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.
20. COMBATANT (50-1)
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Last race: 4th, Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park
Fastest Bris speed figure: 96, Rebel Stakes
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 94, Smarty Jones Stakes
Final fractions of last race: 12.19, 36.27
Why Combatant can win
The default reason: If Mine That Bird, another late runner, could win at 50-1 in 2009, so can Combatant. He's always in the hunt and those horses sometimes have their coming out party in the Kentucky Derby. His fast finishing time in the Arkansas Derby suggests he'll be flying at the end and would be no surprise to get a piece of the pie.
Why he won't
Winning and hitting the board are two different things. Since the advent of the points system, every winner has won their final prep — suggesting the tiered point system succeeds in its mission in getting the horses in the best form and most likely to run farther distances. Combatant — the last horse to get in the field of 20 — looks good training but appears to be regressing. Either that or maybe he doesn't want to run that far. His chances of becoming the Asmussen stable's Lookin At Lee, last year's long shot runner-up from the rail, were probably dashed when he drew the extreme outside post.
Big Brown won from post 20 in 2008, but he towered over that field and was the class speed to take advantage of his spot. Co-owner Winchell Thoroughbreds' best Derby finish out of nine prior starters was 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner's third in 2016. Co-owner Willis Horton has had one prior starter, with eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge eighth in 2013. Combatant was a $320,000 yearling purchase and one of four offspring sired by the recently deceased Scat Daddy. Steve Asmussen, only a few wins from becoming the second trainer to achieve 8,000 victories, has a pair of seconds and thirds out of 18 prior Kentucky Derby starters. Ricardo Santana has ridden in three prior Derbys, all for Asmussen, his best finish being 12th.