11/21/2007 1:21PM

Q&A 11/21/07



While the rest of the nation slips into a long, lost weekend of tryptophan-binging and football-viewing, horseplayers have a far more stimulating menu, with 17 graded stakes over the next four days at Aqueduct, Churchill and Hollywood. So let's move Question Time from its usual Thursday spot to today so we can look at some of the Thanksgiving Say stakes races tomorrow.

mike says: Curious why you were so light with Bailero, short rest comeback by Dutrow, a rather deadly move.

A few people thought I'd made a clerical error when I posted my Sunday pick-six tickets at Aqueduct: How could I relegate Bailero in race 7 to B-/C+ status in a race where so many people picked him and he ended up winning as the 3-2 favorite? I wish I could say it was a slip-up and sentence myself to two hours of Brain Spa as penance, but the truth is that I downgraded him deliberately because I thought he would be a massive underlay. He won, I lost, but I still think he was a play-against on paper.

Bailero once would have been legitimately 3-5 in this spot, but clearly isn't the horse he once was (he even ran in the Cigar Mile two years ago, albeit finishing 8th at 58-1.) He spent most of this year climbing down the claiming ladder, failing repeatedly at Sunday's $25k level, before finally winning his last start at the conditioned (NW in six months) $16k level. If he'd been impressive that day, I would have said maybe the old Bailero is back, but he beat a dismal field in subpar time and I thought he was vulnerable stepping back up to the open $25k level.

I also let myself fall in love with a longshot in the race, Reaffirmed, who was coming off two bad efforts in the slop but had a previous string of fast-track figures that were better than what the field had been running lately. I probably allocated too much of my play to Reaffirmed (who opened at 30-1, was bet down to 10-1 and was outrun), but I'm not sure what other lessons I can take from Bailero's desperate neck victory over an 11-1 shot. When you play against horses who you think have a 20 percent chance of winning but are bet as if they have a 40 percent chance of winning, you're going to get burned 20 percent of the time.

I'm just glad I didn't like Fahrenheit Wild in the finale, since then the omission of Bailero would have been the difference between a $91,741 pick-six and a $192 conso. And speaking of Fahrenheit Wild:

allen_klayman says: I am curious if DRF has any plans or even a way to notate first time geldings in the PP's? and unitas says: I have asked a lot of people, some who are affiliated with DRF, why this very relevant, "ultimate", if you will, equipment change has not been listed as an equipment change, and no one can give me an answer.

DRF would love to alert readers to first-time geldings, but the information is simply not available to us at entry in any reliable or consistent manner. Rules on if, when and how this information is announced vary widely from state to state, and the tracks are haphazard at best about ever announcing it. I had the NYRA simulcast feed on all day Sunday and not once (amid daylong announcements of raffle winners by people dressed as Pocahontas and Tom The Turkey) did I hear that Fahrenheit Wild was a first-time gelding.

He ran like a different horse. He hit the gate at the start and came out far behind the rest of the field in Sunday's finale, usually a death sentence in a 5 1/2-furlong race, but circled from last place to win by 4 1/2 widening lengths.

Ironically, there probably would have been a correction announcement if he had been erroneously listed in the program as a colt. There needs to be a mechanism instituted at all tracks that would automatically pick up on a change in official gender since a horse's last start and list it at entry time along with other equipment changes.

arazi says "I do not exactly remember when I last heard of the retirement plans of a 2 year old upon the conclusion of his racing career but I sure will remember this one. Breeders Cup juvenile champion War Pass will stand at Lane's End after the end of his racing career. The question is why didn't they simply say that War Pass will be retired after his 3 year old campaign? ... what I read between the lines is - It is almost certain that War Pass will not be in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Anyone taking a bet on this one? I'll even take 1/9 odds :)

We won't hold you to that offer -- 1-9 would be a much worse underlay than Bailero's 3-2. The right price on any prominent 2-year-old making the Derby is closer to even-money, and I don't think the sale of War Pass's breeding rights will affect that. My take on the sale is that it's a pre-emptive gamble by Lane's End: If War Pass were to stay undefeated and win the Derby, he'd be snapped up the Maktoums for a lot more than he went for now, and a lot more than anyone else would pay.

It's an interesting gamble. There's plenty of doubt over whether War Pass will prove tractable or successfully stretch out in distance, but there's some possibility that he's the real deal, a budding Seattle Slew. In both the Champagne and the BC Juvenile, he was a running machine, setting strong paces and running extraordinary Beyers -- his 113 was the fastest BC Juvenile ever.

War Pass is by Cherokee Run, a solid but unspectacular sire who stands for $40,000 at Darley: War Pass is his first champion from 478 starters in 11 crops, and he's had just two other millionaires, Chilukki ($1.2 million) and Zanjero ($1.1 million). His 2007 graded-stakes winners are War Pass, Zanjero, Chelokee and Indian Flare.

Due to the syndication, there's more pressure to keep him unbeaten for as long as it lasts, but I think his likelihood of running in the Derby is at least as good as it was before the sale.