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Game On Dude, Beholder, Vyjack, and Other Thoughts
Game On Dude and Beholder were terrific winning the Santa Anita Handicap and Las Virgenes Saturday. I mean, they were all class. Game On Dude has always been a little iffy at 10 furlongs, but not in this Big Cap as he won by a city block. And Beholder proved her upset loss in the Santa Ynez in January was an aberration as she scored with total authority.
Then again, it would be a dereliction of a handicapper’s duty not to note that Game On Dude and Beholder were also recipients of highly favorable pace set ups Saturday. Both shook loose on uncontested early leads and were able to set extremely comfortable fractions. Beholder went in 23.78 and 47.55, while Game On Dude went in 23.64 and 47.19. For purposes of comparison, in the two other two turn races earlier in the Santa Anita card, California bred maidens went in 23.11 and 47.12, and conditioned $12,500 claimers went in 23.22 and 47.22.
In other words, Game On Dude and Beholder both walked on the lead, especially by Grade 1 standards. Would they have won if they were required to set stronger paces? Quite possibly, perhaps even likely. Would they have won as impressively if they faced legitimate pace pressure? That’s the big question, and one we will have to deal with when these two run back in races in which they face real pace competition. And they will. Not every race will be the cakewalks Saturday’s were. But in the meantime, give credit to Game On Dude and Beholder. They were both real good on Saturday, easy trips or not.
Oh, and I guess you could say Game On Dude was lucky he wasn’t ticketed for coming over and crowding Handsome Mike in the first run past the stands. That would have been grounds for disqualification at Beulah, but maybe only if there was a minus show pool at stake.
It’s impossible not to be taken by Vyjack’s near total reversal of running style in the Gotham at Aqueduct, coming from next-to-last to win going away and extend his unbeaten streak to four. I thought the Gotham had the feel of a race that totally fell apart late, which assisted Vyjack’s transformation of style. Nevertheless, he continues to show that it is risky to underestimate him.
As for beaten favorite Overanalyze, you could see he was going nowhere midway on the far turn, and the fact that he still managed to finish fifth probably says something about the race. If you are in a forgiving mood, you could say Overanalyze might have needed the outing as it was his first start in three months. But whatever you do, don’t blame his outside post position. Jockey John Velazquez did a great job getting Overanalyze over to the three path entering the first turn. Heck, Vyjack was wider than Overanalyze on the first turn. Vyjack was five wide there.
Of course, Overanalyze’s empty performance combined with Normandy Invasion’s disappointing effort in last week’s Risen Star despite a tough trip makes you question the strength of last fall’s Remsen. Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion were first and second in the Remsen, only a nose apart. Delhomme was a close third in the Remsen, and it makes you really wonder what we’ll get from him when he makes his 3-year-old debut a week from Saturday in the Rebel.
Conversely, the form of the Holy Bull got a boost when Clearly Now won Saturday’s Swale Stakes at Gulfstream. Granted, Clearly Now did not beat a particularly strong field in the Swale. But the simple fact that he won reflects well on Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby given that Clearly Now was beaten 13 1-2 and 11 1-2 lengths by those two in the Holy Bull.
My early vote for Iron Horse of 2013 goes to Comma to the Top. In the span of a week, Comma to the Top finished a close third in the San Carlos at Santa Anita after contesting a fast pace, shipped across country to Aqueduct, and somehow managed to come again after appearing certainly beaten by Saturday’s Charm near the wire to win the Tom Fool. That’s toughness right there, folks.
The issue with Game on Dude is he is one dimensional, if he does not get the lead with out horses around him he throws in the towel. Has not had one like this under Smith, but Baffert learned last year to no send him to large size fields.
