My second analysis of the past ten Kentucky Derby winners focuses on the last two prep races, where they ran, the distance, the class of competition and then how many days remained before they ran the for the roses.
The sample size is small, but with everything about these ten horses, some trends, mostly obvious to fans of the game, are apparent.
1. They don't run as much: While Street Sense was a bit of an anomaly trained by old school trainer Carl Nafzger, Barbaro and Big Brown contested 5 and 3 races respectively, and both had close to 5 weeks of rest leading before the Derby while the other horses averaged closer to three weeks.
Over the last ten years, Derby winners have raced 6.6 times pre-derby. Excluding Barbaro and Big Brown, that number is 7.25 and taking the heavily raced Charismatic out of the stats drops the number of starts in their pre-derby careers to 6.25. Barbaro and Big Brown averaged 4 starts.
2. No one prep race seemed to be the pathway. The Wood Memorial and The Florida Derby each hosted three Derby winners, while the the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby each hosted two winners.
Two of the horses ran an Allowance Race as one of their final two preps and three of the horses had no Grade One races in their final two preps.
3. They Win. Of the 20 last two prep races, 13 wins were registered by eventual Derby winners (65%), 4 horses placed, 1 took show and only 2 horses finished out of the money (10%).
In a vacuum, none of these random bits of information mean much. Taken together, a picture forms of the tracks where the next Triple Crown winner will run, the preps he will be in, the percentage of those preps he will finish in the top three, etc. I wish there was a divining rod for Derby winners, but this is more fun.