Playing the numbers game with dosage factor

April 30, 2002 9:06 AM
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Wow! We’re only a few days away from the Kentucky Derby and I’m still waiting to hear the "d”¦”¦" word. That’s right, "d" for "dosage."

You must remember the furor of recent years regarding the worth, if any, of the so-called Dosage Index. The DI is some kind of convoluted mathematical equation that resulted from some subjective numbers applied to a horse’s sire, dam and their progenitors etc.

Bottom line is that a horse player will use any means to cash a ticket. And the DI followers bragged all over town with such large ticket prices as $27.80 on Sea Hero, $23.60 on Unbridled, and $37.40 on Ferdinand.

There were others, but there were misses as well. Plus, it seemed that changes were sometimes made after the outcome of the race was known to make the winner qualify under the DI system. You remember how they altered the numbers on Alydar after Strike The Gold won the 1991 Derby.

In addition to the DI, purists also required that the horse selected must have been a dual qualifier. Not only must he have had a Dosage Index of 4.00 or less but he also must have been rated within 10 pounds of the top horse in the Experimental Handicap Weights selected by three well-known racing secretaries.

Putting the DI together with the mythical high weights of the division reduced the eligible selections to a handful. In fact, this year, there are only three who qualify. They are Johannesburg, who was top-rated as the outstanding 2-year-old of his division, at 126 pounds. He has a DI rating of 3.67; Came Home, listed at 119 pounds and a DI of 4.00; and Saarland, who just made it at 116 pounds but with an excellent DI of 1.84.

Johannesburg earned his top rating with an unblemished record of seven consecutive wins culminated by his going-away victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year. As an aside, it could be noted that among the horses trailing him in that event were Came Home and Saarland.

Normally, that record alone would push him into the favorite’s role for the Derby, but his knockers suggest factors that weigh against him. The first is that a European-based colt has never crossed the Atlantic to win the Kentucky Derby, nor for that matter, has any BC Juvenile winner been able to repeat that performance in the Derby. Then, he has had only one race this year and that was a second place finish to a 4-year-old filly in a seven-furlong event on the grass.

Came Home has detractors, as well. Even though he has won his only three starts of the season, at distances ranging from seven to nine furlongs, some feel strongly he will not be able to go the classic distance of one mile and one quarter.

Saarland, on the other hand, is expected to benefit from the added distance since he was closing strongly on Buddha and Medaglia D’Oro in the Wood Memorial, even though he reportedly had breathing problems because of a displaced palate.

Nevertheless, for those who follow the Dual Qualifier system of handicapping the Kentucky Derby, this year’s event is simple: Johannesburg, Came Home and Saarland in a trifecta box.