Overly Simplistic Slot Players and Obsessive-Compulsive Horse Players

Reader Lenny makes some very astute observations in response to my post about the small field sizes at Delaware Park and the lack of excitement those small fields generate for a horse player (like myself) with a preference for full fields and long shots who pay $12.00 to show. You can read Lenny’s comments here.

Speaking of Delaware Park, Equidaily has a link to an article about how slot competition from PA is affecting business in Delaware and what the Racinos are doing to keep their slot loving minions happy and uninclined to wander over the state line to the new Harrahs in Chester PA. Delaware surveys its customers regularly and it seems increasing numbers of their slots players are beginning to think the slots payouts are getting smaller and infrequent. Slots players being a rather simplistic bunch who think take out only applies to Chinese food, have begun to grumble that maybe the slots in Delaware are rigged. Call it sour grapes or whatever a loser is never happy but this is just further proof that slots players are overly simplistic dummies who will never become crossover bettors. Being a horse player requires some common sense, analytical skill and an attention span of at least 25 minutes. These are qualities that the average slot player does not have.

The down side to having a modicum of common sense, analytical skill and an attention span is that horse players have a tendency to be obsessive compulsive. No where is this tendency more apparent these days than in the constant reporting about Kentucky Derby workout minutia in the press and on the blogs. I guess in this era of two-race campaigns these workouts take on more significance but all this ink about Hard Spun in 57 1/5 with the fractions for every furlong published are going to mean squat come Saturday. There is really no way to logically sort out what these workouts mean relative to each other and nothing can take the place of these horses getting out there on the track and competing. You know I hate to give equine Svengali Todd any credit but I think Master Todd summed it up best when he said.

You can make a case for horses, or you can make a case against them,” he said. “There is not a right way to do any of this. You just lead the horses over there, and every year one of them comes back a winner. You hope someday it will be your horse.”

Yippee, Delaware Park Opens: Home of the Six Horse Field

I hate playing races with really small fields, you can’t decent odds, even the worst horse in the race goes off at 10-1, exactas pay $8.00 and most show prices come in under $3.00. Small fields suck and that’s why I refuse to play the always-chalky Delaware Park. The average field size at Delaware yesterday on opening day was 5.75 and today it’s 6.75. There was a time there when California was the king of the five horse field but at least in California you got some really good horses in the field. At Delaware you usually have to choose between mid-level claimers from Maryland and West Virginia or down on their luck refugees from Aqueduct at a juicy 5-1 or less. When you can't decide which 2-1 shot to bet just wager on the one with Ramon Dominguez aboard. I thought slots were supposed to boost purses, bring in better horses and generate full fields. That is certainly not the case at Delaware Park, were combined handle was $995,000 on the opening day.

The Return of Red Rocks, Dylan Thomas and Yeats Set To Run

Breeders Cup Turf Champion Red Rocks returned to his winning ways after a dismal performance in Dubai last month.

Dylan Thomas faces seven rivals on his return to Group 1 company in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp on Sunday. Mashaahed and Red Rocks were entered in the Ganay but opted for the Betfred Gordon Richards Stakes, as did Notnowcato, winner of the Juddmonte International last season. Dylan Thomas could face around eight horses in the first European Group 1 of the season. Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old won both the Irish Derby and Champion Stakes last year but has not raced since disappointing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont last October.

Yeats, winner of last year's Ascot Gold Cup, returns to action in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in Ireland on Sunday. This will be his first start since finishing a disappointing seventh in the Melbourne Cup last November.

The Showdown at Sha Tin

This will be a relatively quiet weekend for racing here in the states but there are two big races in Hong Kong on Sunday, the QEII Cup and the Champions Mile. The QEII Cup features a showdown between Dubai Sheema winner and Hong Kong hero, Vengeance of Rain and Dubai Duty Free winner, Admire Moon. Also in the field is Seihali.

The Champions Mile features Bullish Luck who was third in the Dubai World Cup and is going for his third consecutive Champions Mile his main competition seems to be Linngari.

The HKJC has an excellent website featuring these races.

