Super Saver (above) was second at the quarter pole en route to victory in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, and he also had two starts that year prior to the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Recent history has shown us that being near the lead at the quarter-pole is a benefit, and the last six Derby winner have all had two prep races in the year of their Derby win. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
Few sporting events are as rich in tradition as the Kentucky Derby, and in analyzing the race it’s always wise to take note of that storied past.
After all, history tends to repeat itself.
So in trying to select a winner of Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby, looking back at past editions of the “Run for the Roses” could unlock an angle that might return a handsome dividend in your wagering on the race.
For example, there’s widespread speculation that Orb might eclipse Verrazano as the post-time wagering favorite, which is a rather dubious distinction. It’s kind of like winning a lottery for front row seats to “Splash” – sans raincoat and umbrella.
Since 1979, in the last 33 runnings of the Derby only four favorites have won the 1 ¼-mile test (in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008).
Meanwhile, in what shapes up as a nice consolation prize for Verrazano if Orb gets the nod at the betting windows, the second choice in the wagering has won the race twice as often in that period. There have been eight second-choices who made it to the winner’s circle, a group that includes the 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1997 and 2006 editions.
Looking deeper into the wagering on the race, keep in mind that if you plan to bet on the trifecta you should include at least one horse priced at 10-1 or more. Since 1996, every Derby has seen at least one horse with double-digit odds hit the board. After that, you would have go back to the highly formful Sunday Silence-Easy Goer entry 1-2-3 finish in 1989 to find a Derby trifecta without a 10-1 or higher runner in it.
Just don’t get carried away.
If you decide to build your trifecta with nothing but those longshots, you have to revisit 1992 to find a top three finish without a horse that was sent off at single-digit odds. Beyond that 21-year stretch, you have to rewind time to 1959 to find another all-longshot trifecta.
Aside from some help from the tote board, past performances remain an invaluable asset in selecting a winner – of any race.
In the case of the Derby, one thing to look for would be a horse who has made just two starts at three prior to the Derby. Amazingly, the last six winners of the Derby fit that criteria, and while the streak has to stop at some point, why argue with history? Especially when Zenyatta showed us that 19-for-19 is attainable.
To save you some time, the horses who will be bidding to push the two at three streak to seven are Java’s War, Mylute, Normandy Invasion, Overanalyze and Revolutionary, a pretty intriguing cast of contenders.
Running style also plays a key role in winning the race. Despite its distance, the Derby is hardly a haven for stone-cold closers. Instead, focus on horses that will be in striking position at the top of the stretch.
Since 2001, three of the last 11 winners have been in front at the quarter pole, which indicates two furlongs are left in the race. Add in horses who were second at the quarter pole and you have 6 of 11 winners who were in the top two. Drop backing a little bit further, horses in the top four with a quarter of a mile to go have won 8 of the last 11 editions.
So there’s some history for you. Now let’s see if it does indeed repeat itself once more.
2013 KENTUCKY DERBY: WHO IS YOUR PICK?