LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days out.
It can look so easy after the fact, so here we helpfully tell you in advance why the winner will prevail.
Of course we do it for every horse in the field -- as well as explaining why you can't possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.
So let us do the detective work as we case out the Kentucky Derby -- including the perilous exercise of handicapping the Racing Gods.
Notes: Final Fractions reflects how fast the horse ran the last eighth-mile and last three-eighths of a mile in its 1 1/8-mile prep race. The Final Fraction Theory rules out horses who ran the last eighth slower than 13.0 and the last three-eighths in slower than 38.0. Bris and Beyer speed figures are ratings designed to compute how fast a horse ran taking into account track conditions as a means of comparing horses from different tracks and races.
9. HOFBURG (20-1)
Owner: Juddmonte Farms
Trainer: Bill Mott
Jockey: Irad Ortiz
Last race, 2nd, Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park
Fastest Bris speed figure: 104, Florida Derby
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 94, Florida Derby
Final fractions in last race: 12.72, 37.70
Why Hofburg can win
His training, looks and distance-laden pedigree has made him something of the "buzz" horse this Derby. He has improved by leaps and bounds every race, and trainer Bill Mott would not be here if he didn't think Hofburg would run big. Tapit has sired three of the past four winners of the Belmont Stakes. The Florida Derby now ranks as the Kentucky Derby's most successful launching pad, the 24 winners coming out of the Gulfstream Park prep including last year with Always Dreaming.
Why he won't
While he did race once at 2, he has raced only three times. Big Brown in 2008 was the first since the filly Regret in 1915 to win the Derby in their fourth career start. And Big Brown did not face this year's quality field. Tapit has sired three of the past four winners of the Belmont Stakes — not the Derby. Recent history suggests a Derby winner is far more likely to be named after a person (Nyquist, Giacomo, Smarty Jones) than a city or town. Not many Derby winners carry the name of a place, with Chateaugay in 1963 possibly the last. (We're not counting California Chrome as a place.)
Bill Mott was Churchill Downs' all-time win leader for 31 years, until Dale Romans surpassed his then-701 victories last fall. Riva Ridge in 1972 is the last winner out of post 9, though Firing Line was second in 2015. Owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms plays the game at the highest level around the world but now is putting a bigger emphasis on dirt racing. Juddmonte has had three prior Derby starters, including seconds with Aptitude in 2000 and favored Empire Maker, the eventual Belmont Stakes winner, in 2003. Mott has had seven prior Derby starters, the last being 12th-place finisher Hold Me Back in 2009. Jockey Irad Ortiz has had two prior Derby mounts, his best finish 11th in 2016 with My Man Sam.