Courtesy of The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Audemars Piguet QEII Cup/Champions Mile - Tracknotes, Friday, April 27

27 April 2007

It only took a few seconds of Friday morning trackwork for trainer David Ferraris to dispel any lingering concerns he held as regards the wellbeing of his top Audemars Piguet QEII Cup chance, Vengeance Of Rain.

The 2005 winner of this race and recent Dubai Sheema Classic champion impressed in a final half-mile workout, finishing in 22.6 seconds under jockey Anthony Delpech.

"It was a beautiful piece of work and he's 100 per cent, no question about it," Ferraris said.

"A few horses in the stable have been under a cloud but they are downstairs in the yard and he's away from them on the upper level. But that piece of work told me that he's A1 and I'm very happy."

Likely Cup favourite Admire Moon, the brilliant victor of the Dubai Duty Free last month, worked easily for one lap of the dirt track.

"He is still in good order after his gallop yesterday. We brought his feed from Japan, and he is eating up very well. We are all set for the race," his work rider Masanobu Baba said.

The only overseas challenger to work on turf was APQEII Cup raider Seihali with big race jockey Johnny Murtagh in the saddle. The consistent eight-year-old, accompanied as usual by a galloping companion, completed the last 400m in a highly respectable 22 seconds.

Former Irish champion Murtagh, who has ridden Seihali in his last five starts, said: "That was good even though he is not a flashy worker in the morning, and he pulled up very fresh which is another positive sign. He's never been over Sunday's trip before and I am quite confident he'll stay the trip, but I can't deny it is a very hot race. Seihali will need to be at his best to get into the very big money."

Dhruba Selvaratnam remains upbeat: "I am very hopeful that he will finish in the first four," added the Sri Lankan-born trainer.

Jockey Kevin Shea exercised both Sushisan for the APQEII Cup and his Champions Mile contender, Linngari.

He said: "Linngari feels as good as he has been in six months. The other horse [Sushisan] has got to prove it but he also feels at his peak. They are both big runners on Sunday."

Weichong Marwing also was aboard both his big race rides on Sunday. Oracle West (APQEII Cup) and Kapil (Champions Mile) both did some quick work on the all-weather track and Marwing said of the Mike de Kock-trained pair: "Both are in good shape. They paced well within themselves."

Viva Pataca cantered on the sand partnered by Michael Kinane who later said: "He's in good shape. He bounced around there and he's fresh and well."

Kinane also became acquainted with his Champions Mile ride Able One on the sand.

Content Providers Battle While The Racing Fan Suffers

As a racing fan I have grown accustomed to hunting and gathering racing content where I can find it. The industry is fragmented as we all know and the idea of one stop shopping for the racing ran is a foreign concept for content providers. So the new battle between TrackNet and Youbet about content distribution is just another example of how these content providers almost purposely alienate racing fans. The loser here appears to be Youbet and their customers of which I am one. The Philadelphia market is a good example how a racing fan must be a hunter gatherer. I could get HRTV and TVG if I subscribed to a satellite provider but my cable provider carries my main content provider, Philadelphia Park Phonebet TV on basic cable service. I supplement their missing content by subscribing to Youbet. So for me paying for satellite doesn’t make much sense.

Due to some longstanding squabble, Phonebet TV does not offer the NYRA signal so if I want to see a race at Aqueduct I had to view it on Youbet and bet on it via Phonebet. OK I can deal with that and I have endured this arrangement for years. I don’t like watching races on a PC but as a race fan you do what you have to do.

About two weeks ago I noticed I could not view the live video from Aqueduct on Youbet, at first I assumed I had an issue with my media player and downloaded the latest version, that did not solve the problem. So I got on the phone with Youbet's customer service was told that signals from most of their big tracks like Aqueduct and Keeneland were being stolen by wireless pirates who were redirecting the signal to their own advantage. To stop this piracy certain tracks had put some kind of block on their signal. Did I get an email from Youbet making me aware of this, of course not? I guess as a paying customer I was not entitled to know something that effected my service but I am used to crappy service from Youbetand I accepted this explanation at face value. I was then told if I reconfigured my media player I could get the signal. To make a long story short, after an hour and a half of downloading addition files and reconfiguring my media player over the phone with a techie from Youbet I still could not view video from Aqueduct. At this point I was told a supervisor with more technical skill would have to help me and since it was Sunday afternoon this savvy supervisor was would not be available until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest. It’s Tuesday and I am still waiting on the call from that supervisor.

