Apply Even Pressure

What’s that gushing sound? It’s the sound of a bleeding and mortally wounded Triple Crown series. Has anybody at the NTRA got a clue or a tourniquet? With his announcement that Street Sense has, in effect, completed his spring campaign and will skip the Belmont and plan for the fall, Nafzger has disappointed many and dealt another blow to the Belmont Stakes. As Carl said before. “What’s the point?” and today you got the answer, there is no point of running a mile and half in June. Especially if it might compromise your chances of winning the Breeders Cup Classic in October. While it seems as if Nafzger is willing to hand off the three-year old championship to Curlin in the short term. He hopes that a win in the Travers and a win or good showing in the Breeders Cup would cancel out Curlin’s championship hopes (provided he wins the Belmont). It’s a huge, unconventional gamble and evidence of a new paradigm where all that really matters is that Classic win and the Breeders Cup Classic. The Triple Crown series has no inherent value of its own; it no longer matters.

Einstein Wouldn't Bet on Her

In 1905 Einstein (the human not the horse) was still working in that patent office, Mata Hari who was the Madonna of her age was gaining fame as an exotic dancer and Tanya became only the second and last filly to win the Belmont Stakes.

Can Rags to Riches do what Genuine Risk and Winning Colors could not, win the Belmont? In the 102 years since Tanya, a total of only nine other fillies have tried and failed to pull it off.

If you're like me your hoping that the betting public starts feeling sorry for Todd (AKA Mr. Zero) and gets all soft and mushy over seeing his fine, but alas overmatched filly in the Belmont. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rags to Riches Belmont Stakes Odds at 5-1 or less. But you know Einstein said "There's a sucker born every minute" and I am betting 50,000 suckers show up at Belmont. If Rags to Riches goes in the Belmont, I'll be betting against her and I'd bet Einstein (the human and the horse) would bet against her too.

Buddha Has Left the Building

The slots take per machine is way down at Gulfstream Park, which must mean its summer time in Florida. The snowbirds have all left for points north and taken their cars and money with them. Hurricane season is just around the corner; I love Florida in the off-season, the roads and beaches are uncrowded and it’s easy to get a reservation at the best restaurants.

Things will be slow here at Not to the Swift while I take a break from offering my unsolicited opinions on everything racing related and recline Buddha-like under a palm tree expanding my consciousness and my waistline.

If you happened upon this blog from a link on Equidaily earlier in the week please take some time to check out the other blogs in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, a loose federation of great minds empowered by push button publishing.

Broken Crown

Larry Jones, the colorful cowboy trainer with a never say die attitude is the most pleasant surprise of the Triple Crown series. A man, graceful in defeat, willing to air his hopes and dreams in public, he is an everyman, a magnet for the press and a relief from the endless coverage of Todd's miscalculations. Jones along with the emerging Curlin/Street Sense rivalry is just what the sport needs.

That being said, I can’t see Jones' rationale for bringing Hard Spun to the Belmont; it's unlikely he could win, even by attrition if Street Sense and Curlin pass. It's obvious to me and everyone else that Hard Spun is best at nine furlongs or less. After all there are some very rich races out there tailor made for Hard Spun, like the Pennsylvania and West Virginia Derbies.

As for Street Sense and Curlin, their emerging rivalry is good for the sport and I hope both camps keep that in mind and don't go into "Breeders Cup Syndrome" spending the balance of the year strategically avoiding each other; targeting big races in the fall and hoping to gain some intangible advantage. The diminishing value of the Belmont Stakes, evidenced by Carl Nafzger's "What's the point" statement is proof that the Triple Crown has more problems than just finding a horse who can win it. Why run for a million in June and risk not having a horse ready to run for five million in October. Sounds like a good reason to have a substantial bonus for winning the Triple Crown and a lesser bonus in place for winning two of the three legs. Money talks and bullshit walks and if the Triple Crown is the ultimate achievement in the sport than winning two thirds of the crown should still be worth more then a win in the Breeders Cup.

