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Back to work: Post-Breeders' Cup shore leave has been cancelled, due to the three-day, $243, 011 pick-six carryover at Aqueduct. It's 62 degrees and partly cloudy in beautiful downtown Ozone Park, N.Y, the main track is fast and the turf is labelled "good" -- Wednesday's three grass races, all at a mile (hooray! no more turf sprints until May!), were run in 1:38.89, 1:39.06 and 1:39.09.
You better get going if you haven't gotten started. The challenging lineup card:
Race 4(2:25 p.m. EST): 3+F, MdSptWt, 1 1/16-T
Race 5: 3+, Clm 16000, Nw1 since 5/1/07, 6f
Race 6: 2M, Md35000, 1m
Race 7: 3+F Clm35000 N3L, 1m-T
Race 8: 3+, N2x, 6f
Race 9: 3+M, Md45000, 1m-T
--While we're waiting for late scratches, let's get to some of your questions from the last few days:
dan_baedeker says: Could you post your comparative Beyer figures fot the intial three BC races run on Friday? It would be interesting to see Corinthian's very impressive performance in that perspective.
Here you go (and here without frames):
The same themes emerge from this comparison as from Day 2: Roughly a quarter of the runners equalled or exceeded their last-out Beyer (7 of 27 here, 20 of 77 in the Day 2 survey), and the falloffs were precipitous among the many who appeared simply unable to handle the footing.
Jessica Chapel, DRF's webmaster, has helpfully compiled and posted a similar comparison for the 2005 and 2006 Breeders' Cups over at her Railbird blog. The overall percentages of horses going forward or backwards off their previous race are not dissimilar to this year's, an interesting finding suggesting that the crucible of top-class competition in the main events as opposed to the preps may take its toll regardless of the footing. What you don't see in those prior years are the huge gaps in the fields and the number of massive dropoffs from previous starts.
yuwipi says: With the Breeders Cup fresh in mind I was wondering if you have any thoughts regarding the sometimes floated idea of splitting the races between more than one site?...With the expansion to 11 races and spill over to two days, and with more races promised in the near future, do you think we could be at a point where 12 or 13 BC races might be split between two tracks? I can understand BC reluctance to mess with a good thing, but can see some definite positive angles to it also. Any thoughts or rumors?
I haven't heard any whispers to that effect and don't really expect to. Running the two days at different venues would cause significant travel and logistics problems for the participants, increase costs for television coverage that is not exactly rolling around in advertising revenue, and diminish the attractiveness of a BC trip for customers.
mikethedog says: As far as BC's go, this year was rather unexciting with no truly huge payoffs except for P6. Usually we'll get some much larger payoffs in Supers and P4's. This year's payoffs were light compard to past years. Maybe bettors getting more sophisticated?
I think field size and the lack of any winners at higher than 11-1 had more to do with the lower payoffs than either mass enlightenment or, as others have suggested, lower bet minimums. In a 14-horse field, there are 24,024 possible superfecta results; in a 10-horse field, only 5,040. In 2006, the last four races had fields of 14,14,11 and 13. This year it was 13,12, 8 and 9. I'm still sorting through the pool totals and will be posting an analysis of the BC Day betting in the next couple of days.
van_cushny says: Not so fast on your claim that "not a single debate to be had over which horses deserve to win Eclipse Awards this year,"; if neither McDynamo nor Good Night Shirt win the Colonial Cup on November 18th, the Steeplechase Eclipse voting will be a wide-open affair.
Excellent point. And Van, please share your thoughts here on who should get the steeplechase Eclipse after the Colonial Cup is run. I'd appreciate the guidance as would many voters, who might as well be handicapping a harness race when they look at the Eclipse steeplechase pp's to fill out their ballots.
todd_r says: What about Corinthian for Champion Older Male? He was 4 for 7 this year, has a split with Lawyer Ron in head-to-head match-ups, went out a winner and both his efforts at 1 mile were remarkable...or am I just off my rocker?
