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Pimlico tight-turned and speed-favoring? Nope
Kentucky Derby winner Orb is, as we all know, a closer. So it is my fear that in the run up to the Preakness Stakes, we are going to be subjected to a “discussion” as to whether Orb can overcome the tight-turned, speed-favoring nature of Pimlico Race Course.
Here’s a tip: If you hear anyone – commentator, horseman, fellow handicapper, or guy babbling under the tv at your favorite simulcasting emporium – say Pimlico is a tight-turned track, you can be certain that, at least in this case, they don’t know what they are talking about.
Several years ago, a national television network took an aerial photograph of Pimlico and superimposed it over an aerial photo of Churchill Downs, a track that has never been known for being a tight-turned one. Guess what? The photo comparison showed that the turns at Pimlico are virtually identical in circumference to the turns at Churchill. This should have right then and there slayed this myth about Pimlico, but apparently, old wives tales die hard.
As for Pimlico being a speed-favoring track, any track can go through periods of being speed-favoring due to weather conditions or track maintenance. But in the specific context of the Preakness, Pimlico being speed-favoring is also just not true.
Below is a chart I constructed for the last 15 Preaknesses. It’s pretty self explanatory. We have the year, the winner, field size of that Preakness, where the winner was racing in the first call of the result chart (a quarter mile into the race) and the lengths he or she was behind or ahead, and where the winner was in the second call (a half mile into the race), and again the margin behind or ahead.
|Year||Winner||Field Size||1st Call (1/4 m)||2nd Call (1/2 m)|
|2012||I'll Have Another||11||4th by 2 1/2||4th by 3 1/2|
|2011||Shackleford||14||2nd by 1/2||2nd by 1/2|
|2010||Lookin At Lucky||12||6th by 3 1/4||5th by 5|
|2009||Rachel Alexandra||13||1st by a head||1st by a head|
|2008||Big Brown||12||3rd by 3||3rd by 4|
|2007||Curlin||9||6th by 8 1/2||7th by 13|
|2006||Bernardini||9||3rd by 2||4th by 1 1/2|
|2005||Afleet Alex||14||10th by 9 1/4||10th by 7 1/4|
|2004||Smarty Jones||10||2nd by 1 1/2||2nd by 2 1/2|
|2003||Funny Cide||10||3rd by 2||2nd by 1|
|2002||War Emblem||13||2nd by a head||2nd by a head|
|2001||Point Given||11||9th by 10||6th by 7 1/2|
|2000||Red Bullet||8||7th by 6 1/2||7th by 7|
|1999||Charismatic||13||10th by 6||10th by 8 3/4|
|1998||Real Quiet||10||8th by 5 1/2||6th by 9|
So the facts show only one of the last 15 Preaknesses was won by a front-runner, that being Rachel Alexandra. You have to go back to Louis Quatorze in 1996 to find the last to win the Preakness in front-running fashion before Rachel Alexandra. Moreover, only two other Preaknesses of the last 15 were won by horses legitimately right with the early lead, War Emblem and Shackleford. If you want to count them as speed winners, go right ahead. That means only three of the last 15 Preaknesses were won by speed horses, and that’s a pretty feeble success rate on a track that is supposed to be so speed favoring.
Orb has been able to win from the far outside post position, from the rail position, and anywhere in between. He has won with fast pace, slow pace, or no pace. He makes his own "trip". His ability to circle horses keeps him out of trouble, and he has that kick at the end that says he will not be denied. I'm thinking that Orb really is "the one" this year. Anyway, sure will be fun to watch and ride the roller coaster with him and his connections. I just don't see any horse in the field with Orb's class. Anything can always happen, of course, but barring mishap or injury, I think it's Orb all the way.
The handicapping angle for the Preakness is that the best horse always wins. Going back to Point Given, the best horse in the field won every year except for 2011 (tossing out 2006). And it's not like Shackleford was a bad horse.
Why do public handicappers feel the need to write a book explainingwhy they like a 7/5 favorite? The only thing they should be saying is "this is a 4/5 shot that you may get 7/5 on so bet with both hands".....otherwise who cares? The whole world saw Orb demolish the field at Churchill, thats a great thing if you are a handicapper because that may mean overlay elsewhere. Question if Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents skipped the Derby what odds would they be in Preakness? At 4-1 Saturday, no one should care about these 2, at 6-1 they are interesting, at the supposed Watchmaker line either is a great bet in my opinion
The pace is more important than the nature of the track itself. I would argue that the Preakness is actually the Triple Crown race that's most likely to favor closers. They don't have to fight through a huge field as in the Derby, and, since several speed horses usually run in the Preakness, there's a faster pace, which helps the closers. Speed horses aren't entered in the Belmont because their connections are scared off by the distance, which, ironically, helps whatever speed horses remain in the race.
Call it boys and girls but don't go buyin' no pig in a poke or sight unseen. These ponies got to go round the ring n' walk on the track and sumpin' might go wishy washy on ya with those fat ducats already sittin' in yur pocket. What's the forecast? Blizzard, thunderstorm or heat wave? They ain't got no ducks in a pond do they? Seagulls cruising around? Ya gotta see it the way a horse sees it - 360 degrees baby - like eyes in the back of the head. Load up late n' go out on a date.
I'd almost prefer to see the 1/4- and 1/2-mile splits along with where the horse was positioned at the first 2 calls. Were the few that came on from way back running into a 45-second 1st half as opposed to those more forwardly placed, say running into slower fractions?
Good logic. However a derby horse that tired late on the lead does have a better shot third Sat. In May, RE, Shackleford
one of the earlier posters noted Orb ran a 1/16 of a mile farther than his foes in the Derby - pretty impressive stuff. and what he will face in the Preakness looks like less than what he faced in the Derby - even with the new shooters. so Orb is the most likely winner - but what, if anything, could get him beat? well I remember when Fusaichi Pegassus lost to Red Bullet in the Preakness (and he was less than even money) and what seemed to be the issue was the track. some horses do not care for this surface especially if it is good drying out, it seems like it can be kind of a tacky, sticky surface. Orb has shown the ability to run on a number of tracks - and there is no particular reason to think he won't like Pimlico - and I think if he does get beat it will because he did not care for the strip. honest guess - Orb will win this next leg for fun and we'll have 3 more weeks to wait and debate and see if history can be made..
Why does a lot of folks say Orb is a "come from behind" colt? I call him a forwardly placed colt. Yes, that may be true in the Derby where there were nineteen entrants and he's in the16th pole and that race changes a lot of styles.. But, in his previous four races, he was - at the 1/2 mile [2C] [F=field] - 5th [F10]; 5th [F9]; 3rd [F7]; and 2nd [F7]
Excellent and informative article, Mike. Which reminds me. I, and I'm sure many others, get our racing info from this website. I just now learned where the 1C and 2C distances are. So, why don't you run a weekly article answering questions about racing which, like your Derby Watch, would appear on a certain day? I think many of us would appreciate it.
- 1.Posted 12/05/2013 04:54PM
- 2.Posted 12/08/2013 09:52AM
- 3.Posted 12/07/2013 07:42PM
- 4.Posted 12/07/2013 03:42PM
- 5.Posted 12/08/2013 06:53PM