03/03/2013 12:32PM

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.

August Sams More than 1 year ago
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.
Albert More than 1 year ago
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.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
You have a couple of inaccuracies that I couldn't let slip by. For one, Game On Dude got a 116. Beyer often uses a projection method in his figure making, which is close to, but not exactly like your A vs. B vs. C example. Beyer numbers are never adjusted for ground loss. And finally, the most obvious reason why Ron the Greek didn't run in this Big Cap the way he did when he won it last year is last year, he encountered an insane early pace that completely collapsed, and set up perfectly for his late run. This year's Big Cap early pace was downright slow, and not remotely as favorable for a closer like Ron the Greek.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Yes, I understand all your points and generally agree with them. I used the A,B,C example to make a complicated point a bit simpler....you got that. But my point is still the same, that Dude is NOT as fast as the horses who dusted him in the BC Classic. He's fast and, given a pace setup like the Big Cap, he's tough. When he found horses like Mucho and Fort Larned running off in front of him in the BC, he was not so tough. It will be fun to watch him if he comes East and if he catches some of these again (not Mucho, who I believe became an OLD horse a lot sooner than most of us expected.) At the BC betting challenge I opened the conversations at my table predicting that Baffert was going to get skunked for the 2 days and that Dude would be off the board in the Classic. Everyone there thought I was nuts. But it wasn't for ego that I made those claims, it was because the Equibase numbers for all of Baffert's horses in all of their races were underwhelming. And that's my ultimate point. You can make more sense out of more races with these numbers, adjusted (rather simply) for groundloss. I was a Thorograph follower for many years until it became clear that Brown's numbers were adjusted race by race and not simply for harder data like groundloss. Also, if you read his site's blog, you will see that there are some serious guys there who consistently decry his East Coast bias (in the numbers.) That's what cost all of us the last Derby.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
1)speed figures are opinions 2)pace is a much bigger factor in determining winners than "numbers" 3) it's not how fast a horse runs its how a horse runs fast. Dude is great unpressured
Pasquale More than 1 year ago
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).
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
On the Derby Trail, Super Ninety Nine and Code West, minor players out west, shipped out and exposed some Derby pretenders in Arkansas and Louisiana. Same thing happened last year; Rousing Sermon's close third in the LA Derby after trailing in a distant 5th twice in SoCal told you all you needed to know about the MidSouth form, and Bodemeister put an exclamation point on it. A strict reading of horse-to-horse form would have led you right to I'll Have Another as the logical horse in the Derby. No, I didn't have him - I had already fallen in love with Creative Cause, also from SoCal. Also, this 'iffy' thing about 10f for GoD. He had been 5 of 7 in the exacta at the distance, including the debacle on Tapeta in Dubai and the bad start/ride in Nov, vs Ron the Greeks' 5/2-0-0 record - which one is iffy? GoD also finished a good fourth in Drosselmeyer's Belmont a couple of years back. He is a proper 10f horse.
John Hanley More than 1 year ago
Really -- look at the last 5-7 Derby winners (2 for 7), BC Classic winners (1 for 6) and the Ladies Classic Winners (2 for 5) -- West Coast has not fared so well. Talent is spread all over the country. No coast is dominant. However, if you had to say who has fared better, would have to be eastern half of U.S. in the big races.
Richard LLanes More than 1 year ago
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!
Joel Winicki More than 1 year ago
While he has given some good rides since his return, he's also given some very poor rides. His ride in the Big Cap cost the connections what should've been a 2nd place finish, and his ride in Louisiana was downright awful (and arrogant) for the Assmussen barn. I was always a big fan of Stevens, but the hype on him now is based more on his past than the present. I do, however, wish him well.
Richard LLanes More than 1 year ago
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!
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You need to learn more about speed figures.
Ceil Rock More than 1 year ago
Which good horses are you referring to?
Ted More than 1 year ago
2:00 flat is scooting no matter what coast you are on. Unless some kamikaze was out on the front end, Game on Dude would have beaten most horses that day. He is actually quite capable of sitting off of a kamikaze too. Pretty nice horse, but he obviously prefers SA.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Time as to do with track surface. On 2/24 a10 claimer at Hawthorne was scooted in 108.1
James More than 1 year ago
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.
Easy call More than 1 year ago
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.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
That was the worst disqualification I have seen in many, many years. And on this opinion, I know I'm in agreement with many people.
Tom Shea More than 1 year ago
petem More than 1 year ago
I think the call was terrible, from the pan its not clear, but on the head on its very clear the outside horse came in as he is allowed to and then was straight as a string when he got down to the 3 path. If I ever bet a 1.00 again at Beulah Park please someone come over and tie me up and throw me into the ocean.
Adam Weaver More than 1 year ago
A $30,000 minus show pool is not just a $1500 cost, it's not just a matter of the 5%, you have to pay the 5% and Takeout so probably closer to 22%, that said the DQ had nothing to do with the minus pool, it was just a horrible call
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
by the rules the Beulah dq was correct, the strange thing is Throughbred racing does not ever follow the rules... EVER
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
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.
Alex More than 1 year ago
Giacomo won the San Diego Handicap the year after he won the Derby, he was also 4th in a strong BC Classic field.
Ryan Jones More than 1 year ago
You make some valid points, but then you bring up the 3 most unheralded Derby winners (two of which were 50-1, and the third was a Chruchill/Borel fluke) as examples which renders your points moot. Saying Barbaro's catastrophic breakdown in the Preakness had to do with his Derby run is absurd. The horse was sound going in, he lost his cool and broke through the gate. Run Stop Run again had more to do with the injury then the Derby.
Rufus More than 1 year ago
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.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Strongly agree.
edb More than 1 year ago
Big time yes. No derby horses in that race and Vyjack should be a solid 13th in the derby.
Ted More than 1 year ago
He keeps winning though. The Derby is a weird thing. I know I was thinking Mine That Bird was a scrub shipping in from Texas. Looked like Secretariat on the rail that day. lol