03/02/2009 4:25PM

Early Quality

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A year ago, the question two months (or even a week) before the Kentucky Derby was whether there was much real talent among the 3-year-old males, and it turned out to be the right question: Besides Big Brown, there just wasn't much. Imagine the 2008 Triple Crown without him.

This year there's talent aplenty out there. We've already had three Derby preps at a mile or more earn triple-digit Beyers, something that didn't happen last year until Big Brown's Florida Derby, and this past weekend's Fountain of Youth and Sham Stakes both featured fast and dominant victories by colts of obvious high quality. The races came up 15 and 17 Beyer points higher than last year's editions. Historical comparisons aren't ideal, since the Fountain of Youth was cut back to a one-turn mile this year and the Sham has only been run nine times, the last two on synthetic tracks, but these were two of the fastest performances in the recent history of both races:

The Fountain of Youth was a weird race beyond the winner's clearly excellent performance. The fractions, if correct, were really strange: A first quarter in 23.84, followed by a second quarter in 21.72. All the first quarters in one-mile races at Gulfstream are slow, due to a very short run-up that makes it practically a standing start, but this one was still tepid given the apparent abundance of early speed in the race. Little of that speed materialized, however, and quick horses such as Notonthesamepage, Taqarub and This One's For Phil barely showed up, completely failing to stretch out beyond six furlongs.

Quality Road showed he was something special winning his debut in a sparkling performance that earned an extraordinary debut Beyer of 101 last Nov. 29. His stock went down after he lost his second start (done in by an early duel, possibly a dead rail, and by whatever made him come out of the race with a cough), but he rebounded strongly on Saturday. The gaudy 113 Beyer looks completely legit -- the track was consistent throughout the day, there were no split variants, the other one-mile race on the card was more than three full seconds slower, and the day's five other dirt races earned fittingly modest figures of between 67 and 89.

Same deal at Santa Anita, where The Pamplemousse got a 103 on a straightforward day for the figs, making it one of the highest Derby-prep figures in the brief history of synthetic racetracks. He was the only stakes-winner in the field and there wasn't much behind him, but he set honest fractions and kept on cruising, getting the nine furlongs in a fine 1:47.86.

So the question this year is a more traditional one 60 days from the Derby: We've clearly got some nice colts, but how far will they go? Quality Road struck his handlers so clearly as a sprinter/miler that they didn't even nominate to the Triple Crown, though of course they will now supplement him. When he makes his next start, in either the Florida Derby March 28 or the Wood a week later, he'll be trying two turns and nine furlongs for the first time in just his fourth career start. The Pamplemousse has passed both of those tests but not against good horses.

There was another huge effort by a 3-year-old this weekend: Affirmatif's nine-length romp on the Gulfstream turf in his career debut. The Unbidled's Song-Wichitoz (Affirmed) colt actually ran a scoche faster (mile in 1:34.27 vs. 1:34.31) than his 5-year-old stablemate Twilight Meteor did winning the G3 Canadian Turf Stakes earlier on the card in his 17th career start. Both winners (both Pletcher trainees)  got a Beyer of 98, as high a career-debut-on-the-grass figure as I can remember ever seeing. It was certainly the most impressive grass debut by a young American horse since Big Brown got a 91 winning his first start, at Saratoga in 2007.

