05/22/2011 11:09AM

Day After Preakness Thoughts


I don’t know about you, but after a race is won by a horse I didn’t like, I always go back and look at that horse’s past performances to see if there was something I overlooked. Beyond torturing oneself, the intention of this exercise, which is as old as handicapping itself, is to reduce future oversights.

I freely admit that I did not like Shackleford before Saturday’s Preakness, and after a post race review, I have to admit that I still couldn’t have liked him. In his stakes debut three starts back, Shackleford was beaten more than 23 lengths in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Two starts back, Shackleford lost in the Florida Derby, albeit narrowly, despite lucking into a mostly uncontested lead through reasonable fractions on a speed-favoring track. And last time out in the Kentucky Derby, Shackleford set an uncontested pace that was historically slow, and he still faded to fourth.

In the Preakness, Shackleford was sure to encounter a much stronger early pace that figured to deny him the early lead. If Shackleford couldn’t win the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby with easy trips, how could he win the Preakness with a much tougher trip?

Well, Shackleford did win the Preakness – courageously, I might add – despite encountering that much tougher trip. Whether I can make him after the race is irrelevant. Shackleford deserves full credit for what he did Saturday.

As for Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who was my pick in the Preakness, I thought he was the winner when he split horses and moved out late on the far turn, and I again though he was the winner in mid stretch. Given the late kick Animal Kingdom displayed in the Derby, I thought he had Shackleford totally measured at that point. But Animal Kingdom didn’t get there, and in the end, he simply wasn’t good enough Saturday.

Now it is on to the Belmont Stakes, a race I feel empathy for because its fate is never of its own making. The strength, the meaning, of the Belmont is always totally reliant on what happens in the Derby and Preakness. The Belmont can be positively electric when a Triple Crown shot is at stake, which has happened 11 times since Affirmed became the last to sweep the Triple Crown in 1978. But the Belmont can also, frankly, be a dud. That is especially true in years when separate Derby and Preakness winners don’t show up, as was the case in three recent and very forgettable Belmonts : Commendable in 2000, Jazil in 2006, and Drosselmeyer last year.

It is early yet, but it is heartening that the connections of both Shackleford and Animal Kingdom are seriously considering going in the Belmont. It is interesting to note that separate winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness meeting in the Belmont doesn’t happen all that frequently. The last time it happened was in 2005, when Preakness winner Afleet Alex romped, crushing Derby winner Giacomo. Before that, you have to go back to 1994, when Preakness winner Tabasco Cat scored over Derby winner Go For Gin. The year before that, in a Belmont won by Colonial Affair, Derby winner Sea Hero finished seventh and Preakness winner Prairie Bayou broke down. But the 1991 Belmont was something of a blueprint for separate Derby and Preakness winners meeting in the last leg of the Triple Crown. Preakness winner Hansel and Derby winner Strike the Gold met in that one, with Hansel holding on by a desperate head over the fast closing Strike the Gold.

CORRECTION - It has been pointed out to me that I overlooked the meeting in the 2001 Belmont between Derby winner Monarchos and Preakness winner Point Given, a Belmont dominated, of course, by Point Given. Mea culpa.

