Workouts are important indicators of potential performance. If a man or an animal put in quality workouts time in and time out, chances are they are going to do well when it comes time for the big day.
Plus, you can really tell a lot about a man (or an animal) based on how much he enjoys practice and his craft. Word is Seabiscuit whinnied and whined every time he saw horses circling the track. Sometimes it took all the might of the stable hands just to hold back the legendary horse from busting through the rails to take off after another horse breezing through a few furlongs.
The same was said about Michael Jordan, too. Legend has it that for as competitive and nasty as he was during a playoff game, he took the battles to another level during every day workouts. It was what made Jordan great, some said.
Allen Iverson? Practice? Not so much.
As a workout fiend known for leaving some of his best performances on the back roads instead of in the big races, I have a special fondness for workout logs and results. That’s especially true this time of year when the Triple Crown stakes races approach. That’s why I spent a little while this afternoon combing through the charts and times for the workouts of the 20 horses set to race in this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Yeah, I’m sure some of the times are withheld and other workouts are ignored, but I continue to use the workouts as the top criterion for picking a winner in a horse race.
After that, it’s hard to ignore past performances.
Bloodlines? Yeah, that’s important, but not as much as one would think.
So without much more waxing on, here are the three horses I like in Saturday’s big race:
- Eight Belles – the No. 5 horse is a field pick at 20-1, which means he’s not much of a contender. However, the Kentucky-bred filly has won four straight races this year as well a workout where he breezed through five furlongs in 58.2 this week. Last week Eight Belles did four furlongs in 46.6 and seems to be getting stronger.
- Colonel John – OK, I like the name, and at 4-1 the No. 10 is the second favorite in the Derby. But the numbers are big – two five-furlongs sessions in 57.8 and 59.4 during the last two weeks coupled with six lifetime races in which the Kentucky-bred colt has four wins and two second-place finishes. Call this horse the smart money.
- Big Brown – Despite coming out of the 20th hole, the lightly-raced Kentucky native is the favorite at 3-1. However, even with a few somewhat pedestrian workouts, Big Brown is a big monster when the bell rings. All three of Big Brown’s wins were by big margins, including a five-length romp in last month’s Florida Derby. Word around the backstretch is that Big Brown is a big “freak” and very well might roll over the big field for the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
Could Big Brown be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978? We’ll find out on Saturday. In the meantime, arrange the 5, 10 and 20 in a trifecta and send me a big kudos if this works out for you.