by Jon White
April 21, 2022
“Inexperienced.” That’s a word you are going to see and hear time and again associated with Taiba, who is being prepared for the 148th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7. He will go into the Grade I Run for the Roses with just two races under his belt.
“Talented.” That’s another word you are going to frequently see and hear linked with Taiba between now and when the field exits the 20-stall starting gate in the 1 1/4-mile classic.
It pretty much boils down to this question as far as Taiba and the Kentucky Derby are concerned: Will his talent be enough to trump his inexperience?
BloodHorse’s Byron King respects Taiba enough to rank the clear-cut Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner No. 3 in his Top 12. King has Epicenter at No. 1. Zandon is No. 2. Epicenter won the Grade II Louisiana Derby. Zandon recently took the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes.
Taiba “has the skill to win the [Kentucky] Derby, having won the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, but rates behind the top two due to inexperience,” King wrote.
Thoroughbred Daily News’ T.D. Thornton does not respect Taiba as much as King. Thornton has Taiba ranked No. 9 (behind Zandon, Epicenter, Mo Donegal, Simplification, Early Voting, Smile Happy, Tiz the Bomb and Charge It).
Thornton wrote of Taiba: “Yes, this son of Gun Runner is worthy of superlatives after posting back-to-back triple digit Beyers [103, then 102] in both a MSW sprint and the Santa Anita Derby, a race in which this colt sparred the entire length of the lane against a more seasoned stablemate [Messier]. But Taiba would truly have to be a once-in-a-generation outlier to thrive against top-of-the-crop competition at 10 furlongs in lifetime start number three, all the while shipping for the first time and experiencing a field far larger and far more talented than anything he’s faced in limited SoCal action. Too much too soon is the verdict here -- although admittedly, it would be pretty neat to witness Taiba shatter conventional wisdom.”
The Kentucky Derby is too much too soon for Taiba, eh?
Look, I get why so much is being made about Taiba going into the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby off just two career starts. It is a big deal, to be sure.
But wasn’t it also a big deal for Taiba to go from his first race -- a 7 1/4-length win in a six-furlong maiden race – to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at nine furlongs? How did that turn out? Was the Santa Anita Derby too much too soon?
If Taiba was able to do what he did in the Santa Anita Derby, then why can’t he also win the Kentucky Derby?
Just four years ago, a talented colt came along to win a seven-furlong maiden race at first asking, then a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race, then the Santa Anita Derby, then the Kentucky Derby. You’ve heard of Justify, right?
Some people said Justify couldn’t win the Kentucky Derby because he had made just three previous starts. Does it really make that much of a difference that Justify had only one more race under his belt going into the Kentucky Derby than Taiba?
Many also said Justify would not win the Kentucky Derby because he didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Remember the so-called Apollo curse? No horse had won the Kentucky Derby without starting at 2 since Apollo all the way back in 1882.
Well, in 2018, Justify’s talent did trump his lack of experience and he did break the Apollo curse. Not only did Justify win the Kentucky Derby, he went on to achieve Triple Crown immortality, joining Seattle Slew as the only two horses to sweep the coveted three-race series while undefeated.
Now it’s 2022 and Taiba seeks to put another curse to rest. This time it’s the curse of Leonatus. Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman, aided by Keeneland Library director Becky Ryder, found that Leonatus in 1883 was “the last -- actually the only -- horse to have won the [Kentucky] Derby in only his third career start. That’s the feat that Taiba will try to equal after his victory in the Santa Anita Derby in only his second career start.”
If Justify was able to break the Apollo curse, why can’t Taiba break the Leonatus curse?
It appears to me that a major change in the dynamic of Thoroughbred racing in America may have mitigated Justify’s lack of experience when he broke the curse of Apollo. And I believe that this major change might also help Taiba break the curse of Leonatus.
The major change is horses generally do not race much anymore, especially stakes horses. Consequently, as a whole, Kentucky Derby runners are much less experienced nowadays. In other words, an inexperienced horse like a Justify and a Taiba has a better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than in past decades when their opponents would have been more experienced.
