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First Derby Strikes of 2020

by Jon White

March 11, 2020

Each March brings us Saint Patrick’s Day on the 17th. March also has the first day of spring on the 19th.

And the month of March traditionally is when the first “Derby strikes” of the year can be determined.

Back in 1999, I developed my Derby Strikes System. It consists of nine key factors. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column.

It is not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined.

There was a time when various “rules” for the Kentucky Derby were quite popular. A “Derby rule” meant a horse needed to have done this or that, or not done this or that, in order to win the Run for the Roses. However, through the years, as many of the “Derby rules” were broken one by one, their popularity has waned.

I think what quite possibly makes my Derby Strikes System better than any single “Derby rule” is the strikes system is more comprehensive. The Derby Strikes System is an amalgamation of factors that attempts to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. It is the marriage of the TACTICAL with the HISTORICAL that I believe makes the strikes system better than any single “Derby rule.”

I know that many felt that, once and for all, “Derby rules” could be tossed into the garbage can after Justify won the 2018 Kentucky Derby. That’s because Justify finally broke the granddaddy of “Derby rules” by becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner who did not race as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. Justify thus broke the so-called “Apollo jinx.”

In my nine key factors, Category 8 specifies that in order for a horse to avoid getting a strike in this category, the horse needs to have raced as a 2-year-old. This was one of three strikes for Justify. I still believe it’s a plus for a Kentucky Derby starter to have raced as a 2-year-old inasmuch as only once in the last 137 years has a winner of this race not started at 2.


Several years ago, at the suggestion of racing enthusiast Ryan Stillman, I researched how many strikes each Kentucky Derby winner prior to 1999 had going all the way back to 1973. I could not go back any further than 1973 because that was the year in which stakes races in the U.S. were first graded. Two of my nine key Derby factors deal with graded stakes races.

Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973:

1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)
1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4
1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)
1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)
1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)
1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)
1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)
1980 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1
1981 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)
1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3
1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1
1984 Swale (0 strikes)
1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)
1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4
1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2
1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)
1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)
1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3
1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)
1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)
1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5
1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)
1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)
1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)
1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4
1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)
1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6
2001 Monarchos (0 strikes)
2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)
2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 9
2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)
2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5
2006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 6
2007 Street Sense (0 strikes)
2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 6
2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9
2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4
2011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 6
2012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 6
2013 Orb (0 strikes)
2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)
2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 6
2016 Nyquist (0 strikes)
2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 6
2018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8
2019 Country House (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 3


History shows that according to the Derby Strikes System, 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. And a horse with more than two strikes has only a remote chance of winning the roses.

Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 47 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or one strike. (If Maximum Security had not been disqualified from first and placed 17th for causing interference in the 2019 renewal, it would be 39 of the last 47 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero winners or only one strike.)

Seven of the last 47 Kentucky Derby have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005), Always Dreaming (2017) and Country House (2019).

Of the last 47 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, just two have won with more than two strikes: Mine That Bird and Justify.

Mine That Bird pulled off a 50-1 shocker when he won the 2009 Kentucky Derby on a sloppy track. Justify proved a punctual 5-2 favorite in the 2018 edition, which also was contested on a sloppy track.


Even though Justify had three strikes, he was my choice to win the Kentucky Derby that year. One of the reasons I went ahead and picked him despite his three strikes was that one of his strikes came in Category 6.

The increasing number of Kentucky Derby winners with a Category 6 strike in recent years has greatly diminished the significance of getting a strike in this particular category.

From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only horse to get a strike in Category 6. He had made five starts going into the Kentucky Derby.

But from 2001 through 2019, a huge spike in Category 6 strikes occurred. From 2001 through 2019, seven horses -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- received a strike in Category 6.

Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners from 2001 through 2019 received a strike in this category.

Ever since Animal Kingdom in 2011, I made up my mind that a Category 6 strike in itself was not going to stop me from picking a horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

Consequently, while it did worry me to some extent that Justify had three strikes, the fact that one of his strikes came in Category 6 made it a lot easier for me to go ahead and pick him.

Justify, of course, not only did win the Kentucky Derby, he went on to take the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to become America’s 13th Triple Crown winner.


There were three races last Saturday offering 50-20-10-5 points to the first four finishers toward the $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2. Those three races were the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Authentic won the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe for trainer Bob Baffert. Mischevious Alex took the one-mile Gotham for trainer John Servis. King Guillermo stunned horseplayers by winning the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Juan Carlos Avila.

Baffert and Servis are Kentucky Derby-winning conditioners. Baffert’s five Kentucky Derby winners have been Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. Servis won the 2004 renewal with Smarty Jones.