Between the infighting and the crappy service, I wonder how long content providers think racing fans will tolerate this kind of treatment. What is the use of trying to generate a new fan base when you treat your existing fan base this way?

WARNING: Derby Fever Can Cause A Philosophical Tizzy

Winning a Kentucky Derby prep in April can undermine even the most firmly-held philosophy; witness the words of Greg Fox, trainer of Slew’s Tizzy after the Coolmore Lexington.

“Our philosophy is that we don’t run horses back in
two weeks, this horse took a big step
forward today. You generally don't see a horse take
two big steps forward in two weeks."

The next morning, probably after a one-sided chat with owner Joseph LaCombe, Greg made no mention of his philosophical objections:

"I am thrilled to say he is doing excellent," "I believe he actually moved forward from the experience.”

In twelve hours Fox went from philosophical certainties to what appears to me to be hedging or maybe this is an outright flip flop? Owner LaCombe has succumbed to Derby Fever before when he ran HOTY Favorite Trick in the 1998 Derby although it was obvious to all that the horse could not handle the distance. Now he has a horse peaking at the right time who looks like he can go the distance, never mind that the Coolmore Lexington produces mostly also rans in the Derby with two notable exceptions of late, Charismatic and Proud Citizen

On the Derby trail, philosophical beliefs almost always take a back seat to graded earnings reality.

English 101

Just in case you forgot the spring triple crown races are fast approaching across the pond too. The English Triple Crown gets underway on May 5 with the running of the 1600 meter (about a mile) 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Followed by the Epsom Derby at Epsom and the St Leger at Doncaster. Holy Roman Emperor was considered a contender for the series until he was abrupted sent off to stud to replace George Washington. The Craven Stakes (Group 3) is major prep for the 2000 Guineas and was run at Newmarket on April 19th, the winner was Adagio who is now 3-1 second choice behind undefeated Teofilo.

Curlin's Inferno

At the moment, it appears Curlin will be the betting favorite for the Derby. I expect that he will join a long and distinguished list of undefeated horses that incinerated the betting public’s cash on Derby Day. The Derby is about heroes and the memories of Smarty Jones and Barbaro are still fresh and I expect some bettors are likely to burden Curlin even more by expecting him to emulate the ill-fated undefeated Barbaro thereby driving his odds down even further. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curlin at 7-2 or less in a twenty horse field.

Twenty horses have entered the Derby undefeated but only six have exited the race that way. Among the vanquished were Indian Charlie at 5-2 in 1998 after four straight wins, Mr. Frisky at 9.-5 in 1990 after 16 wins, Private Terms in 1988 with 7 wins and who can forget the biggest upset of all, Native Dancer at 3-5 in 1953, undefeated in 11 starts prior to the Derby If you factor in that Curlin ran his first race at seven furlongs just 10 weeks ago and will be stretching out to ten furlongs in just 12 weeks and the odds of succeeding get even longer.

This Zavata Never Ran At Saratoga . . .

Most racing fans remember Zavata as a promising two-year old owned by Tabor and Smith who won the Saratoga Special in 2002.

I doubt it is a coincidence but Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan is President and CEO of a company named Zavata. Now we all know that racing is a rich man's game but did you ever wonder where Satish Sanan gets all the money he uses to buy horses like Curlin and Any Given Saturday. These days Satish Sanan's main business activities involve Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) with Zavata which outsources health care jobs to India.

I am happy to report that the equine Zavata has managed to stay employed stateside at Walmac where he entertains for a $7500 fee. Chances are if Curlin or Any Given Saturday needs an X-ray it will be read at Rood and Riddle in Kentucky but your local X-ray technician may not have a job if Satish has his way.