The list below shows the number of previous career starts for each of the Top 20 horses currently listed by Churchill Downs as definite or possible entrants in this year’s Kentucky Derby:
8 Barber Road
8 Tiz the Bomb
7 Summer Is Tomorrow
7 Un Ojo
5 Mo Donegal
5 Tawny Port
5 White Abarrio
4 Crown Pride
4 Smile Happy
3 Charge It
3 Early Voting
3 Happy Jack
Consider the huge difference in terms of experience between the prospective 2022 Kentucky Derby field and the 1982 and 1992 editions. Taiba would have been running against much more experienced opponents in 1982 and 1992.
The average number of previous career starts for the 19 starters in the 1982 Kentucky Derby was 10.0.
The average number of previous career starts for the 18 starters in the 1992 Kentucky Derby was 8.5.
When Justify won the 2018 Kentucky Derby with just three races under his belt, the average number of previous career starts for the 20 starters was 5.7.
The average number of previous starts for the prospective 20 starters in the 2022 Kentucky Derby is 5.0.
The table below shows a continuous decline in the average number of previous career starts:
Average No. Starts (Year) Winner and Field Size
10.0 (1982) Gato Del Sol won in a field of 19
8.5 (1992) Lil E. Tee won in a field of 18
7.5 (2002) War Emblem won in a field of 18
6.7 (2012) I’ll Have Another won in a field of 20
5.7 (2018) Justify won in field of 20
5.0 (2022) Current prospective field of 20
It’s perfectly understandable why a lot of people will not be supporting Taiba in the Kentucky Derby due to his lack of experience. But keep in mind that the table above shows that Taiba’s prospective foes, as a group, are pretty lightly raced themselves.
To look at this another way, check out the table below showing the number of horses to have made nine or more previous career starts in each of the following Kentucky Derbies:
9+ Starts (Year)
13 out of 19 (1982)
10 out of 18 (1992)
5 out of 18 (2002)
3 out of 20 (2012)
3 out of 20 (2018)
0 out of 20 (Current prospective field of 20)
If experience is so darn important, why didn’t the horse with the most previous career starts fare better in the 1982, 1992, 2002, 2012 and 2018 Kentucky Derbies?
The table below shows where the horse with the most previous career starts finished in the following Kentucky Derbies:
Starts (Year) Horse (Finish)
17 (1982) New Discovery (18th)
14 (1992) Sir Pinder (15th)
14 (2002) It’sallinthechase (16th)
10 (2012) Daddy Nose Best (10th)
10 (2018) My Boy Jack (5th)
TAIBA BOASTS SPEED-FIGURE POWER
As mentioned earlier, “talented” is a word often associated with Taiba.
An indication of Taiba’s talent is he will have the distinction of being the only runner in this year’s Kentucky Derby to have earned two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. He recorded a 103 Beyer when victorious at first asking in a sprint, then a 102 in his Santa Anita Derby victory.
The 103 is tied for the best Beyer Speed Figure in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Messier likewise posted a 103 Beyer when he won Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 15 lengths. Messier recorded a 99 Beyer when having to settle for second to Taiba in the Santa Anita Derby.
Epicenter is the only other 2022 Kentucky Derby candidate to have a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure to his credit. He received a 102 Beyer when a 2 1/2-length winner of the Louisiana Derby at 1 3/16 miles.
To put Taiba’s two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in two career starts into further perspective, the other 19 horses currently listed as definite or possible for the Kentucky Derby are a combined two for 98 starts with respect to getting a triple-digit Beyer.
It’s an additional indication of just how talented Taiba is that he will be going into the Kentucky Derby with the best Thoro-Graph number.
