Handicapping a Derby Based on Points, Not Earnings
The editor has advised me that he doesn’t want any more charts this week-- which should guarantee more readers at least get as far as the next sentence.
It was suggested that my opinion as a handicapper/fan -- in light of the final ratings and rankings that I’ve been generating -- would make for more interesting reading, so here we go.
Unfortunately, the post positions won’t be drawn until tomorrow for the 2012 Kentucky Derby field and, in the absence of such a key handicapping variable, I won’t be giving out my top three selections the way it’s done in a consensus of professionals.
Instead, I’m going to construct a superfecta play, but not an eight-horse box as was recently suggested by Paul Moran. That would require 1,680 combinations which, even if dime supers are available, which they are not, is beyond this bettor’s bankroll.
Also, given the unusual strength of this field, the result could well involve four of the top eight betting choices. As a recreational player without partners, a five horse box for $120 would be more my speed, so approximately that outlay will be involved.
Indeed this Derby promises to be the most competitive one in years in terms of individual entrant accomplishment. It is expected to include the winners of at least nine meaningful prep races and the runners-up from at least five of those. It is likely that 13 of the top 24 earnings-qualified entrants will also be points-qualified.
There could be as many as nine Grade I winners, four Grade I runners-up, four Grade II winners, one Grade II runner-up, three Grade III winners, one Grade III runner-up, and/or two Grade I third-place finishers, but no fillies.
Depending upon defections, the race could also include as many as five horses with only one top-three finish in a graded stake, ranking them low on points. Three of them qualified in a Grade III event. I will toss two of those.
But not Went The Day Well who represents the new-school thinking of owner Barry Irwin who succeeded last year with Animal Kingdom with identical preparation by trainer Graham Motion who has never had a horse test positive
More new-school thinking comes from overseas with trainer Aiden O’Brien who is also following his previous year’s path in which he used the UAE Derby as a springboard for Master of Hounds who finished fifth here following a second there.
As Daddy Long Legs won that prep this year, one might suspect he’s gotten some of the kinks out/ It also appears that Mr. Obrien is getting quite comfortable at Churchill Downs having won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf there.
I'd like to think of Mr. Pricci and myself as new-school as well in our determination to explore points-based eligibility as an alternative to the earnings-based status quo.
By a substantial margin on both the BC-PTS and TR-PTS point systems we’ve been experimenting with here at HRI, Creative Cause and Union Rags are the top two qualifiers, with Hansen and Dullahan inseparable at third and I’ll have Another at fifth.
Gemologist and Alpha are tied at sixth with Bodemeister at eighth. Daddy Long Legs, Optimizer, and Rousing Sermon round out the top half of the field.
I could argue that the highest point accumulations reflect superior foundation, consistency, and competitiveness, but then I’d have to factor in speed figures, pace analysis, form cycles, workouts, breeding, soundness, jockey, foaling date, track condition, and post positions. Ugh! Let’s make this simple.
Tier I contenders: Daddy Long Legs, Went the Day Well, Creative Cause, Union Rags.
Tier II contenders: Dullahan, Hansen, I’ll Have Another
Tier III contenders: Gemologist, Alpha, Bodemeister
I see a “Bounce” on the horizon for the Baffert-trained Bodemeister ala Bellamy Road, as opposed to Barbaro and Big Brown. He may have improved over his loss to Creative Cause, but Secret Circle and Sabercat don’t seem on a par with I’ll have Another.
I’ll take a stand against this horse who is sure to be one of the betting favorites. I also have doubts that competition in New York was as good as it was elsewhere. I suspect the strongest contingents competed in Florida, California, Kentucky, Dubai, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New York, in that order.
If your bankroll can handle the play, I would structure the ticket this way: a,b,c,d // a,b,c,d,e,f,g // a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i //a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j (4 x 6 x 7 x 7) 
If not, the play would be a,b // a,b,c,d // a,b,c,d,e,f,g // a,b,c,d,e,f,g (2 x 3 x 5 x 4) 
(If any of the above draws the rail, I would exchange it with the first-lettered horse in the next lower tier).
I’d love to hear other opinions that might make better use of the above rankings. Then maybe a chart would be more appropriate for wrapping-up the series.
Good luck to all and have a Happy Derby Day.
Do you have a take on the state of the game, a favorite race horse, trainer or jockey? Share your ideas. Show the racing industry and media the folly of their ways. The HRI Readers Blog: "When you lose it, Use it." Submit your blog to HRI Webmaster.