RoMo More than 1 year ago
. .. Mooch .. I almost started that post .. with "Track Fairness" is an Oxymoron .. lol .. We've likely left finger-prints on some of the same apron fences.. I asked my mom the other day .. "what was the first big race I attended (she is almost 94) ..? She thought for a minute .. "we went to see "Bymeabond" run in the Santa Anita Derby in 1945 .. I was 2 months pregnant with you at the time.. We where down by the finish line at the rail.. So .. I guess I got that sound of horses thundering down the stretch in my head .. before I was born .. lol .. .. Being "observant" (that and eavesdropping .. if your at the track) .. is as good a handicapping tool .. as learning to read the "form" when you 8 years old ..?
Mooch More than 1 year ago
RoMo - You go back further than I do. I'm a Foal of '56...Your right about being observant at the track. At a young age I saw both sides of this game. On one end I learned from some of the best and most respected Handicappers because I kept my mouth closed and my ears open. I also saw the other side of this seemingly glamorous sport by hanging out on the backstretch as a Kid. I made a lot of friends there. But of the Jockeys and Trainers I knew there were no Whittinghams and Shoemakers of the sport. (I think Rudy Campus was the most known rider I knew lol) It was kind of like boxing as for every Success there were countless struggling to get by. I remember one time as a kid, in the stands while watching the post parade I overheard a couple of guys discussing their complex theories about a horse not having a lead pony. I didn't say anything but since I knew the Trainer of that horse the hard truth was he didn't have the $15 fee for one. I was nervous the first time my Dad made me go the to window and place a bet all by myself. I was only about 10. It was at Agua Caliente. I thought I would get in trouble for doing it but the Teller (as well as my Dad) got a big kick out of it. The first bet I ever made with a Bookie was on Majestic Prince, but it was when he ran in the Belmont lol.
CRP More than 1 year ago
Did anyone notice the unusually high amount of fractiousness before the Preakness? I know that many horses had reason to be nervous as they were outclassed and had never been in that environment before, but that was unusually high. Personally I think much of it has to do with the horses being saddled in the infield. As an owner I know its often settling for the horses post saddling to have a few quiet minutes before the post parade. Seems like in the Preakness they get ramped up and afforded no time to settle. I know its tradition, but we saw what happened with Barbaro. It will never be known if his coming out of the gate before the start contributed to his injury. I'd rather not see a repeat of that and find out for certain.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
CRP - There are a lot of exceptions to this rule, but speed horses generally are a lot more fractious than others. Even more so with Young speed horses.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
To Mike Watchmaker and the DRF Staff; I noticed we are turning the comments section into a forum, and as a result are a lot of times off topic to the article. I was wondering why the DRF Website doesn't have a Forum as it seems like it would be beneficial to the site, not to mention how helpful it would be to us Handicappers and Race Fans. Networking is helpful to everyone in any business and it would sure be nice to have a Forum here. What do you think?
lexaJ More than 1 year ago
Shakelford's the deserving winner! Everyone discounted the fact that it's a speed favoring track, let's admit it. Remember First Dude, the stubborn front runner of the last preakness? Wonder who trained that "Dude"? Hehehe...
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Mooch , I hear you. If you aren't comfortable playing a race then skip it . If its The Derby okay throw a token bet at it. Speaking of lone speed Get Stormy was my play of the day once Little Mike scratched. I had the Pretty / Animal DD & the Stormy/Animal DD . They didn't count though because I had 5 horses going on the derby end of the ticket. LOL.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
blackseabass- The Get Stormy race was bittersweet for me. All I was going to play that day was a token bet on Stormy and Nero (plus a double) and had only brought $100 with me because I was only going to bet a total of $30 anyway. Get Stormy turned into a lock after Little Mike was scratched. And after the late scratch I realized I didn't have near the dough on me that I needed. So it was $90 to win on Stormy and a $10 double to Nero. After the scratch I reevaluated and picked the whole Exacta, Tri and Super, but didn't play none of it because I didn't want to take away from my win bet (damn). If Mike had been scratched the night before I would of been prepared, but everyone else would of been too and Stormy would of paid about half as much. I left after that race because of an electrical emergency at my Brother-in-law's house and didn't even get to watch the Derby. I kept thinking of the nice score I could of made. While rewiring a main panel outside in the rain my wife had called to give me the results of the Derby. I was glad to hear the good news about the #19 horse winning the Derby putting about another $700 in my pocket only to find out later she made a mistake on the number. Since she didn't even know I bet Nero what were the odds that out of all the numbers she picked #19 as the mistake. I love this game, I hate this game.