Derby Data: How Fast the Contenders Finished

Derby Data: Cuán Rápido Remataron los Competidores

Racing
Classic Empire (yellow and blue cap, second from left) closed to win the April 15 Arkansas Derby, while third-place Lookin At Lee (orange cap, left) finished with an even faster closing time but ran out of real estate. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands is a race unlike any other, and for handicappers this is especially true. The prestigious race is conducted over 1 ¼ miles, a distance that few – if any – of the entrants will have tackled in the past. For most, their longest race will have been 1 1/8 miles, an eighth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby.

As a result, many handicappers approach the Derby with a different mindset than they would have for an ordinary race, and one of the factors they choose to emphasize is how fast each contender ran the last three-eighths of a mile in their final prep race. Analyzing such fractional times has become a popular tool for handicapping the Kentucky Derby, and for a good reason – horses that are finishing strongly at the end of their prep races are more likely to handle the distance of the Kentucky Derby than horses that are tiring at the end of their prep races.

Generally, a final three-eighths time of less than 38 seconds is considered good, while anything over 39 seconds is slow. Of course, these times can be affected by a variety of factors, including the speed of the racetrack and the early pace of the race (it’s easier to finish fast if you’ve gone very slow early on), but the fact remains that each of the last five Kentucky Derby winners – and 15 of the last 20 – ran the last three-eighths of their final Derby prep race in less than 38 seconds, indicating that analyzing these fractional times can be very useful for handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

Derby Winner

Final Prep Race

Final Time

Final 3/8th Time

Nyquist

Florida Derby

1:49.11

:37.72

American Pharoah

Arkansas Derby

1:48.52

:37.81

California Chrome

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.52

:36.69

Orb

Florida Derby

1:50.87

:37.73

I’ll Have Another

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.88

:36.41

Animal Kingdom

Spiral Stakes

1:52.32

:39.38

Super Saver

Arkansas Derby

1:49.41

:38.16

Mine That Bird

Sunland Derby

1:50.56

:40.27

Big Brown

Florida Derby

1:48.16

:38.08

Street Sense

Blue Grass Stakes

1:51.33

:34.35

Barbaro

Florida Derby

1:49.01

:37.56

Giacomo

Santa Anita Derby

1:49.51

:37.55

Smarty Jones

Arkansas Derby

1:49.41

:37.70

Funny Cide

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:48.78

:37.43

War Emblem

Illinois Derby

1:49.92

:36.89

Monarchos

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:48.42

:37.43

Fusaichi Pegasus

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:47.92

:37.10

Charismatic

Lexington Stakes

1:41.06 (1 1/16 miles)

:36.08 (projected time based on finish at a shorter distance)

Real Quiet

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.37

:36.56

Silver Charm

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.62

:38.45

In years past, calculating such fractions required using rough rules-of-thumb, since final times and fractional splits were only published for the leader at each point of a race. This is still the case at some tracks, but for tracks that have installed the advanced race-timing technology Trakus, we can now access precise times for every horse in a race, making our task easier and much more accurate.

Below is a chart ranking the top 26 Kentucky Derby contenders in order of how fast they finished in their final prep race. Before diving into the data, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Trakus is not installed at Turfway Park, Fair Grounds, or Oaklawn Park – the hosts of the Grade 3 JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes, Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby – so I have calculated the final times and last three-eighths fractions from those races using the estimation that six lengths is equal to one second, which I have found to be more precise than the traditional rule-of-thumb that five lengths is equal to one second. As a result, the times I have listed for horses that ran at these tracks are not quite as accurate as the Trakus fractions, but they should be close.

Since some tracks have a traditional timer in addition to Trakus, the times provided by Trakus can vary slightly from the times officially published in result charts. Whenever possible, I have used data from Trakus for this chart.

Fractional times for the UAE Derby are based on metric distances, which are slightly shorter than “equivalent” distances measured in yards. To make Thunder Snow’s times comparable to the other times on the list, I have converted them to projected times based on yards.

