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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


These are the first two columns of a three-part series on the qualifications of Derby contenders based on the science of Dr. Steven Roman’s Dosage theory and the interpretive art of pedigree researcher Lisa DeMichael ——–

By Lisa DeMichael – The Dirty Horse Club  — The first Saturday in May will put Horseracing front and center both here and abroad.  

The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs will run alongside the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. These two historical races will stamp the best of their division in their respective country.  

As the excitement builds on both sides of the ocean, the fields are beginning to take shape. Whether viewing these two races from afar or through a microscope, sometimes the best course of action is to not overthink things at all.  

There are two colts that tower over their fields and both for the exact same reasons. Top notch performances and impeccable breeding for the task at hand.  

Of course, the trip has something to do with it as well, as many times the best doesn’t always prevail. Second-guessing and living by the “what if” mentality does one thing for the handicapper – it costs them additional money and it cuts into profits.  

For the Kentucky Derby, two tickets based on pace is a necessity and that cannot override sensibility. But, based on simplicity and common sense, the top two in each of these races tower above the others.  

The 2000 Guineas – City of Troy:  

At the moment, the field stands at 9 competitors. 


Trained by O’Brien. Voted 2023 Two Year Old Champion in Europe. Undefeated. Best RPR = 124 


Winner of Prix duJean Luc Legardere at Longchamp. 3 wins out of 4. Best RPR = 114 


Charles Appleby. Won KY Derby prep. 3 wins out of 3, undefeated. Best RPR = 109 


Son of Dubawi, trained by Appleby. 3 wins out of 4. Best RPR = 114 


Dam-sire Shamardal. Two wins, two races, undefeated. Best RPS = 104 


Ran second to City of Troy in the Dewhurst Stakes. 2 wins, 4 races. Best RPR = 112 


Son of Frankel. 2 wins, 3 races. Second to Vandeek. Best RPR = 110 


3 wins out of 3. Two wins at Newmarket, one win at Ascot. Best RPR = 108 


Trained by O’Brien. Son of Dubawi. 3 wins, undefeated. Best RPR = 116 

The combination of excessive inbred speed along with magnificent stamina within City of Troy’s breeding far surpasses the rest of the field. Each of his competitors are very well bred, however, they are not holding high inbred speed to balance. This puts City of Troy in the driver’s seat in any race that he enters. It takes speed to win a race, both inbred and displayed, which describes City of Troy to a T.  

In other words, the only way he could lose this race is with a negative trip. He walks into the race as untouchable, and he towers above the field in this specific race on that surface. His performances and capability are directly on par with his advantaged breeding. Since he is the obvious monster of the group, the only reason to consider betting another is if you believe he would not get a good trip.  

This is identical to the Kentucky Derby.  

The Kentucky Derby – Fierceness: 

I suppose this is where I make the case for choosing to single Fierceness on one of the two superfecta tickets this year. As we talked about in a previous article, it is imperative to construct two separate tickets this year based on pace. For the “fast, normal pace” ticket, I see no need to box the top.  

Both Fierceness and City of Troy hold three things in common: Both voted 2023 Top two-year-old in their respective countries. The perfect breeding for the race and their undeniable ability to run to that breeding. 

While City of Troy has never had any issues with breaks or with getting pummeled at the start, one can easily get trapped into thinking that the best on the field is never vulnerable to an adverse trip. On the flip side, you can get trapped in thinking that a horse is always vulnerable to bad starts or trips.  

Personally, I don’t want to be trapped.  

My thinking has always been to bet the best bred for the race. The most advantaged historically with his breeding. Importantly, the one who has shown that he is more than capable of running to that breeding. After long and in-depth research, that horse is Fierceness and none come close with a normal fast pace. None. 

Dornoch held great potential, especially as he ran through his breeding early on. As it stands for a fast normal Derby pace and based on his last 9f performance, the simple fact that he fell behind Epic Ride at Keeneland shows adverse standing for the Derby. Sierra Leone and Just a Touch beating him is forgivable at 9f, however, losing to Epic Ride is not.  

In the most simplistic form and based on history, Fierceness holds the best points for any competitor on the field: 

  1. Common sense dictates that a horse who is built with excessive speed and has shown the ability to demonstrate that speed, will always hold the edge. (A.) 
  1. Historically, a high percentage of linebreeding directly to St. Simon adds another dimension of stamina reliance and evidence of multi-surface capability. This includes turf, AWS, dirt, clean track, wet track. The full spectrum of bias capability. (B.) 
  1. Mare’s bloodlines are packed and loaded with even distribution on both sides of the scale. (C.) 
  1. Strong evidence that he has captured everything that his chart has to offer. (D.) 
  1. Bad breaks or bad luck does not change or alter what he is holding or what he has already shown he is capable of.  

