02/21/2011 6:11PM

FG Stakes, and a New Hound

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The three graded stakes on the dirt at the Fair Grounds last Saturday all were run at a mile and a sixteenth, and the final times stacked up about the way you would have expected: The older males in the Mineshaft Handicap (1:43.45) ran faster than the 3-year-old males in the G2 Risen Star (1:43.98), who ran faster than the 3-year-old fillies in the G3 Rachel Alexandra (1:45.13).

These performances earned their respective winners Beyer Speed Figures of 99 (Demarcation) in the Mineshaft, 95 (Mucho Macho Man) in the Risen Star and 83 (Kathmanblu) in the RA. While these final times and figures were straightforward, there were sharply different pace scenarios in the three events that that should be taken into account in evaluating them.

While there was a final-time difference of more than 1.5 full seconds between the Mineshaft and the Rachel Alexandra, there was an even bigger gap in the six-furlong times for those races: the leaders went 1:11.76 in the Mineshaft and 1:14.30 in the RA. Look at it this way: Demarcation was dead last after six furlongs in the Mineshaft, and was hailed for a last-to-first winning move thereafter, but he actually would have been seven or eight lengths lengths in front of the entire Rachel Alexandra field at that point in the race:

 

The slow pace in the RA poses a handicapping dilemma in terms of how much credit to give Kathmanblu, who was being touted as staking a claim to leadership of the nation's 3-year-old fillies after the race. She's probably better than her 83 Beyer, and probably could have run a faster final time had she covered her first six furlongs in faster than 1:14.81. But how much faster? If she's going to be a serious contender in the division's top races on dirt, she's either going to have to run faster earlier or finish even more strongly than she did Saturday, when the promising Inglorious actually outfinished her after dawdling through a first 6f in 1:15.15.

While Demarcation got to the wire first in the Mineshaft, to me the moral victor of the race was Mission Impazible, who was just a length right off that (relatively) quick 1:11.76 early pace and still right there at the wire despite being clearly tired from his early exertions. I would take him over Demarcation in a rematch in a heartbeat.

The Risen Star fell between the other two races in terms of both pace and final time, and Mucho Macho Man and Santiva both ran well while clearly best. The disappointment of the race was Machen, who can certainly still improve off only three career starts but for now was exposed as being not ready for primetime. He had earned a lowly Beyer of 78 winning a slow-paced route in his previous start, but his wide margin of victory that day led bettors to ignore the fig and bet him down from 6-1 ML to the 2-1 co-favorite at post time. As Kathmanblu's fans may wish to note, while it's admirable to finish solidly against a slow pace, you still have to be able to get from point A to point B faster than the others.

 

---On Jan. 4, a 3-year-old greyhound named KT Red Rum made his 46th and final career start, finishing sixth in a Grade D race at the Sarasota Kennel Club. A week ago, he moved into the Crist household in Hempstead, N.Y., joining Dondo (nee M's Giterdone) for a greuling retirement regimen of eating biscuits, sleeping with all four legs in the air, and chasing squirrels through the snowy backyard.

KT Red Rum, renamed Junior during his brief stint in foster care, is the most nimble, agile and graceful of the four greyhounds we have adopted. He also was by far the worst racer. Go figure. His career record was 3 for 46, with those three victories all coming in Grade D races in West Virginia and Iowa.

He's a brindle, covered with tigery stripes and leopardy spots. I swear it's a coincidence that his coat is the same colors as the San Francisco Giants -- who, by the way, strike me as a big overlay at 15-1 to win the 2011 World Series.

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