Although the Breeders’ Cup is nipping at its heels, without a doubt the Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse race of the year in the United States. This is a race that attracts many fans from the general public that typically don’t follow horse racing. A thorough understanding of horse racing, and which horses will win and why is a complex discipline that requires extensive specialized knowledge.
Despite the complexity of understanding horse racing, there are a few basic rules that can help the novice watch the Kentucky Derby with a greater degree of enjoyment. Until recently, the Derby was a race dominated by the favorite. In the 1970’s great horses like Secretariat and Seattle Slew blew away the field but since Spectacular Bid’s winning run in 1979 there have been only a couple of favorites to win the big race. While a serious horse player might not want to categorically dismiss the popular favorite, for the horse racing novice this is a helpful way to narrow down the field.
So why has the favorite done so poorly in recent years? One theory suggests that it is a by-product of the hype surrounding the race. Novice horse fans back the favorite, making it more of a popularity contest than anything else. The reality is that the horse with the most hype is not always the best horse.
Another important component of Kentucky derby success is the post position of the horses. The innermost positions (1 through 5) have produced over 40% of all Derby winners, while the outer post positions (11 through 20) have had only 13% winners. Note that in some years there might not be that many horses in the race, which would help partially explain the poor performance of the outer start positions. Still, for the purposes of understanding a single race eliminating all of the less favorable start positions is a good idea.
A horse’s lineage and breeding is also an important factor in the race. While this may be the most complex and demanding area of horse racing, there is a simple rule of thumb that can help a novice for this race. Most high level race horses are born in Kentucky. Well over 80% of Derby winners have also been born in the Bluegrass State. So just eliminate all horses that weren’t born in Kentucky. Then consider a horse’s gender and eliminate any horse that isn’t an intact male (geldings and fillies). Over 90% of all Derby winners have been intact males, though a gelding did win the race in 2003 (Funny Cide). For the horse racing novice, however,this is another good way to pare down the field.
Also, take a look at dosage index numbers. For the novice, there’s no real reason to worry about what they mean or how they’re figured but the general rule of thumb is to look for a horse with a dosage index of 4.00 or less. Since 1984, over half of all Derby winners have fit this criteria.
For a more serious introduction to horse racing, check out the many books available on the subject at any large bookstore. For a casual fan who just follows the ‘big races’ these rules will help you get a decent grasp on the Kentucky Derby and understand who will win and why.
Ross Everett is a freelance sports writer and respected authority on Uk marriage visa World Cup betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and Uk marriage visa sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with three Jack Russell Terriers and a kangaroo. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.
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