A. Fierceness is holding a 5.00 Roman index. This is 5x the inherited speed over stamina from his elite sires. It rises to an ANZ figure of 9.00 (adding to the prominent non-chefs). This is excessive speed.  

Has he shown that he corresponds with that speed inheritance? 

MAIDEN RACE – Saratoga 6f – Gate to Wire Win by 11-1/4 lengths. 

22.02 44.65 56.60 1:09.56 geared down 

B. Fierceness is holding 35.15% top linebreeding in his chart directly to St. Simon. His top four lines travel through Northern Dancer, Nearctic, Nearco and Nasrullah with a straight path directly to St. Simon. The percentage of 35% is very high indeed and with that 5.00/9.00 index, it shows a very high balance on both sides for FAST and ENDURANCE and MULTI-BIAS. A packed scale so to speak. The endurance factor kicks into high gear and highly advantaged at the 10f in the Kentucky Derby. 

Has he shown that he corresponds with the St. Simon phenomenon? 

BREEDERS CUP JUVENILE – Santa Anita 8.5f – stalked in 2nd – won by 6-1/4 lengths  

Even fast pace and sustained speed the full distance.  

Endurance stayed intact, unwavering and grew from early to late.  

Beyers: 98 109 109 Final: 112 Times: 23.25 47.02 1:10.86 1:35.59 Final: 1:41.90  

FLORIDA DERBY – Gulfstream Park 9f – Gate to wire – won by 13-1/2 lengths  

Beyers: 84 93 113 Final: 106 Times: 24.06 47.50 1:11.31 1:35.63 Final: 1:48.22 geared down 

MAIDEN: Different bias. Sloppy Track. Gate to Wire Win by 11-1/4 lengths.  

C. Fierceness is holding a mare profile of 5-6-6-8-5   Speed = 11   Stamina = 13   Index = 0.92   Triads = 17-20-19. High 17 points additional speed added to the already hefty chefs speed side. Hits par in Classic center and is only 1 point short in the higher end stamina category with 19. The high St. Simon addition should make that point inconsequential.  

D. In the three races where Fierceness broke well or did not get slammed at the start, he has demolished every field by multiple lengths. His foes didn’t come close. From 6f to 9f, he has shown that he is running directly in line with his configurations both through his style and his performances. Since he has displayed the capability to attach himself to both his chef and mare configurations to date, this will not change in the 10f.  

His distance capability for the 10f race shows massive endurance through St. Simon and his mares. The fact that Fierceness has shown that he cannot run the same if he doesn’t break well or if he gets slammed is no different than the 19 other competitors on the field.  

Yes, those coming from the rear have a much better chance of recovery and would be better set up to capitalize on a faltering lead tier, but they would lose precious lengths should it occur. 

The simple fact that we saw the negative result when it happened to him does not mean he would be the only one to worry about. Catching Freedom, Sierra Leone, Honor Marie, Forever Young, etc. has never gotten slammed right out of the gate – yet. They have all had clean breaks – so far.  

In reality, a gambler has the prerogative to anticipate any of their top horses hitting a bad trip, a bad break, or getting slammed and could bet accordingly. None are immune. Bet the best and hope for the best.   



By Lisa De Michael, The Dirty Horse Club — The majority of hopeful gamblers tend to attack this race by consulting Timeform Figures, Past Performance Sheets and Beyer figures. They dive into it in the same exact manner that they do for any other race that they gamble on throughout the year.  

This is the incorrect approach.  

This specific race is a unique contest where a group of twenty highly competitive colts have obviously shown some type of outstanding talent to ensure their gate in the first place. They did not secure a Derby gate with poor figures, nor by losing races. They are the 20 chosen few because each one stood above a thousand others. 

Each one of these 20 colts are completely unique unto themselves. Different running styles, quirks, energy, motivation, tendencies, track and surface compatibility, nerves, stride length, etc.  

Regardless of how impressive a given colt’s Timeform or Beyer figure was in an 8.5f or 9f race, and even if they attained a track record in any prep race – the fact remains - not one of them has shown any evidence that they are even capable of running a distance that exceeds 10f. Not the favorites, nor the longshots. 

Regardless of any horse notching a victory in a maiden or a prep at Churchill Downs – the fact remains – the bias of that Autumn track, as it was in October or November, will not be the same on a Spring track, as it will be the first week in May. 

