Kentucky Derby Predictions: Factors That Will Determine Winner

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2013

With the famous twin spires as a backdrop, a horse and rider work out before racing  at Churchill Downs May 4, 2007 in Louisville. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The 2013 Kentucky Derby is the biggest and most famous horse race of the year in the United States, but there are several key factors that play a huge role in determining which colt runs its way to victory Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.

Weather is always a factor at the annual event, and with an extensive field of legitimate contenders, this is shaping up to be a very wild first leg of the Triple Crown hunt.

With so much on the line Saturday, all of the following factors will separate the pretenders in the field from the true contenders for the Kentucky Derby win.


The Track

According to, there is a serious chance of rain on the day of the big race, but the upkeep of the track is so well maintained that even a soaking in the morning wouldn’t stop this race from going off without a hitch.

While the excellent combination of the right materials on the track (a mixture of sandy loam and natural soil with a clay base) will allow racing even after it rains, how well each horse reacts to the wet surface will depict how they finish the race.

The hope is that it doesn't rain at all, but if it does, the groundskeeping crew will have the course as close to perfect as possible. Despite their best efforts, though, the increased moisture on the track surface will change the way the horses will run.

No matter how wet or dry the track is when the race begins, the horse that reacts to the track conditions the fastest will get to the inside lane and lead the field to the finish line as the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.


The Field

While the Kentucky Derby always brings out the best colts the world has to offer, the field for this year’s event is as good as it has been in a very long time.

There is no sure-fire winner this time around, but with several horses coming into this event undefeated or coming off huge wins, the race on paper looks to be one of the most intriguing of the last decade.

All of the legitimate threats to win at Churchill Downs Saturday—colts like Revolutionary, Verrazano, Goldencents, Orb, Mylute and Oxbow—have the experience at or close to this race length, but the addition of so many horses into the field could startle some of the colts that haven’t run any big-time races.

The 20-horse field presents challenges of its own, and the eventual winner will either have to get out front early and avoid traffic altogether or maneuver through the traffic of horses shuffling to the back and advancing to the front.

While it is much harder for a colt to make a run through traffic and steal the win, the lack of a clear-cut favorite and the even playing field for the top horses will result in a photo-finish.


Predicted Winner: Verrazano

The field is jam-packed with talented horses that have a viable shot at winning the Derby, but the one contender that has the best chance to steal the win Saturday at Churchill Downs would be the undefeated Verrazano.

Not only has the three-year-old colt won in each of the four races he has entered—including a huge win at the Wood Memorial earlier in April—this is a horse trained by the legendary Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher has helped a horse win at the Kentucky Derby before (Super Saver in 2010), and with a colt as strong and fresh as Verrazano, there is a good chance that this combination could walk away victorious.

The sheer number of entries and the unpredictability that a 20-horse field can have on a race will keep the excitement around any one favorite to a reasonable level, but if you had to make a wager on one horse taking the roses, ride with Verrazano.