(The aforementioned War Emblem was found dead Wednesday morning at the age of 21 at the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Kentucky. Old Friends reported the cause of death was “perceived to be a paddock accident,” but added that “a full necropsy report is pending.” The Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 2002, War Emblem had been pensioned at Old Friends since 2015.)

Next up for Authentic, according to Baffert, is the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. Mischevious Alex “likely” makes his next start in the Grade II Wood Memorial at the Big A, Servis said. The Santa Anita Derby and Wood both will be run on April 4.

The number of Derby strikes for Authentic and Mischevious Alex can’t be determined at this time because they are scheduled to have another race before the Kentucky Derby.

As for King Guillermo, the word is he will be making his next start in the Kentucky Derby. He was nominated to the Triple Crown with a $6,000 late payment that was received and processed Tuesday by Churchill Downs.

With the Kentucky Derby next for King Guillermo, his number of Derby strikes now can be computed. He gets three strikes.

But even though King Guillermo has three strikes, there is some good news for him in this regard. One of the strikes for King Guillermo, like Justify and so many others in recent years, comes in not-too-significant-these-days Category 6.

In addition to King Guillermo getting a strike in Category 6, he has strikes in Category 4 and Category 5. His strike in Category 4 is because he was second at the eighth pole before finishing third in the Pulpit Stakes on the turf last Nov. 30. His strike in Category 5 is because he has not finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer.

The huge swing in betting support for King Guillermo from his final start as a 2-year-old to his first start as a 3-year-old is astounding.

When King Guillermo made his final start at 2, he was sent away as the 3-2 favorite in the Pulpit at Gulfstream Park. He finished third. Sole Volante won the Pulpit by two lengths at 5-1. Sole Volante defeated King Guillermo by 3 1/2 lengths on that occasion.

In King Guillermo’s first start at 3, horseplayers virtually ignored him when his Tampa Bay Derby odds were 49-1 vis-a-vis 3-2 favorite Sole Volante.

Between the Pulpit and Tampa Bay Derby, King Guillermo finished third in Gulfstream Park’s Mucho Macho Man on dirt and won the Sam F. Davis Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on dirt March 7 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Ridden by Sammy Camacho, King Guillermo stalked the early pace and drew away in the lane to prevail by 4 3/4 lengths. The Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt paid $100.40 for each $2 win ticket.

According to Daily Racing Form’s McGee, the only bigger upset than King Guillermo at 49-1 in the 40-year history of the Tampa Bay Derby came when Bold Southerner won the 1984 running at 88-1.

King Guillermo’s final time last Saturday was 1:42.63. He was credited with a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

When Tacitus received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the 2019 Tampa Bay Derby, his final time was 1:41.90, which broke the track record. It is interesting that even though Tacitus broke the track record, his 93 Beyer was much lower than the 99 Beyer recorded by King Guillermo, whose final time was slower. The top Beyer Speed Figure for a Tampa Bay Derby winner going back to 1992 (the first year Beyers are listed for this race in the American Racing Manual) is Equality’s 103 in 2002.

As a side note, the Victoria’s Ranch of Victor Martiniez races King Guillermo. The colt is named after Martinez’s father, who died when Victor was 6, according to the DRF’s McGee.

Victor Martinez, now 41, was a five-time All-Star catcher who retired in 2018 after a 17-year career in major league baseball. He purchased King Guillermo for $160,000 in 2019 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-olds in Training.


Authentic, backed down to 6-5 favoritism, won the San Felipe in front-running fashion by 2 1/4 lengths. Honor A.P., off at odds of 3-1, came home willingly to finish second for trainer John Sherriffs.

Even though Authentic defeated Honor A.P. by a clear margin last Saturday, it’s Honor A.P. who vaults to the top of my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. Why? Because even though Authentic won the San Felipe to remain undefeated in three career starts, I thought Honor A.P.’s performance was terrific under the circumstances in that he went into the race with a number of disadvantages vs. Authentic.

For one thing, the San Felipe pace situation certainly was in Authentic’s favor. He had it all his own way on the front end early.

Furthermore, Authentic had raced more recently than Honor A.P. This was Honor A.P.’s first race since his maiden victory last Oct. 13. Authentic had raced not once, but twice between Oct. 13 and the San Felipe. After winning a maiden contest at Del Mar on Nov. 9, Authentic won Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 4.

Also, it seems a safe assumption that it’s Sherriffs’ goal to have Honor A.P. peak on the first Saturday in May, not on the first Saturday in March. With the San Felipe a means to an end, did Sherriffs have Honor A.P. fully cranked last Saturday? I don’t think so.

We just might be seeing something similar to what happened in 2005. The Sherriffs-trained Giacomo finished second in the San Felipe that year, like Honor A.P. this year. Giacomo went on to win the Kentucky Derby after finishing fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

Something else to keep in mind is that while Honor A.P. had to settle for second in the San Felipe, he did travel 24 feet farther than Authentic, according to Trakus. That means that even though Honor A.P. lost by 2 1/4 lengths, he traveled approximately 2 1/2 lengths farther Authentic.

