Derby Guide (05/03/13)


A unique strategy for handicapping the Kentucky Derby utilizing Equiform and Beyer speed numbers. The contributor of this article is a lifelong horseplayer and owner. This is not an official pick.

Handicapping the Kentucky Derby is one of the all-time betting challenges. Besides the fact that there are 20 entries, there are a number of unpredictable elements within a race that can't be measured.

Trip (how the jockey steers the horse during the race), taking to the track (will the horse like the track, the footing, the big crowds and noise), and distance (the first time any of these horses run the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles) are just a few of the inputs which are difficult to weigh.

So, let's throw out all the un-weighable inputs and perform this exercise in a vacuum. We'll analyze each horse's speed and individual speed figures (numerical rating based on final time and pace calculated into one number) as produced by Equiform. I have also included a line for each horse which gives the two most recent Beyer speed figures, the bellweather speed figure in horse racing.

Horses, unlike humans, try every start (game). However, much of their success is tied to whether the animal is in a progressive phase (sitting on a forward effort) or regression phase (likely to regress in its next effort).

Below are the Equiform and Beyer numbers's for the last two starts from each of the Derby Runners. While not exact, let's use the formula of 1 point=1 length to calculate the progression/regression of each starter.

Looking at the table below, the Equiform number is the top number and the Beyer Speed figure is in bold. When looking for horses I expect to perform well, my objective is to identify a horse sitting on a top effort. An animal who is coming off a big effort (forward move of greater than or equal to +2) is likely sitting on a regression while a horse coming off a regression (negative move of less than or equal to -2) is unlikely to return back to its prior form.

My focus is with the Equiform figures, however, I included the Beyer figures as they are more mainstream. In typical races I would use an Equiform variance of +/-1 as having potential to be sitting on a top effort, but given the level of competition and field we'll expand that variance to +/- 1.5. This year's Derby features seven horses whose last start was within +/- 1.5 points of its second to last start.

In my humble opinion, I lean towards a horse whose last effort has a tighter variance than its previous effort. For example, Black Onyx (72.75 to 74, +1.25 variance) or Vyjack (74.75 to 76, +1.25 variance) have good patterns, but each of their last efforts (using both Equiform and Beyer) are on the slower side (smaller number vs. their variance). Both have a variance a bit high for my tastes. Add to it Black Onyx's rail post position and Vyjack's outside post and I'll draw a line through both of them. Looking at Golden Soul (72.5 to 72, -0.5 variance) and Overanalyze (72.5 to 72.25, -0.25 variance), while I like both of their patterns, their last number 72 and 72.25 respectively, are a notch below the competition so we'll scrath them out.

That leaves Verrazano, Orb and Java's War. Let's dive deeper into Verrazano's two numbers. Since they are higher than any of his competitors and are only off by +0.25, this indicates to me that the 76.5 was his top effort and he is sitting on a regression pattern. Add to it his morning line of 4/1 (2nd choice in the betting) and we'll take a pass. That leaves Orb and Java's War. Getting from 20 horses down to two is an effort but getting to the winner is easy. Orb is the favorite at 7/2 but a minimal return for "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." Java's War it is. Boom and good luck.

Horse Type of Figure Last Race Second to Last Race Delta
Black Onyx Equiform 74.00 72.75 1.25
Beyer Speed 90.00 81.00 9.00
Oxbow Equiform 69.75 75.25 -5.50
Beyer Speed 80.00 95.00 -15.00
Revolutionary Equiform 74.00 71.75 2.25
Beyer Speed 93.00 85.00 8.00
Golden Soul Equiform 72.00 72.50 -0.50
Beyer Speed 85.00 89.00 -4.00
Normandy Invasion Equiform 76.00 73.00 3.00
Beyer Speed 94.00 91.00 3.00
Mylute Equiform 74.00 72.25 1.75
Beyer Speed 93.00 88.00 5.00
Giant Finish Equiform 73.50 70.50 3.00
Beyer Speed 86.00 84.00 2.00
Goldencents Equiform 76.25 72.00 4.25
Beyer Speed 105.00 90.00 15.00
Overanalyze Equiform 72.25 72.50 -0.25
Beyer Speed 88.00 86.00 2.00
Palace Malice Equiform 74.75 70.75 4.00
Beyer Speed 89.00 91.00 -2.00
Lines of Battle Equiform 69.75 0.00 N/A
Beyer Speed 71.00 0.00 N/A
Itsmyluckyday Equiform 72.75 77.00 -4.25
Beyer Speed 93.00 104.00 -11.00
Falling Sky Equiform 70.00 73.50 -3.50
Beyer Speed 88.00 80.00 8.00
Verrazano Equiform 76.50 76.25 0.25
Beyer Speed 95.00 101.00 -6.00
Charming Kitten Equiform 74.50 70.50 4.00
Beyer Speed 88.00 81.00 7.00
Orb Equiform 74.00 73.50 0.5
Beyer Speed 97.00 97.00 0.00
Will Take Charge Equiform 75.25 65.50 9.75
Beyer Speed 95.00 71.00 24.00
Frac Daddy Equiform 69.50 65.75 3.75
Beyer Speed 81.00 69.00 12.00
Java's War Equiform 74.75 75.50 -0.75
Beyer Speed 89.00 96.00 -7.00
Vyjack Equiform 76.00 74.75 1.25
Beyer Speed 93.00 93.00 0.00