01/27/2010 12:01PM

Holy Bull and Lecomte

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Number crunching Jan. 23 preps at Gulfstream Park and Fair Grounds reaffirms visual impressions: the Holy Bull and Lecomte were aggressively-run early, somewhat lackluster late, and resulted in Beyer Speed Figures lower than historic norms for those stakes.

The 91 Beyer for Winslow Homer’s three-quarter length Holy Bull win over Jackson Bend was the third-lowest of the last 10 runnings of the race. The median Beyer for Holy Bull winners during that span is 98.5, with only 2001’s Radical Riley (90) and 2008’s Hey Byrn (88) rating lower.

Pace-wise, the Holy Bull’s early fractions of :23.86 and :45.76 look odd, even considering the lack of runup at Gulfstream’s one-mile distance. The middle quarter of :21.90 is the third fastest of 729 races run at the one-turn distance (excluding eight races with omitted fractional times) since the track was reconfigured prior to the 2006 meeting. Taken by itself, that raises a red flag regarding the accuracy of the fractions, and the fact that none of the leading horses failed to meaningfully separate from the others during that second quarter invites further skepticism. As soon as I get back home to my timing software later this week, I’ll report back on the fractions.

Using published fractions, the Moss Pace Figure line for the Holy Bull is 77-88-90 final 89. A good comparison point is the typical one-mile pacefigs in low- to mid-level allowance races for older horses, which also average in the vicinity of a 89 final figure on the pacefig scale. Those are 81-83-87. Thus the tempo accelerated from slower than that particular par in the first quarter to faster the next two quarters. But again, take those fractions with a grain of salt until verified.

From my perspective, Jackson Bend ran a solidly better race than Winslow Homer. The margin of defeat can be entirely attributed to the four-pound weight difference (Jackson Bend 120, Winslow Homer 116), but Jackson Bend also ran two paths wider than Winslow Homer around most of the turn, and was closer to the pace as well. By projecting both horses to carry 120 pounds and incorporating ground loss into the equation, I’d rate Jackson Bend’s race as 92 on the Beyer scale compared to 88 for Winslow Homer, and give him additional credit for pace pressure.

Lecomte winner Ron the Greek benefitted even more from a quick pace, rallying from next-to-last down the long Fair Grounds stretch. But like Winslow Homer, his Beyer Speed Figure of 90 doesn’t match up well with previous Lecomte runnings. The median for those last 10 runnings is 93.5, with only 2002’s Easyfromthegitgo (90), 2005’s Storm Surge (88) and 1999’s Some Actor (84) lower than Ron the Greek.

The Lecomte line of 79-88-88 final 89 on the pacefig scale is decidedly faster across the board than the 73-81-86 pars for that winning number, boosting the stock of pacesetter Maximus Ruler, beaten 1½ lengths in second. Factoring in weight carried and ground loss could slide the Beyers more in favor of Ron the Greek, from 90-87 to about 90-84, since Ron the Greek traveled roughly three lanes farther outside during the race, but this doesn’t take into account the pace factor, which seemed to play a big role and clearly worked to the disadvantage of the runnerup. Fourth-place Cool Bullet gets credit for running three-wide on both turns and moving up to challenge in midstretch, but sat an ideal third behind the pace battle for the first six furlongs and still couldn’t get past Maximus Ruler.

Inescapable bottom line: horses in both races will have to step up their games to have a meaningful impact on the first Saturday in May.