Conquest Mo Money has been included twice since he contested both the Grade 3 Sunland Derby and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Horse

Race (Finish Position)

Final Time

Final 3/8ths Time

Sonneteer

Arkansas Derby (4th)

1:49.26

:36.48

Always Dreaming

Florida Derby (1st)

1:47.47

:36.56

Gunnevera

Florida Derby (3rd)

1:48.79

:36.59

Lookin At Lee

Arkansas Derby (3rd)

1:49.18

:37.15

State of Honor

Florida Derby (2nd)

1:48.53

:37.43

Classic Empire

Arkansas Derby (1st)

1:48.93

:37.48

Hence

Sunland Derby (1st)

1:48.10

:37.63

Thunder Snow

UAE Derby (1st)

1:58.49 (1 3/16 miles)

:37.71

Girvin

Louisiana Derby (1st)

1:49.77

:37.79

Conquest Mo Money

Arkansas Derby (2nd)

1:49.01

:37.85

Practical Joke

Blue Grass Stakes (2nd)

1:50.72

:37.95

Patch

Louisiana Derby (2nd)

1:49.98

:38.00

Irap

Blue Grass Stakes (1st)

1:50.59

:38.03

Malagacy

Arkansas Derby (5th)

1:49.30

:38.12

Conquest Mo Money

Sunland Derby (2nd)

1:48.72

:38.34

McCraken

Blue Grass Stakes (3rd)

1:51.28

:38.27

Untrapped

Arkansas Derby (6th)

1:49.76

:38.48

J Boys Echo

Blue Grass Stakes (4th)

1:51.67

:38.56

Irish War Cry

Wood Memorial (1st)

1:50.86

:38.98

Local Hero

Louisiana Derby (3rd)

1:50.27

:39.12

Tapwrit

Blue Grass Stakes (5th)

1:52.58

:39.48

Battalion Runner

Wood Memorial (2nd)

1:51.42

:39.57

Gormley

Santa Anita Derby (1st)

1:51.16

:39.74

Cloud Computing

Wood Memorial (3rd)

1:52.00

:39.82

Battle of Midway

Santa Anita Derby (2nd)

1:51.29

:40.37

Royal Mo

Santa Anita Derby (3rd)

1:51.32

:40.40

Fast and Accurate

Spiral Stakes (1st)

1:50.96

:40.74

In an interesting twist, the horse that finished fastest in his final prep race is Sonneteer, who has yet to record a single victory from ten starts! But the son of Midnight Lute has also finished fourth or better in nine straight races, including a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He was closing ground rapidly at the end of the Arkansas Derby, gaining 7 ¾ lengths on the leaders through the final three-eighths of a mile, and while his 0-for-10 record will make him a longshot in Louisville should he make the field (he currently ranks 23rd in the points standings), he might be one to consider for the superfecta at a big price.

In general, the Arkansas Derby was a strong race, producing three of the top six horses on the chart. The Grade 1 Xpressbet Florida Derby was also a very fast race, with the victorious Always Dreaming finishing in an impressive :36.56 seconds after being close to a solid early pace. Gunnevera, who finished third after a slow start, also posted a sharp finishing fraction.

Two races that produced slower finishing fractions were the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, though it should be kept in mind that the Wood Memorial was conducted over a very slow track that was not producing fast times. This can be measured by the Beyer Speed Figures, which attempt to compare the times of races based on the speed of the track on any given day. Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry received a Beyer of 101 for his time of 1:50.86 at Aqueduct, while Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming received a Beyer of 97 for his time of 1:47.47 at Gulfstream Park. Taking these numbers at face value, they suggest that Irish War Cry could have run much faster if he had been running at a track as fast as Gulfstream – all things being equal, his time might have been closer to 1:47.07, with a correspondingly quicker time for the final three-eighths of a mile (certainly under 38 seconds.)

It’s also important to remember that analyzing final three-eighths fractions is only one piece of the Kentucky Derby puzzle, and there are lots of other factors to consider when handicapping the race. But given the significance of these fractions in recent years, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Good luck with your handicapping!

El Kentucky Derby Presentado por Yum! Brands es una carrera distinta a cualquier otra, y para los analistas esto es especialmente cierto. La prestigiosa carrera se tramita sobre 1 ¼ de milla, una distancia que pocos – si es que alguno – de los inscritos habrá abordado en el pasado. Para la mayoría, su carrera más larga habrá sido 1 1/8 de milla, un octavo de milla más corta que el Kentucky Derby.

Como resultado, muchos analistas se aproximan al Derby con una mentalidad diferente a la que ellos hubieran tenido para una carrera ordinaria, y uno de los factores que ellos escogen para enfatizar es cuán rápido cada competidor corrió los últimos tres octavos de milla en su carrera preparatoria final. Analizar esos tiempos parciales se ha convertido en una herramienta popular para pronosticar en el Kentucky Derby, y por una buena razón – caballos que están finalizando poderosamente al final de sus carreras preparatorias es más probable que manejen la distancia del Kentucky Derby que caballos que estén llegando cansados al final de las mismas.

