The National Weather Service is forecasting a 50 percent chance of rain in Louisville on Saturday “mainly after 8 a.m.” That will create the possibility of another wet track during the 144th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
The Derby has been run over a sloppy or muddy track 15 times, including last year, when Always Dreaming became the fifth straight favorite to win the race. Predicting who will handle the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles for the first time is tricky by itself, but there are some clues as to which horses could excel on a wet rack, such as the Tomlinson figures in the Daily Racing Form’s past performances. The figures range from 0 to 480, with a score of 320 or higher indicating “a horse who could run particularly well over a wet track” and a difference of 40 or more points between horses considered “substantial.”
Solomini (427) and Instilled Regard (425) lead the field with the highest Tomlinson figures, followed by Bolt d’Oro (423), Vino Rosso (423) and Bravazo (419).
Seeing Bolt d’Oro high on the list bolsters his bid for a Kentucky Derby win. He has the speed needed to win on a fast tor wet track — he has triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in three races already and ran the final three-eighths of the Santa Anita Derby in 37.40 seconds, well below the 38-second threshold of prior winners — plus the stamina needed to carry it the classic distance. Plus, his sire, Medaglia d’Oro, has a 17 percent win rate in the mud among his progeny and his broodmare sire, A.P. Indy, has produced a win rate of 19 percent among his offspring.
Bolt d’Oro remains a solid pick to win on Saturday, but he isn’t the only horse who could have success on Saturday if it does indeed rain.
Horses with real-life experience over a wet track include the favorite, Justify, who won by 6 1/2 lengths in an allowance race at Santa Anita in March 11 over a muddy track.
Firenze Fire won the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in January over a muddy track by a half-length, setting his second-best career Beyer Speed Figure (86) in that race.
Flameaway won both the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland in the slop; however, both those races were scheduled to be run on the turf, and might not be indicative of the talent level he would have faced if the original races were to be held on the dirt track. Same for Lone Sailer, who broke his maiden with an 11-length victory over seven furlongs at Saratoga in September.
My Boy Jack won the Southwest Stakes (G3) over a muddy track at Oaklawn Park in February, producing the second-best Beyer figure (93) of his young career. Combatant finished second in that race as well.
And finally, Enticed won his first race at seven furlongs in the mud at Saratoga in September.
One horse who should be looked at with caution is Free Drop Billy, the 2017 Breeders’ Futurity winner. The chestnut colt has one of the lowest Tomlinson ratings in the field (339) and his sire’s win rate in the slop is the lowest at 13 percent, the same as the win rate by the progeny of his dam’s sire.
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