April 7, 2010

Will You Back the Derby Favorite?

Welcome to Zipse at the Track's Two Dozen Days of Derby.  Each and every day for the next twenty four, you will find Derby, Derby, and more Derby here on ZATT.  So please, if you want to dicuss politics or religion, you are in the wrong place.  I have Kentucky Derby Fever, and I hope you do too.  So when you visit these pages, be prepared for nothing but Talking Derby.  Today, we will discuss the merits of recent Derby favoritism.  The results may surprise you.

If Eskendereya enters the 2010 Kentucky Derby starting gate, he will undoubtedly be the top choice by bettors. He assured this with his recent romp in the Wood Memorial. An enviable position, to be the Kentucky Derby favorite, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Let’s take a look at the performance of the favorites in the last 30 years:

Year   Favorite                      Odds    Finish
2009   Friesan Fire                        3.80-1     18th
2008   Big Brown                          2.40-1     1st
2007   Street Sense                       4.90-1     1st
2006   Sweetnorthernsaint             5.50-1     7th
2005   Bellamy Road                     2.60-1     7th
2004   Smarty Jones                      4.10-1     1st
2003   Empire Maker                    2.50-1     2nd
2002   Harlan's Holiday                 6.00-1     7th
2001   Point Given                        1.80-1     5th
2000   Fusaichi Pegasus                2.30-1     1st
1999   General Challenge (entry)   4.80-1     11th
1998   Indian Charlie                     2.70-1     3rd
1997   Captain Bodgit                   3.10-1     2nd
1996   Unbridled's Song                3.50-1     5th
1995   Timber Country (entry)       3.40-1     3rd
1994   Holy Bull                            2.20-1     12th
1993   Prairie Bayou                     4.40-1     2nd
1992   Arazi                                    .90-1     8th
1991   Hansel                                2.50-1     10th
1990   Mister Frisky                      1.90-1     8th
1989   Easy Goer (entry)                 .80-1     2nd
1988   Private Terms                      3.40-1     9th
1987   Demons Begone                  2.20-1     DNF
1986   Snow Chief                         2.10-1     11th
1985   Chief's Crown                     1.20-1     3rd
1984   Althea (entry)                      2.80-1     19th
1983   Marfa (entry)                       2.40-1     5th
1982   Air Forbes Won                  2.70-1     7th
1981   Proud Appeal (entry)           2.30-1     18th
1980   Rockhill Native                    2.10-1     5th

A closer look at these results reveal that a total of four favorites have won the Kentucky Derby in the past three decades, a winning percentage of only 13.3%.

The average finish for the favorite in this time period is a very surprising 7th place. As you can tell, being the favorite means very little when the race begins.

Looking at the winners over these thirty years, we see 13 horses who had double digit odds, and six of them had odds of over 20-1.

What does this all mean for this year's favorite, Eskendereya? Nothing, he will not be aware of his own odds. But if you think that it is a foregone conclusion that we will see Eskendereya in the winner's circle, history has taught us that you may be in for a rude awakening.


Ciarán said...

always something ppl shud be aware of. 20 horses round churchill downs, nothing can be taken for granted. i quite like Eskendereya tho but a derby bet on him wud be full of frailties.

Kimness said...

The only time I bet the favorite is in an exotic bet - exacta or trifecta box. (Except for Smarty Jones - wait! he wasn't the favorite)
Eskendereya deserves to be the favorite- but you never know, in a 20 horse stampede...anything can happen.
I'm a 'bad bettor' - I tend to spread my $ - I've never bet on only ONE horse in the Kentucky Derby.

LDP said...

No horse is ever a lock especially not this year. From the way I see it you have the top tier group, which is made of maybe five horses at the most. Then you have the second group, which is not far off from the top group. The second group has a lot of talent, and the ability to step up if anything should go wrong with the faves. Personally, I believe there are even some third stringers this year that are pretty capable of pulling an upset. Though, I cannot find fault with anyone who wishes to back a horse who is perfect over dirt and as a three year old.

Anonymous said...

You cheat. 30 years for a data base? Northern Dancer was foaled in 1961 and appears in male and female side of Eskendereya so you have to go back 50 years. In doing that winning favorites rise to 28%(includes Forward Pass)and makes a bet on Eskendereya all the more plausible. Right?

Brian Zipse said...

Good points one and all! You are correct, R.G. Had I used a different sample number of years, the results would have been different, however; the farther you go back in history the less you find in common to what you see in the current Derby. In other words, very large fields and less preps before Louisville. In that way, I feel good about the sample number I chose to utilize.