02/16/2010 9:50AM

A good "Rule" of thumb for 3-year-olds


If you didn’t already believe Rule is a legitimate Kentucky Derby threat, he made his case again Saturday. If you tend to downgrade anything you see from Delta Downs, Rule’s victory in the Sam Davis should drive home the point he is a Top Five contender at this early stage of the prep season.

He has much left to prove. For example, one valid knock is that he hasn’t defeated what most would consider another highly-regarded 3-year-old.

But from a pace perspective, here is my “Rule” of thumb: any frontrunning 3-year-old who consistently survives pressure and faster-than-average fractions while finishing with Beyer Speed Figures near the top of his class deserves respect.

On paper, Rule had the Sam Davis field over the proverbial pace barrel, especially breaking from the inside post position. And his three-length victory was accomplished after a Moss Pace Figure line of 78-84-89, almost identical to his lines in the Jean Lafitte (78-83-87) and Delta Jackpot (76-85-90). Rule’s pace effort Saturday was a moderate length or two faster across the board than the 76-82-87 ten-year average paceline for the Sam Davis - and Schoolyard Dreams, who shadowed Rule throughout much of the early running, also held on well to finish second at 9-to-1.

However, the point to be made is that Rule continues to put up Beyers that compare favorably to other 3-year-olds – 98-95-97 in his last three starts – and he isn’t “backing” into anything. Rule not only hasn’t been the beneficiary of easy trips, from a pace standpoint his trips have actually been a smidgen tougher than the norm.