Generalmente, un tiempo final de tres octavos de milla inferior a 38 segundos es considerado bueno, mientras que cualquiera sobre 39 segundos es considerado lento. Por supuesto, estos tiempos pueden ser afectados por una variedad de factores, incluidos la velocidad de la pista y los parciales iniciales de la carrera (es más fácil finalizar rápido si has ido al comienzo muy cómodo), pero los hechos indican que cada uno de los últimos cinco ganadores del Kentucky Derby – y 15 de los últimos  20 – corrieron los últimos tres octavos de milla de su carrera final para llegar al Derby en menos de 38 segundos, lo que indica que analizar estos tiempos parciales puede ser muy útil para pronosticar en el Kentucky Derby.

Ganador del Derby

Carrera Final para el Derby

Tiempo Final

Tiempo Final 3/8vos.

Nyquist

Florida Derby

1:49.11

:37.72

American Pharoah

Arkansas Derby

1:48.52

:37.81

California Chrome

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.52

:36.69

Orb

Florida Derby

1:50.87

:37.73

I’ll Have Another

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.88

:36.41

Animal Kingdom

Spiral Stakes

1:52.32

:39.38

Super Saver

Arkansas Derby

1:49.41

:38.16

Mine That Bird

Sunland Derby

1:50.56

:40.27

Big Brown

Florida Derby

1:48.16

:38.08

Street Sense

Blue Grass Stakes

1:51.33

:34.35

Barbaro

Florida Derby

1:49.01

:37.56

Giacomo

Santa Anita Derby

1:49.51

:37.55

Smarty Jones

Arkansas Derby

1:49.41

:37.70

Funny Cide

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:48.78

:37.43

War Emblem

Illinois Derby

1:49.92

:36.89

Monarchos

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:48.42

:37.43

Fusaichi Pegasus

Wood Memorial Stakes

1:47.92

:37.10

Charismatic

Lexington Stakes

1:41.06 (1 1/16 miles)

:36.08 (tiempo proyectado basado en una distancia más corta)

Real Quiet

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.37

:36.56

Silver Charm

Santa Anita Derby

1:47.62

:38.45

En años pasados, calcular tales parciales requería de utilizar aproximadas reglas generales, ya que los tiempos finales y los parciales se publicaban solamente para el líder en cada punto de la carrera. Este es aún el caso para algunos hipódromos, pero para aquellos que han instalado la tecnología avanzada de control de tiempo Trakus, podemos ahora acceder a tiempos precisos para cada caballo en una carrera, haciendo nuestra tarea más fácil y mucho más exacta.

Abajo hay un gráfico calificando a los mejores 26 competidores para el Kentucky Derby listados en orden de cuán rápido ellos finalizaron en su carrera preparatoria final. Antes de que se sumerjan en la data, aquí hay unas cuantas cosas a tener en cuenta:

Trakus no está instalado en Turfway ParkFair Grounds, o Oaklawn Park – pistas anfitrionas del Grado 3 JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes, Grado 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, y Grado 1 Arkansas Derby – de modo que yo he calculado el tiempo final y los parciales de los últimos tres octavos de milla de esas carreras utilizando la estimación de que seis cuerpos equivale a un segundo, lo cual he descubierto ser más preciso que la tradicional norma general de que cinco cuerpos equivale a un segundo. Por lo tanto, los tiempos listados para caballos que corrieron en dichos hipódromos no son tan exactos como los parciales de Trakus, pero deberían andar muy cerca.

Dado que algunos hipódromos tienen cronometrista oficial además del Trakus, los tiempos provistos por Trakus pueden variar ligeramente de los tiempos oficiales publicados en los resultados. Cuando ha sido posible, he utilizado data de Trakus para este gráfico.

Tiempos parciales para el UAE Derby se basan en distancias métricas, las cuales son ligeramente más cortas que su distancia “equivalente” medida en yardas. Para hacer los tiempos de Thunder Snow comparables a otros tiempos de la lista, los he convertido a tiempos proyectados basados en yardas.

Conquest Mo Money ha sido incluido dos veces ya que compitió  tanto en el Grado 3 Sunland Derbycomo en el Grado 1 Arkansas Derby sobre 1 1/8 de milla.

Caballo

Carrera (Posición Final)

Tiempo Final

Tiempo Final 3/8vos.

