01/15/2008 3:22PM

Broken Records


The next time someone writes a book about making speed figures, last weekend's racing at Santa Anita could be Exhibit A of how raw time and track-record performances can be incredibly misleading.

El Gato Malo's mile in 1:33.37 in Saturday's San Rafael and Indian Blessing's seven furlongs in 1:19.89 in Sunday's Santa Ynez were the quickest such main-track times in Santa Anita's 74-year history. I don't think anyone's dense enough to think that this means Indian Blessing is really a faster racehorse than Spectacular Bid, who could manage only a lousy 1:20 flat back on Jan. 5, 1980, but people who don't understand how figures are made are up in arms that El Gato Malo got a Beyer Speed Figure of "only" 98 while Indian Blessing received a 91. Some go so far as to suggest a vast right-coast conspiracy to demean the achievements of California horses.

This truly isn't the case. All the races run over Santa Anita's troublesome Cushion Track last weekend were ridiculously fast, and the figures assigned to the stakes were completely straightforward, reflecting the speed of the track in all of the races. On Saturday, for example, El Gato Malo's 1:33.37 translates to a raw Beyer Figure of 146, but a variant of -48 was appropriate and necessary to bring the day's races into line. A conditioned claimer named Familiar Stranger ran six furlongs in 1:07.62, a raw figure of 141 that was properly knocked down to a 93. A 1-for-10 allowance horse named Mi Arcobaleno ran a mile and a sixteenth in 1:40.66, a raw figure of 137. If you want to give El Gato Malo a Beyer of 105 or 110, then you'd be giving Mi Arcobaleno a 96 or a 101 instead of the far more sensible 89 he received.

It was the same story on Sunday. Indian Blessing's 1:19.89 falls right into line with a Beyer of 91 when you look at the other sprint races -- older claiming fillies went 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.51, and maiden-claimers and maiden-claiming graduates went six furlongs in 1:08.36 and 1:08.09 respectively.

This doesn't mean that there isn't room for opinion that some of the weekend's winners were more or less impressive than their figures suggest. That's always the case. Indian Blessing gets extra credit for contesting the pace and hanging on; Zenyatta, who got a 93 winning the El Encino, has tremendous upside potential beyond that number since she's still green and gawky and was making only her third career start. It's possible that Air Commander and Johnny Eves ran just as well earning 94's in the San Fernando as Zappa did earning a 100 in the San Pasqual because they set much faster fractions. But there's nothing wrong or biased about the figures themselves.

--Back at Aqueduct, those two stinkin' consos didn't exactly get me out for the day Saturday and I fortunately treaded pretty lightly on Sunday, because if you'd given me seven horses in the eight-horse 7th race, my lone leave-out would have been the victorious Debater ($89). That's why we have a nice little $62.304 carry into Wednesday's festivities in Ozone Park. The pre-scratch lineup:

Race 4: OF NYB N1x 1m+70 (field of 8)
Race 5: 3F NYB N1x 6f (8)
Race 6: 3M NYB MdCl 25k 6f (11)
Race 7: OF Cl10k 6f (14)
Race 8: OM N2x 1m+70 (12)
Race 9: OM Cl30N2L 1m+70(11)

Other than Jet Setting, who's listed at 9-5 in the 5th, every ML favorite is 3-1 or higher. Get to work, and good luck.