02/26/2008 4:16PM

Fountain of Truth


The final time of Sunday's Fountain of Youth will go down in the past performances and the record books as 1:50.07, and there is no reason to believe that isn't within a blink of the truth. Still, it was a tortured and ultimately unsatisfying process that got it to that point.

It was obvious that the Gulfstream teletimer had malfunctioned as soon as the opening quarter-mile of the race was posted as having been run in 25.78 seconds. The entire field was not under a stiff hold; on the contrary, horses were being pushed to gain tactical position. Nothing about the subsequent fractions of the race seemed amiss, but the slow first quarter inflated the posted final time to an unusually slow 1:51.85.

Shortly after the race, DRF reporter Mike Welsch manually retimed the first quarter of the race several times and came up with a far more plausible 24.10. Clearly, something had caused the timer to begin 1.68 seconds earlier than it should have, and it was later found that an outrider's pony 20 feet from the starting gate may have tripped the beam. That premature start explained the slow first quarter, and there was and is no reason to think any other segment of the race is in error. So Welsch substituted the posted 25.78 with the 24.10, used all the other posted splits, and DRF published a final time of 1:50.17.

It could and should have stopped there. Instead, Equibase then manually retimed the entire race and all the fractions off a tape and came up with completely different times that were grossly different from the perfectly good electronically-timed final seven furlongs of the race. In this version, which became the official chart published Sunday evening, the first quarter became a quick 23.56 and, most erroneously, a fourth quarter of 26.10 followed by an incongruously quick final furlong in 12.53, a full second faster than the original.

On Monday, Gulfstream officials understandably wanted to revise that "official" clocking. What they should have done was to retime the opening quarter and used the correct electronic timing of the rest of the race, as Welsch had originally done, but instead they chose to substitute their own manual retiming of the entire race. At least, as the chart above shows, it was pretty close to the electronic times.

So maybe it should be 1:50.17 instead of 1:50.07, but that's the extent of the remaining uncertainty.

Update: Well, maybe not. Randy Moss writes on an NTRA blog:

Gulfstream's newest clockings appear to have been made from finish pole-to-finish pole, as one might expect for a 1 1/8-mile race on a track 1 1/8 miles in circumference. The problem is that Gulfstream's oval isn't exactly 1 1/8 miles, as advertised. When the retooled oval was laid out in 2005 at the time of Gulfstream's massive renovation project, a measuring error was made resulting in the dirt track being slightly longer than 1 1/8 miles in circumference. Thus when 1 1/8-mile races are hand-timed at Gulfstream from finish pole-to- finish pole, the resulting clockings are about .50 seconds too slow. This discrepancy was confirmed Tuesday by Teleview Racing Patrol, which laid out the Gulfstream timing system. Because of the error in circumference, Teleview says timing for 1 1/8 races actually begins at a special timing beam placed 17 feet after the finish pole. (Videotaped replays of the Fountain of Youth show the outrider who triggered the beam positioned next to the outer rail at about that point.) Other distances are timed in a normal fashion, since the position of pole markers around the track compensates for the extra 17 feet. Hettel and his crew undoubtedly hand-timed the Fountain of Youth the way one would expect it to be timed, and I have no doubt that what appeared on their stopwatches was acceptably close to the actual time from finish post-to-finish post. But if you want to compare the Fountain of Youth with the earlier 1 1/8-mile race that day, or any other 1 1/8-mile race during the Gulfstream meeting, or if you want fractional and final clockings that don't represent an additional .50 seconds traveled, you'll need another set of timings that begin at the actual timing beam. So here you go. That's right – yet another set of times.