The Polyandy Principle: Keeneland's Surface is Ugly, Messy and Wrong

To hear Andy Beyer tell it, there’s something strange or even freaky going on at Keeneland these days. Andy thinks this icon of American racing is mutating in front of our very eyes. With the help of some occasionally green little men whose aberrant riding tactics have produced a freakish spectacle of speed horses restrained against their will and then forced to run like hell for the last quarter mile. In Andy’s mind this produces a mutant form of racing where you have some really slow times and exciting blanket finishes. In Andy’s mind blanket finished are bad for racing and the betting public. Go figure?

Andy whines on about how fans were cheated out of a definitive Derby prep by the surface and pace scenario in the Blue Grass. I say Andy, wake up its 2007, the Blue Grass has not been a definitive Derby prep for years. The Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby have been the definitive Derby preps for the last decade. As a fan I did not feel cheated, I witnessed one of the most exciting Blue Grass Stakes I can remember.

Andy is also worried that Keeneland’s surface will negatively impact the breeding industry which has invested billions of dollars to produce speed horses. Yes Andy, billions of dollars spent to breed anatomical accidents waiting to happen who breakdown with a regularity that is frightening and ugly to watch.

What’s ugly messy and wrong here is Andy’s point of view. .

352-1: Not By A Long Shot

That’s the number of pages in T.D Thornton’s fine new book, Not By A Long Shot and a good estimation of the odds that a blogger with a very short attention span, like me, would finish it.

I am not much of a book reader and maybe that shows but when my complimentary copy of Not By A Long Shot arrived at my door I was flattered the Mr. Thornton thought enough to send me a copy and a little intimidated because I knew some of my fellow bloggers would also be getting a copy and writing about it. The TBA is home to some tome reading titans with broad intellects (one of them lives near Pittsburgh). But when it comes to literature, I find that a copy of the Daily Racing Form or Gourmet magazine more than satisfies my needs. On rare occasion when I am at my intellectual best, I like to read the labels on vodka bottles (did you know Grey Goose is made in France?).

So literary criticism is not my forte, as a literary critic, I could be compared to Homer Simpson.

So I will make my first and last book review short and sweet. I doubt there is a racing fan alive who would not enjoy this book with its colorful and recognizable characters and Thornton's well paced narrative. If you love horse racing you'll love Not by A Long Shot.

Put the Poly Prep Winners on the Bottom of Your Exotics

Horse racing is about differences of opinion (heated ones sometimes) but for the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby fans will have to take sides in a feud that is not likely to be settled this year or anytime soon and may even get more heated next year when the Santa Anita Derby becomes a poly prep. How will the horses who won the poly preps fare in the Derby? Can they carry their form on to what will be a faster, harder surface at Churchill? There almost no history to go on, prior to this year only the ill-fated With A City had won a major poly prep and he died prior to the Derby. This year’s winner Lane’s End winner, Hard Spun likes the surface as much as he likes to dodge the competition; not encouraging in my opinion. Great Hunter and Dominican can compete on both surfaces and may hold the key to how much weight to give a poly winner just look at their non-poly form and the answer becomes obvious, have them on the bottom of your exotic tickets.

Curlin continues to do his Smarty Jones imitation down at Oaklawn and he may be special but a ten length win over Storm In May hasn’t done much to change my mind. The most recent unbeaten horse to win the Kentucky Derby was Barbaro last year, then Smarty Jones in 2004; Seattle Slew in 1977; Majestic Prince in 1969; Morvich in 1922; and the great filly Regret in 1915. As you can see Curlin has a ways to go to be included in that company. Yes times may be changing but without a two year old campaign I won’t bet Curlin. Apollo may have pulled it off in 1882 but that statistic speaks for itself.

Time Warp

Polytrack certainly produces some of the strangest outcomes one can imagine. It can almost warp your point of view until conventional assumptions can be thrown out the window. I thought time warps were the fodder of science fiction not horse racing, or are they? Yesterday’s Blue Grass Stakes was one part major Derby prep and one part a science fiction time warp. A half run in just under 52 seconds, six furlongs in 1:16. Under normal conditions in a Grade 1, horses setting that kind of pace are going to be there at the end while the stalkers and closers struggle to overcome the time warped pace. Ah but not on polytrack, the pace setters hold on and the stalkers and closers manage to make up the ground to produce a thrilling yet head scratching result. I love it.