As I have stated before, while I consider Beyer Speed Figures to be a useful tool for horseplayers, I’m of the opinion that Thoro-Graph numbers are superior to the Beyers. That’s because Thoro-Graph takes more factors into account than the Beyers. According to Thoro-Graph, “each number on a sheet represents a performance rating arrived at by using time of the race, beaten lengths, ground lost or saved on the turns, weight carried, and any effects wind conditions had on the time of the race.”
The winner of a race will never get a lower Beyer Speed Figure than the horse who finished second, the horse who finished second will never get a lower Beyer than the horse who finished third, and so on down through the order of finish.
In the case of the Thoro-Graph numbers, a horse who finished second, or even lower, can get a better number than the winner. This is one of the things I love about Thoro-Graph. I regard a Thoro-Graph number to be a much truer reflection of a horse’s performance than a Beyer. Thoro-Graph’s approach reflects the reality that the winner is not necessarily the horse who ran the best race.
Taiba regressed slightly to a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Santa Anita Derby off the 103 in his debut. As I wrote last week, I think a case can be made that Taiba’s 102 Beyer might deserve to be a little bit bigger when compared to various past editions of the Santa Anita Derby.
In nine Santa Anita Derbies from 1990 to present, the winner’s final time on a fast track was slower than Taiba’s, yet those nine were assigned a higher Beyer than Taiba’s 102.
I feel somewhat vindicated by Thoro-Graph in my thought that Taiba’s Beyer Speed Figure for his Santa Anita Derby triumph perhaps should be a bit higher than 102, a slight drop from the 103 in his debut. That’s because his Thoro-Graph did improve -- by quite a bit, actually -- in the Santa Anita Derby from his debut.
“We finally had our first negative Thoro-Graph number [among Kentucky Derby candidates] with this freakish colt getting a negative 1/2 in the Santa Anita Derby following his exceptional 2 in his career debut,” Secretariat.com’s Steve Haskin wrote this week. “This makes him the fastest horse in the [Kentucky] Derby, with the next-fastest number being White Abarrio’s 1 in the Florida Derby.”
The TDN’s Thornton looks at Taiba as being a bad bet. Thornton wrote that the undefeated Taiba, with his “sky’s-the-limit appeal,” will “probably be the most overbet Derby phenom in a long time.”
I see it differently. I am looking at this as one of those relatively rare opportunities to bet on a horse with the best speed figures who quite possibly will be a better price in the betting than he should be.
Justify had the best speed figures going into the 2018 Kentucky Derby. He was sent away as the 5-2 favorite and got the job done.
The difference with Taiba is that while he has the best speed figures going into this year’s Kentucky Derby, I don’t think he will be the favorite or even the second choice in the betting. I expect Epicenter and Zandon to both have lower odds than Taiba.
To put it another way, unlike Thornton, I think Taiba is likely to be a good bet with respect to his odds in relation to his chance of winning.
According to Horseracingnation.com’s Ron Flatter, Taiba was the third choice at 6-1 behind co-favorites Epicenter and Messier at 5-1 in Las Vegas on Monday at Ceasars Sportsbook at William Hill. Zandon was 7-1. All others were 12-1 or higher.
Epicenter was favored at just under 5-1 at Las Vegas’ Circa. Messier was the second choice at a bit over 5 1/2-1. Taiba was next at under 7-1 at +685. Zandon also was under 7-1 at 6 1/2-1 (+650). All others were 11-1 or higher.
The odds in Las Vegas are more meaningful to me because people are actually betting into those odds, unlike various odds opinions elsewhere.
Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee has Zandon favored at 4-1, followed by Epicenter at 5-1, then Messier and Taiba at 8-1 apiece.
Horseracingnation.com’s early odds have Epicenter at 4-1, followed by Zandon at 5-1, Taiba at 6-1 and Messier at 10-1.
Horseracingnation.com’s Matt Shiffman wrote the following: “In a Kentucky Derby year when the favorite is likely to be at least 4-1 and recent history says to put your money on a horse with a victory in a 100 points [to the winner] prep race who will be forwardly placed [early], I will enthusiastically make Epicenter my early pick.”
