04/07/2008 7:11PM

Colonel John 6-1, Tale of Ekati 18-1?


Were Saturday's two Grade 1 Derby preps of such wildly different quality that Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John deserved to close at 6-1 in the Derby Futures pool while Wood Memorial 1-2 finishers Tale of Ekati and War Pass closed at 18-1 and 14-1 respectively?

It's understandable that many people's first intuitive take was that Colonel John looked more like a Derby winner, rallying past eight horses to win from off the pace, while Tale of Ekati and War Pass came home slowly while looking exhausted. Still, if this were the fifth race on Thursday instead of the Derby, a lot of handicappers would consider the efforts of the first two in the Wood stronger than Colonel John's.

The two races received similarly weak final-time speed figures that were entirely straightforward on tracks that played consistently throughout the day. Colonel John's 1:48.10 translated to a Beyer speed figure of 95, the lowest in the race in 15 years. Tale of Ekati's 1:52.35 on a much slower (37 Beyer points slower) Aqueduct track earned a 93, the lowest Wood number since Beyer Figures were first published in 1991. At least the Wood, however, had an excuse for its ultimate slowness: the brutally fast early pace that unfolded because the rabbit Inner Light tried to run War Pass into the ground.

So while War Pass was being pushed to run a first quarter in 22.46 and a half in 46.07, Colonel John was loping along in 24.10 and 48.27 while 4 to 4 1/2 lengths off the lead -- over a track that was three seconds faster at a mile and an eighth. Then things flipped entirely late, with Colonel John running his last three-eighths in 35.48 on the quick Cushion Track while War Pass was laboring home in 40.94 over the loswer Aqueduct strip. And while Tale of Ekati was in a good spot early, six lengths behind that vicious opening quarter, he was within three lengths of the strong fractions thereafter and nearly as tired as War Pass, coming home in 40.42.

If the three were to meet again in four weeks going a mile and an eighth, Colonel John might well be the third choice. Handicappers would believe that earning 93's after setting or chasing unusually strong fractions is a little better than earning a 95 after a relaxed early trip. The extra furlong of the Derby, and the possibility of another strong pace, will make Colonel John a shorter price in Louisville. There's a case to be made, however, that Tale of Ekati and War Pass have room to run much better final figures under a different pace scenario, but where's Colonel John's upside?

Not many people would have predicted the Illinois Derby would come up with the fastest figure of Saturday's three Derby preps, especially with favored Denis of Cork off the board, but Recapture the Glory's front-running romp in 1:49.01 got a 102 Beyer over a track whose speed was about halfway between Santa Anita's and Aqueduct's. Of course it helped that he was entirely unmolested while walking through opening fractions of 24.17 and 48.64. Think War Pass might have won if permitted to set that kind of pace?

As for the Derby Futures, the Pool Three handle was a dismal $291,835 despite the two big Saturday races and no conflict with the Easter holiday as in other years. This is lower than the exacta pool for the first race at Aqueduct Saturday, a six-horse statebred allowance race. Will Churchill Downs continue to insist that all is well with the bet, or finally consider opening up the pool to over 400 individual betting interests?