Blinded by the Light Off Andy Beyer's Head

ESPN's coverage was much better than NBC's. The minute NBC came on they pissed me off by not spending two minutes covering Flashy Bull's win in the Schaefer Handicap. Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds always has a horse running on big days with national TV coverage but rarely does he win, so Flashy Bull's win was a nice surprise and nice free advertising. Then in the winner's circle after the Preakness, the first question for Albarado wasn't even about Curlin; they chose to dwell on the negative and focus on his jump/fall off Einstein in the Dixie two races earlier. Just the kind of negativity we need after a great edition of the Preakness. A pretty poor first question for a guy who just won his first classic, I thought it was unnecessary and insensitive. It was nice to see Jess Jackson and Satish Sanan (two type A personalities) struggling for face time and getting their hands on the Woodlawn trophy. I wonder how long before these guys are suing each other for something or another.

Randy Moss said one or two things that were flat out wrong. I forget the first but the second was about Circular Quay's demeanor around the barn. In fact he was describing King of the Roxy as the Todd had described him earlier in the day. Jerry Bailey was not on air, he was at his son's graduation and to tell you the truth I did not miss him. Emmy nomination or not I don't think he adds that much value to the commentary. Gary Stevens is very stiff on camera for a guy who thought he had a movie career. I don't wonder why the roles aren't coming anymore. But the lowest point of the afternoon was Andy Beyer's interview on ESPN. They did not have a proper seat for him so it looked like they sat him on the floor for the interview. Andy spent the ten minutes justifying his fixation on Hard Spun (wrong again Andy) but all you saw was the top of that bald head of his where the hair is as scarce as Hank Goldberg's winners; the glare off his skull almost blinded me. Andy have mercy on the television audience and get a rug!

Contrary to the informed opinions of some, this is not an ordinary crop of three-year olds. Street Sense, Curlin and Hard Spun have made this a memorable Triple Crown series so far and I hope Carl Nafzger reconsiders the Belmont. As it stands now the Belmont clearly sets up for the fresh horse; I like Sightseeking or Iamawildandcrazyguy. I think Beyer is right; while Curlin is extraordinary, sooner or later he will hit the wall.

I Think We Got Nipped~ Carl Nafzger

What looked like certain victory, snatched away. Hey that is horse racing and there is no disgrace in this loss. Street Sense proved once again that he is the real thing and Curlin proved that he too is a rare individual. Best of all we can now put the nightmare of 2006 behind us.

Todd continues as President of the zero club. I think he is now 0 for 28 now; how could he be so wrong about Circular Quay?

Unfortunately they won't be setting up any memorial funds for Mending Fences who continued the sad trend of fatal injuries on big days.

The Quacks are Running Wild in Albany

The saga over how to reinvent the NYRA franchise just goes on and on. With each passing day the politicians involved look more like poorly trained surgeons trying to separate a three-headed child; bits of blood, bone and tissue are already beginning to drop to the statehouse floor as decisions are made on the fly about who will get the heart, the brain and the lungs. When they are done the NYRA that remains isn’t likely to resemble anything familiar and the life expectancies of Aqueduct and Saratoga just got much shorter. If Spitzer gets his way in ten years racing in New York might resemble Florida, with Belmont looking more like Gulfstream (oh no) and Saratoga suffering the same fate as Hialeah.

Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians were required to have malpractice insurance?

It was just my imagination, running away with me

Remember that reporter from the Miami Herald who wrote that idiotic article alleging Jose Santos was carrying a buzzer during the 2003 Derby. The article gave birth to a number of lawsuits by Funny Cide’s connections against the newspaper which took four years to work their way through the courts and were finally settled in the Miami Herald’s favor by a Florida Appeals court.

To make a long story short, the Herald apologized for the stupid story, although it took them six months to do so. Understandably upset and not satisfied with a mere apology Sackatoga and Santos sued for $48 million in damages alleging Santos under stress reacted to the allegation by over-extending Funny Cide to win the Preakness which lead to his loss of the Belmont and the Triple Crown. While the buzzer story was quite a stretch and somewhat libelous in my opinion; the rationale for losing the Belmont was frivolous and makes you question the sanity of the Sackatoga and Santos. Of course, the blame for this whole stupid episode lies at the door of the Herald which did not care whose reputation they damaged when they put the shoddy story out.