With Honor A.P. in the hands of the so-very-patient Sherriffs, it’s not hard for me to picture the Kentucky-bred Honor Code ridgling trained in such a fashion that he runs a biggie in the Kentucky Derby. I also think there is a good chance Honor A.P. is going to relish stretching out to 1 1/4 miles in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Honor A.P. was ranked higher than Authentic on my Top 10 last week. Honor A.P. was No. 4, while Authentic was No. 5. Authentic climbs to No. 2 this week.

Meanwhile, King Guillermo debuts on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. He edged out Gotham Stakes winner Mischevious Alex for the No. 10 spot.

Storm the Court, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2019, drops off my Top 10 this week. After losing Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at seven furlongs on Feb. 9, he finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Authentic in the San Felipe.

Here is my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week:

  1. Honor A.P.
  2. Authentic
  3. Tiz the Law
  4. Nadal
  5. Ete Indien
  6. Charlatan
  7. Maxfield
  8. Sole Volante
  9. Thousand Words
10. King Guillermo

I came very close to moving Authentic into the top spot on my Top 10 this week. There certainly is much to like about this athletic colt, who led past every pole in the San Felipe after bobbling at the start. In the words of Baffert, Authentic “moves like a gazelle.”

An important aspect concerning Authentic’s San Felipe victory was he ran a straight course all the way down the lane this time, unlike his shenanigans in the Sham.

Authentic won the Sham by nearly eight lengths on Jan. 4. When far in front during the stretch run of that one-mile affair, the Kentucky-bred son of Into Mischief ran an erratic course while racing greenly. At one point in the final furlong, he ducked in and nearly hit the inside rail.

Baffert determined it would be prudent to have Authentic race with earplugs for the first time in the San Felipe. This was not the first time Baffert has used earplugs that cost about $6 on a horse with positive results.

In 2014 at Del Mar, American Pharoah finished fifth as a 7-5 favorite in his initial career start. One subsequent morning, he freaked from the noise of a tractor. After noticing that, Baffert had American Pharoah race with earplugs. The rest is history, as they say. American Pharoah went on to become the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old champion male of 2014 and a Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year in 2015.

Arrogate, the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 2016, also raced with earplugs, according to Baffert.

With Authentic, Baffert registered his record seventh San Felipe victory. Prior to this year, the Hall of Famer had won the San Felipe with Prime Timber (1999), Point Given (2001), Preachinatthebar (2004), Pioneerof the Nile (2008), Dortmund (2015) and Mastery (2017).

Four of the seven starters in this year’s San Felipe were on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 going into the race -- Thousand Words (No. 3), Honor A.P. (No. 4), Authentic (No. 5) and Storm the Court (No. 10).

That the San Felipe attracted so many quality 3-year-olds was not lost on Shirreffs.

“Think about who went in the race -- an undefeated colt, a multiple graded stakes winner and the 2-year-old champ,” Shirreffs said, referencing, respectively, Authentic, Thousand Words and Storm the Court in a Daily Racing Form story written by Jay Privman. “It doesn’t come much saltier than that.”

In light of Thousand Words’ 11 1/4-length loss in the San Felipe, he drops to No. 9 on my Top 10. The Florida-bred Pioneerof the Nile colt had been victorious in all three career starts prior to the San Felipe. He was good enough to win the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity last year and Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes earlier this year. Can he rebound next time out? We shall see.

“He was just too sharp, too strong early, and he gassed it turning for home,” Baffert said Monday of Thousand Words’ San Felipe on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program At the Races. “That wasn’t him. I really thought I was going to run one-two in there. That’s why we have these preps. You try to figure them out. You want to figure them out before that last prep, because that last prep is the one that there can’t be any mistakes. He came out of it well, so we’ll have to tweak him, equipment maybe no blinker or less blinker, or train him a bit differently. He’s a quirky horse, but he’s still a good horse.”


Authentic’s final time in the San Felipe was 1:43.56. He was credited with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure, as was Honor A.P.

After an 87 Beyer at first asking, Authentic recorded a 90 in the Sham followed by a 98 in the San Felipe.

Honor A.P. received a 77 Beyer Speed Figure when he finished second in his career debut. He subsequently posted a 91 in his maiden victory, then a 95 in the San Felipe.

