According to Weather.Com there is an 80% chance of precipitation on Saturday at Churchill Downs. With an abundance of rain threatening to turn the dirt track into a sea of slop, I ventured online to track down which horses will enjoy an off track - - and I have great news: ALL of the contenders are going to wake up praying for rain.
(UPDATE Saturday May 1st: For my Kentucky Derby Picks - Please CLICK HERE.)
When examining off-track potential, handicappers will often quote the Wet Tomlinson Number. The figure rates a horse's wet surface potential based on progeny of the sire and maternal grandsire. A rating of 320 or higher is meant to indicate wet track ability.
Only one horse, Backtalk, has a rating of less than 320. Fortunately, Backtalk has already proven capable in the slop having previously won a stakes event at Delta Downs.
Another common handicapping exercise is to play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game and list members of the family tree that have won wet. I'm not saying it doesn't work but surely every horse is somehow related to someone that once won on an offtrack.
And, of course, you can look at past performances, workouts and pay attention to the trainer's comments during the run up to Derby day.
So, get out your yellow rain slickers and umbrella, here's a look at some of the commentary from around the web regarding which trainers will be performing a rain dance on Saturday.
1. Lookin At Lucky 3-1
Jon White, quotes Mike Welsch regarding our morning line favourite:
"...it's hard to find any fault with Lookin At Lucky in the last week, and it is also comforting to know he should have little problem handling a wet track if faced with one in the Derby."
2. Ice Box, 10-1
Steve Haskin writes the following:
As for the horses who have trained well in the slop at Churchill Downs, the ones who seemed to get over it the best and have the pedigree to handle an off track are Paddy O'Prado, Mission Impazible, Lookin at Lucky, Ice Box, and Super Saver. Another Awesome Again who should have no problem with an off track is Awesome Act, who, for all you RF (Rasmussen Factor) pundits, is inbred on the bottom to the great mare Almahmoud through her two legendary daughters Cosmah and Natalma. So, this is an all-female RF (mare and daughters), which is pretty uncommon.
3. Noble's Promise, 12-1
Triple Crown Talk points out:
McPeek told me he sees the horse saving ground along the rail much of the way, especially since drawing post 3. He expects him to lay off the speed and make his move around the turn. He expects a big effort from Noble's Promise. So do I. The way I look at it, if you like Lookin At Lucky at 4-1, you have to like Noble's Promise at 12-1 or more. He has trained much of his career over this track and if it comes up wet, he moves up even more. He has a fighting chance.
4. Super Saver, 15-1
Todd Pletcher says his horses wouldn't mind Derby mud:
Super Saver broke his maiden by a seven lengths on a sloppy track last fall. The filly Devil May Care ran on an off track at Saratoga in her first career start and won by 4 3/4 lengths. Mission Impazible was beat a head on a sloppy track in Florida in early January and Discreetly Mine was fourth in the slop in Gulfstream.
The trainer said all of them handled the off track here during workouts.
“It does throw an x-factor into it,” Pletcher said of the off track chance. “Normally, I would be sweating out the forecast but, the way they have all trained, it would not bother me if it rained. Part of me thinks it might be an edge for us.”
5. Line of David, 30-1
John Sadler says:
“That’s a first for him, handling a wet track,” Sadler said. “We don’t see that much out our way with the weather in general and the synthetic tracks. He seemed to handle it fine and that’s encouraging. He’ll have his final work here Monday.”
6. Stately Victor 30-1
Steve Haskin speaks up for Stately Victor:
If there is a better bred horse for the slop, we haven’t seen him. His sire, Ghostzapper , earned a spectacular 128 Beyer figure in the slop at Monmouth, winning the Iselin Handicap (gr. III) by 10 3/4 lengths. Ghostzapper’s sire, Awesome Again , was two-for-two in the slop, winning the Jim Dandy (gr. II) by three lengths and a Churchill Downs allowance race by seven lengths. Awesome Again, in addition to Ghostzapper, sired Ginger Punch, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) in the slop.
7. American Lion, 30-1
The pedigree of American Lion reflects that his momma Storm Tide is by respected wet track sire Storm Cat. Don't believe me? Check out this list of wet track sires.
8. Dean's Kitten, 50-1
"His daddy could run all day, and his Wet Tomlinson Rating of 337 is more than good enough."
9. Make Music For Me, 50-1
A bit of a dryspell here midway through this exercise...so once again I head to the pedigree and discover that Storm Cat and Carson City, both wet track sires, are prominent.