Interesting point, but I think Lawyer Run will still get it in a landslide under the formula Whitney+Woodward+close-second-to-Curlin-in-JCGC > Met Mile+BC Dirt Mile. Also, some voters will feel reluctant to reward a horse who is at least perceived as having ducked the Classic for a softer spot in the Dirt Mile. I think Lawyer Ron and Corinthian will be two of the three finalists for the Older Male Eclipse, along with either Invasor or Midnight Lute.
brian says: Do you think George Washington's connections are to blame for what happened to him in the Classic? While there was no way of knowing that he would break down (as far as we know), it just seems to me that GW had no business being in that race.
I understand people's grief and their desire to assign blame for George Washington's breakdown, but blaming the owners is over the top. I didn't think GW had a prayer of beating all these good dirt horses, but it wasn't unreasonable to try him again off a seven-length defeat to Invasor and Bernardini in last year's Classic. From all accounts, GW was a beloved stable pet and I have no doubt those closest to him are devastated by the loss.
--Late scratches for Aqueduct are in:
1A Hit the Point
9 Golden Oasis
10 Madeline's Music
11 She Belongs to Us
2 Act of Contrition
2B Yacout (ARG)
6 Keen Spirit
10 Fairytale Story
12 Zip by You
13 Mpenzi (GB)
1A I Ain't No Saint
5 Karakorum Tuxedo
12 Sir Cryptomite
Get to work.
[Update 2:45 pm: Never good when you're not crazy about the 2-1 winner of the first leg. Three of six tickets survived, and I now have to get singles home in two of the last three races: Bribon must win the 8th, and I also need either the Survived-Fort Carillon entry in the 7th and/or Turkish Victory in the finale. For root-alongs or root-againsts:
Dave Litfin occasionally notes that horses equipped with mud calks seem to fare somewhat better than those without on off tracks. This is a great angle. Are there any plans to include shoe info in the PPs or Formulator trainer pattern files? Knowing which trainers habitually shoe there horses for the prevailing footing conditions and, equally important, those who do not, is valuable information indeed. Along the same lines, a sudden change in habit, one way or the other, could be a signal of 'intent'; positive or negative. THANKS
Steve, He should have been entered in and run in the TURF mile, a race he has had some success in. Instead, they tried to replicate Giant Causeway's success years previous -- without realizing that GC had run at the distance and was more suited to the type of track (as opposed to the tight turns of Monmouth -- not to mention the sealed sloppy track).
On George Washington, I'll side with Steve. Crist, that is. Steve (Davidowitz), While you make some good points, I'd argue that NO horse over the 2-day BC card ever raced on a surface quite like that. I think the uproar here is due to the fact that George Washington was a European who raced mostly on grass and that somehow translated into getting injured on the sloppy dirt because he couldn't handle the stress of hitting the base. I can understand that point to a certain degree, but again, what horse on the card ever ran on anything close to that, Euro or American? Also, how often do we see races taken off the turf and switched to a sloppy main track? In that situation, you often have entire fields of turf horses running in the slop. We never seem to consider that to be negligent. I think this could have happened to anyone. In 2006, George Washington had torn several ligaments in his legs. He returned to win the QEII and subsequently ran on dirt in the Classic without a hitch, suggesting he was at least somewhat sound again. While he had a lackluster season, I have to believe that his prior injuries were behind him for the most part. As far as negligence, this doesn't even come close to the way Barbaro was hustled back into the starting gate at last year's Preakness. That wasn't exactly a thorough examination.
Following the Classic, Larry Bramlage stated unequivocally that multiple studies have shown that off tracks do not contribute to the type of injury that caused GW's breakdown. Might it have been ill-advised to race him? Sure. But to say that racing him under those conditions caused his breakdown does not seem to be supported by the facts. O'Brien's affection for the colt is well-documented; I can't believe that he would knowingly have put him at risk. At risk of losing, maybe. At risk of breaking down? Doesn't make sense to me.
