Every dog has his day, and every horse has a chance to win at Churchill Downs.
That last bit may be a touch of hyperbole. In all reality, there’s a reason some horses are listed at 50-1 to win the Kentucky Derby this year. Qualifying for the race doesn’t instantly make a horse a contender.
But odds aren’t the only important aspect for projecting a horse’s performance in the Run for the Roses. Oddsmakers know a lot about the sport, but there’s a reason long shots sometimes win and front-runners sometimes fall short of expectations.
Post position, breeding history, trainers, jockeys and track conditions all have an effect on how a horse performs in Triple Crown races. And while some horses fail to run well in certain positions, there’s always a chance we see a surprise competitor emerge from the pack this year.
Some horses were born to close out races from off the pace and others to set the tone throughout. But no matter the running style, no horse can win a race without the speed to outduel its competition at the right time.
Created by sportswriter Andrew Beyer, the Beyer speed-rating system measures the how fast a horse has raced in its previous contests. Unlike raw race times, Beyer numbers also take into account pure speed and the surface on which a horse has run.
Using those figures as the basis for comparison, let’s take a look at the three fastest horses in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and break down each horse’s chances of earning a victory in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
|Will Take Charge||Lukas||17||20-1||95|
|Lines of Battle||O'Brien||11||30-1||74|
|Falling Sky||Terranova II||13||50-1||92|
One of the top favorites to win the Derby, Verrazano has been an incredible impressive horse in its three-year-old racing season. The colt hasn’t lost in its four races this calendar year, pulling off wins over several fellow Derby participants in the process.
The Todd Pletcher-trained horse bested Normandy Invasion on April 6 at Wood Memorial and Java’s War at Tampa Bay on March 9. With some big wins against tough competition, there’s no doubt Verrazano will put on a good show May 4.
The colt’s 105 Beyer rating is tied for the highest in this field of horses, and it has proved to be one of the fastest on any track this year. Given the expectation for a moderate pace in this year’s Derby, expect the 4-1 favorite to remain just off the pace and burst from the pack in the No. 14 position.
Goldencents got a good draw this year with the No. 8 position. In the Kentucky Derby’s history, 10 horses have emerged from that starting position to win the race.
But historical data means nothing in relation to how well Goldencents runs on Saturday. The only thing that will matter to the Rick Pitino-owned horse is pure speed.
The colt loves to pace its races and remain in the front of the pack from start to finish. Goldencents has either led or been in second for the duration of every race it has been in this year, and that should remain the same in the Kentucky Derby.
Explosive speed is a special characteristic. Goldencents jumps out of the gate and keeps it in gear from start to finish, and we should expect the same Saturday.
Tied with Verrazano for a 105 Beyer rating, there’s no question the type of sprinting speed we’ll see from the colt from gate to stretch.
It takes a special horse to run well from any post position. Itsmyluckyday is one of those horses.
With the speed and stamina to either come off the pace or set the tone in the front of the pack, the Edward Plesa Jr.-trained colt got a great draw with the No. 12 position—a slot in which jockey Elvis Trujillo can make adjustments and get whatever he needs out of his horse.
Itsmyluckyday has been masterful in recent races, posting two wins and a second-place finish in the last four months. The colt’s only loss came against Derby favorite Orb at Florida on March 30.
With a Beyer rating of 104, Itsmyluckyday is considered a substantially faster horse than most of its Kentucky Derby challengers. Whether setting the pace or drafting off the lead, expect Itsmyluckyday to put on a show down the stretch.