Well, Taiba also is a horse with a victory in a prep race worth 100 points to the winner whowill be forwardly placed early (barring a bad start). And all indications are Taiba is going to be a better price in the Kentucky Derby than Epicenter.
Of course, it’s possible that Taiba, like any of the other Kentucky Derby starters, could be doomed right away if he does not have a good start. Don’t forget what happened to Rock Your World last year.
In the Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World dashed immediately to the front, then led his rivals on a merry chase and won by 4 1/4 lengths. Medina Spirit ran second before going on to finish first in the Kentucky Derby, only to be disqualified earlier this year for a medication violation.
In my 2021 Kentucky Derby recap for Xpressbet.com, I noted that Rock Your World’s race essentially was over just about as quickly as you can say his name.
“Rock Your World, with Joel Rosario in the saddle, broke a step slowly, which many times can spell doom in a large field unless your name is Seattle Slew,” I wrote. “And then in the opening strides, Rock Your World became the cheese in the sandwich when bumped hard from both sides (by Highly Motivated on the right and Essential Quality on the left). Rosario’s foot even momentarily slipped out of his left stirrup before he got his foot back in it.
“In Rock Your World’s Santa Anita Derby victory, he set the pace. But he never came close to the front end in the Kentucky Derby after the adversity he encountered at the outset. Instead of setting or forcing the pace, Rock Your World found himself 10th through the early stages. He would finish 17th.”
If Taiba does get away in good order in the Kentucky Derby, he figures to race within close attendance of an early pace that does not seem to be shaping up to be all that hot. I can easily envision Taiba then being either first or second with a furlong to go, putting him in a prime position to win the race.
My Derby Strikes System (DSS) has taught me to be on the lookout for horses who look like they have a very good chance of being first or second with a furlong left to run in the Kentucky Derby. That’s because 53 of last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second a furlong out.
If it does turn out that Taiba is first or second with a furlong to go in the Kentucky Derby, I can picture him being mighty tough to beat if he then powers home like he has in both of his races so far.
I developed my DSS in 1999. It consists of eight key factors that attempt to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from BOTH tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the eight categories, the horse gets a strike. The eight categories in the DSS are listed toward the end of this column/blog/article.
A number of the categories in my DSS are tied to a Kentucky Derby being run on the first Saturday in May. As a result, when the race was switched from May 2 to Sept. 5 in 2020 due to COVID-19, it rendered my DSS unworkable for that particular year.
Only one horse has won the Kentucky Derby with more than two strikes. That was Mine that Bird, who had four strikes.
CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10
My Kentucky Derby Top 10 is how I rank the horses in terms of who I think is the most likely winner of that race. As of right now, Taiba is my pick to win it.
This week’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 is below:
5. White Abarrio
6. Mo Donegal
9. Smile Happy
10. Crown Pride
UPDATED DERBY STRIKES SITUATION
Now that all of the prospective entrants will not race again before the Kentucky Derby, everyone’s strikes in my Derby Strikes System can be determined.
Last Saturday’s Grade III Lexington Stakes was the final race offering qualifying points toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Tawny Port won the Lexington by one length and earned 20 points, which increased his total to 60 and secures a spot for him in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
In terms of my DSS, Tawny Port has zero strikes.
A horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. According to the DSS as it’s now constituted and excluding the Kentucky Derby of 2020 when the race was run in September, 83% of the Kentucky Derby winners (40 out of 48) have had zero strikes or one strike going back to 1973.
The seven Kentucky Derby winners with two strikes were Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005), Justify (2018) and Country House (2019).
As I said earlier, at this point Taiba is my pick to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. He’s my choice despite having two strikes, just like Justify was my pick to win the 2018 renewal despite having two strikes. And there is a parallel between Taiba and Justify in that their two strikes came in the same two categories, Category 1 and Category 7.
Category 1 is the “graded stakes category.” A horse needs to have run in a graded stakes race before March 31 to avoid getting a strike. If a horse gets a strike in this category, it points out that the horse has not faced tough competition until April, which is late in the game when it comes to preparing a horse for the Kentucky Derby.