Regardless of layoffs, new equipment, probability of peaking, who beat who before, who secured the most prep points, the trainer, the jockey, lengths won by in final prep, workouts, shipping concerns, high beyers, etc etc, – the fact remains – the horse must be able to tackle the Classic distance, on a Churchill bias, compatible with the weather, aligned with the pace, with complete composure and nerves of steel.    

The last two editions of the Kentucky Derby emphasize the importance of constructing two separate tickets based on the pace.  

There is the fast (normal) pace which has been reliable for most recent history. 

And then there is the suicidal pace.  

The four colts who eventually strike that wire first will be COMPLETELY different within those two pace structures. The final order of finish could NEVER EVER be the same between the two because most competitors are not bred to distribute their energy in a multitude of ways. 

It would take an extremely astute jockey to make adjustments within the chaos of the live action to adapt at a split second’s notice. A quick judgement that could backfire or save the horse like Rosario did with Epicenter. That reaction was absolutely the difference between Epicenter staying for 2nd instead of being sent to the bottom of the totem pole with the rest.  


This is highly relevant and in the same exact manner when it comes to the weather. What will eventually comprise the final top finishers will be completely different on a clean track than it would end up being on a sloppy track.  

To reiterate, if a well-bred 10f colt with massive Timeform figures and aggressive patterns at his peak form gets caught in the middle of suicidal pace, he’s going to lose. If it rains and he hates it, he is going to lose. If his running style does not jive with that pace and that weather, he could have Timeform figures that rival Flightline, he is still going to lose.  

This is the main reason why it is so hard to configure a winning superfecta ticket.  

You must understand each horse’s attributes within each pace scenario and execute at least two separate tickets in this race.  

The weather side is different. We will have full knowledge of that bias in the hours leading up to post time.  Both tickets for a sloppy track and a clean track should be constructed and ready to go for the conditions. It is easy to place that bet accordingly. 

Pace is the blind spot.  

No matter what any handicapper may envision, that eventual pace will unfold second by second during the race. The same exact horse will not capitalize in both situations. If we have learned anything over the last two years, this point would be the most important.  

In 2022, who would have thought that a Japanese invader would run 21.78 and 45.36 in the opening half? The rear runner’s advantage skyrocketed because of that. If there was a different early pace, it would have been a completely different outcome. 

In 2023, would you have guessed that Kingsbarns (of all horses) would take that lead and roll off a 45.73 half, throwing that entire edition into a tailspin. Another double-digit odds winner capitalizing from the rear. Different paces, different outcomes.  

Because of the major advantage that the 80 to 1 longshot, Rich Strike, capitalized on based on that suicidal pace, those trainers who have multiple entries saw the vulnerability and the easy solution to taking out the lead tier. It was a smart and reliable strategy. Sacrifice one to the benefit of the other.  

The other scenario that could force a suicidal pace is the extent of the colt’s nerves and excitement. All of this is completely out of our hands but easily solved by betting two tickets for each pace structure. 

Rich Strike’s trophy win was the turning point which alerted certain trainers with multiple entries to this magical advantage. Who can blame them?  

Have the days of a normal fast pace, which has benefited a certain type of breeding consistently, been overtaken by a suicidal pace which then benefits a different type of breeding? The type that relies strictly on balanced and even stamina as opposed to excessive inbred speed backed up with readable 10.2f capability. 

Last year’s edition saw to it that the over-exaggerated pace benefited those much more suited with their breeding aligning with maximum evenly balanced 12f Belmont Stakes configurations. Three of the four top finishers. A direct result of the pace.  

This information is race specific and pertains STRICTLY to the Kentucky Derby. This portion will NOT translate to the 10f Belmont Stakes even though they are run at the exact same distance this year. They are two separate tracks – two separate biases – two separate weather temperatures, different field size, less paths utilized, etc.  The history would be slightly aligned but different none-the less. 

The advantaged type of breeding will be different in the 10f Derby, as it is different in the 10f Travers, the 10f Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita or at Keeneland. Different at DelMar. Ditto with Saratoga. Different because of the bias, weather, field size, etc.  

The # 1 point for handicapping the Kentucky Derby is 10f+ ability before anything else. No matter how impressive a colt may have performed at those shorter distances up to this point, it will not translate into the Derby if he can’t follow through with the distance.  

His favorable timeform pattern won’t mean a damn thing if he can only take his endurance to his furthest and last prep.  

