Saturday, April 8th was a wonderful opportunity for horse racing fans. Three Grade I races were run at three different tracks across the United States: the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes, and the Santa Anita Derby.
Each of those races, while prestigious and lucrative in their own right, paves the way toward another goal: qualifying for, entering in, and hopefully winning the Derby. Also, it often influences the Kentucky Derby live odds by TwinSpires.
Of the three races (often referred to as Kentucky Derby prep races), it is the Santa Anita Derby which has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners; its most notable recent graduate is none other than Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner.
How does Practical Move’s race in the Santa Anita Derby line up with the final prep races for five of the most recent cashed-out Kentucky Derby winners (excluding 2020, when the race was pushed back for several months due to Covid-19)? Let’s take a look.
Recent Kentucky Derby Winners And Final Preps
2022: Rich Strike (3rd in Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks)
2021: Medina Spirit (2nd in Santa Anita Derby)
2019: Country House (3rd in Grade I Arkansas Derby)
2018: Justify (1st in Santa Anita Derby)
2017: Always Dreaming (1st in Grade I Florida Derby)
Three of the five Kentucky Derby winners have sires or broodmare sires who won graded stakes races at 1 ¼ miles or longer. Of the two outliers, Medina Spirit’s sire, Protonico, and broodmare sire, Brilliant Speed, both won graded stakes races at 1 ⅛ miles, and Protonico placed third in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles. Country House’s sire, Lookin at Lucky, never won at 1 ¼ miles but did win the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles.
Practical Move’s sire, Practical Joke, was well known to prefer shorter distances as a racehorse. He won several graded stakes races at a mile or less, but faltered as he approached the classic route distances.
Practical Move should have plenty of stamina, however, thanks to his broodmare sire. Afleet Alex had enough speed to win graded stakes at under a mile, but he is most well-known for his wins in the Preakness and the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes.
Comparing final times for Kentucky Derby prep races can be difficult because while most of them are run on the same type of surface at the same distance, they are all run at different tracks. Different tracks have different conditions, and some produce naturally faster or slower times.
Speed figures attempt to account for that difference, so that the races can be more accurately compared. The formulas used to calculate these figures equalize track related factors so that the quality of each horse’s performance can be assessed. There are several slightly different figures, but we will be looking at E figures, which are created by Equibase.
Here are the E figures for each of the aforementioned Derby winners’ final prep races, which were all run at 1 ⅛ miles:
Rich Strike: 99
Medina Spirit: 95
Country House: 102
Always Dreaming: 105
Practical Move received a 105 for his win in the Santa Anita Derby. Although he was outclassed by Justify, the last horse to win both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby, Practical Move’s speed figure suggests that his performance in that race was in line with most of the final prep races for eventual Kentucky Derby winners.
When comparing Practical Move to recent Derby winners in terms of pedigree and prep performance, it becomes clear that this colt is a real contender.