The Washington Post Done Me Wrong

Now I know why Richard Nixon hated the Washington Post. Well maybe not for the same reason I do. After all Nixon was the paranoid nut job who approved the Watergate break in. I am just an overly enthusiastic racing fan with a pendant for stealing photographs I don’t have the copyright to and posting them on my cutting edge blog. But I digress; back in 1972 the Washington Post exposed Nixon and his misdeeds (of which there were many) which eventually lead to his resignation. I haven’t committed any crimes that I am aware of (or will admit to) but none the less I am just as pissed as Nixon.

Just after the Derby, I posted a fine piece of original prose about my favorite whipping boy, Todd Pletcher. It was full of original insight as all my posts are. Well a reporter from the Washington Post, who shall remain nameless had the good sense to quote me (yeah, I am the horse racing blogger quoted). It was just a sentence (but my sentences are pretty powerful) without attributing the quote to me. Naturally I flew in to a fury.

Now I know there are one or two of you reporters out there who read my stuff, God Bless Ya. But for crying out loud when a little peon like me says something quotable give me some freaking credit!

You know, I don’t have to write this blog; yeah I could just pull the plug on this thing and starve you guys for ideas. Think about that!

The Uneventful Preakness

You don’t have to read the Bug Boys regularly to know that racing in Maryland is almost dead. Maryland My Maryland will sound more like a dirge this year then in any I recall. The nearly dearly departed with that faint pulse and labored breathing is Maryland racing embodied by the Preakness. That middle jewel of the Triple Crown that was always less exciting than the Derby and occasionally overshadowed by the Belmont, when a triple crown was on the line. Famous for those rowdy infield parties that look more like Irish wakes with each passing year.

The best we can hope for this year is an uneventful Preakness; you know one without a nosedive or a shattered leg. Of course I am hoping that Street Sense wins on Saturday and if he does, he then goes on to win the Triple Crown. Maybe then some politician in Annapolis will figure out what they are letting slip away.

The Irish Invade France

Things are once again relatively quiet stateside this weekend as all eyes turn to the Preakness a week from tomorrow.

The French equivalent of the 2000 Guineas which is called the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (translates roughly as the test of the foals) will be run at Longchamp on Sunday. The French 1000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (translates to the hen test of the fillies) will also be contested on Sunday at Longchamp. French may be tough but Gaelic is even worse as two of the top contenders have very Irish names. Irish trainer Jim Bolger has a good chance to win both events he saddles Creachadoir in the Poulains and the phenomenal filly Finsceal Beo (pictured above)in the Pouliches. Oh yeah and the usual suspects Aidan O'Brien and Saeed bin Suroor will be in town too. The story below courtesy of the Racing Post

CREACHADOIR features among 14 horses declared for Sunday's Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp.

Jim Bolger's colt has twice scored at Group Three level this term and will now aim to prove his mettle at the highest grade in the French 2,000 Guineas.

Creachadoir forms part of a comprehensive Irish challenge significantly boosted by a four-strong Aidan O'Brien raiding party.

The Ballydoyle maestro will saddle Brave Tin Soldier, Excellent Art, Astronomer Royal and Honoured Guest in the one-mile Classic.

The last-named colt has won both his starts this year and is the only supplementary entry, while O'Brien's compatriot David Wachman relies on Followmyfootsteps.

Tariq, Mastership and Thousand Words travel over from England to contest the Group 1 feature, along with Godolphin's sole entry Dijeerr.

Andre Fabre's Visionario heads just four French-trained runners.

The son of Spinning World reappeared with an encouraging third behind Chichi Creasy at the Paris venue last month.

He will be joined in the race by Spirit One, Stoneside and the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Battle Paint, who finished one place in front of Visionario last time.

BRILLIANT 1,000 Guineas winner Finsceal Beo features among the 13 horses declared for Sunday's French equivalent - the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp.

Jim Bolger's filly justified favouritism at 5-4 when slamming her Newmarket rivals by two and a half lengths and more in record time last weekend.

While she is sure to be a warm order to bag her second Classic in the space of a week, the daughter of Mr Greeley will face another strong field in Paris.

Alain de Royer Dupre's Darjina puts her unbeaten record on the line along with the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Peace Dream, who created a lasting impression at the track in March.
The five other French-trained rivals are Galaxie Des Sables, I Should Care, Zut Alors, Fairy Dress andIron Lips.

