2016 Derby Preview of Nyquist (condensed)

Speed doesn’t just win the Kentucky Derby. It rewards bettors of that race generously. From 1992 through 2013 the Gold and Silver standards in The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby generated the following results:

Gold Standard: 25 starters in 14 races, 9 winners, 207% ROI

Silver Standard: 25 starters in 19 races, 6 winners, 413% ROI

This year presents a special challenge. Strictly speaking, no horse qualifies as a Gold or Silver standard bet. Does this pave the way to the winner’s circle for a slow-starting, late-running, stamina-laden horse? Or do we ignore those types and follow the strategy that has paid dividends for decades?

Two situations in particular arose that I don’t address in the book:

  • Nyquist, the most accomplished horse in the field, ran only one real prep race. It’s rare for a top contender to enter the Derby so lightly prepared.
  • Destin used the Tampa Bay Derby in mid-March as his final prep race. It’s unprecedented for a trainer to get to St. Paddy’s Day with his #1 Derby hope and say, “Yep. We’re good. Just pour me another one.”

Nyquist, the likely race favorite, comes to Louisville with a satchel full of stakes trophies. And in his most recent victory he got a lot faster. The half times for his three victories around two turns look like this: 1:12.3, 1:12.4 and 1:11.2. He registered that 1:11.2 in the Florida Derby, where the winner’s average pace the past 5 or 6 years has been 1:12.2. Even better, despite that tremendous increase in early acceleration, Nyquist finished strongly in the Florida Derby, with a final furlong of 12.73 seconds.

The great California Chrome followed a similar pattern two years ago. If O’Neill had given Nyquist one more prep race, we’d know for sure whether the horse is in the same league as California Chrome.

Nyquist also owns a significant similarity with Barbaro, who was one of my winning Silver Standard qualifiers. Their fractions and running positions were nearly identical at every call in their Florida Derby wins. That makes Nyquist, at least in his final prep, equivalent to or better than a prior Silver Standard horse.

So why do I make Nyquist an honorary Gold Standard horse when I denied that honor to Barbaro?

Replays show that Nyquist ticked off these fractions with far greater ease than Barbaro did. Barbaro was all out to win by less than a length. In comparison Nyquist looked like he was taking a walk in the park.

The performance-based similarities between Nyquist and prior Kentucky Derby stars establishes him as a Gold Standard bet. Both history and the relative quality of competitors this year lead to that logical and measurable conclusion.

Using the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law, here’s how I rank the top contenders this year:

2016 (projected) Gold Standard Qualifier: Nyquist

2016 (projected) Silver Standard Qualifier: Destin

Roger LeBlanc

May 3, 2016

To read the full date-stamped publication of “LazyBettor.com 2016 Kentucky Derby Preview: The Tortoise and the Hare Square Off Again,” go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/634302

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