Silver Charm More than 1 year ago
The time Moss came up with bodes well for Court Vision who lost ground but closed stoutly. Like a Derby horse should do. The winner and runnerup get credit for pressing reasonably quick fractions and coming home quickly enough. Magna gets credit for proving once again they can do nothing right. However since Frank is a visionary we will give him credit for building a Keeneland style "Beard Course" on the Main Track.
Steven Cedroni More than 1 year ago
Steve, they can take all the marketing geniuses at the Breeder' Cup and throw them in the same trash can. Any money that I spend on the Cup this year will be in spite of them, not because of them.
Turn Back The Alarm More than 1 year ago
Lots of interesting posts to read..... Stewart, I agree with your comment on the dirt mile. It can be an exciting addition to the day since that distance is very much a bread and butter one. However, now that the marathon is added, there are FOUR different races for the older males and that really does seriously dilute the fields' quality. The filly sprint on dirt is a waste due to overall lack of talent and any turf sprint that would be restricted by sex would be the same. It is exciting to watch the girls tackle the boys. BTW, I watched Maryfield work in the mornings at Monmouth and she looked LAME! (Five horsewomen I was with concurred with this.) I would love to know what got into her. If she had warmed up like that in the post parade, she could easily have been a gate scratch. As for the "idea" of Ladies Day....maybe it isn't as bad as it seems at first glance. Certainly it is insulting to the avid racegoer and handicapper.....however, that is not most people. Women are very drawn to the beauty and power of horses in general and with the right marketing plan this could be a real go. I often attend races at Monmouth with large groups of women. We get boxes with food, booze, private betting, etc...Then as much as I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, we get all decked out in our best racetrack outfits that would have befitted yesteryear. It is awesome. But, most of the attendees don't know anything about handicapping or racing in general. Still, they are more than happy to be there, want to come again, but there is not much sustained outreach to keep these casual fans. These women also get turned off when we go downstairs and the stands are dirty and the crowds somewhat seedy. Cutting out smoking indoors has helped a lot though. I believe if women directed the marketing plan, kept it both intelligent and fundamental in its approach, planned other activities to tie in with women's interests and then threw in a few celebrities, it could work. It also wouldn't hurt if there were a few other "Ladies Days" at other tracks that led up to the BC. That way, the interest and awareness could build. Certainly plenty of people could be reached if there were special days at Del Mar, Arlington, Saratoga and Monmouth. All these tracks run lovely summer meets just before the BC. I can't picture something like that happening at Belmont, but who knows?
Stephen Taylor More than 1 year ago
Steve- I may be in the minority when I say that I don't mind added opportunities for horses to run in the Breeder's Cup, and I really am not all that The F/M Turf or Juvenile Fillie are moved. My only real criticism is with the Distaff (No, you will never see me refer to it as the "Lady's Classic-ain't gonna happen!) not being on Saturday. The race has brought some memorys, both good, and sadly, in the case of Go For Wand, sad, but really needs to be run on Saturday. Races like the Dirt Mile, Turf Sprint, and F/M Sprint are legitimate "adds" so again, no problem. Now, if the NTRA (and the Breeder's Cup) are really interested in doing what's best for horse racing, let's add one more day (and no, I'm not kidding) Make Thursday a "Big Money" claiming Day, with Starter Allowance races similar to the claiming crown but for lot's more money. About 6 different claiming prices, BUT hores would have had to start for that price THE CURRENT CALENDAR YEAR. Make the races worth about 1/2 million each and the BC will have made itself a "dream" for every small owner (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm involved in a small claiming partnership, and I can tell you this would be something that would get me even more excited about racing than I already am) and as for the claiming activity and interest in claiming races thruout the country, it would really stimulate interest in the "ham and egg" races on Wednesdays and Thursdays across the country. BC nomination would be needed (unless someone wanted to supplement)toss in a smaller entry fee, and watch the interest in everyday horse races soar. (5K claimers running for $500K-would that be a marketing tool to get people involved in ownership or what?) I'm interested in your thoughts.
C More than 1 year ago
Stewart, You have a good point about the dirt mile, but I disagree about the turf sprint. In Europe, they have a sprint division, but it's not fair to consider it as a "turf sprint" division the way Americans would think of it because they only run on turf. To them, it's just their sprint division... being on turf is not the novelty it is here. Also, Europeans generally do not view their sprinters in the same light as their Classic horses. They sometimes get a decent one here and there, but they generally don't regard that division as highly. That might be less true in Hong Kong. Also, "I would gladly trade not seeing the rare filly/mare such as Ouija Board or Rags to Riches compete against the boys for two days of championship racing, including Grade 1 races at a dirt mile and turf sprint." Are you serious? You would've rather seen Xtra Heat crush a filly sprint field by 15 rather than watch her go all-out trying (and almost succeeding!) to steal one against the best sprinters in the world? Are you joking? Would Miesque had won back-to-back Eclipse awards if she trounced fillies only instead? Girls beating boys is not rare at all considering the limited number of times they actually run against them here. Several females have won the Sprint, Mile (I incorrectly named DomeDriver earlier), and Turf. If a female is good enough, she can win. The Breeders Cup should be about assembling the cream of the crop, male or female. That's how true champions like Miesque are determined.
spiffy one More than 1 year ago
Lenny: a final clarification to your query...I race on the OJC, and the explanation was this:the timers at each poledo not initializeuntil the lead horsein the dash passes asensor that causes each timing box to fire..by this method..inadverent tripping of the timers is prevented...also..the timers at the poles are not tripped by the horses noses..they are tripped by the chest of the first horse to break the eye-beam...regards...m.r.
AlHattab More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the BC posts. I will say they are trying to do too much too fast, and that change should be gradual. But I will also ask, can we give things a chance? Let's see what they come up with. Skepticsm is appropriate considering other management fiascos in the industry, which I believe results from the industry's inability to attract management talent, but let's see what they can do. The female marketing angle is largely based on what is observed in Asia, and the concept that the men will follow the women. While men don't seem to need women, and many times would rather not have them around, to go to other sporting events maybe racing is different. And there doesn't have to be one singular target audience- you can target women and poker players and the "analytical gaming" element at the same time.
todd saunders More than 1 year ago
hey steve. i know this weekend looks quite exciting for the stakes races at SA and Gulf, but i think the best 3 yr. old race of the weekend may be the 3rd race sunday at gulfstream? has a terrific field, most of whom are trying to see if they can move in derby contention. really competitive, and quite intriguing, i think
Arazi More than 1 year ago
About the recent addition of financial losses for Magna Entertainment, it is said that: "In the financial statements, Magna's auditor reiterated that the company cannot continue to operate without a substantial turnaround in its financial performance." Has it not been going on since 1998? I do not remember when did last time Magna posted any profit? The bigger question is how long ME can sustain these losses and how will it effect the racing? Is SA or Gulfstream in any danger of being sold? Should it better that ME fold its racing business and let someone else do the job?
spiffy one More than 1 year ago
C...the gps chips in the woodbine saddlecloths are in the same position on EVERY cloth..They serve Two Purposes: One..the denote the number position of each horse in the race..and TWO:the chips initialize the timing mechanisms at each timing pole...CLEAR ENOUGH????