02/23/2013 9:00PM

First Impressions on Saturday's Stakes at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds


Hello from sunny, warm Gulfstream Park, where I offer some thoughts on the Saturday’s stakes that were just run both here and at Fair Grounds:

As a person who liked Orb in the Fountain of Youth, I still kind of like him after he got up to beat Violence. But I like Violence a lot more Saturday night than I did at any time before.

For me, Violence was one lucky horse last year when he won all three of his starts. He wasn’t anywhere near the best horse when he won his debut. Orb was, by many, many lengths. Violence could have (and I think should have) been disqualified when he won the Nashua for racking up three horses to his inside in the stretch, and he got the sweetest trip a horse could ask for when he won the CashCall Futurity.

But Violence showed me more in his first career defeat Saturday than he did in any of his wins last year. He was, I think, way too close to a very strong early pace, and he fought back gamely late after Orb overtook him, although Orb does have a tendency to gear down after getting the lead. Violence should get a ton out of this race and improve big time.

As for Orb, he improved like I thought he might, but the slow fourth quarter mile in the Fountain of Youth of 26.52 certainly aided his rally. Then again, Orb has now won three straight, and I’m convinced there is more to him.

Live Lively’s mild upset of Dreaming of Julia in the Davona Dale was a matter of Pace 101. Live Lively, the best horse trainer Mark Hennig has had in quite a while, was up in both class and distance. She also came into the Davona Dale off a top fig, blowout score, and figured to be totally loose on the lead Saturday. She was, and she handled Dreaming of Julia.

Dreaming of Julia, meanwhile was coming off a Breeders’ Cup layoff and had the dirty job of trying to keep Live Lively honest on the early lead. So under the circumstances, she ran well in defeat. Still, I’ve got a nagging feeling about her. I know Dreaming of Julia has every license to improve after this seasonal bow, and she’s by A.P. Indy, and is long and rangy in appearance, which would shout distance ability. But Dreaming of Julia is out of Dream Rush, who was a top class race horse, and also a stone cold sprinter. Dreaming of Julia is also 3 for 3 around one turn, and now 0 for 2 around two turns, albeit with extenuating circumstances. Still, I wonder if she might not be at her very best as a one turn horse.

Data Link was far better winning the Canadian Turf than his one length win margin or a cursory first look at the race might suggest, and is really a high class turf miler. Data Link and Orb also combined for a natural stakes double for the owner-trainer combination of Stuart Janney and Shug McGaughey.

Sorry, I couldn’t have bet Ive Struck a Nerve with counterfeit money in the Risen Star. In fact, his price of 135-1 seemed to be exactly right. And how’s this for a sobering thought: By most guesstimations, the 50 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility that Ive Struck a Nerve earned by upsetting the Risen Star (Orb also earned 50 points) likely guarantees him a spot in the Derby.

I can’t be terribly enthused about anyone who finished behind Ive Struck a Nerve Saturday with the possible – strong emphasis on only possible – exception of Normandy Invasion. Yes, I was a Normandy Invasion fan going in, and I can’t be pleased with his fifth place finish. But at least he was coming off a layoff, had a bad start and finished with some interest. Normandy Invasion is poised to take a big step forward next time, but he’ll have to if he is to be a truly legit Derby contender.

Yes, I know Unlimited Budget had a great setup in the Rachel Alexandra thanks to a runoff pacesetter who collapsed. I still liked her clear cut score quite a bit, especially since it was her return from a three month rest.

I was wrong about Mark Valeski. I wasn’t crazy about him in the Mineshaft given how he disappointed at odds-on in his recent comeback. But Mark Valeski was very good Saturday, and I mean good enough to start at least thinking about him as significant player in the handicap division.

Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
There was a mathematical explanation to I've Struck a Nerve's victory in the Risen Star. I admit I personally overlooked the horse like everyone else. However, rather than to rationalize that race as "just one of those things" with regard to racing, I choose to learn something from it. To ignore the lesson that the Risen Star provided is outright foolish. Luckily, I passed that race due to circumstance. I had family issues and couldn't get to the track that day, nor do I have an Internet wagering account. I was convinced Code West was a solid bet. To my chagrin, he lost by a whisker. Even though I didn't lose a bet, I was very interested in the race; more so because of the result. My advice: Always try to learn something from your losses. Don't look for some other criteria to blame it on other than an error in one's own judgment. If one doesn't wish to accept their poor judgement as to why they lost a bet, they will continue to lose and really should not continue with turf speculation. I know. Been there done that...but I am trying real hard to stay out of that downward spiral. I don't have to bet to enjoy racing. Perhaps that's a start to being successful.
Bob More than 1 year ago
The FOY field is not representative of true Kentucky Derby champion. We're just looking for something to talk about. This was a very poor field. They were all gasping at the end. They are all throw outs if they even make it. California 3yo's much better this year.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
The best part of last weekend at Gulfstream was watching Lava Man, the best claim in racing history who is now Doug O'neill's stable pony, interact with other horses and his large fan base. He is truly One Cool Dude.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Sunny? Warm? What's dat?
Dave More than 1 year ago
The numbers do not back you up at all re: the Risen Star, Mineshaft. Ive Struck a Nerve ran a 95 Beyer and a faster time than Mark Valeski who somehow got a 97.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Mike do you have stats on how many derby hopefuls Pletcher had had in the last 5 years that never made it to the derby.Ever year he has 10 to 15 so called derby favorites and maybe 1 or 2 make the derby.Is there a cure for Pletcheritis that's 3 good races and a 6 month layoff.I guess he is getting his horses ready for Saratoga and the BC.
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
So what was so bad with the Palace Malice effort in the Risen?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Speaks volumes to me that Shug had the confidence to enter Orb in the FOY. He's not a Pletcher or Baffert who pushes his 3yo's to the Triple Crown. His pedigree suggests he'll have no problem with the distance. Very sad about Violence, agreed very gutty performance. Can't lay this one at the feet of Pletcher or Castellano no matter how hard anyone tries. So any bets on whether Gary Stevens gets within 10 feet of Proud Strike after his ride up front on the rails in the Risen Star. Did he even look at a Form before he jumped on? Prior effort where he aired on an overmatched field he was 3 wide all the way around and finished with lots left in the tank. He needs points to get to Churchill but if he gets there I think he will be a serious threat.
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
I've got Orb at 150/1. I'll take that.
docfagah More than 1 year ago
Could someone explain to me how the Mineshaft winner earned a higher Beyer fig despite running a slower time than the Risen Star winner? The figure Mark Valeski was "awarded" was 5 points faster than it should have been. I know all about how the track can change during the day, but the Rachel Alexandra, run 30 minutes before the Mineshaft, and the Risen Star, run 30 minutes after the Mineshaft received the same variant. So what changed in those 30 minutes? Maybe the water truck broke down, maybe the wind came up in the stretch drive, maybe the sun went behind a tree, or maybe a hot dog wrapper blew onto the track. I guess maybe someone just decided to upgrade the Mineshaft, well, just because. Sound reasoning I'm sure, and the kind of logic to bet your hard earned cash on.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
My guess is that the rated the Mineshaft similar to a turf race because the pace was so slow. The pace for the Mineshaft through 6 furlongs was so slow that it was going to be just about impossible for anyone in that field to post a fast final time. The Mineshaft was super slow early, and then quick late, like a turf race. The rationale behind the creation of figs for turf races is that the true quality of a race will not be reflected in the final time when the pace was so slow. There could be a 10 furlongs race in which the mile fraction is 1:39 with a final time of 2:01 and 4. That final time might not look that impressive, and by itself might not warrant a high Beyer. However, any fig based solely on the final time won't capture just how spectacular that final quarter of 22 and 4 is. So, Team Beyer might adjust the final fig to better reflect the fact that few horses would have been able to stay with the winner through a 22 and 4 final quarter. In addition, for the Risen Star and Mineshaft they might have used previous form(past Beyers for the field) and then molded their figs a little to fit this previous form. Code West was came into the Risen Star out of a productive allowance race in which he received a 94(if memory serves me). If you believe that Code West, as an honest sort, ran back to that number in the Risen Star, then that puts the winner's Beyer at 94 or 95. And if when assigning the numbers for the rest of the field going backwards from I've Struck a Nerve and Code West fits well with most of the other horses' past figs, they will feel more secure with that 95. In contrast, the Mineshaft field's previous Beyers might have suggested that a final fig of 92 for Mark Valeski would be too low. If you combine this with the slow pace, then you might be inclined to adjust the final fig upwards.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Which is why I pay no attention to Beyer Figures in the first place (or Thorograph or Ragozin). They wander off into the world of opinion. If you want to be any good at this game you damn well better form your own opinion.
docfagah More than 1 year ago
You are probably 100% correct, but that's exactly my point. The figure was arbitrary based on what the fig maker thought he would have run if the pace was normal. I understand the dynamics of how pace effects the final time. That's pretty elementary stuff. But why then, is Beyer so adamant about disregarding something measurable like ground loss, or weight when calculating their figs, but adjust for the subjective effects of pace. Kinda convoluted logic I'd say. Besides, how does one decide that if the pace was so slow how much to adjust. Using "turf figs" would only effect the horses that ran behind the winner as the only difference between turf and dirt figs is the beaten length adjustment. My guess is it's a guess. On the other hand, why not downgrade Orb's fig for example, because he closed into a suicidal pace triggering the so-called suck-along factor harness players are so familiar with. It's no secret Beyer's are fitted to the horse and not truly accurate figs. I would equate them more to Timeform or Racing Post ratings than speed figures. Some folks love em, some hate em, some like me say take em with heavy dose of salt. Thanks for the thoughtful reply my friend and hope you cash many big ones.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Timeform, Racing Post, Beyer......boulder of a salt.....they never adjust for distance either....IMO the vast majority of these 3 year olds are not bred to go 10 furlongs and not trained to go 10 furlongs....so all these numbers at 8.5 furlongs are practically worthless.....the races with the best value today are these top grade 1 races at 10 furlongs because all the hypes are always on the 8-9 furlongs speed horses....who cannot get 10 furlongs....
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I certainly wasn't trying to justify what Team Beyer did, simply giving what I believed their rationale to be. And Dick Jerardi's article today verified what I had supposed. Was adjusting the figs based on pace correct? I guess that's for the individual handicapper to determine. But you are absolutely correct that Beyer figs can only be a partial tool given the variables you listed which are not calculated into them. I think most agree that Beyer figs are not an end all, but merely one tool in the toolbox.