An 80-1 winner certainly creates a buzz, especially if that happens in the Kentucky Derby as it did Saturday with Rich Strike, but the buzz among Manitoba race fans soared beyond that. They noted that the Derby winner’s mother, Gold Strike, was bred in Manitoba. What? Phone lines lit up, the Twitterverse exploded. After all, Manitoba isn’t exactly a hotbed of breeding. The last time something like this happened was when Goldencents, the son of a Manitoba mare, won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2013 and 2014.
Gold Strike (by Smart Strike out of Brassy Gold) was bred in Manitoba in 2002 by Harlequin Ranches, a division of the company that has given the world Harlequin romances. Harlequin’s filly won two stakes races at Assiniboia Downs as a 2-year-old, the Debutante and Buffalo, then was shipped to Woodbine where she won the Woodbine Oaks, finished third in the Queen’s Plate and received a Sovereign Award for Champion 3-year-old filly.
A Winnipeg businessman bet $50 across the board on the 80-1 Derby longshot but it was less to do with the horse’s Manitoba connection than with the fact he likes to bet horses that get into a race from the also-eligible list.
So, switching gears, does 80-1 Rich Strike have anything in common with the longest shot to win a race Saturday at Woodbine which happened to be 11-1 Lion’s Goldenheart in race 4? In fact, it does – and this should have you paying closer attention to workouts.
Both the Derby winner and the Woodbine longshot had recent 5-furlong workouts under 60 seconds. Not many horses show that kind of morning sizzle. In Woodbine’s race 4, #6 Lion’s Goldenheart had a :59.80 workout on April 15 (see program page here). Derby winner Rich Strike had TWO sub-minute workouts: :59.60 on April 27 and a bullet :59.40 on March 26 (see program page here).
So what am I saying? That you should have bet both the 80-1 Derby horse and 11-1 Woodbine horse because of sub-minute 5-furlong workouts? Not necessarily, but it should give you pause especially since sub-minute 5-furlong workouts are not that common. Only two other horses in the 20-horse Derby field had recent similarly-quick 5-furlong workouts: #13 Simplication, who finished fourth; and #11 Pioneer of Medina, who finished second last. So two of the three horses with speedy 5-furlong workouts finished first and fourth. Hmm.
Compare that to the slower 5-furlong workouts of the two Derby favourites: #3 Epicenter worked in 1:00.80 on April 17 and #10 Zandon was timed in 1:00.40 on April 29. (Epicentre was second in the Derby and Zandon was third.)
And what happened in other races Saturday at Woodbine where horses showed sub-minute 5-furlong workouts? In race 8, #2 and #3 fit that category. They finished second and fourth. In race 9, first-time starter #3 finished out of the money. In race 10, #3 finished third (although his most recent 5f work was slower than a previous one). All of which shows you can’t simply bet the farm on a horse with sub-minute 5-furlong workouts, but obviously there’s strong evidence that this particular workout distance deserves more than passing attention.