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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

MAKING THE GRADE: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE TOP KENTUCKY DERBY-146 CONTENDERS

By Keith Pettyjohn — Since the Kentucky Derby has gone to the points system no horse has won the Derby without posting a Class-Based Performance Figure of at least triple digits.

In this year’s edition of the race, we have six such horses that have displayed the speed and class to accomplish such a feat. Now that all of the prep races have been run and the points tallied, let us now take a look at the top contenders:

Tiz The Law is the leading point-getter with 372 points and sure to be a very short-priced favorite; probably one of the shortest favorites that we have seen in a long time.

His best Performance Rating was earned in his most recent start, the Travers’ Stakes. His ‘Midsummer Derby’ earned a 104. This is the best figure that any horse in the field has earned.

Some have said that he looks like a man amongst boys. While I admit that he has truly been impressive, the numbers say that this might not be such a runaway as some think. This will be his greatest test to date, by far.

The second highest GSR in the race goes to Art Collector. He is the third leading point-getter with 150 points. He earned a Graded Stakes Performance Rating of 103 while easily dispatching of the field in the Ellis Park Derby.

Previously, he earned a 101 winning the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July. He’s shown that he is a very solid horse and will not go down without a fight.

If ever there was a horse that seems to be really coming into himself, it’s Art Collector. He just seems to get better with each start, looking more and more professional while doing so.

Thousand Words seems to be one of the field’s biggest head- scratchers. He is the sixth leading point-getter with 83. He showed so much promise winning his first three lifetime starts; breaking maiden, winning the Los Al Futurity and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

The problem was his next three starts. He didn’t run to his ability. But then he came back to form in his most recent race, the Shared Belief. He absolutely puts it all together and ran the best race of his life.

Even though it was a Listed Stakes, not a Graded Stakes Race, his performance earned a rating equivalent to a GSR of 102.

On the first Saturday in September, if Thousand Words has his mind on running and takes to the classic distance of a mile and a quarter, look for him to have a say in the Derby outcome.      

Next up is Honor A.P. He actually is the fourth highest point accumulator with 140 and boasts two Performance Ratings of 101, one for his win in the Santa Anita Derby, the other in the subsequent start Shared Belief when second to Thousand Words.

Even though he might not have been fully cranked for a maximum effort on that day, he showed some fight by closing late in the race and galloping-out with renewed interest.

Rest assured that John Shirreffs will have him fully prepared for this outing and expect him to make a move forward off his previous efforts.

Authentic’s efforts in the Haskell Stakes pushed him into second in the points race with 200. He earned a Graded Stakes Performance Rating of 100 at the Shore Track.

Many have questioned his breeding and whether the Into Mischief colt really wants to go a mile and a quarter, especially after barely hanging on to defeat NY Traffic by the slimmest of margins in a thrilling event.

Runnerup NY Traffic also got a Performance Rating of 100 for the narrow defeat.

It has been projected that we might get a field of about 15 in this year’s Derby. And with just 17 days left until Thoroughbred Racing’s biggest dance, we will continue to look at multiple angles and data points to see if we can find value in “The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports.”

If nothing else in 2020, we have learned that anything can happen. Next week we’ll take a closer look at the very contentious Kentucky Oaks where the brightest three year old fillies are ready to square off.

Good Gambling, and remember when playing this game that “It Only Takes One.”  

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32 Responses

  1. So, how does a gambler, err horseplayer, like me, handicap the Kentucky Derby? Do I bother to purchase the past performances for starters? Seems that the three entrants with the highest points is one way to go. Maybe the three with the highest Beyer’s Speed Figures; how about taping the past performances to the wall and throwing darts; how about using the Alphabet system? It is clear to me that a serious ‘capper will not be able to get it down to three possible blue bloods, just to many that can’t be tossed; to many blue bloods that figure trained by the usual suspects. What to do, what to do? When a ‘capper can’t get it down to three possible winners then the solution to the quandary is to pass the race.

    1. Well that’s a good question. So let’s see what options actually come to mind.

      I would suggest actually looking at the PP’s to see if something jumps out at you. Maybe there is a win play, a dutching play or a group overlay win play. Maybe a more exotic play will jump off of the page for the exacta pool, trifecta, or even super pool. Especially since they are letting the supers be played for 10 cents. Then again, there may be a play that jumps out at you in the horizontal pools like the double, Pick 3, Pick 4 and such. But you’ll never know if you don’t at least take a gander at the PP’s.

      Or of course you could just sit this one out and wait until things return back to NORMAL. Whenever that is. The rest of us have had to wait four extra months to play “The Fastest Two Minutes In Sports”. And we’re not gonna miss out now. Good Luck on whatever decision you make.

  2. Keith, I think Honor A.P. is being completely overlooked because of one race, and I think it’s a mistake. He’s still the same colt he was before the Shared Belief…maybe even better. I do wonder how much he got out of the SB as he only ran in spots, but he had a fantastic workout a few days ago, where he worked up a good sweat. John will have him ready to go 1 1/4, which HAP has been dying for…I have always believed he’s special, so if he’s got the foundation, he’s going to run big.

