10/29/2007 1:29PM

BC Figs, Birthday Horse

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How many horses handled the sloppy main track or soft turf course and ran their races Saturday at Monmouth? The chart below, which compares the Beyer Speed Figure earned by BC Day runners to their most recent Beyer, shows only 20 of 77 comparable horses matching or exceeding their most recent effort.

I haven't listed a "difference" for horses who did not finish or were virtually eased (I used a Beyer of 25 as a cutoff), and I'm not going to try to make comparisons involving horses whose last race was in Europe. In that latter group -- this was the first time in nine years that the Euros failed win a single race -- it's probably fair to say that almost all ran below their typical level of foreign performance, which would make the total percentage even worse.

I'm not sure what the number should be. Obviously the high level of competition is going to takes its toll: Almost everyone is emerging from a 1-2-3 finish in a less talented field, and many horses will be unable to keep up and duplicate their previous efforts. Even so, 20 of 77 (26 percent) seems awfully low, indicative of many horses simply turning in non-efforts because of the footing, and borne out by the huge gaps from front to back.

The race that really looks weird in this comparison is the Sprint, where every single runner went backwards off his previous race. My first thought was that the figure was too low; it could certainly be arbitrarily raised, given that it was the last sprint of the day and the first in nearly three hours, a period during which the track was hit with more rain. On the other hand, it stands to reason that even the super-impressive winner, Midnight Lute, fell way off his huge Forego figure given that he was outrun early and appeared to be struggling to handle the track until he hit his best stride. The horses who ran fourth or worse all clearly didn't fire their best shots, so it comes down to whether you believe Idiot Proof and Talent Search matched their most recent performances in defeat or regressed a few points while running second and third. Watching both of them labor through the stetch, I can buy the latter point of view and thus the seemingly low figure.

--A horseplayer should always make a bet on the biggest race that's being run on his birthday. This was easy for me two years ago when October 29 was Breeders' Cup Day at Belmont, but a bit more challenging today, when the richest Thoroughbred event in North America is not the $5 million BC Classic but two divisions of the $50,000 Michigan Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Great Lakes Downs. Even so, I took a look and I'll make a token play for karma's sake on Cheries Challenge. She's the 2-1 ML favorite but looks more like 2-5 to me. The 2-year-old daughter of Meadow Prayer (Meadowlake) and Charles Dance (De Jeau) owns the three highest Beyers in the field (55-44-42), has run second and third to the absent queen of the division (Equitysdebutante) and comes off a forgiveably tiring 2nd at 3-5 on a track so muddy and tiring the winner needed 1:16.53 to negotiate six furlongs.

Michigan
Great Lakes is scheduled to close, for the season and quite possibly for good, next week. There's talk of a proposed new track, a $140 million facility called Pinnacle Downs, opening in the eastern part of the state, but for now this would be the end of thoroughbred racing in the Wolverine State. There is plenty of melancholy and acrimony surrounding the likely closure of the track, which has supported a largely insular population of Michigan-breds and horsemen since 1999.

Looking through the Great Lakes past performances for today, I found a remarkable pair of stablemate racemares entered in the nightcap, a $4k N2Y claimer: Double Hat Trick, a 10-year-old daughter of Sefapiano (Fappiano), and Overnight Angel, a 9-year-old by Service Stripe (Deputy Minister), have made 86 and 85 career starts respectively, while spending their entire careers in the barn of owner-trainer Shane Spiess, who also bred Overnight Angel.

Both have left the Spiess outfit briefly for forays south to Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park each year, but have made it through a combined 171 career starts without ever being claimed away.

[Update 6:42 pm: I'm the new King of the Wolverine 3-10 shots: Cheries Challenge won by eight lengths but at substantially less than her 2-1 ML odds, paying a whopping $2.60. Turns out she can handle slow tracks after all: Time for the seven furlongs was 1:32.24. I don't think my $50 win bet tilted the odds. Now, what to do with the $15 profit?]

