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.