Edgar Prado bent and folded the pace to his design like a piece of origami, displaying his trademark riding mastery. Thanks to Prado, Teuflesberg and Zanjero were there to gut it out at the end while even more strangely Dominican and Street Sense managed to overcome the fractions that Prado put out there to make for one exciting finish. The stretch run was more like the Time Warp dance sequence from Rocky Horror Picture Show than anything else I can describe, you know that lyric.

It’s just a bit of a mind flip
You're there in the time slip
And nothing can ever be the same
Time meant nothing
Never would again

It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Let’s do the Time Warp again

With the best three-year old colts battling it out; Zanjero bore out, Street Sense ducked in and Great Hunter took the worst of it. One can safely say Street Sense struggles with polytrack while Domincan relishes it as much as Riff Raff loves to dance the Time Warp

Unlike other observers Street Sense’s performance gives me great confidence as we head into the Derby. He’s a champion because he fights on regardless of the circumstances. He may not like polytrack (I think his stretch run proved that) but he will gut it out with anybody who can get to him and that mental attitude will serve him well in the Derby where I surmise they won't be dancing the time warp again.

To Hell With Handicapping . . .

I know there are a lot of you cerebral types out there who think you can figure out this game. I am not one of you. I listen to the handicapping experts blither on about speed and pace numbers and then I proceed blindly and merrily on my way (did I mention I hit a $500 superfecta for a dime a few months ago). To me one handicapping approach is as good as the next.

If I put my mind to it I could pick winners reading tea leaves or pig entrails. All that being said, between now and the Derby I will endeavor to predict the Derby winner by a more unconventional method, his biorhythm.

Biorhythms are an offshoot of astrology and track the inherent cycles which regulate memory, ambition, coordination, endurance, temperament, emotions, and much more. There are three fundamental biorhythm cycles. Each biorhythm cycle has a particular function, and a particular life cycle. The physical cycle regulates hand-eye coordination, strength, endurance, stamina. The emotional cycle regulates emotions, feelings and mood. The intellectual cycle regulates mental reaction, alertness, sense of direction and judgment.

Yes it's Derby horoscope time here at Not to the Swift!

Let's first look at Street Sense's biorhythm for November 6, 2006, the date of the Breeders Cup Juvenile. The highlighted black line is 11/06/06.

Street Sense was at an emotional peak on Breeders Cup day while his physical and intellectual cycles were on the upswing. Voila, a 10 length win, had the Breeders Cup been a week later at the apex of his physical cycle obviously he would have won by thirty.

Now let's look at Street Sense's chart for May 5, 2007 Derby Day.

OH NO ! ! Both his physical and emotional cycles will be near a nadir but fortunately his strong intellectual cycle will compensate for the other two. What does this mean? I'll interpret it for you, Street Sense will not win by ten lengths on Derby Day and he will have to overcome adversity to break the Breeders Cup Jinx.

The Story of Hard Spun and the Three Surfaces

Once upon a time, there was a racehorse named Hard Spun
Hard Spun liked to run and he liked to win
From Philly Park to Delaware and the Fair Grounds
Hard Spun would run until he won

But then one day at Oaklawn Park
On a track that was too slick
Hard Spun was not so quick
“I do not like a track that’s slick”
“I do not like to lose a lick “

So Hard Spun and his trainer man
Set out for better footing in a trailer van

At Churchill Downs
Hard Spun frowns

At Pimlico
A definite no

Up at Belmont Park
Hard Spun’s mood was dark

By now the Triple Crown was run
Street Sense won it and had lots of fun

Back at the barn the trainer man was blue
About the Hard Spun we never knew.

Will There Be A Quorum For The Blue Grass Stakes?