Jeremy Noseda has declared Sander Camillo along with Rahiyah, while John Gosden relies on twice-raced maiden Costume.

Bicoastal and Sesmen will also make the trek across the English Channel for the Group 1 showdown.

The Sheepshead Bay Sheeplechase

I thought they ran this race at Aqueduct? Looks like Todd Pletcher trains number five !

Your Average Kentucky Derby Winner

Is there such a thing? For the most part Derby winners are extraordinary horses and for some the exertions of preparing and winning the classic takes it toll; injury and retirement soon follow. Is Street Sense your average Kentucky Derby winner, you know a horse that was more lucky than talented on Derby day. If I had to, I could name three horses that in my opinion were more lucky than talented on that first Saturday in May and Street Sense would not be one of them. Most would agree that Giacomo makes the list and while he placed in the other classics he only managed one more win in the Grade two San Diego Handicap during the balance of his career. Lil E Tee would also fall into that average category finishing fifth in the Preakness skipping the Belmont then developing bone chips. At age four he took the Grade two Razorback Handicap and that was all she wrote. Lastly Gato del Sol (pictured above) who managed to take only the Cabrillo at 4 and the Caballero at 6, by modern standards they would probably be Grade threes today.

While Hard Spun’s connections entertain the idea of turning the tables on Street Sense, the odds are against them. In the last twenty years only one horse who was second in the Derby has managed to win the Preakness, ironically that was Summer Squall who beat Unbridled in 1990. But for Hard Spun, whose trainer holds out hope that the surface and Pino’s experience at Pimlico will make the difference, Jones should remember that in a field of eight or ten horses and without any traffic to navigate and with Hard Spun clearly in his sights Street Sense will have an easier job to do at Pimlico than the one he just completed at Churchill.

Your Average Coupon-Clipping Horse Player

I made a pilgrimage down to the new Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino about a week ago, enticed by two coupons in the local newspaper worth $25 each in slot play bucks. So along with my Dad,who needed an evening out, we got in the car and made the thirty minute drive down to the facility that was promised to save horse racing in Pennsylvania.

The first thing a horse player would notice about the new racino is that the banner over the front door declaring this to be the home of Smarty Jones has been removed and with it any resemblance that Philadelphia Park used to be a racetrack. Don’t get me wrong this is not a bad thing; Philadelphia Park was one of those utilitarian structures that from the outside looked more like an ugly corrugated metal box that could be mistaken for an airplane hanger if you did not look too closely.

I don’t lament what they have done with the building and in truth as racinos go I like Philly Park much better than Gulfstream Park. Even though the horse players have been herded into some small places, it’s only a few days a year when crowding becomes an issue. I rarely ever see more than 1500 people there even on a Saturday and it’s still more comfortable than Gulfstream Park for the average horse player.

At the player rewards desk I redeemed the coupons gave Dad his slot voucher and went off to the cashier to cash in my voucher, with my free money in hand I headed up to the fifth floor where the simulcasting is and played the ponies with my free slot money. I lost about ten bucks and used the balance to buy beer and hot dogs for the Dad and me after he had managed to lose his twenty five free slot bucks at the slots (big surprise).

Yes, a free night out for this average horse player and all at the slot players’ expense. To top my evening off, walking through the casino I found $100 on the floor that had fallen out of someone’s pocket. All in all a profitable evening, now every day at work I scour the local paper for those free coupons, Dad can always use an evening out.

The Green Monkey isn’t the only monkey on Todd’s back

They say it is lonely at the top and I would guess Todd must feel pretty lonely back at the barn this Monday morning as he looks down the shed row to see his five Derby starters back in their stalls without the roses and the unraced $16 million dollar mistake munching on hay not far away. With great expectations come great disappointment and as the entire racing world watched in disbelief, the air was sucked out of Todd’s world on Saturday afternoon when Street Sense blew by. Can Todd catch his breath? The bigger question is can his clients like Tabor and Sanan get their confidence in Pletcher back. Like it or not Todd is now the poster boy on how not to prepare for the Derby and I suspect his rich clients have figured that out.

