09/12/2010 12:33PM

A Few Thoughts


Let's chat about a few things:

*Informed Decision might have won Saturday evening's Presque Isle Downs Masters, and Gayego might have won Friday night's Presque Isle Mile, but neither performance really did much to make me change my thinking that these are two horses in decline.

Okay, Informed Decision, last year's champion female sprinter and who is now 10 for 11 on synthetic surfaces after Saturday night, bobbled a bit a few strides out of the gate and was last of 11 down the backstretch. But given the hot pace that played out in front of her, that was actually a good place to be. Sure enough, the pace melted down, the race fell apart in the stretch, and Informed Decision got up in the last two jumps to nail Dubai Majesty, who came from next to last. But really, how strong a race could this Masters have been when the 50-1 Waccamaw, who made only one unsuccessful stakes start in 17 prior outings, can be beaten only 1 1-4 lengths finishing fourth after dueling on that hot early pace?

As for Gayego, it was less than a year ago when he ranked as one of the best sprinters in the country. But after four starts this year, all losses, he looked like a shell of his former self. Yes, it is nice for him that he was finally able to get in the win column this year on Friday, and that he was able to do so in track record time. But if you watch this race, it is difficult not coming away with the feeling that Gayego's victory was more one of attrition - that he simply out-grinded his modest opponents - than a performance signalling a resurgence.

*The funny thing about turf racing is that sometimes getting in trouble can make you a more dangerous horse. Everyone who saw Saturday's Bowling Green at Belmont saw the trouble Al Khali had, and how much the best he was. Al Khali was blocked from the far turn to deep stretch, and when he finally got clear, he produced a furious late kick to get up in ample time. The point is, Al Khali being bottled up for as long as he was and unable to make a run meant that he had more in reserve to make a stronger late run when he finally did get clear. Had Al Khali had a clean trip and had been able to make a move sooner (which he probably would have given his running style), he would have had less in reserve for the late stages, meaning his late kick wouldn't have been as strong. That said, if ever a win margin was misleading, it was Al Khali's win margin of a neck in the Bowling Green. Yes, he was better than a neck the best. Much better.

*It certainly can't feel good having bone bruises in all four legs as Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver has been diagnosed with. This does cast his three performances since his Derby victory - a soundly beaten eighth in the Preakness, a tired fourth in the Haskell, and a distant 10th in the Travers - in a different light. But when Super Saver does get healthy and back to the races, there will still be a burden on him to prove that his Derby win was not a sloppy track fluke.

*I have been avoiding this for fear of angering half of the six people who read this thing. But since the whole Twirling Candy-Summer Movie-Del Mar Derby-non disqualification is a topic that just won't go away, I figured I might as well join the thousands and weigh in on it, too.

My own personal rule of thumb about disqualifications is, if a horse does something during a race that costs another horse a larger piece of the purse, then that horse should be disqualified. Certainly nothing revolutionary there, and most of the time it is fairly straightforward determining if a horse has been cost a bigger piece of the purse by the actions of another. The thing is, this instance was the exception.

Did Twirling Candy impede Summer Movie early on the backstretch in the Del Mar Derby? Yes. Did Twirling Candy's actions cost Summer Movie a bigger piece of the Del Mar Derby purse? I don't know, and no one else knows, either. The problem here is, Summer Movie gave way so badly in the stretch to finish sixth and last, and finished so far behind the fifth place finisher (almost seven lengths behind) that I couldn't in good conscience argue that Summer Movie would have earned fifth place purse money had Twirling Candy not done what he did on the backstretch. So I agree with the stewards' decision leaving Twirling Candy up. And trust me, agreeing with stewards decisions is not something I often do.

Now, some would counter by saying that Summer Movie would not have given way as badly as he did had Twirling Candy not interfered with him on the backstretch. Maybe. But that position would actually be easier to defend if Summer Movie hadn't stuck with Twirling Candy for about another half mile after the incident took place before tiring. In any case, that is total conjecture.

Some might also ask that if 6 3-4 lengths (the precise gap between Summer Movie and the fifth finisher in the Del Mar Derby) is too big a distance for a horse to make a legitimate claim to be moved up on disqualification on the basis he was cost a larger piece of the purse, then what is the right number? I don't know that there is a right number. All I know is that, in this case, I could not with my heart argue that what Twirling Candy did to Summer Movie cost the latter fifth place purse money.