rawlawltd More than 1 year ago
In their lust to create carryovers, the NYRA has, I think, today outsmarted themselves. They have buried the MSW with 6 firsters in the middle where it prevents all but the huge syndicates from entering the contest. I can't go 8 or 9 deep there without seeing the board. Good luck to those who can.
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Unless arcstats bets for a full-time living, I really don't understand his attitude to betting the Kentucky Derby. He prefers to bet the next race offering "a dynamite payoff". I am not a betting pro, I bet simply to top up my pension, but isn't horseracing/betting supposed to be fun? How can the next low-level claiming race at Tampa possibly be as exciting as America's biggest race? If you place a few futures bets, you have got several horses to follow over the Winter, rather than over the next few minutes. Regards - Bernard
rawlawltd More than 1 year ago
matt says: Please, along with anyone else, go to the following page to read my editorial that was in the DRF recently. Interested????? www.drf.com/news/article/101679.html
slh More than 1 year ago
curious - does anyone know why NYRA does not allow their signal to be used on betting sites like Youbet and Twinspires is there any chance this is going to change - nyra must be losing a ton of dough eliminating video
ponyman More than 1 year ago
Gotham--Ponyman Plays Today win--HYNESFIELD exacta--hynesfield/mrfantasy-box tri/par whl----5-6 with5-6with1-8
mpm101 More than 1 year ago
Steve, A minor pet peeve with the PP's. At tracks which have converted from dirt, especially SA which has converted twice, is it possible to just post the lifetime record on only the current surface. A horse may be 10-5,2,0 but all placings were on the old surface and they really dislike the current one with no in the money finishes. It makes it a bit misleading as you don't include turf at the track for dirt races, and vice versa, while also the older races can go too far back to know the real record from just the print edition. Thanks. mpm101
arcstats More than 1 year ago
plod_boy_senior - thanks for the response. Are the results similar at CD, AQU main, or BEL (I can't think of any other dirt tracks running 8F 1-turn races)? On a separate note, how comical is this Dutrow quote in Jay Privman's article today concerning Frankel: "I think he's the best horseman I've ever met," Dutrow said. "I met Charlie Whittingham, and I met Laz Barrera, but I wasn't in the same zone I am now". Obviously Dutrow didn't think much of his dad, Richard Dutrow Sr, who ironically was viewed by many Maryland horeplayers in the 1970's in a similar fashion to how today's Richard Dutrow is viewed - only different protocols were involved. Also, isn't it sweet that IEAH stables and Dutrow have made up from last summer, to the point where Dutrow is calling the shots on the recent 5.7 million purchase, Stardom Bound? Please.......
peewee More than 1 year ago
Hey - a little late to be posting this . In welcoming your new hound to the family and a search for a suitable name, I thought of the all too familiar DUKE. Sure its been used, but in regards to his lineage to Rooster Cogburn and John Wayne (the Duke) it might be an appropriate moniker.
Justin More than 1 year ago
I think Beethoven deserves one more shot, he was all washed in the paddock and looked even worse in the post parade he was climbing for the first 3/8's and still came on the finish 3rd to what is now the bar for Beyer numbers in this Triple Crown. Quality Road, if not for that dead rail 2nd time out, would be 3 for 3. I wouldn't give up and Beethoven just yet, but if JOJO moves up, and he he's got plenty of up..LOOK OUT!!!.
Flip Dawson More than 1 year ago
Flipper is back, after a joint decision with the Clerk of the Course at the Big A. I was in some hot water (not sure if it was water) in one of the watering holes, and was asked to have a meeting with the head of Security. At the meeting, it was a dual agreement that I was to go to retention area for three weeks, and have no visitors (other than trainers of horses boarding there. ) It sure is dark in there at night, and when nobody was around, I tried to figure out what all the neighs meant in horse language. So, I was out today, Wed. 4th, just in time to welcome my wife and daughter home from Fort Lauderdale. I am working on a few angles now on firsters, and can offer this grain of wisdom--if playing FTS's, play only on these tracks--Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Tampa Bay, and Gulfstream. Tampa Bay was very appealing, especially a win price of $92.80.The small tracks had inferior FTS, since they were shuffled down and found their true level. My percentage was 35.29 per cent, with 6 winners from 17 starts. Prices were all high, with SA at $64.30, and I had one winner at FG, one at Tampa, and three at the Gulf. It all started off one Sat., about 3 weeks ago, when Robert Landry took his mount first to the finish line, paying an even $48.00 at Gulf. Landry is a favorite of mine at Woodbine, especially on the turf, sometimes with Roger Attfield. Will try to slip a few winners in here when time permits. Glad to be back.