Percentages work for you and against you and there is no denying that hitting the board only three times in nineteen attempts speaks volumes. One has to believe that under another trainer horses like More Than Ready, Trippi, Graeme Hall, Balto Star, Pollard’s Vision, Flower Alley, Bandini, Any Given Saturday, Circular Quay and Scat Daddy might have fared better; they couldn’t have fared any worse.

Todd, Can We Talk ?

OK so you’re 0 for 19. Yeah maybe there’s something about your training methods that keeps you from getting what everybody thinks you should have, a Derby win. And now you’re going all cerebral on us and you’re going to skip running the gang of five in the Preakness. This is the exactly the opposite of what you should do. Throw your tried and true methods out the window because they don’t work in the Triple Crown. Take a chance and run them, they are good horses. They can’t be tired because you never run them . . . eight week layoff, five week layoff. Todd training up to a race may work for you most of the time but it’s time to try a new approach and run them. You know that’s what D Wayne would do, he would run them. Stop thinking and start running, remember Commendable and Editor’s Note and grow some balls and maybe you’ll win one.

Thank You Street Sense Part II

Thanks to the kind owners of Birdbirdistheword who allowed me to visit with their fine colt back in February I got to spend a morning at Palm Meadows with Birdbird, Kenny McPeek and his crew. For me it was a morning on the Kentucky Derby trail and a thrill I won't forget. As fate would have it, things would not work out for Birdbird but by chance I got an opportunity to wander over to the barn next store where Street Sense was stabled. As luck would have it, I got to meet Street Sense who. it appears, wasn't that thrilled to meet me. Yet I was thrilled to meet him.

The following are my few moments with Street Sense. I thanked him for that wonderful run in the Breeders Cup. A run he duplicated today, just like you'd expect from a great horse. Today a lot of people know what a great horse he is.

The Juvenile Jinx, Can Street Sense Overcome The Odds?

Is there really a Juvenile Jinx?

If you look at the following chart, you will see a graphical representation of the total number of live foals registered by the Jockey Club for the last 120 years (since the year 2000 the annual number of foals has averaged @37,000 so the information for this decade will be very close to the 1990s). You don’t need to be a statistician to figure out that the odds of winning the Derby or even getting into the field for that matter are approaching the astronomical. Between 1980 and 1999 breeders produced more foals that all the foals produced between 1920 and 1979. What looks like a jinx is really just the inability of one horse to overcome the mounting odds against him (her).

Additionally today's three-year olds have to compete with modern breeding strategies that produce 200 foals by Giant's Causeway or Fusaichi Pegasus in any given crop. Nowadays a three-year old also must contend with top runners from around the world who also covet the American Classics. Throw in the fact that we are racing a frailer animal than we did say 30 years ago, when we had three Triple Crown winners and the Triple Crown is as tough a challenge as it was 60 years ago. These numbers make me think we may never see another Triple Crown winner.

Can Street Sense overcome the Juvenile Jinx? Arguably his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile can be considered one of the best performances in the history of the race. I put it right up there with Arazi’s win in 1991. Arazi’s sweeping move around the turn at Churchill was awesome. Trevor Denman’s very poor call distracted many from what was an incredible performance by Street Sense.

Chasing Barbaro

Has anyone actually seen this documentary yet? I know it was preempted by Alan’s beloved Rangers back on April 29th and it was supposed to be on CNBC last night at 9PM but when I tuned in they had a poker tournament on in its place, further proof of what a good job poker has done at reinvesting itself. According to the Bloodhorse it will be broadcast at 8PM tonight on NBC. As we all know horse racing is not much of a draw on TV anyway (remember the ratings for last year's Breeders Cup) and apparently no one cares if anyone sees it or they would have aired it prior to the Derby and not on the slowest night of the week for television, sorry Barbaro how soon they all forget.

I am not going to bore you with the details of my derby bets only to say that I bet what I call the Breeders Cup Reprise Superfecta since all four finshers are back. I also bet $2 to win on Tiago because of his biorhythm, although he’s really overbet and getting a lot more press attention than he deserves in my opinion. A steady stream of misinformation continues to flow from all connections; all you hear is that every horse is doing great. What are the odds of that? I just don’t believe Paul Reddam when he says he thinks Liquidity will outperform Great Hunter; just a little misinformation to benefit his odds I would say.