These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winner of the San Felipe going back to 1992:

2020 Authentic (98)
2019 not run
2018 Bolt d’Oro (101)+
2017 Mastery (105)
2016 Danzing Candy (100)
2015 Dortmund (104)
2014 California Chrome (108)
2013 Hear the Ghost (94)
2012 Creative Cause (102)
2011 Premier Pegasus (97)
2010 Sidney’s Candy (95)*
2009 Pioneerof the Nile (91)*
2008 Georgie Boy (97)*
2007 Cobalt Blue (96)
2006 A.P. Warrior (101)
2005 Consolidator (105)
2004 Preachinatthebar (101)
2003 Buddy Gil (102)
2002 Medaglia d’Oro (107)
2001 Point Given (105)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (106)
1999 Prime Timber (106)
1998 Artax (108)
1997 Free House (103)
1996 Odyle (101)
1995 Afternoon Deelites (106)
1994 Soul of the Matter (106)
1993 Corby (100)
1992 Bertrando (97)

+McKinzie finished first but was disqualified and placed second

*Run on synthetic


Mischevious Alex, who like Authentic is a Kentucky-bred son of Into Mischief, lost three of his first four career starts before having blinkers added to his equipment. In his three starts with blinkers, Mischevious Alex has won them all.

When wearing blinkers in a race for the first time, Mischevious Alex won a seven-furlong stakes race at Parx by nearly 10 lengths on Nov. 5. He then took Gulfstream’s Grade III Swale Stakes by seven lengths at seven furlongs on Feb. 1 prior to his Gotham triumph.

Mischevious Alex’s final time for one mile around one turn last Saturday was 1:38.80. He recorded a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. His top Beyer so far was a 93 in the Swale. The highest Beyer by a Gotham winner going back to 1991 was I Want Revenge’s 113 in 2009.

There were a number of reasons King Guillermo got the nod over Mischevious Alex for No. 10 on my Kentucky Derby rankings this week, such as:

--The victory in the Tampa Bay Derby by King Guillermo came around two turns. Mischevious Alex has never won around two turns.

--King Guillermo recorded a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the Tampa Bay Derby. Mischevious Alex’s top Beyer is a 93.

--Street Sense won the Tampa Bay Derby in 2007 and went on to capture the Kentucky Derby. No Gotham winner has subsequently won the Kentucky Derby since Secretariat in 1973.

--While King Guillermo’s connections do intend to run him in the Kentucky Derby, it is not a slam-dunk at this time that Mischevious Alex’s connections ultimately will decide to do likewise.


As expected, the “All Others” option ended up being the favorite in Pool Three of the 2020 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that was conducted last week. “All Others” closed at odds of 4-1.

In terms of individual horses, Authentic wound up being the favorite, closing at odds of 6-1.

Here were the final odds for Pool Three of the KDFW:

    4-1 “All Others”
    6-1 Authentic
    7-1 Tiz the Law
  10-1 Nadal
  12-1 Charlatan
  14-1 Honor A.P.
  15-1 Maxfield
  16-1 Ete Indien
  20-1 Solo Volante
  23-1 Enforceable
  24-1 Silver Prospector
  26-1 Gouverneur Morris
  27-1 Independence Hall
  29-1 Three Technique
  34-1 Thousand Words
  35-1 Modernist
  38-1 Basin
  42-1 Major Fed
  53-1 Chance It
  60-1 Storm the Court
  62-1 Wells Bayou
  68-1 Royal Act
  71-1 Max Player
104-1 Spa City


The Kentucky Oaks Future Wager also closed last Sunday. Venetian Harbor, runaway 9 1/4-length winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 8, was backed down to 4-1 favoritism among individual horses.

The “All Others” option closed as the 3-1 favorite.

This will be the only 2019 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager offered.

Here were the final odds:

    3-1 “All Others”
    4-1 Venetian Harbor
    8-1 Finite
    9-1 Tonalist’s Shape
  11-1 Harvey’s Lil Goil
  12-1 British Idiom
  12-1 Donna Veloce
  16-1 Spice Is Nice
  18-1 Lake Avenue
  23-1 Edgeway
  27-1 Frank’s Rockette
  38-1 Auberge
  41-1 Wicked Whisper
  47-1 Ice Princess
  50-1 Gingham
  55-1 Lucrezia
  59-1 Alta’s Award
  71-1 Maedean
  92-1 Magic Dance
107-1 Mo City
112-1 Turtle Trax
113-1 Motu
167-1 Swiss Skydiver

Note: Kentucky Oaks future wagering on O Seraphina was suspended because Joe Sharp reported the filly “has sustained a minor injury,” according to a Churchill Downs press release.


These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System:

1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since 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, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.)

2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (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, Giacomo in 2005 and Country House in 2019 are the only exceptions since 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 FACTOR. (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 54 of the last 57 Kentucky Derby winners 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: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her most recent two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990, Sea Hero in 1993 and Country House in 2019, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (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: Since 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 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)

5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (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: Since 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 SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.)

7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (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. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)

8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show 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; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.)

9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (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.)