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Blog - GAMBLING

Orb storms home over a muddy track in the 139th Kentucky Derby (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).

The 139th Kentucky Derby is in the books, but the data analysis is just getting started. In this week’s blog, we dissect as much as possible, offer much of the data for your own consumption, and look ahead. 

It would be imprudent not to reference few of our pre-race comments from last week’s blog (highlighted in italics) assessing the data from the Derby trail preps, and following-up on the results from the Derby itself.

Orb’s three wins this season at Gulfstream Park have all been noteworthy, covering extra ground in each of them, and recording the fastest final quarter-mile from all three. The turns at Gulfstream are long and sweeping, and the son of Malibu Moon has a grinding style in which his various riders have kept him out of trouble, maintaining that powerful, consistent stride. The detriment to the wider trips has been that extra ground, which makes Orb’s success seem even more impressive than his final margins. If we adjusted those actual margins to account for the extra ground he covered, Orb’s three wins this season at Gulfstream would equate to 4 ½ (allowance), 4 (Fountain of Youth), and 5 (Florida Derby) lengths. On par, no horse in the Derby comes close to this level of consistent domination of his competition as a 3-year-old.

In the Derby, Orb covered the third-most ground of any horse (just less than Frac Daddy and Vyjack, who covered the most). He went 80 feet more than second-placer Golden Soul, and 84 feet more than third home Revolutionary. There are many factors that go into a race’s results, but Orb’s extra ground coverage is remarkable considering the results. Overall, Orb traveled the equivalent of approximately 9 ½ lengths more than Revolutionary, and about 9 ¾ lengths more than Golden Soul, but actually beat both rivals by more than 2 ½ lengths.

ORB WAS ON THE FAR OUTSIDE (WHITE HELMET) ENTERING THE STRETCH

Trackus Inside

Does this suggest Orb is 12 to 13 lengths better than both horses? That’s probably an overstatement. But off the back of his trips in Florida, always enduring extra ground relative to his competition, he does the hard work for the sake of keeping out of trouble. As mentioned above, Orb has a consistent grinding style, and it is, essentially, pace neutral. If they go fast, he’ll settle well off the pace and a slowly run race will result in his being closer.

Orb remains a massive threat off those characteristics [speed and success amidst extra ground coverage] as well, and is absolutely the likeliest winner, but fails to offer much value.

It was downright shocking that Orb was 7-1 throughout the vast majority of the day, before getting pounded in the minutes before the race down to almost 11-2 (5.4-1).  The value was significantly greater than would have been expected off Mike Battaglia’s morning line of 7-2, which seemed spot-on considering the constant buzz around the eventual winner.

In the aftermath of the race when we released some data on Twitter, a few comments came in that ground loss doesn’t really matter at all given Orb’s result. Along with much of the data presented here in the past, we have been keen to offer a fairly regular caveat – some horses and their styles dictate that they will have to run wide. Orb is a classic case – we admitted it before the Derby, and after the Derby it only becomes clearer.

…There is no underemphasizing the trips of RevolutionaryMylute, and Golden Soul in the Louisiana Derby. Revolutionary, who will get Calvin Borel for the first time in the Derby, probably covered the most ground of any horse in the race. The son of War Pass was off the rail around the first turn and advanced wide, progressing no less than five wide around the duration of the far turn.

Revolutionary went from what we projected to be the widest trip in the Louisiana Derby (although it cannot be quantified since Fair Grounds has not installed Trakus), to actually covering the shortest trip in the Kentucky Derby.  That’s incredibly noteworthy. What is worth discussing in detail is how much the firmer inside ground and that cozy trip helped move him forward to be competitive with Orb. Golden Soul saved plenty of ground under Borel early in the Louisiana Derby, but swung incredibly wide on the second turn and ran on well. With Robby Albarado on board at Churchill, he got the slight jump on Revolutionary and plotted the path through the inside. Under different conditions, are both horses as close to Orb at the finish provided Orb gets the same outside trip? We’d suggest probably not.  Still, both horses had significantly cozier trips than in Louisiana, which propelled them to major competitive status in the big race.

Below – the individual sectional times, final half-mile and final furlong times, distance traveled relative to the winner, and average speeds of the field for the 139th Kentucky Derby, as recorded by Trakus.  Selected data is bolded for added consideration.