Cockney Rebel Wins the 2000 Guineas at 25-1

Two furlongs out Cockney Rebel strikes the front to win the 2000 Guineas by 2 lengths in a huge upset under Olivier Peslier. Vital Equine was second, Dutch Art close for third over Duke of Marmalade.

1st (3) Cockney Rebel 25-1 2nd (23) Vital Equine 33-1 3rd (8) Dutch Art 14-1

2000 Guineas: Diamond Tycoon Has 250 Owners

Here's a great story in the Racing Post about one of the Guineas runners.

Over the years, many have competed in major races under the banner of ‘The People's Horse' but few can be more accurately worthy of the title than Diamond Tycoon, who races for 250 enthusiasts who invested £320 apiece for their involvement.

A coachload of members of the syndicate, which is organised by the Racegoers Club, visited Manton a few hours before Diamond Tycoon - who is leased for the season from James Hanly - entered 2,000 Guineas calculations with a stunning performance in a Newbury maiden, where he made all and clocked a time quicker than the Spring Cup on the same card.

As Jamie Spencer returned to unsaddle, he mentioned to trainer Brian Meehan, who was walking alongside, that he thought he was back on a Ballydoyle Classic contender.

Meehan said on Friday: ”Jamie also made the point the colt has had experience of the undulations of the Rowley Mile, having finished a good second on his debut last autumn, and he handled the dip without a bother.

“The horse appreciates good, fast ground and hopefully that's what he'll get. “I'm very happy with the two-stall draw, and while some people are reckoning the field may split in two, perhaps even three, I think they'll come up the middle in one bunch.”

After Newbury, Meehan sensibly waited a few days before finally committing Diamond Tycoon to the Classic.

”I just wanted to see how he'd taken the race. He's fine, and worked very well on Monday. He goes there with every chance.”

Around 150 of the syndicate organised by the Racegoers Club will be at Newmarket, and the majority of them will be required to pay to get in.

”We held a ballot to determine who would receive the half-a-dozen free owner passes, and 20 at half-price,” said organiser Paul Smith.

He added: “We're excited because the colt would appear to have such a good chance. The office telephone has been red hot all week.

“The Racegoers Club has been operating for 40 years, but this is our first Classic entry, let alone a runner.”

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee ~ Teofilo Out of Guineas

5-2 favorite Teofilo was withdrawn from Saturday's 2000 Guineas yesterday. A reoccurance of a knee injury may also jeopardize a run in the Epsom Derby next month.

Favoritism for the Guineas now falls to Adagio whose my recent win was in the Craven stakes at Newmarket.

Will A Solomon Step Forward ?

Here we are with 48 hours to go until the Derby and the impasse between TrackNet and TVG goes on, an appeal by a number of major horsemen’s groups to find a temporary settlement for the good of the sport appears to have fallen on deaf ears. I would not expect someone from Magna to step forward and play the role of a biblical Solomon here and display some wisdom and do what is right for the sport. Magna has never had the good of the sport incorporated into their business plan.

This Solomon should come from Churchill Downs(CDI). Churchill can’t be totally oblivious to their custodial duties for the Kentucky Derby as an American institution, even if those duties are not detailed in their articles of incorporation.

Two Bad

Curlin is the biggest question mark in this Derby. Just how good is he? Is he the next Barbaro or Smarty Jones; there’s even a chance he may be the next Seattle Slew but there’s just as good a chance that he will wind up the next Trippi or Sensitive Prince. Two minutes after the gate opens on Saturday we will know.

For the first time in his brief career Curlin will face adversity and there is no education better than overcoming adversity. Breaking from the extreme inside does not help his chances, no matter what kind of brave face his connections put on. Albarado will have to use him early to get position, he will not have a choice; Albarado could even find himself on the lead if Teuflesberg or Stormello don't make the lead easily and a speed duel would then ensue. For Curlin his chances of outrunning Apollo’s ghost will be decided in the first quarter mile. Add to that burden, that the last horses to win from the two post were Affirmed and Bold Forbes against much smaller fields. The one ray of historical hope for Curlin is that Cannonade did win from the two post against a field of 23 in 1974, so it can be done but that was 33 years ago and Cannonade came into Derby with over 20 lifetime starts. If Curlin can pass these tests he may very well be the next Seattle Slew.

