When I first started handicapping there was no one worse at picking a Kentucky Derby winner than me. From the years of 2007 through 2013 I had ZERO luck in the Kentucky Derby. I never picked a winner, and was only close one time which was the 2012 Kentucky Derby when Bodemeister finished second to I’ll Have Another. After that year I conducted extensive research on why my Kentucky Derby wagers had very little luck. As a result I found some amazing answers, including studying Jon White’s DERBY STRIKES system, and have now hit three straight Kentucky Derby winners in a row, as well as several exotics with horses coming in underneath. We also successfully predicted American Pharoah would win the Triple Crown in 2015, a prediction we’ve never made prior or since about any horse. Here are the top 10 factors I’ve found that will help you pick a winner this year!
1. Deep stretch running closers can round out exotics…but don’t play them on top
51 of the last 54 Kentucky Derby winners were in first or second place with a furlong to go. Just let that sink in for a minute. MANY people think deep closers are best when analyzing the Kentucky Derby because there is usually a fast pace. While the pace is usually fast, deep stretch running closers tend to still come up short. They are great to use when rounding out your exotics for the minor awards, but playing them to win is extremely hazardous. More times than not they get extremely poor trips, and the horses on the front with staying power get just enough jump on them to hold them off. A closer must make a solid middle move to get themselves into position on the turn to have a good shot at winning.
2. Equipment changes in the Kentucky Derby are a bad sign
Equipment changes for the most part are experiments by a trainer in hopes that he/she can help a horses performance by doing something different. Adding blinkers is the most common equipment change in racing. The theory of this factor is you might not want to back a horse in the biggest race of it’s life while trying something new for the first time. Also, if the horse is doing well the trainer probably wouldn’t mess with the equipment the horse is using.
3. Horses with early, ratable, speed usually win the race
The statistic mentioned earlier under factor one is staggering and really says all you need to know…51 of the last 54 Kentucky Derby winners were in first or second place with a furlong to go. In a field of 20 horses having tactical speed is so important. With that many horses, bad trips can happen so easily…but if you have enough early speed to clear most of the field your chances of a poor trip go down dramatically.
4. Inside draws are a disaster
Everyone knows the rail is BRUTAL…but I’ll take it a step further. If a horse you like draws post one through four it’s going to be a difficult task. You are almost assured a tough trip from those positions. It’s not impossible to win from inside, but you have to be much the best. Outside draws are much better as we’ve seen in recent history as 4 of the last 6 Kentucky Derby winners win from post 16 or higher.
5. DO NOT Bet on Horses that haven’t Ran at the Age of 2
This is the most publicized one of them all so you probably already know all about this factor. A few horses have been close, but the curse of Apollo still exits. Apollo was the last horse that did not run at the age of 2 that still went on to win the Kentucky Derby. He did it in…1882!!! That’s a long line of history working against those who didn’t make a start at age 2.
6. Toss Todd Pletcher horses who only have Gulfstream Park form
You just can’t trust a Pletcher horse that doesn’t have proven form outside of Gulfstream Park. Pletcher owns Gulfstream, and his horses run serious races there, but once they leave it can be a mixed bag. His most successful runners in the Kentucky Derby, including his only winner, Super Saver, ran prep races outside of Gulfstream Park before running on the first Saturday in May.
7. The final prep is most important
If a horse stubs it’s toe in February or early March they can recover, but not often does a horse run poorly in it’s last prep but still turn it around in time for the Kentucky Derby. Also, the last prep is usually the longest distance a horse will run before the Kentucky Derby. You have to analyze how the horse finishes up in these final races. If they win but are completely all out…it’s a bad sign. They need to finish with a little gas left in the tank.
8. Prior wins over the Churchill Downs surface is the most overrated factor
Sure it doesn’t hurt when horses have a win over the surface, but overall I wouldn’t move a horse up because they have won at Churchill Downs. Churchill can be a quirky surface at time, but these horses (for the most part) are the cream of the crop. Things like track surface don’t matter as much. However, track CONDITIONS (muddy or sloppy track) can still make a difference and must be taken into account.
9. Pedigree matters…but is not the most important factor
Pedigree always matters, but it is definitely not the be-all-end-all in racing. Many pedigree snobs have laughed at recent winners California Chrome and Nyquist stating they couldn’t go a mile and a quarter. As previously stated in factor number 7, it’s very important to watch how a horse finishes the race in their final prep. If they finish like they could go around again then it’s obvious they can go a little further no matter what their pedigree might suggest.
10. Don’t spread too thin…take a stand
A big mistake is trying to use too many horses in your exotics wagers. The bottom line is you have to take a stand against at least half the field, if not more. The Kentucky Derby is a process of elimination and with so many horses you have to take a stand against horses others may not be so inclined to do. The outlined factors above can help you eliminate horses.