2007 Kentucky Derby Facts
by Trevor Whenham - 05/01/2007
The closer we get to the Kentucky Derby, the more attention the race gets and, as a result, the more ridiculous the coverage becomes. Over the next week we'll be inundated with the same trends, the same news, and the same useless facts from a wide variety of sources. Most of what we hear will tell us nothing about the race, and very little of it will do anything to help us handicap the race. I could make some bold statement about how, for your sake and the sake of your wallet, you should ignore all of it, but where's the fun in that? Instead, I'll add to it. Here's a collection of some Kentucky Derby facts you may have already heard, and more that you almost certainly didn't need to hear:
Where's Bob? or D. Wayne? Nick? - This is the first time since 1980 that the Derby has been run without at least one horse from the barns of Baffert, Lukas or Zito. The three superstars have combined to win nine of the last 20 races, including a stretch of six straight starting in 1994. You can rest assured that none of them are happy about missing out, and that all will be back.
Ownership - There are five very happy and increasingly wealthy breeders heading into the Derby. Street Sense, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Circular Quay, Stormello and Tiago are all owned by the same people that bred them. One of those breeders is clearly particularly fond of her horse - Elizabeth Valando reportedly turned down an offer of $17 million for Nobiz Like Shobiz from Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. That's either love or stupidity. Though it wasn't nearly that much, two owners did shell out some serious bucks to own a Derby contender. Cowtown Cat was purchased as a yearling for $1.5 million. That's a quarter million more than the winner's share of the purse. Any Given Sunday went for a slightly more reasonable $1.1 million. By contrast, potential starter Teuflesberg was bought as a yearling for a measly $9,000. For those keeping score at home that means that one Cowtown Cat is equal to about 167 Teuflesbergs. Potential favorite Curlin was just $57,000 as a yearling, but his owner sold 80 percent of him after he broke his maiden by 12 lengths. The price was undisclosed, but you can guarantee that a very tidy profit was made on the deal.
Yumfecta - It's a travesty that any company is a title sponsor of the Derby, never mind Yum! Brands, a company that owns more than 34,000 fast food restaurants. That being said, the company has come up with a brilliant promotion that could help some of those owners recoup a bit of the money they spent to buy or breed their horse. Barbaro won by 6 1/2 lengths last year. If the winner this year wins by that much or more, Yum! will award a $1 million bonus - $250,000 each to the owner, trainer, jockey and a charity. If a horse gets a lead on the stretch you can look for the jockey to do everything he can to squeeze every ounce of extra speed out of him - the jockey's share of the bonus is more than twice as much as the his share of the winner's purse. Yum! is making a fairly safe bet with the promotion - in the 132 races, only five were won by a wider margin than Barbaro did.
Experience - By now you've surely heard about the experience problems that plague several horses in the race, but most notably Curlin. If that horse stands little chance in the eyes of some because he has only run three times, then those same critics must love Teuflesberg. That horse has an amazing 15 career starts including 11 as a two-year-old. It's very rare to see a horse run that many times at two these days. If his connections were really serious about winning the Triple Crown, though, then they should have taken the last couple of months of last year off - four of the last five Triple Crown winners raced exactly nine times as a juvenile.
Location, location, location - Trainer Darrin Miller doesn't have a lot of experience at the Derby, but geography is definitely on his side. He has been assigned barn 33 at the Churchill Downs to house his two charges, Dominican and Sedgefield. That's the same barn that housed all three of Bob Baffert's Derby winners. All three of those horses went on to win the Preakness as well, so maybe Miller should book his flight to Baltimore now to avoid the rush.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire - There are, by my count, nine horses in the 20 horse field that are chestnuts. Though I couldn't find precise stats of past years, my anecdotal observation would be that that is an exceptionally high number. As a lover of chestnuts I am quite happy about it. Chestnuts have won just three of the last 15 runnings of the Derby, so this year's chestnut class does indeed seem disproportionately large. When chestnuts are good, they are really good, though - both Affirmed and Secretariat won their Triple Crown's covered in hides of the beautiful reddish tones.
It's all in the spelling - The last six Derby winners have had names with three syllables. That's a good omen for Scat Daddy, Great Hunter, Stormello, Tiago, Cowtown Cat, Xchanger, Storm in May, Zanjero, and whichever one of Cobalt Blue or Teuflesberg makes the field. Bwana Bull could fit, too, depending on how you pronounce it. Before this streak, Fusaichi Pegasus won with his seven syllables. Any Given Saturday has seven syllables, too.
Age before beauty - Though all of these horses are technically the same age since all thoroughbreds share an official birthday of Jan. 1, there is a wide range in actual ages in the field. Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday are not only among the elder statesmen, but the share the same birth date - Jan. 29. On the other extreme, neither Hard Spun nor Scat Daddy will truly be three years old until the week after the Derby is run.
One last fact - Storm in May is blind in his right eye. I have no idea why that's relevant, but it's kind of interesting, isn't it? It hasn't hurt him too badly, though - he's won almost $460,000 in 13 starts. It's probably a safe bet that he won't be wearing blinkers on his right side on Saturday.