08/09/2007 2:17PM

Miracle or Mirage?


I meant to say a little something about Ready's Echo's eye-catching runner-up finish in yesterday's sixth race. Only a little something, because I thought it was more of an optical illusion than a glimmer of greatness, but in any case I simply forgot. Now, after hearing a surprising amount of day-after chatter surrounding his performance, and reading suggestions that he is as promising a 2-year-old as debut winner Maimonides was earlier on the card, the performance seems worth some more scrutiny.

Ready's Echo, a 2-year-old More Than Ready colt making his debut for Todd Pletcher, came into the race off a sharp gate work at Belmont, and he broke well when the gates opened here Wednesday. But then he immediately fell to the rear of the pack and was 15 lengths behind the next-to-last horse after a quarter mile. Running all by himself behind the rest of the race, he suddenly took off late, charging past the exhausted runners hopelessly chasing long-gone winner Z Humor, to finish second at the wire. Tom Durkin was about to call a close finish for second between two of the faders when Ready's Echo suprisingly arrived on the scene: "Close for second betwee --- WHOA! Ready's Echo came from another COUNTY!!!"

His running line next time out is going to look something like: 9-25 1/2, 9-11 1/2, 2-5 3/4, making him appear to be a rocketship who will surely win with a better start and more distance. But let's put the performance into a little bit of context.

First of all, the Z Humor race was not a particularly quick one, with the winner's 1:05.40 being nearly a full second slower than Maimonides's 11 1/2-length triumph in 1:04.41 earlier on the card. So Ready's Echo, however well he finished, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in well over 1:06, earning a lowly Beyer Speed Figure of 57. Second, the rest of the group chasing Z Humor clearly was a bad bunch, with not one of them cracking a 60, and many were tiring badly down the lane, further enhancing the visual appeal of Ready's Echo's finish.

Ready's Echo is of course likely to run better than a 57 next time if he starts running before the final furlong, but remember that he expended virtually no early energy in his debut. It was like unleashing a sales yearling, most of whom can run a single furlong in 11 flat or better, into the last furlong of a slow race.

It was a nifty thing to see, but don't start dreaming of roses just yet. Remember the last time we saw a finish like that up here? It was Scipion two years ago, appearing to come from another county to win his debut, but he never looked as good again or amounted to much.

Also, a few people including commenter El Angelo have wondered whether Mainmonides's BSF of 89 should have been higher considering his mighty margin. Actually, it was an easy and straightforward figure because Wednesday was a rare card with four different 5 1/2-furlong dirt races:

Race 2-Maimonides: 1:04.41 -- 2yo debut winner
Race 5-Pennyrile: 1:03.97 -- Older-filly A2x off-the-turf
Race 6-Z Humor: 1:05.40 -- 2yo debut winner
Race 9-Sort of Tricky 1:05.26 -- 3F statebred debut winner

Pennyrile, who won a five-horse race at 2-5, has run 22 times, often hitting but never exceeding consistent Beyers in the high 80's. How much better than the career-top of 95 she earned yesterday would you want to give her in order to make Maimonides better than an 89?