dan c More than 1 year ago
Told you the winner of the Blue Grass would get a 91-96 beyer. Beyers on poly are a joke.
mark c More than 1 year ago
Sea hero! I remeber his derby.I cashed a ticket on him ,he paid 23dollars and change He ran first lasix on derby day....
Nooch More than 1 year ago
I agree that it's way too early to make a Derby choice. Sure, I have a couple of faves based on the fact that I've won some money on them and invested in some futures bets. The thing that I think is crazy, is how so many are willing to dismiss this group as weak, or say it's a two horse race, or totally throw out horses out of certain preps. And that goes for every recent March/April, not just 2008. I'm not really for or against artificial surfaces. Too early to tell. The discussion over the legitimacy of the race results and BSFs reminds me of the early days of BSFs and the way they eventually had to be adjusted for turf racing. It was a different surface with a different racing style. Once there was enough statistical data to make some conclusions, adjustments were made. Perhaps down the line, last weekend's 95 will closer to 100. These days, we all have an idea of how to rate horses moving between turf and dirt, off tracks and fast. Regardless, it's an added variable in the handicapping equation, and I suspect it's not going away. I assume many of you are like me, and enjoy playing the horses for more than just the gambling. Most of the fun is analyzing the PPs, race replays, debating with your friends, and playing an educated guess. If I win, great. If not, it's a learning process and a fun day at the track. Stop compaining so much about something that isn't going to change, and learn to adapt.
C More than 1 year ago
George, I couldn't have said it any better. In fact, I'd extend it to say "why live and die with only one 'Derby horse'?"
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
There's something wrong with me (besides the obvious things): Once I fall in love with a horse, I don't abandon him until he's proven he can't beat his competition. If I hadn't been smitten with Curlin, I might've picked Street Sense in the Derby. A real man picks Street Sense and says, This will be the last time he beats Curlin. But I can't do it. Having my crush beat me would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. This year, I had my Derby horse after watching an off-the-turf NW1 at Gulfstream. He's mine all mine until he proves he doesn't belong in my heart.
dan c More than 1 year ago
I believe Big Brown may be the best horse but with the pace I think it may be like Point Given. If Kent rides blind like Stevens did that day Big Brown is in trouble. If someone could tell me how he will ride into the back stretch I could tell you the winner. No One in this yrs crop are close to the 106 and this horse will move to a 110 or so. How many of these can get a 1 1/4 and a 110. Not many. Pyro reminds me of Menifee and I think he will come too late and Bridge is not proven in the derby. Colonel John I firmly believe will move way up on dirt. He is a grinder and like Curlin he will just keep grinding and has a huge shot. My sleeper is Bob Black Jack I really think he moves way up on dirt and I think he proved he can relax and lay 2nd, I just dont think hes as good or athletic as Big Brown. The one thing is there could be a bomb because the stats dont lie. When under 3 horses have run a 108 beyer going into the race only Street sense was a logical result. The rest were Sea Hero , Giacomo, etc. I love beyer numbers but I really believe they stink on synthetic tracks just like grass. The people at Beyer need to re-do whatever they do cause those numbers are not legit. Watch this sat the winner of the blue grass will get a 91-96 no matter what. Its a joke. I will make my final decision when I see Big Brown work in person at Churchill but right now I think he is by far the top animal although this yr it is not saying much. Yo Sheik, Yo Pletcher can we get some good 3 yr old please....
George Quinn More than 1 year ago
All this talk about who your derby horse is? Come on people they have not even run the Bluegrass, the Arkansas Derby, or the Lexington Stakes yet. Not to mention the two weeks leading up to and the Post Draw! I make my pick every year the night of the draw. I advise everyone to be patient. Who needs a Derby horse the first week of April? I need my Derby horse the first week of May. How bout it Steve? Help me out, please tell everyone to be patient! George in Lexington Ky.
Freddy on the Backstretch More than 1 year ago
Pyro, WP and BB. Where is the creativity? Steve, give us some interesting ideas.
SamG More than 1 year ago
Denis of Cork was not that big a surprise,his only fast race was closing from 18 lengths back into a brutally hot pace.In retrospect with just 2 early speed types in the race and one taking the blinkers off it was no surprise that they ran 1-2 but all I hit was a win bet on Recapturetheglory.I don`t believe in bounce theory but D of C`s connections do and they were expecting him to bounce which was not exactly encouraging.
SamG More than 1 year ago
When closers get up at the wire they are always visually impressive.Pyro certainly was in both his races this year but I don`t recall anyone claiming there was a bias against Fairgrounds when he only earned a 90 and 95,tho some may have thought those low.Speed figures are based on final time adjusted for the speed of the track,if the track is playing slower than usual they are adjusted up,faster they are adjusted down.They have nothing to do with fractions,early or late,or trips.It is the handicappers job to factor in such things and determine how they effected the figure if at all but they are not factored into it.All this talk of a bias is kind of silly.If there really was one the west coast guys should want it kept quiet while raking in the cash instead of acting so sensitive about it.And if there really was a bias wouldn`t west coast based horses be given low figures no matter where they run?I think Colonel John will be an underlay but if you like him don`t forget Bob Black Jack.