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- John Piesen


As recently as 15 years ago there was a sanctified list of "rules" and "standards" all Kentucky Derby winners had to adhere to in order to win. The winner had to have raced a two year old, had to have raced at least three times as a three-year old, had to have his last prep within four weeks of the Derby or less and had to fit within the DOSAGE (remember that) number based on blood lines.

One by one those and just about every other standard has fallen by the wayside, with the exception of no BC Juvenile winner having ever won the Kentucky Derby.

There are many reasons for this but I believe that most of those past rules and standards were based on a time when breeding wasn't as deeply thinned out as it is today when mile speed seems to be the desirous outcome and most 3-year olds that make it to the Derby (with a few exceptions) don't come close to racing as often as their predecessors.

At this point in the evolution of Kentucky Derby preparation there are so many routes taken and training methods utilized by conditioners that patterns range from difficult to almost impossible to ascertain. And even if one can find a few patterns in order to at least craft some semblance of a winner and four horse (exacta, trifecta, superfecta construct) combinations come Derby day, those patterns are at best subjective. That last statement couldn't be more obviously demonstrated than by checking the average for the exotics over the last 5 years.

Average Exacta Payoff 2014-2010...$422.08
Average Trifecta Payoff 2014-2010...$3.941.12
Average Superfecta Payoff 2014-2010...$83,850.94

Believe me, if there were any truly objective methods by which to isolate the prospective first four finishers of the Derby, size of field notwithstanding, the payoffs would not come close to those totals.
Want further proof of the premise? Take a look at the off odds of the top four finishers the last five years.

California Chrome - 2.5-1...Favorite
Commanding Curve - 37.8-1...17th Favorite
Danza - 8.7-1...3rd Favorite
Wicked Strong - 6.5-1...2nd Favorite
NOTE: Despite the top 3 favorites hitting the board and the favorite winning the Exacta paid $340.00, the Trifecta $3,424.60 and the Superfecta $15,383.00. A quick look shows that Commanding Curve at 37.8-1 was the reason why...but as I will show in one of my "subjective patterns" in PART II of this article...there was crazy reason for at least considering that runner.

Orb - 5.4-1...Favorite
Golden Soul - 34.5-1...16th Favorite
Revolutionary - 6.4-1...2nd Favorite
Normandy Invasion - 9.3-1...5th Favorite
NOTE: Like the 2014 Derby we had the favorite winning plus the second favorite running third and the fifth favorite 4th which created a $981.00 Exacta, $6,925.60 Trifecta and $57,084.00 Superfecta. Interestingly, Golden Soul (the longshot runner-up) followed almost the exact same prep schedule and results as did longshot runner-up Commanding Curve in 2014...again, I'll discuss that in detail in PART II of this article.

I'll Have Another - 15.3-1...9th Favorite
Bodemeister - 4.2-1...Favorite
Dullahan - 12.1-1...6th Favorite
Went The Day Well - 30.6-1...12th Favorite

Animal Kingdom - 20.9-1...11th Favorite
Nehro - 8.5-1...3rd Favorite
Mucho Macho Man - 9.3-1...4th Favorite
Shackleford - 23.1-1...12th Favorite

Super Saver - 8.0-1...2nd Favorite
Ice Box - 11.7-1...6th Favorite
Paddy O'Prado - 12.3-1...7th Favorite
Make Music For Me - 30.1-1...18th Favorite

This is a small sample for the purposes of saving a bit of space and getting on with the remainder of the article, but there could be the last 15 or more years as samples and the same will hold true, there is absolutely no consistency to the betting patterns of the public that should be paramount in determining live horses.


Referring back to the opening paragraphs when I stated that the "rules" and "standards" as to preparing for Kentucky Derby success were no longer sacrosanct lets take a look at the same 2014 to 2010 races listed above and catalog the three-year old prep schedule and results for the top four finishers.

