Watch Derby undercard for clues to track condition

May 5th, 2012 | By TrackSide View | Category: Articles

RainbowchurchwebBob Hill
Staff writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  – There’s a good reason for paying attention to the undercard at Churchill Downs today.  Since arriving here on Tuesday, Ron Correll and I have witnessed a substantial bias on the main track that favors horses with running styles of being on or near the lead.  We are yet to see a stone-cold closer even come close to a win.

This point is important because smart handicappers typically look for horses that close well in the Kentucky Derby from far back.  Street Sense, Giacomo and Mine That Bird certainly come to mind, and the list of horses filling out trifectas and superfectas when closing from way back is a long one. 

Interestingly, the anticipated fast pace of the 2012 Kentucky Derby invites a search for those kinds of closers to load up on when making out tickets for today.  As pointed out here previously, Trinniberg could do to the pace of this race what Spanish Chestnut did in 2005 in setting up the win by Giacomo at odds of 50-1.

Here’s the rub!  This one very likely pace scenario bumps right up against the bias that has been present on the track all week.  On Kentucky Oaks Day, there were three stakes and one track record set by horses that raced near the pace throughout.  In the Oaks, the top five finishers all raced close to the pace, and only 69-1 shot Colonial Empress faded from the front group to finish poorly.

More than an inch of rain fell at Churchill Downs overnight.  The track had been sealed at day’s end on Friday.  As I write this, the tractors are out and surface is being opened up.  With the chance of rain now low for the rest of the day, the main track is going to dry out for the big races of the afternoon.  Only watching closely will let us see if the bias sticks or if the moisture changes things.

In the event that the bias does stick around, those that would appear to benefit include Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Hansen, Alpha, Gemologist, El Padrino and I’ll Have Another.  With Calvin Borel aboard of Take Charge Indy, I would expect that one to stay in touch with the front runners.  No one is better than Calvin at reading conditions here.  Union Rags is not a deep closer, so I would include him as more advantaged than disadvantaged.

The deep closers that probably are hoping that the rain evens things out for them include Dullahan, Rousing Sermon, Daddy Nose Best, Prospective, Done Talking, Sabercat and Liaison.

I’ll be watching closely when the racing begins and as the day progresses and the track dries out.  If the bias sticks around we may see one fast Derby time!

Track report:

As of 8 a.m. EDT, the main track was labeled “Sloppy” and the Matt Winn Turf Course was labeled “Good.” With a promising weather forecast for the day, those track conditions are likely to change. The National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 85 and a 50 percent chance of popup precipitation (between a tenth and quarter of an inch). There’ll be a west wind between 3-5 mph.

Training from 6-8 a.m. was canceled primarily because of lightning in the area. Severe overnight thunderstorms from approximately 1:30 a.m. to daybreak produced at least 1 1/4 inches of rainfall, according to Butch Lehr, vice president, track. Lehr and his team graded and sealed the track prior to the storm’s overnight arrival. He plans to harrow and float the track this morning to continue to weave the moisture to the top.

Darren Rogers/Churchill Downs
Twin Spires at Churchill Downs

One Comment to “Watch Derby undercard for clues to track condition”

  1. Bob HIll says:

    Through four races the track has dried out and is now rated fast. The bias is alive and well.

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