Sonneteer

Arkansas Derby (4th)

1:49.26

:36.48

Always Dreaming

Florida Derby (1st)

1:47.47

:36.56

Gunnevera

Florida Derby (3rd)

1:48.79

:36.59

Lookin At Lee

Arkansas Derby (3rd)

1:49.18

:37.15

State of Honor

Florida Derby (2nd)

1:48.53

:37.43

Classic Empire

Arkansas Derby (1st)

1:48.93

:37.48

Hence

Sunland Derby (1st)

1:48.10

:37.63

Thunder Snow

UAE Derby (1st)

1:58.49 (1 3/16 miles)

:37.71

Girvin

Louisiana Derby (1st)

1:49.77

:37.79

Conquest Mo Money

Arkansas Derby (2nd)

1:49.01

:37.85

Practical Joke

Blue Grass Stakes (2nd)

1:50.72

:37.95

Patch

Louisiana Derby (2nd)

1:49.98

:38.00

Irap

Blue Grass Stakes (1st)

1:50.59

:38.03

Malagacy

Arkansas Derby (5th)

1:49.30

:38.12

Conquest Mo Money

Sunland Derby (2nd)

1:48.72

:38.34

McCraken

Blue Grass Stakes (3rd)

1:51.28

:38.27

Untrapped

Arkansas Derby (6th)

1:49.76

:38.48

J Boys Echo

Blue Grass Stakes (4th)

1:51.67

:38.56

Irish War Cry

Wood Memorial (1st)

1:50.86

:38.98

Local Hero

Louisiana Derby (3rd)

1:50.27

:39.12

Tapwrit

Blue Grass Stakes (5th)

1:52.58

:39.48

Battalion Runner

Wood Memorial (2nd)

1:51.42

:39.57

Gormley

Santa Anita Derby (1st)

1:51.16

:39.74

Cloud Computing

Wood Memorial (3rd)

1:52.00

:39.82

Battle of Midway

Santa Anita Derby (2nd)

1:51.29

:40.37

Royal Mo

Santa Anita Derby (3rd)

1:51.32

:40.40

Fast and Accurate

Spiral Stakes (1st)

1:50.96

:40.74

En un giro interesante, el caballo que ha finalizado más rápido en su carrera preparatoria final esSonneteer, ¡Quien aún no logra registrar una victoria en diez salidas! Pero el hijo de Midnight Lute también ha finalizado cuarto o mejor en nueve carreras consecutivas, incluido un placé  en el Grado 2Rebel Stakes. Estuvo ganando terreno con fuerza al final del Arkansas Derby, recortando 7 ¾ cuerpos a los líderes a través de los últimos tres octavos de milla, y aunque el estar 0-de-10 en su campaña lo convierte en un golpe para Louisville si es que está al final en el grupo (actualmente se ubica 23ro en la estadística de puntaje), podría ser él alguien a considerar para la superfecta a muy buen precio.

En general, el Arkansas Derby fue una carrera brava, produciendo a tres de los mejores seis caballos en el gráfico. El Grado 1 Xpressbet Florida Derby fue también una carrera muy rápida, con el victoriosoAlways Dreaming rematando en unos impresionantes :36.56 segundos después de haber venido cerca de un tiempo inicial muy sólido. Gunnevera, quien llegó tercero después de una lenta partida, también registró unos notables parciales finales.

Dos carreras que produjeron parciales finales más lentos fueron el Grado 2 Wood Memorial Presentado por NYRA Bets y el Grado 1 Santa Anita Derby, aunque hay que tener en cuenta que el Wood Memorial fue tramitado sobre una pista muy lenta que no estaba produciendo tiempos veloces. Esto puede ser medido por las Figuras Beyer de Velocidad, las cuales intentan comparar los tiempos de carreras basándose en la velocidad de la pista en un día específico. El ganador del Wood Memorial Irish War Cry recibió un Beyer de 101 por su tiempo de 1:50.86 en Aqueduct, mientras que el ganador del Florida Derby, Always Dreaming,  recibió un Beyer de 97 por su tiempo de 1:47.47 en Gulfstream Park. Tomando estos números en sentido literal, ellos sugieren que Irish War Cry podría haber corrido mucho más rápido si hubiese participado en una pista tan rápida como Gulfstream – emparejadas todas las cosas, su tiempo podría haber estado cerca de 1:47.07, con un correspondiente tiempo final más rápido para los últimos tres octavos de milla (ciertamente inferior a 38 segundos.)

También es importante recordar que analizar los parciales de los últimos tres octavos de milla es solamente una pieza del rompecabezas del Kentucky Derby, y hay muchos otros factores a considerar cuando analizamos la carrera. Pero dada la significación de estos parciales en los años recientes, es algo para poner el ojo encima, definitivamente.

¡ Buena suerte con sus análisis!

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