#

Horse

1/4

1/2

3/4

1M

Finish

Last 1/2

Last 1/8

Distance

Avg Speed

16

Orb

23.74

23.92

23.98

25.14

25.88

51.02

13.30

6721

37.4

4

Golden Soul

23.62

23.92

24.01

25.43

26.11

51.54

13.33

-80

36.8

3

Revolutionary

23.93

23.84

24.04

25.39

26.09

51.48

13.50

-84

36.7

5

Normandy Invasion

23.33

22.94

24.04

25.71

27.30

53.01

13.96

-41

36.9

6

Mylute

24.02

23.80

23.81

25.54

26.18

51.72

13.51

-20

37.0

2

Oxbow

22.83

23.08

24.10

26.12

28.28

54.40

14.66

-76

36.4

11

Lines of Battle

23.52

23.86

24.16

25.85

27.30

53.15

13.96

-44

36.5

17

Will Take Charge

22.32

24.55

24.30

25.60

28.05

53.65

14.26

-31

36.5

15

Charming Kitten

23.38

23.60

24.01

26.24

27.82

54.06

14.35

-60

36.3

7

Giant Finish

23.18

23.31

24.51

26.52

27.56

54.08

13.83

-39

36.4

9

Overanalyze

23.53

23.78

24.15

26.49

27.05

53.54

13.66

-51

36.4

10

Palace Malice

22.57

22.69

24.32

26.67

28.86

55.53

14.89

-54

36.3

19

Java's War

24.57

23.51

23.76

25.85

27.71

53.56

14.23

-19

36.4

14

Verrazano

22.77

22.88

24.42

26.40

28.98

55.38

15.18

-31

36.4

12

Itsmyluckyday

22.85

23.26

24.50

26.49

29.43

55.92

15.20

-35

36.0

18

Frac Daddy

23.13

23.78

24.38

26.96

28.68

55.64

14.75

12

36.2

8

Goldencents

22.60

23.20

24.50

27.50

33.42

60.92

18.18

-49

34.7

20

Vyjack

22.77

22.91

24.67

28.08

33.34

61.42

18.16

18

34.9

13

Falling Sky

22.71

23.66

24.73

27.30

33.45

60.75

18.33

-15

34.7

 

Did Normandy Invasion move too soon?

Racing’s active social media community was abuzz with discussion as to whether Javier Castellano “moved too soon” on his mount Normandy Invasion?

While it may have looked like Castellano was imploring his mount to go faster, Normandy Invasion might never have had the kick necessary to sustain a run against the others closing from far back.  At no point during the time Normandy Invasion was “making his move” was he the fastest horse in the race, nor was he ever faster than Orb.

Between Poles

Time

Rank

1/2 - 7/16

6.29

8th

7/16 - 3/8

6.41

4th

3/8 - 5/16

6.38

3rd

5/16 - 1/4

6.63

6th

1/4 - 3/16

6.61

5th


In fact, Orb was the fastest horse over every “final” segment in last four furlongs of the Derby – the final half, seven-sixteenths, three-eighths, five-sixteenths, quarter, three-sixteenths, eighth, and sixteenth. While different horses may have been individually fastest within a particular sixteenth (which we discuss below), Normandy Invasion never was during the last half-mile. His “move” seems to be more of an illusion – running fastest amongst the relatively tiring front-runners.

Was there something else impressive about his run, though?

Those who watched the NBC broadcast are likely to have noted Donna Barton Brothers walking the track and showing the difference between the rail (compact), several lanes of the rail (deeper and stickier), and the middle of the track (fairly compact, not as deep/sticky). Four of the first five finishers in the race did their running either on that most compact portion of the rail, or out in the middle of the track. Only Normandy Invasion managed a decent placing, fourth overall, amongst the horses who did most of the running in the tackier spots just off the rail. Oxbow, planted on the rail, stayed-on well considering his attendance to the pace, while the early speed faded and all the action at the end came from horses saving all the ground or racing out near the crown of the course.

Anatomy of some bad Derby luck

Will Take Charge was making the same move as Orb around the far turn of the big race. Just to the inside of the eventual winner, Will Take Charge actually recorded the fastest sixteenth from the five-sixteenths pole to the quarter pole. And then Will Take Charge ran into the one thing any Derby horse making a big move cannot afford to face – a tiring horse, directly in front of him.  Below, take note of the two sixteenth-mile segments, first from the five-sixteenths to the quarter pole, and then from the quarter pole to the three-sixteenths.  The five-fastest individual performances from that last portion of the far turn are noted on the left, in order, with Will Take Charge’s time being just slightly faster than Orb, with eventual second Golden Soul being third-fastest at that point, then third-placer Revolutionary being fourth-fastest and fifth-home Mylute.