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Vic , why doesn't it count ? Is it better to make a cold exacta on the 8th & 10th finishers ? The way they keep score in this game is bottom line. Even the dumbest players can pick winners. Everybody at the track can pick winners. What seperates the Winners from the backbone of the industry (the losers) is who knows how to bet. If a pick 4 player hits the pick 4 with a 5x all x 3x 2 it doesn't count ? He doesn't get to cash the ticket ? Player A has a 4 or 5 horse box or a duel part wheel in the derby using 7 horses. He cashes and makes a grand. Player B makes a Cold exacta and runs 2nd & 1st close but no cigar. He loses a buck. Player B is the better player ? If a player can get 50% winning Derbies by using 20% of the horses at generally long odds even for the favorites then he is a risk loving greedy gambler if he doesn't just LOCK UP a profit 50% of the time. Why get it down to 4 Win contenders in 5 minutes and then spend days trying to seperate those 4 then GAMBLING on just one of them hoping you get lucky ? Thats a risk loving losers mentality at work.The time is better spent figuring out how you are going to bet those 4 contenders so you make money if ANY of them win. To be a winner avoid losing. Thats my top advice to anybody that wants to be something other than just another one of the good handicapping donaters.
Chris More than 1 year ago
Mike, How come no one is mentioning the outside bius at Churchill on Derby Day? Shackleford was on the worst part of the racetrack coming for home. On the derby undercard, when Hilda's Passion, at 3-5 odds, got swooped up like she was standing still after moderate fractions and being on the inside of the track it was clear the outside bius was there. Pace is secondary when pitted against a true racetrack bius. More evidence with the two races run after the derby when Borel took 3-2 favorite, Streakin Mohican to the dead rail and did not even hit the board. That horse came back to win with ease this past Friday night at Hollywood. The very last race on Derby day was an Asmussen Maiden who closed on the far outside. Maybe all this explains Shackleford's great performance in the Preakness? Andy Beyer used to say a "true racetrack bius" can stop a train. Anybody else agree or disagree with my analysis?
Mooch More than 1 year ago
Chris - You as well as Andy Beyer are both absolutely correct. In the Derby I am not sure if it was that the inside was playing slow or the whole track was playing slow but either way wouldn't be good for the front runners. Even if and when you win against the bias at around 3-1 you really deserved about 6-1, so it is never a bargain. When looking at the Form it is hard to tell in the PP's when there was a bias. Speed figures are of little use as are Track variants. The Kentucky Derby track Variant was listed at a low 06, that's not because the track was real fast but because the quality of the card that day in my opinion was second only to the Breeders Cup.
higgy More than 1 year ago
At first glance I considered Shackleford due to Pimlico favoring speed. after I read the form (for about the 20th time) and analyzed the race. I figured that Flashpoint would soften Shackelford up and set up for a closer. I didnt like Animal Kingdom thinking that he might bounce and the price would be too short. 95% of the time I try to beat the favorite. When I saw the fractions I thought Dialed In (my 2nd choice) would reel them all in. My first choice was Mucho Macho Man who lost a shoe (again) so I will give him a mulligan. Anyway i guess the lesson is go with your first choice.
RoMo More than 1 year ago
. . . .. Well Mike if you want to get into "track fairness" .. note the two 8.5f race 4 and 10 ..? The difference the race 10 was a second slower.. The difference .. might be found in the watering of the track after the 7th race..? If you can get a tape of that .. watch how much water is coming out of the truck, watering the inside lanes .. and how much water is coming out of the truck watering the out side lanes ..?
Mooch More than 1 year ago
RoMo - Track fairness is somewhat of an "Oxymoron". I had the "Paranoid Tag" put on me about 25 years ago (at Santa Anita) when I first noticed the changing of the track from day to day, and later at Del Mar changing between races. I pulled up for a while and when I came back I would only play Turf Races. It wasn't until a few years later that people started to see it and complain about it. I am glad that others see it now but it doesn't seem to matter because it keeps happening. Think of how much power the Track Superintendent has.
Steven Spry More than 1 year ago
Yes Mike i understand what your saying about Shackleford but when i looked at the race, really how many horses looked better on paper going into the Preakness, as in the Derby it seemed like almost all horses had more negatives than positives or at least more question marks. So to me at least looking at what all the horses had done going into the Preakness , Shackleford was worthy of being one of the top 3 or 4.