10. Paddy O'Prado, 20-1
Ice Box and Paddy O'Prado reel off bullet works in the slop! Hurrah. They're ready for rain.
Dale Romans told me before the Blue Grass the horse is peaking at the right time and he said the same thing at the Derby draw. He expects a big effort, especially if the tracks comes up a little wet and the pace is quick. Desormeaux should be able to tuck him in right off the leaders and have him in position for at least a small piece.
11. Devil May Care, 10-1
Proof is in the past performances! Devil May Care broke her maiden in the slop first time out going six furlongs at Saratoga.
12. Conveyance, 12-1
Last year bettors were faced with a similarly dreary dilemna regarding a wet track. And many 'cappers will use the old standard of trying to find a front-runner to take advantage of the sloppy surface. Conveyance, who has ALWAYS been first at the second call certainly qualifies as a front runner. In 2009, Mark E Moran wrote the following about Churchill Down's sloppy surface:
In the first two races held at Churchill Downs today, the front runners perservered and drew away from the field in deep stretch, while horses attempting to close, particularly those who traveled wide into the stretch, faded in deep stretch. While you should be careful about drawing conclusions from a limited sample of two races, if there is a track bias today, it is in favor of front runners.
And then Mine That Bird bombed home from the back of the pack.
13. Jackson Bend, 15-1
Yet another entrant featuring Storm Cat and Carson City top and bottom in the pedigree.
14. Mission Impazible, 20-1
Mission Impazible finished second in the slop in a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park. Clearly, the mission is a go rain or shine.
15. Discreetly Mine 30-1
The trainer seems pleased:
Discreetly Mine worked “very good,” according to Pletcher. “He seemed to like the wet track.”
Joyce Robsham’s homebred son of Mineshaft out of Alabama (gr. I) winner Pretty Discreet (by Private Account), breezed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5. Under jockey Javier Castellano, the colt was time in :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 2/5, and :48 1/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 and seven furlongs in 1:29 1/5
16. Awesome Act, 10-1
Lou-Davis.Com likes Awesome Act:
Early indications call for a 60% chance of rain Saturday. If the track is sloppy, you need to upgrade Super Saver, who broke his maiden impressively over a sloppy surface, as well as Awesome Act, who has a strong Tomlinson Rating over wet surfaces. If you make your wager early, make sure your horse doesn’t scratch due to weather concerns.
17. Dublin, 12-1
A Wet Tomlinson Figure of 343 and a rallying fourth place finish June 11th '09 at Churchill over a track rated good which was won by fellow Derby entrant Backtalk. That's actually an interesting race as Dublin bobbled the start and worked hard to catch up - - and the first three finishers came back to win next out.
18. Backtalk, 50-1
Trainer Tom Amoss:
"Let me be clear: I always want to practice my horses on the best track possible and I don't think we had that this weekend," Amoss said. "That is not a testament to whether Backtalk likes or dislikes the slop. On the contrary, he won on the slop and trains very well on it, and I'd be very comfortable running on it if it came up sloppy.
"Slop is something he likes and he's already won on it going a route of ground in a stakes race (the February 26 Sportsman's Paradise at Delta Downs)."
19. Homeboykris 50-1
The handy, dandy Equispace Derby Spread Sheet advises that Homeboykris has a Wet Tomlinson Rating of 374. That's well above the 320 requirement for potential first, second or third start on a wet track. Oh boy!
20. Sidney's Candy, 5-1
Trainer John Sadler and jockey Joe Talamo advise:
“It was a good work,” Sadler said at the barn afterward. “I was looking for a strong work coming into this race and he got it today. I would have preferred to have worked him over a fast track – that’s what we’re likely to see here next week – but we didn’t have a choice. I’d say the conditions were less than ideal, but we dealt with them as best we could. I actually liked the way he handled the wet track. That (working on an ‘off’ track) was a first for him. But that South American sire line of his says he should probably like it and it appeared today he did.”
Talamo, an ebullient 20-year-old who had risen to the upper echelons of the jockey rooms in Southern California, had on an even bigger smile than usual following the work.
“He felt great out there,” the rider said prior to dashing off to the airport for a plane back to the West Coast. “He loves the mud. If it rains Derby Day, I won’t be mad.”
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So, there you have it - the entire field is prepared to do battle in the mud. I hope the track photographer has an extra-wide lens prepared for the 20-way dead heat photo of the ages.
A simple $2 to WIN on each horse in the field ensures victory will be yours on Saturday. Good luck!