Then look at the first sixteenth-mile segment in the home stretch on the right - Will Take Charge ran up on the heels of Verrazano.  How much does that hurt your chances of a better finish? Within a sixteenth of a mile, Will Take Charge went from running the fastest segment to the fourth-slowest.

#

Horse

Rank

5/16 to 1/4

1/4 to 3/16

Rank

17

Will Take Charge

1st

6.37

6.98

16th

16

Orb

2nd

6.40

6.23

1st

4

Golden Soul

3rd

6.43

6.31

4th

3

Revolutionary

4th

6.49

6.26

2nd

6

Mylute

5th

6.52

6.26

2nd


Frac Daddy, who was 17th at the end of the segment listed above as “1/4 to 3/16,” and finished 16th overall, ran faster during that small but crucial portion of the race than Will Take Charge, recording a time of 6.92 seconds.  Will Take Charge, who finished seventh, and was previously fifth when running the fastest sixteenth a segment earlier, was hampered to such a degree that even a horse who did little more than fade steadily throughout the running was going faster than Will Take Charge at the point of his obstruction.   

Best Derby performance from a bottom-half finisher?

How about Overanalyze?

It’s tough to think that any horse in this year’s race ran a stranger race. He broke in stride and settled mid-pack, was on the rail for the first-turn before jockey Rafael Bejerano started pushing his mount along with six furlongs to run. Overanalyze was then guided outside of horses and got completely shuffled around the far turn while never racing on the bridle.  For a split second, Overanalyze was last with about five-sixteenths to run. 

Sometimes horses that “clunk” along are identified as only “passing tiring rivals,” but Overanalyze was actually moving along well at the end of the Derby. On the rail, Bejerano shifted him outside to move around rivals, and he actually recorded the fifth-fastest final furlong. Not bad for the eleventh-place finisher in the Derby, who had been seemingly uncomfortable on the surface from the start.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has indicated the Arkansas Derby-winning son of Dixie Union is likely to aim for the Belmont Stakes, and his late kick at Churchill suggests he might just love 12 furlongs at “Big Sandy.”  Already a winner over the Belmont surface (taking the Grade 2 Futurity in October), this guy could be the sneaky play come June.

Orb’s biggest threat in the Preakness?

Post position.  No doubt.

You can talk about horses all you want, the biggest threat to Orb’s hopes in the Preakness seemingly has little to do with his competition. As proven in all four of his wins in 2013, this horse needs to be outside where he gets a clear run – a bad (inside) draw, along with the right (wrong) combination of competitors around him, could spell trouble for the impressive Derby winner. 

Image Description

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings is the Director of Racing Information for Trakus. Based in Boston, Mass., Trakus provides full-field in-race tracking, instantaneous motion graphics, and real-time information to racetrack operators worldwide. Trakus is currently installed at racetracks in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Data analysis from Trakus appears on Twitter regularly @TrakusRacing.

Cummings also serves as the editor of DubaiRaceNight.com, a comprehensive website covering racing in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. He has covered the Dubai World Cup on site each year since 2007 and provides selections for the entire season of racing in the United Arab Emirates and full-card analysis for all racing at Meydan. He also is the North American correspondent for Al Adiyat, a Dubai-based weekly racing publication.

Prior to joining Trakus, he worked for seven years in the financial services industry, and has served the racing industry in various capacities since 1999.  Pat was the backup announcer at Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) from 1999 to 2009, and also has called cards at Atlantic City Race Course, Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, and Monmouth Park.

A member of the Turf Publicists of America, Pat earned his MBA from Baylor University in Texas and a BA from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

 

Image Description

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings is the Director of Racing Information for Trakus. Based in Boston, Mass., Trakus provides full-field in-race tracking, instantaneous motion graphics, and real-time information to racetrack operators worldwide. Trakus is currently installed at racetracks in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Data analysis from Trakus appears on Twitter regularly @TrakusRacing.

Cummings also serves as the editor of DubaiRaceNight.com, a comprehensive website covering racing in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. He has covered the Dubai World Cup on site each year since 2007 and provides selections for the entire season of racing in the United Arab Emirates and full-card analysis for all racing at Meydan. He also is the North American correspondent for Al Adiyat, a Dubai-based weekly racing publication.

Prior to joining Trakus, he worked for seven years in the financial services industry, and has served the racing industry in various capacities since 1999.  Pat was the backup announcer at Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) from 1999 to 2009, and also has called cards at Atlantic City Race Course, Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, and Monmouth Park.

A member of the Turf Publicists of America, Pat earned his MBA from Baylor University in Texas and a BA from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

 

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