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BabyTalk #25

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by Tom Carley



The KENTUCKY DERBY picture is complete. The race is next Saturday, May 2, 2015. This column is being written Monday morning. To date, the workouts are completed, but the post positions have not been drawn yet (see later in column). I will emphasize the things to look for as you follow press releases and eventually tune in on Derby day. 

I also have established an email for readers to contact me:

This week’s Featured Four:


Every race has certain conditions (i.e. specific qualifications, eligibility requirements and race information such as distance). Each racetrack lists these in a document called the Condition Book. The owners and trainers (referred to as the connections) review this book and choose which races to enter their specific horses. The entire listing of the conditions for the KENTUCKY DERBY from the Churchill Downs Condition Book is as follows:


The 141st Running of THE KENTUCKY DERBY

Presented by Yum! Brands

$2,000,000 Grade I STAKES

For three-year-olds, with an entry fee of $25,000 each and a starting fee of $25,000 each. A minimum $500 jockey mount fee will apply to starters that finish beyond third place. Supplemental nominations may be made upon payment of $200,000 and in accordance with the rules set forth herein. All fees, including supplemental nominations, in excess of $900,000 in the aggregate shall be paid to the winner. Churchill Downs Racetrack (CDRT) shall guarantee a minimum gross purse of $2,000,000 (the “Guaranteed Purse”). The winner shall receive $1,240,000, second place shall receive $400,000, third place shall receive $200,000, fourth place shall receive $100,000 and fifth place shall  receive $60,000 from the Guaranteed Purse (the Guaranteed Purse to each place to be divided equally in the event of a dead heat). Starters shall be named through the entry b ox on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at 10:00 am Eastern Daylight Time (the “Closing”). CDRT, in its sole and absolute discretion, may set the number of starters up to a maximum of twenty (20) and the number of horses that are also-eligible to start up to a maximum of four (4). Colts and Geldings shall each carry a weight of one hundred twenty six (126) pounds; Fillies shall each carry one hundred twenty one (121) pounds. Supplemental Nominees may enter and will be treated equal to any Original Nominee without preference of one over the other. If the number of nominees exceeds the number of available starting positions and also-eligible positions set by CDRT (the “Number of Starting and AE Positions”) at the Closing, these conditions shall be applied to determine which nominees will be allowed to start and which nominees will be designated as also-eligible to start. In the event that more than the Number of Starting and AE Positions pass through the entry box at the Closing, the starters and also-eligible horses shall be determined at the Closing from Original Nominees and Supplemental Nominees if starting and/or also-eligible positions are still available, with preference given to those horses that have accumulated the most points pursuant to the Road to the Kentucky Derby Point System. For purposes of this preference, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Point System shall mean the point values assigned to the first four finishing positions in each race comprising the Road to the Kentucky Derby as published by Churchill Downs Racetrack. Notwithstanding the foregoing, CDRT may, at its sole discretion, allocate one or more starting and/or also-eligible positions or otherwise give preference to winners of a designated race or races provided, however, that any such designated race or races may not include restrictive provisions relative to which a horse may enter such race or races, other than by sex or age. In the event of any ties resulting from the Road to the Kentucky Derby Point System or should additional horses be needed to bring the field to the Number of Starting and AE Positions, the remaining starters and also-eligible horses shall be determined at the Closing with preference given to those horses that have accumulated the highest earnings in non-restricted sweepstakes. For purposes of this preference, a “non-restricted sweepstakes” shall mean those sweepstakes whose conditions contain no restrictions other than that of age or sex. In the case of remaining ties resulting from preferences or otherwise, the additional starter(s) and/or also-eligible horses shall be determined by lot. Any horse excluded from running because of the aforementioned preference(s) shall be refunded the $25,000 entry fee and the $200,000 supplemental fee, if applicable. After the Closing, CDRT shall designate in order of preference the nominees that are also-eligible to start in accordance with these conditions (“Also Eligible Horses”). If a starter is scratched from the Kentucky Derby before 9:00 a.m (Eastern Standard Time or EST) on Friday, May 1, 2015 (“Scratch Deadline”), then the Also Eligible Horse with the highest preference (if any) as determined by these conditions shall become a starter. All starters and Also Eligible Horses must be stabled at Churchill Downs by 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 Post positions shall be determined by a nontransferable lot number being drawn for each horse named as a starter at the Closing. The lot number drawn for each starter shall determine the post position of such starter. Horses having common ties through ownership or training shall each be treated separately for purposes of determining post position. In the event of one or more scratches after the determination of post positions and prior to the Scratch Deadline, then (i) starters with post positions higher than the post position of the scratched starter will be moved to the next lowest empty post position (i.e., toward the inside rail of the race track) and (ii) the Also Eligible Horse that becomes a starter (if any) will receive the lowest post position available after the post positions of the other starters have been moved as provided above. In the event one or more scratches occur after the Scratch Deadline, no Also Eligible Horses will be permitted to start and the post positions shall be moved, without changing the order of the starters, as determined by the stewards and CDRT to be in the best interests of the safety of the race participants. Post positions shall be moved for each scratch that occurs so that there are no empty post positions in-between horses at the start of the Kentucky Derby. Detailed rules governing the post-position draw process are available from the Racing Secretary’s office and will be distributed prior to the Closing. These rules shall control. The owner of the winner of the Race shall receive a gold trophy and trophies to the winning breeder, trainer and jockey.

