Derby sheets favor Dinard, Best Pal

April 16, 1991|By Marty McGee

The Kentucky Derby is horse racing's glamour event, but to "sheet players" it's just another race to test their figures.

Sheets have become increasingly popular among horseplayers in recent years. On a single sheet of paper, a horse's career is reduced to a pattern of numbers, with a single digit assigned to each prior race. The figures are derived from a variety of factors but are based mostly on time.

Len Ragozin and Jerry Brown, New York-based entrepreneurs, head the two biggest sheet-selling companies. Sheets are available at most tracks, including Pimlico and Laurel race courses.

The lower the number, the better. At the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles, the difference between two numbers -- between a 3 and a 4, for example -- is about two lengths.

Slow horses run in the 20s, 30s and 40s. Great horses such as Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, Alysheba and Lost Code would regularly run between 0 and 4.

"To win the Derby this year will take a 4, maybe a 3. There don't seem to be any super horses," Ragozin said.

This year, he said, "we're giving out Dinard and Best Pal. They're so close it's a toss-up."

Dinard has run back-to-back 5 1/2 s, and the Ragozin faithful believe that when a horse "pairs," it will often run an even better race in its next start. Dinard's next start will be in the Derby, May 4 at Churchill Downs.

"But Best Pal has a very good sheet," Ragozin said. "He ran a 9 as a 2-year-old, then a 7 and a 6 1/2 in his two starts this year. His pattern suggests the 6 1/2 is not the end of the line. Plus, he should be much more value than Dinard" in the odds.

With Fly So Free's three-length defeat in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes, Dinard is the probable Derby favorite.

Fly So Free ran a 6, his best, when winning the Florida Derby, then "bounced" in the Blue Grass. The bounce factor is a crucial handicapping variable for sheet players -- the theory being that when a horse has exerted itself to a peak, its next start inevitably will not match that maximum effort.

Other Derby candidates:

* The filly, Meadow Star, has run steadily in the 9 range, and most sheet players doubt she can improve enough to beat colts.

* Hansel ran a 6 1/2 when winning the Jim Beam, should bounce Sunday in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, then could rebound with a good Derby effort.

* Strike the Gold probably ran his best figure in the Blue Grass. Although the colt seems to be steadily improving, sheet players probably will insist that the colt should bounce in the Derby.

Sheets or no sheets, the Kentucky Derby remains one of the toughest races to handicap. The distance is the longest any of the horses has run, a bulky field can make for serious traffic problems, and many of the top contenders are meeting each other for the first time. As for figures, the horses are still young enough that patterns can be hard to discern.

"With a race like the Derby," Ragozin said, "all of this is a lot of glorified guessing."

Kentucky Derby preps

6,Major prep events for May 4 Kentucky Derby:

Date. . Race. . . . . . . . . Track. . . . Distance. . Winner

Jan. 11 Los Feliz. . . . . . . Santa Anita. . 1 mi. . . Dinard

Feb. 2 Hutcheson Stakes. . . . Gulfstream . . 7 f. . . Fly So

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Free

Feb. 10 Santa Vicente Stakes. . Santa Anita. . 7 f. . . Olympio

Feb. 23 Fountain of Youth Stakes Gulfstream. . 1 1/16 mi. Fly So

. . . . ... . . . . . . .. . . . . .... ..... . .. . . ... Free

March 3 Louisiana Derby. . . . . Fair Grounds. 1 1/16 mi. Richman

March 3 San Rafael Stakes. . . . Santa Anita. . 1 mi. . . Dinard

March 9 Sausalito Stakes. . . . .Golden Gate. .1 1/16 mi. Olympio

March 16 Florida Derby. . . . . .Gulfstream... 1 1/8 mi. . Fly So Free

March 17 Tesio Stakes. . . . . . Pimlico. . .. 1 1/16 mi.. Tong Po

March 17 San Felipe Stakes. . . .Santa Anita. .1 1/16 mi.. Sea

. . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . ... ... .. .. . . .. Cadet

March 23 Bay Shore Stakes. . . . Aqueduct. .. .. 7 f. . . Stately

.. .. . . ... . . .. . .. . . . . . .. . . .. ... . .... . Wager

March 30 Jim Beam Stakes. . . . .Turfway. . .. 1 1/8 mi. . Hansel

March 30 Rebel Stakes. . .. . . .Oaklawn. .. . 1 1/16 mi.. Quintana

March 30 Comely Stakes-f. . . . .Aqueduct. . . 1 mi. . . Meadow

. . .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Star

April 6 Gotham Stakes. . . . . . Aqueduct. . . . 1 mi.. .. Kyle's Our

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... . Man

April 6 Santa Anita Derby. . . . Santa Anita. . .1 1/8 mi. . Dinard

April 6 Preview Stakes. . . . . Gulfstream. ... 1 1/8 mi. . Shoot To Kill April 13 Blue Grass Stakes. . . .Keeneland. . . 1 1/8 mi.. . Strike

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . . .. .. .. .. .. . . .. .. theGold

April 13 Garden State Stakes. .. Garden State. . 1 1/8 mi.. . Tank

April 13 California Derby. . . ..Golden Gate. . 1 1/8 mi.. . Green

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... ... .. Alligator

April 20 Arkansas Derby. . . . ..Oaklawn . . . . 1 1/8 mi.

April 20 Wood Memorial. . . . . .Aqueduct. . . . 1 1/8 mi.

April 21 Lexington Stakes. .. . .Keeneland. .. . 1 1/16 mi.

April 27 Derby Trial. . . . . . .Churchill Downs. 1 mi.

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