What If Todd Was A Horse ?

Todd Pletcher’s record in the Kentucky Derby is 14-0-1-1. What if you were asked to handicap a race where strangely the horses have records that closely resemble some real life trainers. Which horse would you bet?

First we have a horse called Blame the Surface, who is known around the barn by the nickname BS, this is his first start. He could have made his first start months ago but his trainer keeps moving from track to track looking for a surface he likes. When he finds that surface he works Blame the Surface way too fast and then has to scratch him. Blame The Surface’s lifetime record is 0-0-0-0-.

Next we have a horse called Grumpy Cide. Grumpy Cide was slow maturing and his trainer took his time with him. Grumpy Cide’s trainer only places him where he thinks he can win and this strategy has paid off. Grumpy Cide’s lifetime record is 2-1-0-0.

Next is Unbridled Carl, this colt’s trainer keeps a very small stable so he can give the individualized care his horses need. In order to prepare Unbridled Carl for this race his trainer has been stabled at the track for over a month where the colt has shown an affinity for the surface. Unbridled Carl like Grumpy Cide is only placed where his trainer thinks he can win. His lifetime record is 2-1-0-0.

Then we have I Shot the Sheriffs whose trainer is well respected although his training techniques are unconventional. I Shot the Sheriffs works are slow and the press tends to ignore him because he does not put in snappy works like Blame the Surface does. Regardless I Shot the Sheriffs is unbeaten having won at first asking at 50-1. His lifetime record is 1-1-0-0.

Lastly we have a horse called Todd P. This is an expensive, well bred colt with a silver mane. The press is always writing stories about Todd P’s trainer who runs a mega-stable of 200 expensive horses like Todd P. Todd P, the horse, has a quiet disposition that hides a very competitive spirit. Todd P always attracts a lot of money when he races because of his trainer’s high percentages. But when it comes to actually winning races Todd P can never get the job done. His lifetime record is 14-0-1-1

Which horse would you bet on?

Ray Kerrison's Amnesia

In his column today, Say Goodbye to the Derby as we know it, Ray Kerrison of the New York Post unloads both barrels at modern training techniques, synthetic surfaces, drugs and modern breeding practices. There isn’t much new in the article to this fan, Kerrison recycles topics that we bloggers have been talking about for a long time. It seems to me that Kerrison's memory is starting to fail as he paints a very dark picture of the modern thoroughbred that in my opinion ignores recent history.

Modern Derby horses have no foundation under them because they can't take the heat. They are so fragile in wind and limb, their genes so crippled by a quarter century of drug abuse, that only a few can endure the rigors of a campaign to cope with a gut-busting marathon like the Derby.

How does Kerrison define modern? After all six horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in the last ten years. Yes they all failed in the Belmont but it’s a disingenuous to describe the breed as crippled as a whole and unable to endure; after all Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and Funny Cide all went on to win important races after the triple crown campaign.

Kerrsion also totally misunderstands the reason for the popularity of polytrack.

That's why modern horses need a kinder, slower, safer running surface like Polytrack. They can't hack the old dirt track.

It’s not unsoundness of the breed that is driving the change; it’s the inherent unsafe, unpredictable and inconsistent nature of current surfaces that is driving the change. Kerrison seems to have forgotten that what is good for the horse is good for the industry.

What Kerrison is right about is that these fresh horses probably will not stand up to the Triple Crown grind. What are the chances that should Tiago or Curlin win, that they could go on to win the Belmont as a sixth or seventh career start? I am not sure of the statistics but I don’t recall any horse ever winning the Belmont as their sixth start.

Horsemen try to tell you that there is a new concept in training - fresh is best. Chances are that an underdone, unseasoned, unhurried specimen will win Saturday's Derby. And if he does, what odds will you give me that he will be around at the end of the year?

The Triple Crown is now further complicated by the ill-conceived new gimmicks like the Yum bonus for beating Barbaro’s winning margin in the Derby. This new bonus effectively front loads the Triple Crown and will serve to decrease interest in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Something that is not good for racing in my mind.