Category 7 is the “raced as a 2-year-old category.” If a horse did not start as a 2-year-old, the horse gets a strike. As noted earlier, only Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2. Moreover, going back to 1937, horses who didn’t race at 2 are a combined 1 for 67 in the Kentucky Derby through 2021.
Would I prefer that Taiba had zero strikes or one strike? Of course I would. But the most important thing to me in his case strike-wise is he does not have three. If Taiba had three strikes, I definitely would not be picking him to win. I can’t imagine ever making a horse with three strikes or more my top pick in the Kentucky Derby.
The strikes are listed below for the 28 horses currently listed by Churchill Downs as definite or possible entrants following last Saturday’s Lexington Stakes:
ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE
Crown Pride (0 strikes)
Cyberknife (0 strikes)
Early Voting (1 strike, Category 4)
Epicenter (0 strikes)
Messier (1 strike, Category 4)
Mo Donegal (0 strikes)
Morello (1 strike, Category 5)
Simplification (1 strike, Category 4)
Smile Happy (1 strike, Category 4)
Tawny Port (0 strikes)
Tiz the Bomb (0 strikes)
White Abarrio (0 strikes)
Zandon (0 strikes)
Barber Road (Categories 2 and 3)
Major General (Categories 5 and 6)
Pioneer of Medina (Catgories 2 and 4)
Un Ojo (Categories 3 and 7)
Rich Strike (Categories 2 and 3)
Skippylongstocking (Categories 1 and 2)
Summer Is Tomorrow (Categories 2 and 4)
Taiba (Categories 1 and 7)
Zozos (Categories 2 and 7)
THREE OR MORE STRIKES
Charge It (Categories 1, 2 and 7)
Golden Glider (Categories 2, 3 and 5)
Happy Jack (Categories 2, 3, 6 and 7)
In Due Time (Categories 2, 3 and 5)
Ethereal Road (Categories 2, 3, 4 and 5)
Rattle N Roll (Categories 3, 5 and 6)
WINNER’S STRIKES GOING BACK TO 1973
Because two of the categories deal with graded stakes races, the Derby Strikes System can’t go back any further than 1973. Stakes races in this country were not graded until 1973.
Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He had zero strikes. But the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th for committing a foul when he veered out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. Country House was declared the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. He had zero strikes. But in terms of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Mandaloun is now recognized as the winner following Medina Spirit’s disqualification.
The strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973 are below:
2021 Mandaloun (1 strike) Category 4*
2020 race run in September
2019 Country House (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 3**
2018 Justify (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 7
2017 Always Dreaming (1 strike) Category 1
2016 Nyquist (0 strikes)
2015 American Pharoah (0 strikes)
2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)
2013 Orb (0 strikes)
2012 I’ll Have Another (0 strikes)
2011 Animal Kingdom (0 strikes)
2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4
2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9
2008 Big Brown (0 strikes)
2007 Street Sense (0 strikes)
2006 Barbaro (0 strikes)
2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5
2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)
2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 8
2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)
2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6
1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5
1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)
1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4
1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)
1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)
1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)
1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5
1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)
1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)
1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3
1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)
1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)
1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2
1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4
1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)
1984 Swale (0 strikes)
1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1
1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3
1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1
1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)
1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)
1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)
1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)
1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)
1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)
1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4
1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)
*Medina Spirit (0 strikes) finished first but was disqualified and all purse money forfeited
**Maximum Security (0 strikes) finished first but was disqualified and placed 17th
MY DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES
What are the eight categories in my Derby Strikes System? They are listed below:
1. THE GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Going back to the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Always Dreaming in 2017 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.)