    I do think HAP is simply better than TW, but I also respect that colt’s gameness…I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to get the 1 1/4.

    1. I agree that Honor A.P is one heckuva horse. I wasn’t impressed with his effort in the Shared Belief. But it was a major rebound for Thousand Words and the figures have indicated that it was a very good race. The winner got a 102 for the race. I also believe that HAP wasn’t fully cranked-up for the race so he’ll be ready for a this effort in the Derby. Shirreffs is a VERY GOOD horseman and knows the things that he needs to work on to make him move forward.

      Part of my reasoning for writing the article was to show some other options outside of Tiz The Law and just how close some of the other numbers do stack up.

      Good Luck.

      1. Thanks for the message Betsy. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting race. Either Tiz The Law will show that he truly is a man amongst boys. Or one of these other horses will take another major step forward.

        Good Luck

  3. It only takes one ! Yeah,like a rotten apple in a basket or bushel,or even more updated, an infected person in a room,train,,bus or house/ apt ? Talking with co-horse pickers seems that, generally,the horses with the highest points totals will be the top favorites,that is ,behind Tiz the Law. After looking at the usual angles from the Past Perfrmances,I usually make my selection only a few minutes before the start of the races, whether the race is a claimer,allowance or a million dollar route, ” A 1000 Words ” indeed are being wasted before then. Maybe,could a,shoulda are just page fillers without definite facts. Horses are not machines,even if from time to time we witness such muscular equines.I will never forget Niatross,or the Spectacular wonder.Tiz the Law is either that good or the competition is not at his level, but nevertheless,he Has to be the horse to beat and follow to the finish line,,,until some of us check the board, we cannot tell who might be n the gimicks.,especially now,several days ahead of post time. No such thing as ” Sure Winners”.Just more likely to win,,but at what price and will I , likely, get some profits back ? That IS what matters!

    1. Yep….it only takes one. Whether it’s positive or negative…just one. When that person enters the room, they either brighten the room or they dim the room. Either way it’s their disposition and their choice. I already know what mine is.

      One winning ticket can change a day, a week, a month, a year…and if the score is big enough, it can even change ones life. But either way, it only took one. Maybe it had nothing to do with horse racing at all and that person was lucky enough to find the right person in life. That right man or woman came along and totally changed that person’s life for the better. Maybe that person became a believer in a religion and started to actually do some real GOOD in the world. But in any case…..IT ONLY TOOK ONE!!!

      Back to the ponies…..I too study the PP’s the day or two before. I formulate some sort of idea of how I want to play. But then I wait to see how the odds are shaking out with a few minutes to post time and then make my bets. I doubt that I’ll do it any differently this year either. But I’m definitely looking forward to this years KY Derby.

      Good Luck to you.

  4. Keith, know what I love? Everyone seems to have an issue, want a winner, at a price, just one, no dialogue, no thinking, no sport.
    I appreciate different perspectives. Good horseplayers learn from each other. Gamblers just want to gamble…yet they keep coming back.

    (OTB, this is a new handle, had another screen name previously, yes)? Asking for an editor…

    1. Good horseplayers learn…..we could have stopped right there. It’s the learning thing that most people have an issue with. I once read a statistic that said that 1 out of every 3 Americans will never read another book after leaving high school. WOW!!!

      It also brings to mind the late, great Kobe Bryant. After leaving the NBA and deciding to do more in the business world, he contacts his agent to get the number to Mike Repole of Repole Racing Stables. Kobe calls his at 3am in the morning. Can you imagine getting a call from Kobe at 3am because he wants to learn business from you? And mind you, I’m not saying that you’re calling a friend at that hour. That was their first conversation. Mike actually thought that he was being pranked. But my point here is that Kobe was so eager to learn that he didn’t even want to wait for a more decent hour to make the call.

  5. No thinking? I guess that studying math,possibilities,percentages do not count as thinking,,in your way of thinking. Got the last race,well,the last three races,honestly,and if it were not for actuarial deductions I would just had the obvious favorites and their puny payoffs like that $ 8 ” super” in one of those short lineups.Lve t when carting there is a Noticeable change of Serious $ on a number and then the Odds G Up! That happened in the last race,hitting double,exacta and triple of over $1000 by investing less than $ 100. When you do not like the topic you switch,KP, or JP ,whomever you were.You ain’t nothing now,just laying down on past Laurels of a horse picker for a once great newspaper. How are you picking today? How is your horse running ? Goodbye to you and your senlle herd.James G Romano,from Farmingdale.Time has passed you by,admit it or you will keep on making more excuses.Gamblers come back ? I’m a spot bettor with mathematical calculations and I won’t Need to see my name in print.You are the delusional ones.Shut it off,there ain’t nothing there.

