate winning Kentucky Derby 143 at Churchill Downs, 5/6/17. Photo: Jordan Sigmon

Handicapping author William L. Quirin once called early speed the “universal track bias” and, despite the influx of grass racing and synthetic surfaces, statistics show that Quirin’s observation still holds true today.

Even in the Kentucky Derby, a race that many believe is about as kind to frontrunners as Taylor Swift is to ex-boyfriends, this universal bias has been present. There have been 32 wire-to-wire winners in the Run for the Roses since 1896 — more than three times the number that random chance (based on field size) would predict.

True, in the past half-century that success rate has taken a hit. Since 1967, only half-a-dozen hardy steeds have managed to carry their speed over the entire 1 ¼-mile journey at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Still, that is right in line with expectations, as 18- to 20-horse fields have become the norm in contemporary renewals of America’s most famous horse race.

In this in-depth feature, we will examine both the pros and cons of early speed — or the lack thereof — in the Kentucky Derby.

Click for more.

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