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Home / Articles / Understanding Horse Dosage for Successful Kentucky Derby Wagers

Understanding Horse Dosage for Successful Kentucky Derby Wagers

By: Jeff Hochman     Date: Apr 29, 2024
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The Kentucky Derby, famously known as the 'The Run for the Roses,' holds a significant place in the annals of horse racing. As the first leg of the esteemed Triple Crown, it sets the stage for the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. This race, steeped in rich history and traditions, draws the finest horses from across the globe. For horse racing enthusiasts, the horse's dosage index is a pivotal factor in their quest to identify the potential winner. The Kentucky Derby will be run as the 12th race (6:57 PM E) on Saturday, May 4th, 2024.


The dosage index, a mathematical formula devised by Dr. Steven A. Roman in the 1990s, is a tool that predicts a horse's distance capabilities based on its lineage. This formula works by summing up the points of the five most influential sires in a horse's lineage and then dividing the total by the horse's overall points. In simpler terms, the lower the dosage index, the higher the horse's potential to excel in longer races.


In recent years, a trend has been noticed at the Kentucky Derby that horses with a dosage index above 4.00 are less likely to win the race. Since 2000, only two horses with a dosage index above 4.00 have won the race: Giacomo in 2005 and Justify in 2018. In addition, two horses had a dosage index of 5.00 or higher: Mind That Bird in 2009 and Always Dreaming in 2017. This is a significant difference compared to the number of winners with a lower dosage index, which stands at 19 from the past 23 races.


One reason horses with a higher dosage index struggle to win the Kentucky Derby is their inability to sustain their speed over longer distances. The race is run over 1 1/4 miles, which is challenging for any horse. The entire field will be trying this distance for the first time. Horses with a higher dosage index tend to carry speed for shorter distances, making it challenging to maintain their pace over the long haul. Therefore, horses with a lower dosage index are often considered more suitable for the Kentucky Derby.


Another factor that may contribute to the lower success rate of horses with a higher dosage index is the changes in breeding practices. Recently, there has been a shift towards breeding horses for speed rather than stamina. This trend has produced horses with higher dosage indexes that are better suited for shorter distances. Therefore, even if a horse has a high dosage index, it may not necessarily perform poorly in other races.


In conclusion, while the dosage index is a helpful tool for predicting a horse's distance capabilities, it is not the only factor determining a horse's success in the Kentucky Derby. The race is unpredictable, and anything can happen on race day. However, based on the trends observed in recent years, horses with a lower dosage index may have a better chance of winning, given their ability to sustain their speed over longer distances. Nonetheless, the dosage index remains an essential factor to consider when handicapping the Kentucky Derby.


This year’s horses with a dosage index of five or higher are Catching Freedom (5.40), and Fierceness (5.00). This year’s horse with a dosage index of four or higher is Just Steel (4.00).


Other notable horses: Sierra Leone (2.00), Honor Marie (3.24), Just a Touch (3.57), Dornoch (2.50), Track Phantom (2.20), Stronghold (3.00), Encino (2.33), Forever Young (3.00), Resilience (3.50), Endlessly (2.60), Mystik Dan (3.00), and T O Password (1.00).


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