04/30/2010 12:16PM

Handicapping treachery


   Which horse ran the faster opening six furlongs in his final prep?

a)    Sidney’s Candy

b)   Ice Box

     If you said b) Ice Box, go to the head of the pace figure class.  Now, good luck with your Kentucky Derby selections.

     That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?   But it’s true.   The treachery of handicapping this Derby is made even more frustrating by the effect of synthetic racing surfaces on the way races are run, especially at Santa Anita.  

     Because of the speed-hindering tendencies of the Pro Ride surface, Santa Anita jockeys by necessity have completely changed the way they ride horses, especially in longer races.  Instead of hustling early to establish a forward position, they focus on settling back and conserving energy.  And occasionally, they overcompensate. When that happens, a frontrunner – in this case, Sidney’s Candy – can get away with ridiculously easy fractions.

     But what exactly does this mean?  Some will argue that Sidney’s Candy deserves extra credit for winning in wire-to-wire fashion against the natural bias of synthetics.  They look at his swift closing fractions and project that a pace-stalking Derby trip will be right up his alley.  Others take a more conventional handicapping approach and downgrade his performances based on the easy trips.

      This makes Sidney’s Candy the Tim Tebow of the Derby field.  Opinion about his chances to succeed at the next level is all over the board.  If his intangibles allow him to settle into a forward stalking position and he wins by three lengths, it won’t surprise me.  If his Santa Anita Derby synthetic form fails to translate and he fades to finish 12th, it won’t surprise me.  It is obvious Sidney’s Candy is much faster than his recent pace figures indicate.  Other than that, I have no clue how he’ll run, and, truthfully, neither do his connections.

     Conveyance and Line of David should go to the front based on pace figures.  That’s pretty easy to figure.  The figures show that several others could be closer than anticipated, including Discreetly Mine, Mission Impazible and even Awesome Act.

     My selection is based on the concept that speed will probably falter and Sidney’s Candy will likely not be the one to capitalize.  But my longshot choice, Stately Victor, has little to do with pace figures specifically.  Stately Victor has the right late-running style, he looks like a million dollars, the Blue Grass is looking like a stronger prep than numbers indicate, and he’s bred to handle an off track.

     No, he has never won a race on dirt.  And that’s why he’s 30-1 in the program.  You can't have everything.





NorthenTrader More than 1 year ago
Yes, the poly track experiment obviously hasn't worked. The Santa Anita Derby is closer to a turf race than a dirt race. From what I've read, the poly track is no safer than dirt. The Sunland Derby should be atleast a Grade 2 with a $800,000 purse and the Derby winner coming out of that race last year in Mine That Bird. Super Saver in the Preakness and Ice Box in the Belmont!
twobuckchuck More than 1 year ago
I also liked Stately Victor, but enough is enough, I say we vote Poly Track off the island. The Keeneland and Turfway, and Santa Anita? races should be G3, and let's make the Tampa, Sunland, Illinois Derby?, into G1 events. It's just a matter of moving some money around, you hear that Bernanke? Calvin Borel spoke out of turn, but who wouldn't have from where he was sitting. Super Saver might not make the board in Pimlico, the race is just that tough. And with Zito laying in wait at Belmont with Ice Box? The PT pretenders didn't figure at Churchhill, they figure even less at Pimlico, that includes Lucky, although maybe the other Baffert horse will figure. Dublin comes here like this daddy, looking for a big race, and there might be 2/3's of a triple crown if that holds up.
NorthernTrader More than 1 year ago
I was interested to see how Sidney's Candy would run as well. I knew he'd get cooked if they went for the lead which is exactly what happened. I thought their best chance was to lay about 6 or 7th and try to win it stalking the pace. That's one of the tough parts about handicapping, you're at the trainer/jockey's mercy as far as race instructions go.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
The Blue Grass did prove to be a decent race, but it wasn't Stately Victor who did well at Churchill. Instead, it was Paddy o' Prado and Make Music for Me, horses that appeared best on turf, who ran 3rd and 4th in the Derby. The Blue Grass was second in importance only to the Arkansas Derby which produced the winner, Super Saver, 5th place Noble's Promise, and 7th place Dublin. With the exception of Ice Box, the horses that followed the tradional Gulfstream-Aqueduct dirt route fared poorly. The two Santa Anita Derby runners, Lookin at Lucky and Sidney's Candy, were big disappointments as the 1st and 3rd choices. Actually, Lucky wasn't disappointing, but Garrett Gomez certainly was. I don't think Lucky could have had a worse trip. He displayed trmendous fortitude to not quit and finish 6th. As for Sidney's Candy, if your Tebow comparison is true, then the Broncos are in trouble and Josh McDaniels is not long for the coaching world. Sidney had a complete meltdown in the Derby. Normally so calm and cool, he had his ears penned in the paddock, while being loaded, and during the race. To make matters worse, Talamo blindly continued to hustle Sidney early even though only Martin Garcia on Conveyance showed any interest in the lead; after breaking well, Talamo could have eased Sidney into a comfortable position in the 3-4 path among the 2nd flight and left Conveyance to cook himself on a ridiculous pace. Nope, Talamo pushed Sidney right up with Conveyance on that scorching pace. Fast pace or not, Sidney offered no resistance. Undoubtedly many will point to the synthetic to dirt angle as the reason. However, there had to be more than that. Sidney worked very well on a dry Churchill dirt surface; dirt did not seem to be an issue. Then, in his last work on a muddy track, Sidney was uncharacteristically headstrong early, producing lackluster final splits. Well, he ran right back to that work. Sadler was worried and he had every right to be. For whatever reason, maybe the off-track, Sidney just lost his mental focus and came undone the last week. Throw in the fast pace, and he was toast. As for the Triplce Crown, Super Saver is a consistent enough horse to be a threat in the remaining two legs. His tactical speed will give him a solid shot, even if the 12 furlongs of the Belmont is stretching things a bit. Off just the Derby, Paddy o' Prado, Noble's Promise, Loockin at Lucky, and Ice Box would appear to be Super Saver's toughest challengers in the Preakness. Hurricane Ike, the Derby Trial winner, could also have a say as could Caracortado.