In law, a quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative body necessary to conduct the business of that group. In racing no such rule exists but when the connections of leading Kentucky Derby contenders defect from a Derby prep like the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, what does it mean? I'll tell you what it means, fear. Just a week ago the Blue Grass was shaping up as a meeting of the three-year old titans. Street Sense, Great Hunter, Any Given Saturday and Hardspun were all aiming for the race and it should have been the kind of race that the sport sorely needs and the fans would love. Four talented thoroughbreds willing to put the rubber to the road (yes that's a polytrack pun!) to determine who should go on to the Derby and who should think twice. But sportsmanship has taken a back seat to a strategy of avoidance where horsemen hope to win the Derby by avoiding the competition and hoping that bad luck or traffic issues keep the best horse from running his best race on Derby day. Yes it seems sportsmanship is in short supply, as major contenders opt out in search of softer spots for graded earnings and lose sleep over surface concerns. Will Hard Spun's connections really know if he likes the surface at Churchill after a gallop? Maybe. Wouldn't running against Street Sense and Great Hunter have given them more insight into their colt's abilities? Will it matter if he likes the surface and can't get within ten lengths of Street Sense? And what did Any Given Saturday gain by running in the Wood Memorial, third place money in a $750,000 Grade 1. Chances are he could have earned that and we'd know more about his abilities if he had run at Keeneland this Saturday.

Maybe I Should Get A Trainers License?

It seems blinkers on and some cotton balls stuffed in his ears(allegedly) is all it took to make a Grade 1 winner out of Nobiz. Of course I could have told Barclay Tagg that after the Champagne last fall. Maybe I should get a trainers license? Cornelio used him to get a forward position in the first quarter mile then, ungracefully I might add, throttled him back on the backstretch and still had plenty of horse to dispose of the pesky and overrated Any Given Saturday (sorry Alan). Sightseeing did his Jazil imitation to get second and I am surprised to hear that Shug is considering the Preakness for him; I‘d be targeting the Belmont after that run. Maybe I should get that trainers license and if I did, I would advise Jack K and the Sackatoga Boys to pack it up with Funny Cide, I for one get no pleasure from seeing this great horse running when his heart just isn't in it.

Cowtown Cat continues to earn back his $1.5 million dollar purchase price in the most unimpressive way. Seems like a solid Grade 2 type to me. He was the best of a average bunch, got an easy lead and did what was expected off him. Reporting for Duty on the other hand looks like a horse who is improving at the right time and if you look at his past performances, he has been right there with the likes of Chelokee and Ketchikan.

Tiago’s win the Santa Anita Derby confirmed what most already suspected, this was one crappy edition of the West Coast’s premiere Derby, Too bad Tiago peaked one race too early, as we all know Giacomo and his kin cannot string two wins in a row together. King of the Roxy disposed of that "can't go the distance thing", that was a pleasant surprise. But overall Todd’s army doesn’t look quite so invincible on this Sunday morning

The Graded Earnings Curse ?

I did a little research on the graded earnings statistics for the last five Derbies and noticed a thing or two worth mentioning. While there may well be a Juvenile Champion curse and winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile sometimes leads to the most graded earnings, that is not usually the case. There may also be a Most Graded Earnings curse, from 2002 through 2006 no horse with a million dollars or more in graded earnings going into the derby has managed to win.

The list of million dollar earners reads like a who’s who of top colts who did not deliver on Derby Day.

• Brother Derek - $1.114,980
• Afleet Alex - $1,245,000
• Essence of Dubai - $1,518,000
• Harlan’s Holiday - $1,286,064
• Johannesburg - $1,006,489
• Empire Maker - $1,072,000
• Peace Rules - $1,035,000
• Wilko - $1,004,515

On the other end of the spectrum having average earning or just enough graded earnings to get in the gate is by no means an indicator of performance. Funny Cide had $303,000 in earnings and War Emblem just $300,000. In 2005 Giacomo was 18th in graded earnings with $184,000 and Closing Argument was 19th but Pro Prado who was 32nd on the list got in the gate with $105,000, he finished ahead of bigger earners like Friends Lake, Castledale and Pollards Vision.

In 2003 Empire Maker scared away most of the competition yet Ten Cents A Shine got in the gate with a paltry $46,240 in earnings and finished a respectable 8th.

