The Derby Winner Is Out There, But Where?

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Storm the Court (inside) upsets the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile | Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton

Do you think the 2020 GI Kentucky Derby winner is among the top two dozen juveniles we’ve seen so far this year?

We’ve just gone inside the six-month mark on the countdown to the first leg of the Triple Crown, and this debate gets renewed every season as the division segues from the Breeders’ Cup into quasi-hibernation before sophomore campaigns begin in earnest.

This year, the question takes on added relevance after one of the more confounding Juveniles in Breeders’ Cup history.

Of the three morning line favorites for this year’s edition, one scratched, one stumbled badly out of the gate and finished last, and the other ran an uninspiring sixth. The Juvenile winner ended up being a 45-1 shocker who wired the field, a neck better than a 28-1 shot whose only other lifetime race was a maiden win on the turf. A 39-1 outsider picked up the pieces for third.

Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) will be announced later this month, and the currently inscrutable nature of the division could produce the lowest-priced “all others” field favorite since the KDFW was expanded six years ago to include a November betting pool (for the 1999 through 2013 Derbies, the first pool was in either January or February).

Starting with bets taken in November 2013 for the 2014 Derby, the “all others” Pool 1 field has been favored every single year. In chronological order, the odds have been 4-5, 3-5, 3-5, 6-5, 6-5 and 6-5.

In four of those years, an “all others” field bet in November produced a winning Derby ticket in May.

The exceptions were the two years when the Pool 1 field went off at 3-5 odds: Individually listed American Pharoah was 12-1 in Pool 1 for the 2015 Derby, and Nyquist was 9-1 in Pool 1 for the 2016 Derby.

It’s possible that the Pool 1 field favorite for this year’s initial KDFW offering (Nov. 28-Dec. 1) could creep down into the 1-2 odds range if the public’s perception about the chaotic Juvenile carries over into the betting marketplace.

But there’s a pari-mutuel danger in putting too much emphasis on Juvenile participants when trying to prognosticate Derby winners.

We’ve all heard the oft-repeated stat that only two Juvenile winners in the past 35 years have gone on to win the Derby (Street Sense in 2007 and Nyquist in 2016).

But the potentially more meaningful stat is that since the advent of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984, only six Derby winners even participated in the Juvenile.

Beyond Street Sense and Nyquist, the only other Juvenile participants to go on to win the Derby were Spend A Buck (1985), Alysheba (1987), Sea Hero (1993), and Mine That Bird (2009). In order, the finish positions in the Juvenile for those final four were third, third, seventh and 12th.

Grass greener for Ramsey?

Multiple Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder Ken Ramsey began scaling back his wide-ranging bloodstock and racing activities several seasons ago because those businesses had sprawled too far out of control for his liking. But anyone who thought that the now 84-year-old entrepreneur would have a difficult time figuring out what to do with a little extra free time doesn’t know the hands-on Ramsey very well.

Ramsey, who claims to have made at least a million dollars in five separate business ventures–cellular phone franchises, real estate, radio stations, the stock market, and Thoroughbreds–is off and running in his latest start-up endeavor: Hemp and marijuana.

According to a profile penned last week by Jeff Lowe in the Kentucky business publication The Lane Report (full article here), after a starter crop of one acre last year, Ramsey is now growing 20 acres of hemp on his property adjacent to Ramsey Farm on Catnip Hill Road in Nicholasville, Kentucky, while actively investing in cannabis industry stocks.

“I didn’t grow [much] last year because I didn’t have a market like I was told to expect,” Ramsey told The Lane Report. “They changed [federal law and regulations] now, so I am selling a bunch of the horses that I’ve got. We’re downsizing for a reason. We got too big to start with, but also I am putting money in marijuana stock and I am growing hemp out there.”

According to the article, in 2015 Ramsey spent $1.86 million to buy the next-door Chaumiere du Prairie property, a historic, 175-acre spread known for extremely fertile soil.

“Back in 1804 or 1805, David Meade sent a scouting party from his plantation in Virginia to scout where they could find the most fertile land they could find, and it’s this property that I have now,” Ramsey told The Lane Report. “We have dug down [into the ground] six feet and it’s still black [soil]. There is no rock in it, no limestone in it at all. My [horse] farm has got a limestone base but not this property; it’s very fertile.

“I’ll probably start my own hemp oil factory, processing the oil and start buying hemp from other people,” Ramsey continued. “This is the next big deal: the hemp revolution. We won’t call it marijuana in Kentucky–that is its first cousin–we will call it hemp and then they are going to legalize it and we will be ready to grow it. Mark my words; that is a prediction. It’s a foregone conclusion.”

Leaderboards

A month and a half remains in the racing season, but most of the individual categories in the overall standings appear sewn up for 2019.

According to Equibase (through Saturday’s racing and based on North American starters only), the leaderboards look like this:

In the owner category, the partnership of Klaravich Stables, Inc., and William H. Lawrence have bankrolled $8.1 million in purse earnings. The next three closest competitors (Calumet Farm, Gary Barber, Hronis Racing, Inc.) are all in the $5-million range.

Karl Broberg’s End Zone Athletics, Inc., with 257 trips to the winner’s circle, appears headed for a fourth consecutive seasonal win in this category. His next two closest competitors (Ron Paolucci Racing, LLC, and Joseph E. Besecker) are tied at 169.

Right now, 110 owners have surpassed the $1-million mark in earnings. Only five have 100 wins or more.

In earnings by trainers, Chad Brown leads with $29.6 million. He’s won this category in each of the past three years. Steve Asmussen, second at $24.7 million, is the only other trainer above the $20-million mark.

Training wins are led by Broberg with 499, who has won this category every year from 2014 onward. Asmussen has 371. The only other conditioners at 200 or above are Robertino Diodoro (223), Brad Cox (204) and Brown (200).

There are 202 trainers currently above the $1-million earnings mark. There are 35 conditioners with at least 100 wins.

In jockey earnings, Irad Ortiz, Jr. ($31.5 million) leads his brother, Jose Ortiz ($26.1 million) atop the standings. They were ranked one-two in this category last year.

The jockey wins category is the only race up for grabs. Luis Quinonez has 277, followed by Irad Ortiz (who has won this category the last two years) at 268, Jose Ortiz at 253, and Antonio Gallardo at 247.

There are 272 jockeys above the $1-million earnings mark, and 128 jockeys have at least 100 wins.

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