Steve_D Good to see your hindsight is 20/20. Many (all?) competitors had "no experience on such a surface" as they had at Monmouth Saturday. I think there's some reason to expect a top quality turf horse, with a good off track pedigree rating, could transfer his form to an off surface. What there was NO WAY to predict was that the horse would break down. If the owners were supposed to decide that the surface was very bad, my horse only has a moderate chance, therefore I should scratch; then you should be criticizing the connections of half the starters over the weekend.
david . i totally agree why couldn't they have moved the BC to sunday . It would have been a much better event all the way around . Who knows who makes these decisions ? But in racing it seems they are never the right ones . Again it hurts our sport in the public eye then when a boneheaded owners greed cost a beautiful animal his life it hurts it even more . I was the 1st one on this blog to say that DW had no biss in that race . Let alone in a noreaster rain storm . Just dumb .
Steven I appreciate the blog, I've only recently started reading. John R, great point about Hard Spun. How many people were saying they should run him in the Dirt Mile (and 70y) rather than the Classic where he had "no shot." Steve D, it was a pleasure meeting you at Saratoga this past summer.
bravo Steve! that was perfect, and exactly the type of post i wish i had written. sporting is running a great horse back as a 4 and 5 year old. sporting is running Hard Spun in a sprint, then at 9 furlongs, then going in the classic, when the evidence seems to say he is not a "classic" 10 panel horse. sporting is not racing GW in the classic, in a quagmire, against one of the deepest fields going, based on 1 race a year ago when he raced "ok". sorry, but there is some culpability here, and is not unfair to say so.
My editorial take on what has happened to our racing greats during the past week: "Racing Revamps - a new era" -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (RP News 11/01/07) - Thoroughbred horse racing fans, long used to wagering on action at racetracks across the country, have a new bet - the breeding shed. "With the way the sport's focus has been shifting over the past 20 years, this is the most sensible, exciting way to go", said Trent Stanley, President of Racehorse Breeders of America. "We hope the wagering public will embrace this new format as we have". The price of Thoroughbred stallions, and potential stallions, has been increasing steadily over time. Young horses - "yearlings" - that have good pedigrees and lots of promise on the track have sold for millions of dollars. These horses rarely make their purchase price back for their owners by racing for a year or two on the track. Thus owners routinely retire their best horses, those competing in the "Triple Crown" and bigger races offered around the country, as soon as the horse wins a few races, in order to maximize the dollar return by sending the horse to "horse heaven" - the breeding shed. Although popular horses being removed quickly from a career on the racetrack is infuriating to fans and gamblers, and the number of horses racing past 2 or 3 years of age has fallen to nearly nothing, Racetrack Breeders of America have come up with a solution - gambling on breeding shed results. "Arrangements have already been contractually arranged with all the major internet wagering sites, and most of the OTB's will offer our product", Trent said. "Although there is little available to wager upon at the average race track nowadays, with few horses and short fields, we will offer our customers a full menu of wagering opportunity". "Bettors can wager on day of retirement, what stud farm the horse will go to, and how many mares will be in the stallions book the first year", Trent promised. "Fillies, of course, will have wagering available for what stallion they will go to, how many covers it will take to get her preganant, and - most exciting of all - the sex of the foal, what time and date it will be born, and birthweight". Trent said plans are in place for live video coverage of foalings, so fans can "watch the race towards birth". Wagering is also planned on weanlings (date of weaning, hours until foal stops crying for dam), and yearlings (price obtainable in sales ring). There will be no wagering on "Two-year-olds in training", Trent said, as, "Frankly, we don't anticipate many horses will need to actually race very much until we can get them to retire, and take their turn supporting the sport of Thoroughbred breeding". Trent anticipated that most racetracks currently in use can be turned towards, "Better uses that support the public good - public parks, parking lots in municiple areas, and soccer fields". "Certainly, we will have to save one major racetrack in each section of the country, but others will not be needed", Trent said. The cost savings are estimated to be in the billions. Trent anticipated that the millions of dollars currently wagered on Throughbred racing, when shifted to the breeders of the horses, will serve to "only strengthen the sport's base - the production of Thoroughbred horses". "This is an exciting time for the Thoroughbred", Trent said. "We are doing this for the fans - just think, they can continue to watch and wager on their favorite horses for years in the shed, rather than for a few months on the track". "The sport has a great future", Trent said.
A question for next week...Which of the cell phones/smart phones would you recommend for watching races? I've heard the latest Blackberrys, but the articles I've read don't specify which models. Any tips? Watching a race from synagogue--too good to be true.