Once the 10f colts are established, each of them will be affected either positively or negatively based on how they are bred for the given pace. Most colts will thrive with their inbred “scale” and style on one side or the other – not both.  

For example: 

Dornoch and Fierceness.   

Both of these colts are bred to run the Classic Distance.  

Both happen to have the same exact running styles.  

Both are bred completely different with two separate advantages based on the pace – REGARDLESS OF HOW GREAT THEIR BEYER FIGURES COMPARE TO THE OTHER in those shorter preps. 

Fierceness has performed much faster along the way and in a normal Graded Stakes race up to this point, he would be the dominant pick to prevail based on speed. 

Let’s assume that Fierceness breaks well and secures an uncontested lead. He will utilize his highly advantaged and historically time-tested breeding and beat the living daylights out of this crew. He would leave Dornoch struggling for a board hit underneath. 

Even though Dornoch has 10f with his eyes closed and runs up front as well, he is not holding the same scale or same dominant side of that scale. The breeding of Fierceness puts him at the forefront with the historically perfect alignment of massive speed over massive endurance. “Normal” fast pace allows Fierceness to rely on his scale without disrupting that energy balance and in that scenario, Dornoch does not stand a chance against him.  

Let’s assume that Fierceness breaks well again and gets his butt up to the front, but this time, a wise guy who has a barn-mate with him on that field decides to attack that front with a vengeance with him. Let’s assume this wise guy runs in the same exact manner that Kingsbarns was pushed to run. 

This will disrupt the lead tier and cut into Fierceness’ breeding balance and “normal” advantaged 10f energy. He will be stealing from one side of the scale to compensate, thereby forcing his energy distribution off kilter. He still has 10f in him but it becomes averse to his strength. It will not matter at all that Fierceness broke well out of the gate. The “Kingsbarns” guy just stole that trophy from him and handed a major advantage to both Dornoch and those with killer stamina (less speed) behind him. 

With Fierceness lopsided to speed in his breeding, regardless of 10f ability, this would throw his “normal” energy distribution into a tailspin in that scenario.  

DP = 1-3-2-0-0 (6) DI = 5.00   CD = 0.83 

This, in turn, could put Dornoch in the same exact position with his breeding (and style) that Two Phil’s saw last year. It allows for those who have 10f+ breeding (with inferior beyers) with an inbred scale that is dominant on the stamina side like Honor Marie, Endlessly, Forever Young, Sierra Leone, etc. to use that good fortune to thwart history again.  

Two different pace scenarios will produce a completely different order of finish regardless of anything else. 

Normal fast pace and horses like Fierceness, Just a Touch, Resilience etc. gain major advantage with both their style and breeding. Suicidal pace hands the race to a completely different set of players. A handicapper cannot assume what that pace will be and should be completely covered with the proper players in the same manner as they are in terms of the weather. 

Specific and time-tested history is now thrown out the window in favor of placing two separate superfecta tickets because of “behind-the-scenes” strategies. This is not meant to confuse or “over-pick” too many players for one race. It may just be a sign of the times. 

There are a couple of colts who should still thrive with both pace scenarios like Catching Freedom, but the majority can only handle it one way. It is the way they are bred. This is the key to being successful in your wagers this year.  

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2 Responses

  1. Best to split the wager 50% on a normal pace, and 50% wagered on a suicidal pace based on Lisa’s analysis. Two sets of tickets on tri and sf exotics for me. I so wish all trainers were limited to only one entry however.

    It will be interesting watching the morning workouts over the next two weeks. Looking forward to your observations and comments also John. I am curious about Resilience looks, and see 10F as a big positive for him. After following Lisa’s comments over the last few months, I also still like Honor Marie’s chances on a saver ticket as well.

    Bill Mott just should have his charge ready to surprise. I expect Resilience should be fully prepared and able to continue his 12 seconds pace around 10F at Churchill Downs. Just a feeling on his outstanding breeding numbers pointed out by Lisa, and the Resilence connections. If the Beyers improve just a small amount, he should be a contender as well. Fun time of year it is. Almost time for Riders Up. Thank you both Lisa and John for all you both contribute to the sport. Your input is what keeps me involved. More than likely hundreds of others as well.

  2. McD, on behalf of Ms DeMichael and myself, thanks for the props.

    Your suggestion is well considered. I always play to sets of trifectas, and standard, formful, peaking horse and a wildcard sequence. covering speed and closer scenarios, kind of a best case, worst case projection.

    Bill Mott is always a factor and has been quietly pointing this horse to Louisville all winter; this is no shot-taking exercise for the Hall of Famer.

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