Pennsylvania: 1 TBA blogger for every 3,070,376 people

Yes we are certainly doing our part here in the Keystone state. Not only did we give the world Smarty Jones and Lil E Tee. We also claim the fabled Barbaro as a favorite son. The Keystone State is now home to four TBA bloggers. I'd like to offer a hearty welcome to Valerie and her blog FoolishPleasure (and thank her for the video of Foolish Pleasure's Derby win which brought memories rushing back of Bombay Duck). Welcome aboard Valerie.

CORRECTION: Turf Luck reminded me that Nellie up at The Last Filly is another PA Blogger.

Fusaichi Pegasus

I stumbled across this picture of a statue of Fusaichi Pegasus that I have never seen before. I couldn't find any more detail on it but I suspect it is in Japan.I was watching FuPeg's win in the 2000 Wood Memorial and FuPeg was a little slow to change leads too. It reminds me alot of Nobiz, take a look at FuPeg's Wood Memorial victory and see if you see the similarity.

Todd's Tactical Retreat

With the news that Circular Quay will train up to the Derby and that Any Given Saturday will turn tail and run from another confrontation with Street Sense in the Blue Grass, this blogger sees General Pletcher exposing some serious doubts about the biggest stars in his army of three-year olds. It appears Circular Quay finds a three-prep schedule taxing and will be going into the Derby off one real prep race and an eight week layoff. Meanwhile Any Given Saturday might gain some conditioning in a dog fight with Street Sense and Great Hunter but should he finish third, his graded earnings might not get him into the Derby field; a second place finish behind Nobiz in the Wood Memorial would solve his graded earnings problem. Either way this strategy is not a confidence builder. As Dwight D Eisenhower once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in a fight - it the size of the fight in the dog”

The Rise and Fall of the Breeders Cup

One thing this year’s World Cup program did was to deliver on its billing as the World Cup. The vision and deep pockets of the Maktoums have made global racing a reality that is now thriving and ironically it thrived this year at the expense of Godolphin who for the first year in my memory was unable to win an important race on the World Cup card. Kelly’s Landing and Spring At Last confirmed what everyone already knows. That when it comes to speed and shorter distances North American horses are the best. But in races like the Duty Free and Sheema Classic, North American runners like Lava Man, English Channel and Miesque's Approval confirmed that North America’s turf division is weak at best and unable to compete globally with the likes of horses from Japan and Hong Kong. Victories by Admire Moon and Vengeance of Rain confirmed that Japan and now Hong Kong are real players on the world stage and that victories last year by Utopia and Heart’s Cry were just the beginning of this Asian juggernaut. The outstanding performances of both Admire Moon and Daiwa Major reflected very well on Deep Impact and confirmed, after the fact, what an outstanding racehorse he was. Taking that line of reasoning even further one can only conclude that on the turf Rail Link, who was the missing from the World Cup card, along with Invasor must be the other best equine on the planet.

This World Cup program signaled the end of the Breeders Cup as the preeminent championships in my mind, what we saw at Nad Al Sheba was truly a world thoroughbred championship with horses from all over the world in attendance. Unlike the other so called World Thoroughbred Championship, the Breeders Cup which normally attracts only the best from North America and Europe. Those horses were proven not to be the best in the world on Saturday night. The recent spat of injuries, fatal and otherwise, at the Breeders Cup have done much to stain the series in my mind. The development of Meydan along with a World Cup purse of $10 million dollars in two years or so means that we are seeing the center of gravity in racing shift, more than slightly, from the United States, Great Britain and France to the Middle East.

What To Do When The Bird Won't Sing?

Birdbird did not give me or anybody else much reason to believe he should remain on the Derby trail after yesterday's Florida Derby. He's a better horse than what we saw yesterday. He looked washed out loading into the gate, after the break Manny Cruz managed to get over to the rail and save some ground but after that there wasn't much to be seen. The race set up just about as expected with Stormello setting an honest pace with the first quarter in 23 and the half in 46 and 3/5. When Birdbird was still last after six furlongs in 1:10, my hope melted into a pool of doubt. Down the stretch he wasn't making up much ground and managed to beat only Adore the Gold. Hey it's a tough game, full of disappointments as you all well know. I will try to contact Team Bird later today to see what is going on.