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A Historical View

Posted by on 4/21/2015 12:37:51 AM

The Kentucky Derby is a race that is as much of Americana as apple pie, muscle cars, Route 66, baseball and Superman and the great day is around the corner.

History is always relevant in this sport.

Five races have had the greatest impact on the Derby in recent years. They are the Arkansas, Florida and Santa Anita Derbies, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Wood Memorial. The horses that have been first or second in one of those races have won the majority of the Kentucky Derbies in history.

You also have to come to Louisville on top of your game as since 1937, only a small handful of winners have finished off the board in their final start before the Derby.

And since 1906 the worst final prep finisher to win a Derby speaks volumes in records. Four Derby winners finished 5 th; they were Iron Liege, Count Turf, Doneraile and Pink Star. In 1908 Stone Street finished 12th and earned glory in Kentucky.

When clever horse bettors start burning the midnight oil for that Derby winner, they should know that having a super race at Churchill Downs is NOT the signal that a win on Derby Day is imminent.

They say speed kills and it surely does in the Kentucky Derby. In the last 5 decades, only 5 racers went wire-to-wire in the Derby. The last was War Emblem, trained by Bob Baffert, in 2002.

It’s hard enough selecting the winner of any race just moments before the gate are sprung so a selection now is all that more difficult but that’s the task for today.

Here are some other guidelines.

Kentucky Derby winners or Triple Crown contenders overall just don’t fall off trees. They have to be nurtured, coddled, scolded and punished like the equine children that they are and it takes more than talent to reach the pinnacle of the game the first Saturday in May. It takes a master game plan.

Trainers and basketball coaches have a lot in common. In hoops, you have to treat players differently. Some respond to being called on the carpet day in and day out when mistakes are made and some go into a shell when singled out because of a mental error or a super bad decision. Trainers have to be a combination of good cop, bad cop, big brother, and maybe most importantly, part the reincarnation of Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who won the Kentucky Derby three times and saddled the winners of 10 other Triple Crown races.

Players have to depend on trainers that have a grand scheme and good game plan in regard to the grueling Triple Crown Trail.

Once a trainer tries to play ‘catch up’ after missing time because of any circumstance, that runner is in jeopardy of not only missing the Triple Crown races, but of having his entire career negatively impacted by being pushed.

And this race is so hard to win and the talent is spread throughout the country. That is one reason why the last 7 Derbies and 13 of the last 15 have been won by trainers without a previous Derby victory.

At post time, try to isolate on a horse that has come to the race with no interruptions but has yet to peak.

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