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Kentucky Confidential

Thomas on Horses: Introduction

The first thing that stands out to me about this year’s Kentucky Derby is depth. From a herd dynamic and emotional conformation standpoint, there were only two truly high-level horses in last year’s Derby — Animal Kingdom and Dialed In. This year there are at least eight, and these horses are still developing!

Of those eight, three have nearly perfect emotional conformation profiles — Union Rags, I’ll Have Another, and Went the Day Well. The next five horses I list are very high level, but they have one thing or another within their profile that led me to rank them just below the top. None of the top eight would surprise me if they won.

Last year’s Derby split into two herds and was a cleanly run race. Animal Kingdom dominated from a herd dynamic standpoint. With so many high-level horses in this field, I would expect to see a lot more battles for space in this year’s edition.

Just as the physical pace of the horse is important to consistently win races at classic distances, a horse also needs to have a good psychological pace. Because of all the high herd dynamics in this field, it’s going to be a very demanding race, a battle of wills.

The result could have a lot to do with how the pattern of motion fleshes out. Like some past Derbies, this could be a race where a horse with a good forward focus finds itself in a position to win by avoiding the early and mid-race battles. The highest level horse doesn’t always cross the finish line first.

To view a contender profile, click on a horse’s name in the right column.



Thanks for all of this. I caught up with your thoughts on last year’s Derby too late for them to do any good. Hope your thoughts help this year.

Posted by Ned Daly on April 30, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

Hey Kerry,
Has your opinion on Went The Day Well changed at all since his connections decided to put blinkers on him for the first time? Apparently he worked out well in them but I get the impression you’re not a fan of blinkers.

I’m very new to your stuff but love the insight. A new approach I never would have thought of, and it’s quite fascinating to me.
Thanks much,

Posted by adamgraf on May 1, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

Thanks so much! This was a maximum-confusion year for me, but it appears that, thanks to you, I just had I’ll Have Another as the winner & the exacta w/Bodemeister (I was sure he was going to come in 2nd, but I didn’t have a clue who was going to be the winner, until I read your column.) Huge thanks!

Posted by Janice Carlson on May 5, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

Great analyses this year, and you were once again on target in the Kentucky Derby. I now look at races differently because of your insights, looking for those subtle clues which you are so good at finding. Well done!

Posted by MF on May 5, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

Thanks Kerry- Your analysis helped me choose I’ll Have Another as my key horse. Watching the replay, it certainly looks as if he was always clear of nearby horses,something you pointed out as one of his qualities- “other horses respond to his presence”.
I would like to hear your thoughts on the possibility that Lava Man, retired winner of $5 million, might have affected IHA’s herd presence during the post parade by accompanying him. I’m guessing that Lava Man himself is another powerful horse, and perhaps his presence enhanced IHA’s already positive status amongst the field.
Thanks Again!

Posted by agingtombster on May 6, 2012 @ 7:56 am

Author PhotoKerry Thomas is a groundbreaking researcher of behavioral genetics in horses. He created emotional conformation profiling, which measure’s the mental and emotional capacities of the equine. Horse owners around the world use him to profile and unlock the minds of their horses both in training and pre-purchase evaluations. Thomas’ work in the field of equine behavioral genetics has pioneering applications in all the sport horse industries, including Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Please visit his website for more information. (Author photo: Mary Buckley) More by  ›