Making the Derby Is a Game of Numbers Across the Board

by Greg Melikov

posted on April 15, 2010 in General Discussion, Kentucky Derby | 1 Comment >>

Horses are waiting in the wings for D-Day — April 28. That’s when the post-position draw for the 136th Derby is scheduled.

However, No. 21 on the graded stakes earnings list will be waiting on the sidelines. Uh Oh Bango, fourth in the Arkansas Derby, came out of the race with a fractured
left-front cannon bone, will have surgery this week and be out of action from four to six months.

Jackson Bend with $230,000 advances to next in line. All interested parties in his camp were awaiting word from trainer Ken McPeek about his Noble Promise, No. 2 on the list. A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Kentucky Derby, but graded stakes determines who makes the field.

The son of Cuvee, fifth at Oaklawn Park on April 10, endured a horrible trip. “He came out of it with several cuts and scrapes (on both front legs),” McPeek said shortly after the race, plus a “slight lung infection.”

He was treated with antibiotics and how long it takes to heal will determine his status, McPeek said. Apparently, the horse is a quick healer.

On Monday, the Derby chances of Noble’s Promise were 50-50. On Tuesday, Kelly Colliver, one of the managing partners of Chasing Dreams Racing, told, “Some of the cuts were significant, but not as deep as we originally thought.”

In fact, she and other members of the racing syndicate were “overspoiling him with mints” and giving him lots of attention at McPeek’s farm. “He’s feeling well and he spent some time in the round pen today with the sunshine on his back,” Colliver said. “He’s healed up nicely.”

Nicely, indeed, and the colt is being shipped to Churchill Downs.

That’s bad good news for Backtalk, No. 22 on the earnings list with $225,916, who finished third in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 3.

Last year, the No 20, Nowhere to Hide, got in with only $55,500. He ran 17th out of 19 runners to Mine That Bird.

In 2008, Denis of Cork was the last horse to make the race with $165,000 despite a few late defections. He ran third to Big Brown in a 20-horse field. Imawildandcrazyguy drew in with $104,000 in ’08 when 20 also ran, finishing fourth to Street Sense.

Back in ’03, Ten Cents a Shine slipped in with a meager $46,240 and only 16 were entered. He ran eighth behind Funny Cide.

The largest field came more than a decade before starters were limited to 20 in ’86 when Ferdinand roared home in front. In ’74, favored Cannonade was the winner in a 23-horse field.

There have been 20 starters nine times, including four consecutive years ending in ’08. There were 19 in the race six years, including five times since ’95 when Thunder Gulch scored.

Winners the past 22 years are 11 each, breaking from post 9 and in as well as post 10 and outward.

Only two post positions have failed to produce the Derby champ – 18 and 19.