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Post Time: Another wet Kentucky Derby?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – “His mudder was a mudder.” ~ Cosmo Kramer

With the possibility of a third consecutive year with a wet track at post time for Kentucky Derby 145, it’s time to try and figure out who the mudders are.

Out of 144 previous editions of the Kentucky Derby, only 16 have been run on a muddy (7) or sloppy (9) track. The last two editions were run on off tracks with Justify starting his Triple Crown trilogy in the pouring rain last year and Always Dreaming winning in the slop in 2017. Before that the last time we had a Derby on an off track was 2013, when Orb splashed home as the Derby winner on the outside at odds of 6-1.

Both of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby wins have come on off tracks with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017). He has Spinoff and Cutting Humor entered in Saturday’s Run for the Roses.

A muddy or sloppy track can cause chaos, especially in a 20-horse field like the Derby. The most recent evidence of that was in 2009, when Calvin Borel steered Mine That Bird up the rail to win the race at 50-1 to amass the second biggest win mutuel ($102.80) in the race’s storied history.

Some statistics to focus on include wet Tomlinson figures included in the Daily Racing Form's past performances, as well as pedigree statistics which can be found in the Brisnet past performances. A look at the field's bloodlines can also provide clues as to a colt's chances in the Derby. The most important item may be how the actual horse has performed on an off track

Wet Tomlinson Figures

This measure of a horse's ability on a wet track was the brainchild of Lee Tomlinson who studied past performances of a sample of horses based on how they performed on wet tracks and their pedigrees. Wet Tomlinson score range from 0 to 480 (a perfect score) and experts have noted that a score of 320 warrants consideration of a horse that should perform well on an off-track.  Based on my annual Derby spreadsheet, the following horses have wet Tomlinson figures over 400 heading into the Derby:

Post Position Horse Morning Line Tomlinson (Wet)
6 Vekoma 20-1 469
16 Game Winner 5-1 461
5 Improbable 6-1 443
11 Haikal 20-1 441
8 Tacitus 10-1 432
2 Tax 20-1 405

Pedigree

Some of the bloodlines that are part of the current field can be traced back to horses that have solid wet track influences can be traced to sires such as Hard Spun (Spinoff) and dam sires such as A.P. Indy (Game Winner, Improbable) and Distorted Humor (Haikal).

Brisnet Sire and Damsire Win Percentages

The horses that have the highest sire win percentages on a wet track (noted as" mud stats") as listed in Brisnet past performances in the Derby include (with more than 100 starts):

Post Position Horse Morning Line BRIS       Sire
6 Vekoma 20-1 21%
16 Game Winner 5-1 21%
5 Improbable 6-1 19%
11 Haikal 20-1 19%
8 Tacitus 10-1 18%

The horses on the dam sire side with the highest percentages based on the same criteria include:

Post Position Horse Morning Line BRIS       Dam's Sire
6 Vekoma 20-1 21%
11 Haikal 10-1 20%
16 Game Winner 5-1 19%
5 Improbable 6-1 19%
8 Tacitus 10-1 19%
21 Bodexpress (AE) 30-1 19%

 

Not surprisingly, the same horses show up on both sides of the pedigree which also can be found high in the Tomlinson rankings.

Actual Off-Track Performances

Of the horses in the field, seven horses have wins on an off-track: Omaha Beach has two wins on sloppy tracks (Arkansas Derby and maiden special weight); Tacitus (listed as good in maiden special weight at a mile); Maximum Security (optional claimer at 6F), Haikal (listed as good in maiden at 6F), War of Will (maiden at 1 1/16-miles), Spinoff (maiden at 5F), and Master Fencer (maiden at 1 1/8-miles).

Six horses have placed on off-tracks which include Plus Que Parfait, By My Standards, Haikal, Improbable, Cutting Humor and Win Win Win.

Should the track come up wet again this year under the Twin Spires, these should offer some clues to consider when handicapping the big race.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

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