2010 Kentucky Derby Running Styles
Where Post Position Meets Running Style
Level: Intermediate
By Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

They say pace makes the race, and if there’s any race on the calendar that’s guaranteed to have an honest pace, the Kentucky Derby is it. It’s always instructive to take a look at what events have led to each horse getting to the winner’s circle previously, to see if anything can be gleaned when put in the context of a particular field. With that in mind, let’s take a look at each running style and attempt to place this year’s Derby entrants in their respective running style groups.

The “know them early” group:

4 Super Saver — One of only two entries with a previous win at Churchill Downs, Super Saver is winless this year and has been involved in hot paces relative to the rest of this group in almost every career start; he has yet to win in any fashion other than on the lead. Speed to his outside here again, as in the Arkansas Derby.

5 Line of David — Ordinary in the maiden ranks until blinkers were added three races back, and Line of David hasn’t been headed at any call since. He appears to be getting quicker and quicker out of the gate with each successive start since the equipment change, even out-breaking Super Saver on his inside in the Arkansas Derby. This obvious “need the lead” type needs a clean break.

12 Conveyance — Pure speed in this corner, as every start in his career has found him bouncing forward out of the gate and to the lead on four different racing surfaces. His natural speed and his ability as the gates open should put him right there. The question, of course, is how far can Conveyance go?

15 Discreetly Mine — Both career wins came wire -to- wire and this year, he’s been been on the lead or off the board. After kicking off his season sprinting at Gulfstream, Discreetly Mine stretched out and naturally found himself on the lead while winning the Risen Star. That effort was not quite as fast early as the rest of this group has flashed, so he’ll also have to work out a winning trip that he’s never shown the ability to accomplish.

20 Sidney’s Candy — All three wins this year were wire to wire, and his last, the Santa Anita Derby, was the only 9-furlong, wire -to- wire win of the entire meet on Santa Anita’s Pro Ride. There’s the dirt question and now a big question about the post. While his need-the-lead tendency may not be as pure as the others in this group, it’s very tough to envision a scenario in which Sidney’s Candy gets to the first call in front from this post. Thus, almost as soon as the gates open, he’ll be asked to win in a way he’s never quite done before.

The stalkers, the grinders, the middle movers:

1 Lookin At Lucky — Easily the most accomplished of the entire field. Whether the pace is fast or slow early, Lookin At Lucky has shown a tractability on his way to five graded stakes victories. Obviously, he’s done no favors with the poor draw on the rail. His trainer, Bob Baffert, is hoping for a good break, but if there is any horse seasoned enough to the weather the rail in a 20-horse field, he’s it.

3 Noble’s Promise — The closest to an omnisurface star as any in the entire field, Noble’s Promise hasn’t seen the winner’s circle since last October at Keeneland. He’s twiced chased home Lookin At Lucky and ran into Line of David in his last, and he’s shown an affinity to sit mid-pack and wait. Seemingly no worse for wear after the trouble in the Arkansas Derby, he’s shown heart enough to outrun his modest pedigree.

7 American Lion
— Had to leave the confines of Southern California to get back to the winner’s circle in Illinois Derby, where he found himself on the front end after very slow early fractions. He’s a bit of a puzzler, considering that win in the Illinois Derby and his previous winning stalking trips at Hollywood Park and Keeneland. At the very least, he’s shown some versatility.

11 Devil May Care – Brilliant when she’s right in winning the Bonnie Miss and Frizette, tucking in off the speed to run over them in the stretch. But it’s tough to overlook the other two clunkers, even though she had valid excuses for both losses. Many have pointed out that her Bonnie Miss was faster than Ice Box’s Florida Derby win on the same card at Gulfstream, and a case could also be made that the shape of both races was similar. Do note gate problems in the past, and post 11 here will have her sitting in the gate the longest while waiting for others to load.

