12/27/2010 9:37AM

Malibu Mach Go Go


That whirring sound coming from the southern tip of New York's Otsego County is Spectacular Bid spinning -- okay, be cute -- twirling in his grave. The ground may be covered with snow, but he's down there, a restless soul, wondering what he ever did to deserve the dissing dealt his memory on Sunday at Santa Anita, when a very nice horse named Twirling Candy and a very nice sprinter named Smiling Tiger BOTH broke Bid's 30-year-old track record for 7 furlongs in the Malibu Stakes.

Going in, it was clear it would take a giant effort to for any of the 3-year-olds involved to come out on top. This version of the Malibu was the deepest since the opening-day running in 2004, when Rock Hard Ten beat Lava Man. But to suggest that it would require the second coming of Spectacular Bid to get the job done would have gotten you cut off at the local tavern. Then the timer struck 1:19.70, shading Spectacular Bid's 1:20, with Twirling Candy beating Smiling Tiger a nose, and racing had another wrinkle to explain to those for whom history means anything at all.

In this case, all eyes turned toward the freshly laid Santa Anita main track, purportedly 90 percent sand and 10 percent clay, with apparently an unreported a dash of Flubber tossed in at the last minute to make things interesting. Earlier on the program, a maiden son of War Front named The Factor set a track record for 6 furlongs, winning off in 1:06.98. Among the horses to have run 6 furlongs at Santa Anita and not gone that fast were Native Diver, Ack Ack, Ancient Title, Chinook Pass, Viking Spirit and Phone Trick. The reaction to that obscene clocking gave rise to some good cracks, including one from colleague Brad Free, who revealed late in the day that the "raw, overnight Beyer" for The Factor's performance was -- and now this is just an early estimate folks before all the facts were in -- 150.

Time continues to be taken seriously by American fans and American racetrack operators because it's the very American thing to do. The relative uniformity of American tracks -- oval, left-handed, flat straights and banked turns, dirtish -- encourages the illusion that 6 furlongs is 6 furlongs and a mile is a mile run here, there and everywhere, and so American records set in Chicago are willingly recognized in Miami, or Seattle, or wherever that distance is run.

The wise men Beyer, Brown and Ragozin have nobly attempted to provide context to raw time figures with their various methodologies, and to a large extent the tyranny of the clock has been tamed because of their work. However, nothing can modify the reality of time passed, only the preception of that reality (compare, say, a three-hour Godfather film to 90 minutes of Adam Sandler and get back to me).  One minute, six and ninety-eight hundredths of a second will always and forever be one minute, six and ninety-eight hundredths of a second, and the toll taken on the physiology of the creature moving through space and over hard ground during that time is as visceral as taking a hammer to a piece of meat.

Between The Factor's silly six and the Malibu's monster seven, four skydivers descended upon the Santa Anita main track, their parachutes emblazoned with "Red Bull" (the breakfast drink of champions) and smoke trailing from their heels, brought to fans by the Dept. of You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet. Meanwhile, up in his booth at the top of the stretch, track superintendent Rich Tedesco was banging his head against the desktop, knowing full well that too fast is just plain too fast when it comes to protecting the frail infrastructure of the Thoroughbred racehorse from his own natural instincts to flee. He also knows that horses like Spectacular Bid don't come along every 30 years.

"With all the rain we had, the most important thing was protecting the base," Tedesco pointed out, referring to the more than 13 inches dumped on the area in the week previous. "I'm sure we could have opened it a little more, so now we can adjust. But you can't have horses going that fast. You just can't."

Unless they are Spectacular Bid.



blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Jay , off topic ,I started to read your column but stopped in the first paragraph. The San Gorgonio doesn't have a historic connection to SANTA ANITA ? C'mon now. The San Rafeal ,The Santa Margarita, The San Fernando , The San Pascual , The San Antonio , The San Miguel, The Santa Catalina (oops) The Santa Anita Hdcp, The Santa Barbara , The San Luis Obispo,The San Gabriel ,The San Juan Capistrano , The El Encino ,The La Canada. You picking up on any theme there Jay. All the other Sans & Santas and Spanish named Stakes have great historical connection to( SANTA ) Anita and Southern California. I have nothing against Bob Lewis (in fact I liked him a lot the one time I met him) or Robert Frankel , but let them get their own stakes. Now if they wanted to name it the San Roberto Paco or The San Roberto B. Luis that would be different. LOL. Really just give them a cheap stakes and let them build their own tradition. Why don't we put a clock on baseball games while were at it ? Lets start running them right handed like Austria or some other foriegn place. What the heck lets just rename them all, the racetack too. How does Stronach Going Downs sound. Start with The Stronach going Downs Handicap ( we'll nickname it the LiL' Cap) The Ron Charles , The Tony Bennet, The Fred & Ethyl MertZ, The Barbara Walters , The Beverly L. , The Encino Man, The Canada Bacon, The Roman Gabriel, The Louis QuatorZe, The Cadillac Margarita, The Gordon Jones , The Scott Daruty, The wait till I get my Haines on you, The Mike Smith, the Ernie Mason, The Jerry Antonucci . Renaming Santa Anita's stakes is screwing with tradition way worse than running the Breeders Cup Classic at night, but you are blinded to that because you liked Bobby Frankel. I liked Bobby Frankel too ,but I don't like him usurping San Gorgonio even if it wasn't him that did it. I doubt Frankel would have liked it either. You get the picture. Every time they take away an old stake name to replace it with new, the game loses tradition. I'm not sure if you noticed but just about everthing from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas has a spanish name. Thats the significance of the San Gorgonio and all the other Sans. If we start renaming all our stakes then we'll look just like Laurel or Aquaduct. Santa Anita will lose what last bit of character that it has. What the heck lets just rip out the downhill course and put Magic Mountain there.
J Hov More than 1 year ago
To Rick H. in Ohio -- Please send me your e-mail address and I will recommend a couple of organizations you might want to consider. Thanks -- JH
hialiah More than 1 year ago
Hey Jay, "It was Barzini all along." My question is: Was Spectacular Bid (and he breathed on me-and wanted to beat the horses in the next race) the best never to win a Triple Crown? Damn good, regardless of the votes.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Jay, Regardless, I just want to get to a Big Cap, before the mountains tumble into the sea. over and out
Qev More than 1 year ago
Additionally, if the CHRB and the California racing community were so worried about The Bid’s record, then they should have left The Bid’s’ track in place.
Qev More than 1 year ago
History aside, anyone with a passing familiarity with handicapping knows that raw times are not to be taken at face value, and if there are still handicappers out there who do take raw times literally, I say keep doing that, and please, continue to bet. What is relevant here is that handicappers can be a lot more confident that a horse that ‘acts’ on one ‘granular’ surface will more than likely be able to perform on another granular surface, as opposed to going from a dirt surface to one that has been “engineered to mimic the root structure of a good turf course”. Oh, and apparently the thing drains.
mike evans More than 1 year ago
what a joke, finally dirt and they make it an airport runway; horses are going to be sore, and breakdowns are inevitable; look for a lot of derby hopefuls, especially closers to leave town again, they just can't get it right, times dont mean anything, safety and fairness mean everything, unless your sa
Steve More than 1 year ago
Horses do not run as fast as they did Sunday and remain sound for long.
The Prof More than 1 year ago
Is it rocket science, guys? How is it that Santa Anita managed to function as one of the premier racing venues in the US for all those years, from Seabiscuit to Spectacular Bid...fostering eventual Kentucky Derby heroes like Lucky Debonair, Majestic Prince, Ferdinand, Hill Rise (2nd to Northern Dancer), Winning Colors, etc. and yet, the racing surface was apparently sooooo bad, it just had to be messed with. So, the carpet was installed and proved to be a cruel joke. The "all weather" track proved to be anything BUT. So, now whats the problem? We finally get back to a dirt surface, but it so closely resembles asphalt that a 2 year-old maiden sets a new track record on the first day. What's going on? Do we now have to change things so drastically that Santa Anita becomes a disappointing meld of Turf Paradise and Golden Gate Fields? You know, a lightning fast track that promotes nothing but a string of short priced favorites ridden by the same jock or jocks over and over again? It MUST be rocket science. Here's a tip, Tedesco. Take a plane to New York. Go up to Saratoga and grab a handful of that track's surface. Copy it.
equine paparazzi More than 1 year ago
holy cow, batman! that's way too fast for a 2 year old to run. I hope i am wrong, but The Factor may bounce all the way to Jupiter. and he wasn't doing it easy, either. his ears were pinned and he was running like a grizzly bear was after him. wow. he ran so fast i had to ice MY legs after the race.