Thursday, April 30, 2009

Derby picks based on equine exercise physiology

For those of you who don't know, I monitor the heart rate and gallop/breeze speed using equipment like in the above photo: a heart rate monitor and GPS unit. Much more info elsewhere in this blog and at my website at

With the horses I consult, I can often tell when they are ready to run in the money, or finish up the track, based on the data I collect. Unfortunately, I have no such numbers on this year's Derby contenders.

But I have learned some things that help me handicap. 

First of all, a complete warmup helps, but likely none this year will break from the pony during the post parade and gallop out a strong sub :30 second quarter - so cancel out that factor in 2009. 

Secondly, horses going over synthetics have it much easier than on dirt, as much as 50% easier. Therefore synthetic races and works don't compare apples to apples with those on dirt. Ideally there would be a mix of both, as in the case with Friesan Fire, who is my first choice.

Thirdly, I love the pre-race blowout for many reasons enumerated elsewhere. As of this moment, only one Papa Clem trained by Gary Stute, has done so correctly in my opinion. He is my second choice.

We all use Beyers and other factors to handicap. Talent often wins out over the stuff above. For this reason I like I Want Revenge in my third slot. Unfortunately, I don't think our boy Mr. Mullins will be able to sneak in the pre-race Air Power bronchiole-dilating treatment on such a large stage. 

Of the others: 

I liked WestSide Bernie, but he hasn't looked his best this week on the backside. I liked Chocolate Candy going a mile at CD this week, but everything else is Synthetic City. The Godolphin entries are tough to gauge, as nothing is really public knowledge over in the desert. If they have been gettting synthetic breezes I would certainly consider. Pioneer of the Nile is also unproven on the surface. Count me among all those who like the backstory of General Quarters. Dunkirk is possibly the most talented, but so lightly trained. 

Good luck to all, and any trainers out there give me a shout to see if I can help get you to the big dance in 2010.

To summarize: 1. Friesan Fire 2. Papa Clem 3. I Want Revenge

1pm Sat:
After late scratch, revise 3rd pick to Dunkirk, lots of breezes shorter than I would like, but all on dirt, and seems to be peaking at right time.


  1. Bill,

    Very interesting stuff. I am a physician, horse player on the big races of the year, and very interested in physiology. I can see how many of your points, subtly could make all the difference in the world in preparing horses. I also am quite studied in weight training, and know how important the nervous system is; what you are saying makes great sense. Best wishes and continue the blog, I will check now and again. Good work.

  2. Interesting. Two of your three spent time facing Pioneer in California. I have roughly 40 thoroughbreds, some in training, some pasture ornaments. One thing I have learned is horses remember other horses. Nobody ever mentions this factor. Both Papa Clem and I Want revenge have seen, smelled, and brushed up with PON. This is a phenomenon that Liberal HACKS like Beyer could never factor in their mathematical models. This is nature. The human factor does factor as well. Imagine I Want Revenge glancing over at the quarter pole and seeing his nemisis PON eye ball to eye ball, at the same time Talamo looks over and here is over. There are tons of "connection" stories afloat leading up to this Derby. What handicappers need to really concentrate on is the horse. They may not be the smartest of animals but they do remember the pecking order. It will register once again tomorrow.

  3. Lemon-

    I have been able to show, with claiming stock, that the right combination of factors as described on can add 10-20 Beyer speed points with most animals, which is pretty significant.


    I agree those 'under the radar' aspects are very important, I just tend to put more weight on the amount of work done - I have charted hundreds of works over the Churchill dirt and the Keeneland polytrack - and the synthetic is 50% easier on a horse. That keeps them sounder, but also sacrifices some fitness - in my opinion.

    Were we racing at SA or Delmar this weekend, my take would be wholly different.