California Chrome
...4/5 Santa Anita Derby (SA) - (First)...3/8 San Felipe (SA) - (First)...1/25 California Cup Derby (SA) - (First)...3 Races same track...3 wins...last prep 4 weeks out.
Commanding Curve...3/29 Louisiana Derby (FG) - (Third)...2/22 Risen Star (FG) - (Sixth)...2 Races same track...1 Third...last prep 5 weeks out.
Danza...4/12 Arkansas Derby (OAK) - (First)...3/1 Entry Level Allowance (GP) - (Third)...2 Races...2 different tracks...a win and a third...last prep 3 weeks out.
Wicked Strong...4/5 Wood Memorial (AQ) - (First)...2/22 Entry Level Allowance (GP) - (Fourth)...1/25 Holy Bull (GP) - (Ninth)...3 Races...2 different tracks...a win and two off-the-board finishes...last prep 4 weeks out.

Orb...3/30 Florida Derby (GP) - (First)...2/22 Fountain Of Youth (GP) - (First)...1/26 Entry Level Allowance (GP) - (First)...3 Races same track...3 wins...last prep 5 weeks out.
Golden Soul...3/30 Louisiana Derby (FG) - (Fourth)...2/23 Risen Star (FG) - (Sixth)...1/19 Lecomte (FG) - (Second)...3 Races same second two off-the-board finishes...last prep 5 weeks out.
Revolutionary...3/30 Louisiana Derby (FG) - (First)...2/2 Withers (AQ) - (First)...2 Races...2 different tracks...2 wins...last prep 5 weeks out.
Normandy Invasion...4/6 Wood Memorial (AQ) - (Second)...2/23 Risen Star (FG) - (Fifth)...2 Races...2 different second and one off-the-board finish...last prep 4 weeks out.

I'll Have Another
...4/7 Santa Anita Derby (SA) - (First)...2/4 Robert Lewis (SA) - (First)...2 Races same track...two wins...last prep 4 weeks out.
Bodemeister...4/14 Arkansas Derby (OAK) - (First)...3/10 San Felipe (SA) - (Second)...2/11 MSW (SA) - (First)...3 Races...2 different tracks...two wins and one second...last prep 3 weeks out.
Dullahan...4/14 Blue Grass Stakes (K) - (First)...3/11 Palm Beach (GP) - (Second)...Two races...two different win and one second...last prep 3 weeks out.
Went The Day Well...3/24 Spiral (TP) - (First)...3/3 MSW (GP) - (First)...2/4 MSW (GP) - (Fourth)...3 Races...2 different tracks...two wins and one off-the-board finish...last prep 6 weeks out.

Animal Kingdom...
3/26 Spiral Stakes (TP) - (First)...3/3 Entry Level Allowance - (Second)...2 Races...2 different win and one second...last prep 6 weeks out.
Nehro...4/16 Arkansas Derby (OAK) - (Second)...3/26 Louisiana Derby (FG) - (Second)...2/21 MSW (OAK) - (First)... 1/15 MSW (OAK) - (Fourth)...4 Races...2 different race win, two seconds and an off-the-board finish...last prep 3 weeks out.
Mucho Macho Man...3/26 Louisiana Derby (FG) - (Third)...2/19 Risen Star (FG) - (First)...1/30 Holy Bull (GP) - (Fourth)...3 Races....2 different win, one third and one off-the-board finish...last prep 6 weeks out.
Shackleford...4/3 Florida Derby (GP) - (Second)...2/26 Fountain Of Youth (GP) - (Fifth)...2/5 Entry Level Allowance - (First)...3 Races same win, one second and one off-the-board...last prep 5 weeks out.

Super Saver...4/10 Arkansas Derby (OAK) - (Second)...3/13 Tampa Bay Derby (TB) - (Third)...2 Races...2 different second and one third...last prep 3 weeks out.
Ice Box...3/20 Florida Derby (GP) - (First)...2/20 Fountain Of Youth (GP) - (Fifth)...1/18 Entry Level Allowance (GP) - (First)...3 Races same track...two wins and one off-the-board finish...last prep 6 weeks out.
Paddy O'Prado...4/10 Blue Grass Stakes (K) - (Second)...3/6 Palm Beach (GP) - (First)...2/10 MSW (GP) - (Third)...3 Races...2 different win, one second and one third...last prep 3 weeks out.
Make Music For Me...4/10 Blue Grass Stakes (K) - (Sixth)...3/6 Pasadena (SA) - (First)...2 Races...2 different win and one off-the-board finish...last prep 3 weeks out.

Take some time to digest this brief result report. I'll go into these results and many more past Derby results in PART II of this article but for now take a look at the NON-PATTERNS for the last 5 Kentucky Derby winners.