Nominations Close Monday, March 23, 2015


The highlights of these race qualifications and conditions are as follows:


Only horses that are 3-years-old are eligible.

The highest earners of Kentucky Derby Qualifying point:           

This is why the points each horse earned all year are so important. The owners of over 20 horses aspire to run in the KENTUCKY DERBY. The thoroughbreds that have earned the most points will be the contenders in the race.

Distance 1¼ miles:  

This is vital as no horse has ever competed at this distance, and few will ever run this far ever again. Fatigue and conditioning play vital roles in winning this race.

Weight: 126 pounds:            

This is more weight than almost all of these horses have ever carried.

Remember, all of the unique conditions of this race. Combine that, with the fact that 150,000 loud fans will be in attendance on a sunny, dry Saturday afternoon, and you can appreciate the many factors that will play a role in which equine will be victorious on Derby day.

With the entry fees, travel and additional expenses, a horse needs to finish in the top 5 positions to make the race profitable. To the winning connections, the prize goes beyond the large purse. It also includes the increased value as a future stallion, as well as the honor of “lifetime bragging rights” as one of only 141 that have won the KENTUCKY DERBY. 🙂



The long distance of 10 furlongs provides not only a challenge to the horses, but also to handicappers. A key to analyzing this race will be to see which equine sets the early pace, and then has to fight off the challenge of trailing horses, as one-by-one they try to pass the early leader. The challenge for a deep closer (one who saves his energy until the final stretch where he passes tiring horses) is how to navigate through all of the horses. This will require him to run much farther than a horse near the lead. The “early speed” also might have to start and stop, just as you do in a traffic jam. Once these 1,100 pound athletes have to “tap the brakes” it is difficult for them to lengthen their stride and get back to full speed.

That being said, the first way I analyze this race is by breaking the race down by three racing style types.

Speed Horses

Dortmund:    Was more of a tactical horse in his first 3 races. Was sent straight to the front in his last 3 races. Because he is bigger and not as agile as others in the race, he might run more of a tactical race Saturday.

American Pharoah:    If the connections get their way, he will go right to the front and repel the challengers one at a time until he passes the wire.

Materiality:    Loves the front end. Took field gate to wire twice at 9 furlongs.

Stanford:    Will be the first to challenge American Pharoah. Might actually try to see how far he can take them on the front end if he gets a better post draw than American Pharoah.


Tactial Horses

Carpe Diem:    A classic tactical or stalker type. He likes to lay no more than 3 lengths off the leaders until they near the stretch.

Frosted:    Has really taken a step forward since the surgery that allowed him to breathe much easier.

Mubtaahij:    Running lines simply say:    “Tracked Leaders   Textbook tactical style”.

Upstart:    Has been a speed horse in the past, but never ran with this quick of a group.

Itsaknockout:    Likes to run midpack.

Firing Line:    Tried to go nose-to-nose with Dortmund 3 back. Rated in BOB LEWIS STAKES, faced lower quality in SUNLAND DERBY and had lead by default. Jockey Gary Stevens won the Derby wire to wire on Winning Colors.

War Story:    Never been the type to press for the lead; the slower of the tactical types.

Tencendur:    Think he is a tactical type, just because of rough trips he appears to be a closer.

Mr. Z:    Will have to rate today as he has proven he is not as fast as some in this race.

Ocho Ocho Ocho:    Similar to Mr. Z in that this smaller horse will have to rate.

Bolo:    Like the turf horse that this one is, will run off the pace and hope to make one long run at them.



International Star:    Likes to sit 7 to 10 lengths off the field. Jockey Miguel Mena did a great job in LOUISIANNA DERBY of getting the horse good trips on the rail. Always a possibility is a hole on the rail (just like on a football line of scrimmage) can close. 

El Kabeir:    Has raced a variety of ways, but with Cal Borel taking the mount he might try a trip similar to Mine That Bird when he went for last to first.

Far Right:    Prefers to be 10-15 lengths off the pace. Likely will be last when they hit the wire the first time.

Danzig Moon:    Closed well in Churchill race and BLUEGRASS STAKES.

Keen Ice:    A deep closer who likes to be 12 lengths off the lead.

While I do not particularly favor closing-style horses to win the race, they do pass tiring horses; and in recent years, did get into the 2nd, 3rd and 4th position. 


The weather forecast for Louisville is showing 81 degrees and sunny with less than a 10% chance of rain. This should make the racetrack FAST and dry without mud. This assures a race in which horses will be true to form and not have the excuse of poor footing.


As you are at your Derby parties, you can be a part of the conversation and even show a little horse knowledge by asking the following questions.

  • Watch the early races on the card and ask if the speed horses are having luck holding on to win races? This would benefit the favorites Dortmund and American Pharoah.
  • How will Mubtahiij do after his travel to the USA from Dubai?
  • Will the trainers with multi horses in the field like Bob Baffert or Todd Pletcher win or will it be a trainer with only one horse?
  • How will some of the less experienced Derby jockeys do? With 150,000 people, there is a wall of noise that faces horses as they make the turn to enter the stretch. Pat Day told me last year how you have to start tapping your horses with the whip around the 3/8th pole to make sure they run through the noise.  This is very difficult for a novice rider in the Derby to handle.
  • Which horses will be adversely effected due to nerves and expand a lot of energy in the paddock and post parade? For a hint watch how the horses act when they play “My Old Kentucky Home”.

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