Mike I think I read that Dude got a 117 Beyer in the Big Cap? That's nice, but that number would not have won the Breeders Cup for him. Let me explain. Beyer and Thorograph adjust many of their speed figures on a Horse A beat Horse B, Horse B beat Horse C basis....in other words Horse A will beat Horse C no matter what the actual speed of the race says. In other words, they adjust some races (not all) up and down a scale to explain previous races that specific horses ran in. When they are right, they are brilliant, but when they make a mistake, their numbers are suspect. Don't get me wrong, these are brilliant men and companies. However, Equibase speed numbers are more algorithmic in their calculations. No adjustments are made for specific individuals. The only thing that Equibase does not address is groundloss. If you used Equibase numbers in the last Kentucky Derby, adjusted for groundloss (that's the key and the talent) you hit the exacta COLD. Neither of the two guys mentioned came close. If you used Equibase numbers in the Breeders Cup Classic, adjusted for groundloss (which never figures into the railrunning Dudes' performances, you hit the top 4 finishers in the race: the superfecta. Dude was the 5th best horse in the race, by about 3 to 5 Equibase speed points. That's a lot. Now you might ask why did Ron the Greek not perform better on the same track against Dude this time in the Big Cap. Look at the BC pre-race numbers and you will see that he had the LEAST edge on Dude that day. Moreover, Ron was coming off a race that can easily be considered as a prelude to a bounce before the Big Cap. If they run together soon, outside of California, you might see a very different result.
You might have turned the corner Mike on our quality horses on the WEST coast. For an east coast guy to have favorable comments on 2 of our best horses from the west says alot. Maybe you can convince that the west coast horses are better than anything the east coast has. This has always been the case with one exception (Secretariat).
I would like to comment on Gary Stevens show in The Santa Anita Handicap. He won two Gr.11 races at Santa Anita in Feb. 2013. The San Marcos at a 1 ¼ mile on turf on Slim Shadey and The Santa Maria at 1 1/16 mile on Great Hot. This was his first shot in a Gr.1. Gary Stevens is doing what every person I think has retired from their profession dreams of, getting another chance to come back and do it a few more times. Gary Stevens is one of the greatest jockeys of modern times who still have I think a lot more to offer. He is an inspiration for every one of us who could dream of healing and be able to go and do it again. Keep riding on champ!
This was the best race I have seen Game On Dude run! He won it with no hesitation that he was the best horse in what I believe to have been the first good race of the year. Yes. He was the only early horse that got a very fast start and got over in a hurry in my opinion without impeding any horse. There were three early pressers even after John Scott scratched who could have decided to take the lead. Game On Dude was the best horse fair and square!
i don't see how you can give such high beyer # to a horse that beat nothing, put him in against some good horses outside california if he wins then you can give him that # otherwise its just does not mean anything in my opinion.
Mike, Game dude did make a beeline to the rail, but he was not close to making contact, the rail horse saw him coming and shied away from Game on Dude. Your dead on about the super easy half mile the "Dude" got, unbeatable with that slow first 1/2 mile and not being pressed.
Mike, regardless of your opinion on the Beulah DQ where a horse clipped heels and almost went down the "minus" show pool would have been less than $1500. It is a cheap shot to imply this was the reason for the DQ.
I would not be questioning the strength of the field in last year's Remsen. Both Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion were quality horses going into it. However, these Ky Dby prep races force young horses to go all out at a time when they are still developing. In some cases, their muscles are exerting themselves beyond their skeletal capabilities. Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion "went to war" in the Remsen. Sometimes a race like that ruins a horse for quite some time. Sometimes for good. Case in point: Just look at what the Derby has done to some of its past winners. Super Saver, Mine that Bird, and Giacomo never won a race after that. Barbaro was compromised going into the Preakness. I could go on discussing about the wear and tear of this campaign, but there's no point. The Ky Dby campaign itself is grueling and has lasting effects on those involved. In this case, the Remsen might have claimed both Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion as casualties. However, I sincerely hope not.
Vyjack beat largely a group of maiden winners. It was a pedestrian time for the race, on the always quirky inner track at Aqueduct. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. The first Saturday in May he's an also-ran.