One of the easiest ways to pick your horse for a given race is a hunch bet – based on the weather, or your sister’s birthday, or the fact that a certain jockey has won three races in a row. Very little (if any) real handicapping is involved, and if your horse is a longshot it can pay handsomely.
Here, I decided to take a shot at a statistical hunch bet for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, eliminating one horse at a time until the field is whittled down to one, using Derby statistics and facts. Follow my “logic” below, but be sure to take it all with a grain of salt – this method is far from scientific!
- Just one Sunland Derby runner has ever won the roses, so Hence probably won’t.
- No sire has had more than one Kentucky Derby winner in the last 15 years. That means the horses with sires who’ve had recent Derby success (Classic Empire [Pioneerof the Nile] and Gormley [Uncle Mo]) can be removed from consideration.
- Only two horses since 1929 have won the Derby with 42 or more days of rest, which means Thunder Snow and Fast and Accurate, who won the UAE Derby and the JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes, respectively, can be eliminated.
- Horses with the first initial “I” have only a 5.4 percent win rate in the Kentucky Derby, allowing us to cross Irap and Irish War Cry off our list.
- The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes has produced 23 Derby winners but only one since 1995, which means Practical Joke, J Boys Echo, Tapwrit and McCraken probably won’t win.
In case you haven’t been keeping track, the field has been cut to nine potential winners from 20 starters. Continuing …
- Trainer Steve Asmussen is winless in the Kentucky Derby from 15 tries, so we’ll remove his two remaining runners, Untrapped and Lookin At Lee, from consideration.
- Jockey Mike Smith has one win from 22 mounts in the Derby, so his mount Girvin probably won’t win.
- No maiden (horse with zero career wins) has won the Derby since 1933, so Sonneteer can be eliminated.
- Just one horse this century (California Chrome) won the Derby having already made 10 or more career starts, so State of Honor probably won’t wear the roses.
We have our superfecta: Always Dreaming, Gunnevera, Battle of Midway and Patch.
- Every Kentucky Derby winner after Apollo in 1882 has raced as a 2-year-old. Patch didn’t, so he can be crossed off our list.
- It’s been 12 years since a horse won the Derby without a graded stakes win under his belt, so Battle of Midway is eliminated.
- In the last 21 years, just two Derby winners finished worse than second in their final prep race, meaning Gunnevera probably won’t be successful.
And now, we have a winner: Based on a few statistical hunches, Always Dreaming will win the 2017 Kentucky Derby. But remember, as Evan Esar said, statistics is the science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.