Brent Sedo | Fri 20/04/2018 - 12:10 EDT

2018 Kentucky Derby Betting Angle: East Vs. West Coast Horses

2018 Kentucky Derby Betting Angle: East Vs. West Coast Horses

California Derby Contenders and East Coast Derby Contenders

Of the 20 horses set to make the field for the running of the 2018 Kentucky Derby, 17 were bred in Kentucky itself, with the exceptions being New York-bred Audible, Florida- bred Firenze Fire, and Ontario-bred Flameaway. Even the two horses that are coming over from Europe, Mendelssohn and Gronkowski, are Kentucky breds.

This is not all that surprising, given Kentucky's long association with the sport, and the fact close to 40 per cent of all thoroughbreds in North America are born in the state.

Once these horses begin their racing career, they can end up anywhere in the world, and in the months leading up to the Kentucky Derby, most of them will spend their winter racing either in California, at Los Alimitos, Del Mar or Santa Anita race tracks, or in Florida at Gulfstream and Tampa Bay tracks, or in New York at Aqueduct, which is one of the few tracks in the northern US that holds a winter meet. 

It's participation in these races that informally designate a horse as a West coast or East coast runner, and typically where they run their preps is tied to where the trainer has his base of operations. Big name trainers such as Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lucas and Jerry Hollendorfer are based in California, while Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown mainly operate on the East coast. 

California Horses Race Results

There is no strict rule where a certain horse will race to prep and try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. It's up to the trainer of each horse to map a successful route through the winter to get to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May, and a California or New York-based trainer may decide to run their horse in the prep races at Fair Grounds, in New Orleans, for example, or at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. 

When horses are having success at a certain track, the trainers like to keep the horse racing at that track, and there's no need to ship a horse across the country to win a race when it can stay home and win an equally important race. 

That being said, four of the past six Kentuck Derby winning horses can be considered West coast horses. Those are I'll Have Another, who won in 2012 after five of his six races to that point were in California. California Chrome in 2014 raced 10 times prior to the Derby, all in southern California. American Pharoah started his career with three races in California before winning two at Oaklawn prior to the 2015 Derby, and Nyquist won five of seven in California before taking the Kentucky Derby in 2016.

For 2018, the top West Coast-based contenders are Justify and Bolt d'Oro.

East Coast Horses Race Results

Of the other two winners in the past six years, Always Dreaming won last year after starting racing in the summer of 2016 in New York before going to Florida for his three-year-old season, where he raced three times before the Derby. The 2013 winner, Orb, raced four times in New York and three times in Florida before getting the big win at Churchill Downs. 

Taking the long view, six of the past 10 Derby winners - and eight of the last 12 - could be considered East coast horses.

The top East-coast horses this year are Audible and Good Magic.  

Using Prep Race Information to Bet the Kentucky Derby

As a whole, the information above indicates that there has been a recent trend of California-based horses winning the Derby, but that alone isn't the best handicapping angle, as previously the East coasters had been dominating.

Note that the four contenders listed above leave out Magnum Moon, who scored his Derby qualifying points by winning at Oaklawn Park; Noble Indy, who raced in the Louisiana preps; and Quip, who ran in Kentucky Derby qualifying races at Tampa Bay, Churchill and Oaklawn. And not to forget Mendelssohn, who earned his ticket to the Derby by winning the United Arab Emirates Derby at Meydan Race Track in Dubai. 

More important than where the races were run, for handicapping and making a smart bet in an online racebook, look at the quality of the actual prep race, how tough was the competition, how the horse won (whether on the lead or stalking the pace) and how the pace dictated the outcome. Good horses can come from anywhere to win the Derby.  

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