2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES CATEGORY. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions going back to the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)
3. THE EIGHTH POLE CATEGORY. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners through 2021 have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second a furlong from the finish in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
4. THE GAMENESS CATEGORY. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009, Super Saver in 2010 and Mandaloun in 2021, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)
5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION CATEGORY. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Going back to 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)
6. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS CATEGORY. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Going back to 1973, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)
7. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD CATEGORY. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018. Going back to 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old now are a combined 1 for 67 in the Kentucky Derby through 2021. During this period, the only horses to finish second or third in the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; and Battle of Midway, third in 2017.)
8. THE NOT A GELDING CATEGORY. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)
GLEN TODD ONLINE DISPERAL SALE
As I wrote last week, Glen Todd, a giant in horse racing in the Canadian province of British Columbia, passed away on March 26. He was 75.
Todd, whose parents met at Hastings Racecourse [nee Exhibition Park] in Vancouver in 1939, was “involved in the sport for more than 50 years in multiple roles, often at the same time,” Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty wrote. “He owned and trained hundreds of horses while simultaneously providing guidance to the British Columbia racing and breeding industries.”
A 10-time leading owner at Hastings, one of Todd’s biggest wins as an owner came in the United States with Taylor Said. Racing for Todd under the name North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Taylor Said captured the Grade III Longacres Mile in 2012 at Emerald Downs near Seattle. The Longacres Mile is the richest race in the Pacific Northwest.
Troy Taylor was Taylor Said’s trainer at his Hastings base. Taylor Said was sent to fellow trainer Mike Puhich at Emerald Downs for the Longacres Mile.
Puhich said winning the Longacres Mile as a trainer was “a dream come true” for him. That’s understandable coming from someone who was born not all that many furlongs from Longacres, the picturesque track in Renton, Wash., that conducted racing and from 1933 to 1992. Puhich’s favorite horse (and mine) is Pacific Northwest superstar Turbulator, who took Longacres by storm in 1970 during a summer campaign in which he won five stakes races from July 4 to Sept. 14 and broke a world record.
Joe Withee, who joined Turbulator in the Washington Racing Hall of Fame last year when honored for lifetime achievement, told me last week that a dispersal sale would soon be held for Todd’s horses.
“Mike Puhich is handling the details for the dispersal,” said Withee, a broadcaster and publicist at Emerald Downs. “It was in Glen Todd’s will that Puhich would handle any dispersal.”
The DRF’s Randy Goulding reports that bidding for the 31 horses entered in the Glen Todd dispersal sale will be accepted online only on the website digital.fasigtipton.com from April 27 to May 3.
The horses are stabled at Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond, Wash.
“Most of the horses were in training at Hastings prior to Todd’s death and have stayed in training at Pegasus,” Goulding wrote.
One of the horses in the dispersal is Five Star General, who finished second in the Grade III Longacres Mile in 2020 and third in last year’s edition. Another is Princess of Cairo, winner of the 2020 Washington Oaks and 2021 Emerald Downs Distaff, both at Emerald.
“There will be access online to X-rays, throat scoping and conformation walks,” Puhich said. “We decided to have the sale online because we are a bit isolated here. Bids can come from anywhere and we have had a lot of interest so far. It was an end of an era when Glen died. He meant so much to so many people in British Columbia and Washington.”
NTRA TOP THROUGHBRED POLL
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is in the same order as last week:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 302 Country Grammer (22)
2. 258 Life is Good (3)
3. 244 Letruska (4)
4. 224 Hot Rod Charlie
5. 186 Speaker’s Corner (1)
6. 152 Express Train (4)
7. 90 Flightline
8. 76 Olympiad
9. 70 Golden Pal
10. 51 Ce Ce
NTRA TOP THREE-YEAR-OLD POLL
In this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll, Charge It moves into the No. 10 spot, replacing Early Voting:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 331 Epicenter (26)
2. 271 Zandon (3)
3. 220 White Abarrio
4. 217 Mo Donegal (1)
5. 210 Taiba (2)
6. 155 Cyberknife (2)
7. 132 Messier
8. 95 Smile Happy
9. 52 Simplification
10. 40 Charge It