--At the risk of overstaying my welcome, I'm going to keep this blog going past my initial promise to do so "at least until the Breeders' Cup." Thank you all for your kind comments, encouragement and participation.

garth More than 1 year ago
Crist stretching out the blog to two turns (and more)? Best news I've heard in a while.
Dan Baedeker More than 1 year ago
Steve - Could you post your comparative Beyer figures fot the intial three BC races run on Friday? It would be interesting to see Corinthian's very impressive performance in that perspective. Thanks!
jeff_tatus More than 1 year ago
Steve... Please keep the blog going. If not, take the time to write another book on exotic handicapping. I say this because I was less than 7 feet in overall length from hitting the pick 6 on BC day on a $96 ticket. I lost the 1st leg by less than a length using just the 3/4. I won the 2nd with a single with the 2 horse. I singled the 13 in leg 3 and lost by a neck. I singled the 12 in leg 4 and lost by a neck. I had 2/6/7 in leg 5. I had 1/2/3/4 in leg 6. Too make matters worse, my great friend and mentor returned home to his house to discuss our "tough beats" and found his wife on the kitchen floor with a broken hip. It really put things in perspective for me when this happened and I ask all of you to send out a breath of warm light and karma for my friend's wife of 50 years, Beryl.
Clinton More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, I know it's not BC related but the Big A has quite the nice pk6 carryover for Thursdays card. Just wondering if you have any insights.
caulks More than 1 year ago
Steve, I enjoyed reading and seeing your mom Judith Crist reviewing films when I was growing up and am really enjoying your insight about horse racing , including money management and betting strategies which your blog gives us. Please continue with the family tradition of entertaining us. Thanks.
Giacomo Joe More than 1 year ago
Steve, Do you feel that the new parameters of pre-race testing had anything to do with the slow performances of the possible contenders who did not finish ITM in the World Thoroughbred Championships?
Tom Gordon More than 1 year ago
Steve, This style of writing is a pleasure to read mostly due to your experience & credibility. I look forward to your ideas & comments on a daily basis and it would be a shame to discontinue. See what you've got yourself into!
Dan Baedeker More than 1 year ago
Happy Birthday Steve, and thanks for the very interesting Beyer speed figure comparisons. They obviously lack the scientific precision they attempt to achieve, but they are instructive in indicating which horses ran their races and which did not. Monmouth did everything they could to put on a good show, but this is obviously the last time they will ever get a Breeders Cup. To me, the most amazing achievement of the day was by Smart Strike. This less-than-champion runner has sired the winners of the two most valuable races in the world: English Channel and Curlin. Smart Strike must now become the most sought-after stallion in the world. As a life-long pedigree fanatic, it is fascinating to me that all 11 of the Breeders Cup winners carry the genes of Mr. Prospector, and 10 of the 11 also carry the genes of Northern Dancer. This combo seems to have become a "sine qua non" of racing success. It has limited the scope of the breed, but does not seem as of yet to have led to Hapsburg-like genetic disasters. As you also mention, the ownership of champion horses now seems to devolve upon shady sindicates and shady veterinary/trainer practices competing with zillionaire Dubaians. Sport franchises (and art patronage) have always involved such unsavory practices. We who love the game and the horses must simply remember that these magnificent animals do not know who they are owned by, and give their best for our edification and enjoyment. Keep up the interesting blogging!
Seeking the Gold More than 1 year ago
Steve, I have been to the last 7 breeders cups. If the NTRA wants to make this the super bowl of racing, shouldn't they have these races on a rotating basis of say belmont and santa anita. These small tracks don't have the parking, throw in these temporary seats which cost a bundle to the true horseplayer and some (although I found monmouth to be adequete) don't have enough SAM machines. Any thoughts on this? Thanks.
matt smith More than 1 year ago
thank goodness the blog goes on---i just hope curlin can go to dubai next year and win the world cup---he is true superstar of the sport and may just turn things around for all tru fans of the game