Last year, only one winner of a major Kentucky Derby dirt prep (Govenor Charlie in the Sunland Derby) ran faster than average. The story unfolds differently this year, with the winners of the Sunland, Florida and Santa Anita Derbies and Wood Memorial all running faster than the average since 2000:

  • Sunland Derby avg.: 1:49.0…….Chitu 1:47.4 (2013 Govenor Charlie 1:47.2)
  • Florida Derby avg.: 1:49.1……..Constitution 1:49.0 (2013 Orb 1:50.4)
  • La. Derby avg.: 1:50.1…..Vicar’s In Trouble 1:50.3 (2013 Revolutionary 1:50.1)
  • Wood Mem. avg.: 1:50.0….Wicked Strong 1:49.1 (2013 Verrazano 1:50.1)
  • SA Derby avg.: 1:48.3…..California Chrome 1:47.2 (2013 Goldencents 1:48.3)
  • Arkansas Derby avg.: 1:49.3………2014 ??? (2013 Overanalyze 1:51.4)

In 2013 Govenor Charlie missed the Kentucky Derby due to a minor injury, leaving historically weak contenders to duke it out for the roses. This year, the Derby contestants get tossed into the deep end of the pool performance-wise:

  • Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome faced 5 rivals (of 7) who had not won beyond maiden level. He takes the biggest step up in class.
  • Wood winner Wicked Strong faced (typically weak) winter stakes winners who finished the Gotham in slower time than Derby also-ran Vyjack in 2013.
  • And Sunland Derby winner Chitu outlasted stablemate Midnight Hawk, whose only stakes win came vs. 3 rivals in the aptly named Sham Stakes.

Which Derby qualifier can step up and handle a huge increase in competition?

In The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby I explain which performance factors you should focus on to answer that question accurately and profitably. For the past 22 years, in weak years and strong years, a few key facts led to the winner time and time again.

The question I pose here isn’t an enigma wrapped in a mystery. You don’t have to guess at endless possibilities. You can narrow the field to a few probable winners and let the odds guide you from there. Read the book and you’ll be among the few who know where to look!

—Roger LeBlanc