13 Jackson Bend — Another who hasn’t won since last fall. Has done all of his winning at Calder early in his 2-year-old season and has been best of the rest while second twice to Eskendereya this year. Gritty, small colt has won in all sorts of ways; he stumbled badly at the start and still got up to win the Florida Stallion In Reality, and he then lay much closer to a slower pace while winning the 7-furlong Florida Stallion Affirmed. So there are a couple of gears of versatility present in this corner.

14 Mission Impazible — A perplexing Louisiana Derby win as he broke well, eased back off the pace, sat chilly until late, when he was switched to the outside to get up past the pacesetters in the last sixteenth. A professional looking win, considering his even effort when fourth in the Southwest to Conveyance and Dublin. Lightly raced gray has only that last race going for him and only his stablemate Discreetly Mine shows up from that Louisiana Derby here.

19 Homeboykris — As strange an entry as any in recent Derby memory, having not raced since February and not won since the Champagne at Belmont in October. In that Champagne he came off a similar layoff to stalk a quick pace and pounce late at one mile. Purposefully trained up to this race with a layoff based only on the similar experience that put him in the winning circle last time.

From out of the clouds:

2 Ice Box – His Florida Derby win confirmed that he’s a one-run closer, but he had been pecking away at that type of style in small fields while breaking his maiden at the Meadowlands and winning a first level allowance at Gulfstream, where he sat off slow paces to make a run on the outside late. Comes here as the only horse with three consecutive 1 1/8 mile starts on dirt, so there’s a foundation to his form. Could be dead last early.

16 Awesome Act
— Raced almost exclusively on turf at two in Europe before finishing a wide fourth in the BC Juvenile Turf, Awesome Act has been repurposed this year. He put away the Gotham with a loping, steady advance when switched to the outside into a fast pace, but couldn’t close into a moderate pace in the Wood while having a valid excuse in throwing his shoe. Will need to pick his way through the pack later in the race if his starts this year are any indication.

17 Dublin — Having not won since August in Saratoga’s Hopeful, Dublin has consistently been a plodding closer. Despite some nice middle moves, he hasn’t got to the wire in front this year while keeping top company. Since that Hopeful win, Dublin has raced five times, and seven different Derby rivals have finished in front of him. Has been the recipient of all types of pace scenarios in his three starts this year and has consistently been around the wire each time.

18 Backtalk — Another who did his best work last year at two when sprinting, he comes here third off the winter layoff, having taken a minor stakes in the slop at Delta when stubbornly closing against an average pace. In his last race, the Illinois Derby, he was taken farther back and was a well beaten third to American Lion. Grinder has been no match when put against any of today’s rivals in the past and draws poorly in post 18. Only plusses to be found are the two wins in two starts at Churchill, but those were a long time ago. Only conceivable scenario has him taken back and hoping for a complete pace meltdown to run at late.

The wild cards:

6 Stately Victor — Winner on turf and on Polytrack winning the Blue Grass last out, Stately Victor’s best dirt start was his debut at Saratoga finishing behind Winslow Homer. Hasn’t been particularly near the pace in any races and finished fast enough in his last win to inspire a little bit of confidence, but the surface question is hard to ignore despite what looks like a nice enough pedigree for the distance. Working well enough on the dirt training track at Churchill, but is a total mystery, unknown until very late in the race.

8 Dean’s Kitten — Three-time winner has done it stalking or on the lead on turf and Polytrack at Turfway. Lone dirt start on a wet Belmont track found him pressing and fading. When looking at this year’s form in isolation, he hasn’t been all that bad, but question if the early foot he’s shown when winning will be present here for him to work out a trip.

9 Make Music for Me — Lone win in a 1-mile overnight turf stakes at Santa Anita after stalking a quick pace. Has kept the company throughout his career and enters third off the winter layoff after an even effort in the Blue Grass. Unknown dirt quantity is another turf runner looking to pick up pieces late.

10 Paddy O’ Prado — Lone dirt start an excusable debut at Churchill in the slop last fall. Lone win on the turf in Palm Beach at Gulfstream, which was on the pace. Paddy O’ Prado has shown improving form despite being headed late by Stately Victor in his last in the Blue Grass. Winning style probably puts him in front of the mid-pack group, only question is the surface.

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