  6. otb – want a sure winner — ” DO NOT MAKE A BET ” – keep your money in your pocket — or look for another race to bet on if you are so inclined. It does not cost anything to be nice or to listen. I enjoy reading what people have to say about a horse or a race. There have been times that I have missed an angle or not considered one thing or another and am thankful for their opinion. BUT — bottom line is this — IT IS MY MONEY AND I HAVE THE FINAL SAY. To all who take the time to put in the work for us to read –THANK YOU

      1. Thank you ladies. You know, if the world were run by women, I believe there would be no wars…talking modern era, of course.

        And thanks for appreciating that we enjoy talking about races from a sport and betting perspective and try to help or, at the least, provide food for thought.

        People would ask me often when I was at Newsday about my 1-2-3s thought process. My answer was that if my top horse lost, but I said something favorable about a second or third pick–a horse the reader liked–and my input reinforced their opinion and if that horse would happen to win, I technically picked a loser but made a friend.

        You are correct. Betting is like going to confession. You try not to lie to the man behind the window. It’s your money and your decision.

    1. You’re welcome Sir.
      And on your comment that, It’s Your Money…..you’re so right. And since it is YOUR MONEY…..I’ll see you out at Lone Star Park where YOU can buy the hamburgers with YOUR MONEY. (sounds good to me, thanks for offering…HAHAHA!!!)

      1. Kim, you have me laughing this morning. I try to be kind on a daily if I can be 😁 I also would like to apologize because looking at your name I assumed you were a woman as John did. Sorry

  7. Mr. Pettyjohn: I assume you are, as I am, in this ‘game’ to make money. If so, then why concentrate on the Kentucky Derby and other stake races promoted by the media that are difficult to handicap, when there are other races on the same day’s card that give the ‘capper a much better chance of cashing? Particularly when the stake races have a high percentage of odds-on favorites.

    As you wrote above, yes the Derby and other stake races offer me the opportunity to venture beyond the double and invest in a pick three, the stake race a given that the odds-on will win; but the payoff will be invariably less. Seems to me that the horseplayer gets the ‘short end’ when wagering on top-level stake races and that the breeders, owners, trainers, and jockeys involved in these highly promoted races get the last laugh as they waltz to the bank.

    1. Why concentrate on the Derby?
      It’s not that I am concentrating on the Derby. However, it’s August the 20th. The Derby is not until September 5th. There are no PP’s out yet. So I can’t talk about or find a value play for the undercard races. Plus the Derby handles about $150-$160 million dollars per year. It’s obviously one of the most “focused on” races of the year. And I’d like to help as many people make as much money as possible. And if I can give them some information or insight that will do that, then I’ve done my job.

  8. Keith – I guess I am going to have to buy you hamburgers ? How many do you plan on eating on my dime?
    Remember – I am on Social Security and you should be kind to Seniors .

    Have you heard anything yet on seating at Lone Star for the Derby ? First come first seated I guess ? Oh that line will be long and form very early.

    Also — I hope John does not think I am a female — Kim was the name my father gave me — I had no say so —

    1. 1) Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 8:30am

      2) Hamburgers….just one will do. I’m just trying to get you to buy

      3) 6’4 and 235…hmmm….isn’t more like 6’4 and 255…what scale were you using?

      4) Kim being a woman… its sounds like he does think that. But if he only knew. At 6’4 and 255 looking the way that you do. OH MY GOD!!! You would have to be one of the ugliest women that we’ve ever seen. (HAHAHAHA!!!!!…….I’m loving this. But I know you can take it)

  9. I guess -but- growing up in the 1960-70 era…there was not alot of males named Kim. And yes you can imagine the hell I paid. Thank goodness i grew to 6,4-235lbs–then it all stopped.

  10. WOW — I am really feeling the love today???????????????—NOT

    At least LaSheena was kind.

    I really do believe you are enjoying this at my expense.
    But — if it brings a smile or a little laughter — then life is all good.
    You are all Welcome.

  11. LaSheena – thank you – it is okay – fixing to be 64 yrs. soon I have lived with it . I have always answered to Jim or Tim or Ken. When I first met my wife – she got it wrong also but said I looked big enough { watch it Keith } to handle it. When we are out somewhere, people think she is Kim and goes along with it. I so enjoy the laugh and enjoying life – there will always be a time and place to be serious. Each morning when I wake up above ground breathing – I say – THANK YOU LORD – and the day will be good no matter what. Remember – it does not cost any money to be nice to someone { Keith }

  12. Really…. WOW……..So here we go again………….Hug…………….NOT………..Got to stay at least 6ft. apart ? Right ?
    I will not be at the track till FRI. SEPT. 4 — be there for a few races in the AM — Visit with the peeps – make bets for rest of the day – then got to study for the Derby day card — will spend most of the day SAT. SEPT. 5. at the track. Have cleared it with the HIGHER POWER. Best you hope I win some $$$$ to be able to feed you on Derby day.
    Are there laws about the amount of abuse one must take ? OH WELL……………
    Best part about it all — it is done all in fun and we get a good laugh – AT MY EXPENSE…which is all GOOD.

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