Paseana More than 1 year ago
There's one thing about the Del Mar Derby situation that I find just as troubling as anything and no one seems to be talking about it. It's the perception that possibly the stewards might have considered the ownership of the horse in making their decision to leave him up. The Craig Trust is a HUGE supporter of Del Mar and has been for years. McAnally bought Candy Ride out of Argentina for the Craigs with the SOLE purpose of winning the Pacific Classic. He did his job with the most brilliant performance in the race's history. And now it appears that he might be on the verge of busting out as a sire. Even though the Del Mar Derby is a GII, and run on turf, it's still an important race for a 3yo to win, and maybe even more important to his young sire, in which I'm sure the Craig Trust still owns a considerable percentage. I'm another who didn't have any investment in the race at all, and I feel he should have come down. Heck, I talked to any number of people who did have money riding on Twirling Candy who felt the same way. One friend of mine even won the Pick 6 that day singling the horse, and even he felt that a DQ was warranted. While I have no sympathy for the bridge-jumpers....they get what they deserve for their incredible stupidity....I have to admit that I feel sorry for the people who took a fun little gamble by playing $2 on everybody to show. Heck, I've done that myself a few times in the past and even made out on it once or twice. You've got to think that if Twirling Candy had been DQ'd to last, those show mutuels would have been sizable to say the least. Anyway, we'll never know if the ownership line factored in here, but I sure hope it didn't. It would be pretty disturbing imo.
roger More than 1 year ago
Compare the DQ at Woodbine 9/5, race 3 with Twirling Candy. The stewards took down Namath and did not take down Twirling Candy. Both wrong.
mallan More than 1 year ago
Mike - count me as one of the six who read your column :) I always follow your comments and am particularly an avid fan of Weekend Warrior. I thought the Twirling Candy race was the right call as well. And, like you, I have rarely had a steward's decision please me....especially since it seems like every DQ that I have an investment in, I am the one coming down. But in this case I couldn't see how in good conscious you could take down Twirling Candy - he was so much the best. I get the letter of the rule, but that's a problem with so many things in today's world, not just racing.... what ever happened to common sense? Sometimes people are just way too picky about the letter of the rule when it's obvious what is the "right" thing to do. Maybe I'd have a different opinion if my horse had been 2nd, and soundly beaten, and I was hoping for a ruling to put my number up...but in this case it was the best call.
MIKE More than 1 year ago
I my self have been following horse racing for over 30 years, and what I saw was nothing more than a foul. You just cant let another horse be used as a back stop to keep another horse from ending up in the parking lot. Not to mention that safety to horse and jockey was not taken in to account. What was taken into account was how much money was being placed on the winners show. Now here is ware the surf meets the turf question. Are the stewards liable for there actions. I think Delmar stewards should be sued for several million dollars for interfering in a outcome of a race. It was clear what happened in the race and it was clear what happened after the race. THE STEWARD INTERFERED WITH THE PAYOUT! MIKE
Larry More than 1 year ago
not always easy to answer, but the deciding factor should always be : Did it make a difference in the outcome of the race?
Chuck More than 1 year ago
How many times do you watch a race or read the result charts and see that a horse is soundly bumped at the start? Many times they recover, get into a contending position for a half mile and then fall back. These are horses who in my handicapping opinion should have a final say in the outcome of the race ( I am a full time professional). Nobody is dq'd for the troubled start. That is plain wrong.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Bumping should be allowed. Jockeys should be able to kick and whip each other. No hole, make one! Argument with the wife, bring it to the track and unleash the frustration on the other horses and riders. No DQs for any reason. What integrity does the sport have anyway? I enjoy watching Quality Road run just 5 times a year, mostly against allowance competition (check out the Woodward.) I'm glad Zenyatta can only make it to the races 18 times in 3 years and it is joyful to see her beat up on the same ole same ole race after race. I'm thrilled when potentially great 3 year olds are retired to the breeding shed so they can breed another generation of horses who will never race beyond their 3 year old seasons. I love Grade I races with 4 horses participating. I'm just a fan and bettor. Why should my part in all of this matter? Where in this sport is the incentive to do the right thing? Any form of gambling is going to be called into question when it comes to questions of integrity. Money does not bring out the best in people. So, why allow any ambiguity? Every single foul will bring an advantage to someone and a disadvantage to someone else. The culprit should be punished. Consistent application of the rules is mandatory. There will still be gamblers who are angered by the decision, but at the end of the day, safety is the only reason to do anything. Ask Michael Martinez or Rene Douglas. Yes, accidents happen, but how many happen because jocks will make a calculated risk to get the win dough knowing the stewards can use discretion if the old bump occurs. If a fellow rider goes down, oh well. All is fair in love and money and horse racing. Stop the crap. I love the sport, but my patience is wearing thin. Soon, the industry is going to find that it is not the economy killing the sport. It's far more internal to the sport. The sport will not exist without the gambler and gamblers are getting many more options to satisfy their risk taking nature. There is no ambiguity in wagering on a hand of Black Jack or roll of the dice. Set the rules in black and white and enforce them as such. I don't need 3 stewards to try to decipher whether a foul cost a horse 3 lengths or 10. It's difficult enough for them to just decide if it was a foul to begin with. PLEASE, SOMEONE IN THIS INDUSTRY, start doing the right things for the future of this dying sport.
whirlawayjoe More than 1 year ago
The stewards were correct in leaving candys number up. The letter of the law kills the spirit of the law heals. There are so many instances in which a horse inter fears or bumps or impedes another if all were deemed a foul the sport would become a travisyty. I agree with you mike, the stewards did the right thing.
Charles Warner More than 1 year ago
I for one think Twirling Candy should not have been DQ'd. He bore out when spooked by something in the infield , carried SM wide , but didn't seem to have contact. Both horses then proceeded to move to the inside clear of others. SM pressed the pace of TC for at least a half-mile. His sixth place finish was not due to TC , but similar to his four previous races , just not being good enough. Many times jockeys will fan the competition wide turning into the stretch , not bumping , this is termed "race-riding" and is not cause for DQ. TC's move was not a deliberate move initiated by the jockey , who straightened him up quickly avoiding contact and should not be penalized for that action.
TheTylerRose More than 1 year ago
"If Summer Movie had done that to Twirling Candy the horse would of been disqualified before it crossed the finish line." Extremely well put. Thinking about the race in those terms really puts it in perspective. Just a little common sense and even-handed application of the rules is all that horseplayers want from the stewards. Alas, as with the vast majority of racetrack management, all we receive is incompetence and insults to our intelligence (i.e., raising takeouts will really help our sport...sigh).