Talking about Kentucky Derby preps in the context of the actual Kentucky Derby is perhaps a bit silly at this point. We don’t know if the race is going to be run at all, much less when. That said, we can still analyze individual performances and try to uncover efforts that might be better than they appear at first glance, regardless of where these horses turn up next.
For starters, Nadal’s effort in the Rebel was sensational. Bob Baffert’s dominance of the Derby prep season seems to be as predictable as death and taxes at this point. We don’t need to spend much time talking about what everyone agrees on.
Excession jumped up and surprised some people with his strong 2nd at 82/1. Note he rode the rail all the way around and closed into a torrid pace. He may love slop, too. His record indicates he certainly doesn’t hate it.
The horse I want to talk about is the one on whom I wagered: Three Technique.
I am told there is some disagreement as to whether or not you can bank on a simple formula of one length of ground loss for every path wide a horse is around one turn. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s just say it’s a fair formula. Three Technique was consistently at least two paths wider than Nadal around the clubhouse turn at Oaklawn in the Rebel. In the image below, Nadal is on the lead to the inside, and Three Technique is the horse on the far right in the second flight.
This next image shows how the emerged from the clubhouse turn. Three Technique is widest, about three paths wider than Nadal.
Headed into the far turn, he was easily two paths wider than Nadal, seen here on the far left of the image…
The image below shows them well into the turn for home, with Three Technique on the far right and Nadal on the rail in the lead…
Three Technique moved closer to Nadal on the racetrack nearing the turn for home, that’s true. But I think a review of the replays will leave you with the impression that Three Technique lost at least five lengths to Nadal in the Rebel due to ground loss around the turns, and arguably closer to six lengths.
What is more, while Three Technique may never have gotten to Nadal, it appeared to me that when Excession sprung out into the clear and moved directly into Three Technique’s path (which he did), Three Technique lost his focus for a stride or two as he was forced to move outward from the rail. There should be no doubt that Excession’s move hurt Three Technique. See the replay and make your own judgment.
Losing to Nadal by 7 3/4 lengths, his 4th place finish was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 84. By my math, the ground he lost around both turns probably cost him about nine Beyer points, and maybe even 10. Did the traffic trouble perhaps cost him another length? Might we be looking at an effort worthy of a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 or 95? If so, Three Technique has “earned” two consecutive 90+ Beyers over a sloppy track in his first two route attempts. We didn’t even talk about his prior start in the Smarty Jones, where he had just about the same trip and probably lost four or five lengths to the loose-on-the-lead winner, earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure that probably could have been a 96 or a 97. With seven weeks until the Kentucky Derby as currently scheduled, there is certainly time for another prep and a shot at points. Three Technique only has nine Derby points at the moment. Some years, zero points is enough to make the field. No telling what might happen this year. But let’s see what Three Technique is capable of on a fast track, closer to the rail, and perhaps sitting just a little farther back in the early stages. As of now, he appears to be one of the ones who could put up that coveted 100 Beyer Speed Figure with just the right trip and some mild improvement. That would make him a threat in the Kentucky Derby on May 2nd or any other day for that matter.