California Chrome...The popular common-man's breeding story colt had 3 evenly spaced, well-in-hand stakes victories over the same race surface.

Orb...Like Chrome he had 3 evenly spaced, well-in-hand stakes victories over the same surface.
(Certainly 2014 and 2013 looked like there was a pattern trainers could point to...but what about the three prior years.)

I'll Have Another...Only 2 three-year old races and while both at Santa Anita (as were Chrome's 3 races) there was a 9 week gap between the Robert Lewis and the Santa Anita Derby.

Animal Kingdom...This was another with only a pair of prep races. And there was a 6 week gap between his last prep and the Derby and that last prep races was run on the synthetic surface at Turfway after he had won an allowance on traditional dirt just 3 weeks earlier at Gulfstream.

Super Saver...First of three straight Derby winners with only 2 three-year old prep races. This was the beginning of a 5 out of 7 year stretch, beginning with Street Sense in 2007 that the Kentucky Derby winner had just two 3-year old preps...a streak that was broken by Orb and California Chrome the last two years. It is further noteworthy that Super Saver did not have a three-year old win heading into the Derby. Prior to Street Sense there was a 26 year period where every Derby winner had three or more 3-year old preps.

As you can see, there is no etched in stone Derby Trail pattern that guarantees a direct path to the Derby winner's circle. Nor for that matter is there any pattern to finding the supporting players in filling out the exotics.

However, there are some subjective anomalies that you might want to watch for as you pare down your short list of Derby win and exotic contenders as we move through the Kentucky Derby preps...and I'll have plenty of information about them in subsequent articles.

Look for PART II of this Pattern discussion the beginning of next week along with a review of the Fountain Of Youth, Risen Star and Southwest Stakes preps to be run this weekend.

Previous Articles

(12/19/2014) Gulfstream Shippers

(12/1/2014) Gulfstram Opening Speed

(10/31/2014) John Starts 6 for 6 On Breeders Cup Day One!

(10/25/2014) Breeders Cup Countdown

(10/17/2014) NY Showcase Day

(10/10/2014) Here's Proof

(10/3/2014) A Big Weekend

(9/26/2014) Gold Cup Day

(9/19/2014) Philly Rocks

(9/10/2014) Horses to Watch at Belmont & Churchill

(9/5/2014) See You In September

(8/29/2014) In Todd We Trust

(8/22/2014) Hard Knocks

(8/20/2014) Tips To End Strong At Saratoga

(8/15/2014) My Kind of Town

(8/8/2014) Still Buzzin

(8/1/2014) Sevens the Number

(7/27/2014) Haskell Preview

(7/25/2014) Wet and Wild

(7/18/2014) How Green the Grass?

(7/4/2014) One For Rocky

(6/30/2014) New York Summer Trainer Trends

(6/27/2014) The Giant-Killer Returns

(6/20/2014) Speed Kills

(6/17/2014) Horses to Watch... Week Ending 6/15

(6/13/2014) The Bubble Bursts

(6/11/2014) Horses To Watch

(5/30/2014) The Dirty Dozen

(5/27/2014) The Belmont Stakes Probables

(5/23/2014) Over The Rainbow

(5/19/2014) California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in question over NY rule on nasal strips

(5/18/2014) NYRA reveals Belmont contenders list

(5/14/2014) Great Racing and Wagering This Weekend at Pimlico

(5/9/2014) The Good The Bad and the Ugly

(5/2/2014) Kentucky Derby Preview

(4/30/2014) A Look at The Derby Why Nots

(4/28/2014) Noel Michaels: Use Trends to Narrow Down Kentucky Derby Contenders

(4/25/2014) Kentucky Derby Notes

(4/18/2014) Up For a Tony

(4/11/2014) On To The Arkansas Derby

(4/4/2014) Two For the Road

(3/28/2014) Twin Bill

(3/26/2014) Horses To Watch - Week Ending March 23

(3/21/2014) Thru the Binoculars

(3/14/2014) Speed Kills

(3/7/2014) Big Preps on Both Coasts

(2/27/2014) GOTHAM CITY

(2/21/2014) Riding a Hot Streak

(2/18/2014) Horses to Watch, Week Ending 2-16

(2/14/2014) A Rising Star