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Post Time: Rain could muddy things at the Derby

By Gene Kershner

LOUISVILLE,Ky. -- With the chance of rain in the forecast for Louisville on Saturday, it's time to start thinking about those horses that can handle a muddy or sloppy track. The forecast on weather.com as of 3 p.m. Thursday shows a 70 percent chance of rain for Derby day and temperatures dropping to the low 60s from the temperatures in the mid-70s we are currently experiencing and expected for Oaks day. 

Some of the areas horseplayers should read up on include wet Tomlinson figures included in the Daily Racing Form's past performances, as well as pedigree statistics which can be found in the Brisnet past performances. A look at the field's bloodlines can also provide clues as to a colt's chances in the Derby. The most important item may be how the actual horse has performed on an off track. 

Wet Tomlinson Figures

This measure of a horse's ability on a wet track was the brainchild of Lee Tomlinson who studied past performances of a sample of horses based on how they performed on wet tracks and their pedigrees. Wet Tomlinson score range from 0 to 480 (a perfect score) and experts have noted that a score of 320 warrants consideration of a horse that should perform well on an off-track.  Based on my current Derby spreadsheet, the following horses have the top wet Tomlinson figures in the Derby:  

PP

Horse

Wet

ML

2

Oxbow

424

30-1

5

Normandy Invasion

417

12-1

3

Revolutionary

415

10-1

17

Will Take Charge

414

20-1

16

Orb

406

7-2

13

Falling Sky

402

50-1

11

Lines of Battle

395

30-1

9

Overanalyze

376

15-1

14

Verrazano

373

4-1

19

Java's War

365

15-1

Three of the top five horses according to the morning line have wet Tomlinson figures that would suggest they will run well on an off track. Three of Todd Pletcher's five entries find themselves in this same top 10.

Pedigree

Some of the bloodlines that are part of the current field can be traced back to horses that have solid wet track influences can be traced to sires such as Mr. Prospector, In Reality and A.P. Indy. 

The horses that are part of said bloodlines include Palace Malice, Revolutionary, Mylute and Orb. You may remember Mylute's sire Midnight Lute won a Breeders' Cup Sprint championship in the slop at Monmouth Park in 2007. Palace Malice's sire, Curlin, won the Breeders' Cup Classic at a mile and a quarter that same year in the slop by open lengths. 

Brisnet Sire and Dam sire Win Percentages

The horses that have the highest sire win percentages on a wet track (noted as" mud stats") as listed in Brisnet past performances in the Derby include (with more than 100 starts): Normandy Invasion (18%), Overanalyze (17%), Falling Sky (17%), Orb (17%), and Will Take Charge (17%). The horses on the dam sire side with the highest percentages based on the same criteria include: Black Onyx (20%), Oxbow (20%), Revolutionary (19%), Golden Soul (19%), Lines of Battle (19%), and Orb (19%). The morning line favorite, Orb (7-2) is the only horse to show on the top of both of these lists.  

Actual Off-Track Performances

Of the horses in the field, four horses have wins on an off-track: Revolutionary, Vyjack, Itsmyluckyday and Falling Sky. Two horses have placed on off-tracks, Palace Malice and Frac Daddy. None of the aforementioned winners accomplished the feat in a stakes race or at a distance greater than a mile. 

Should the track come up sloppy or muddy on Saturday afternoon under the Twin Spires, these should offer some clues to consider when handicapping the big race.  

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

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