03/08/2010 11:00PM

Rachel Drill, Understatement, Beyers, Stuff


Earlier this morning, at the Fair Grounds, RACHEL ALEXANDRA breezed a half-mile in 49 seconds for her final workout before her 2010 debut this Saturday in the New Orleans Ladies. 

The defending Horse of the Year was a bit eager to get going, but she soon settled into a nice beat entering the far turn, and she coasted home under virtually no encouragement from her exercise rider, Dominic Terry.  Unlike her previous workout, Rachel Alexandra stayed on her correct lead all the way down to the wire, and it looks like she's ready to rumble. 

"It's hard to compare her to anybody else so we just gave her an easy half," said trainer Steve Asmussen to the Fair Grounds Communications Department.  "It looked like she went beautiful.  She's a beautiful mover.  That's how she runs and that's what makes her special."


There are horses for courses and then there's UNDERSTATEMENT.  Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Distorted Humor five-year-old ran his undefeated Aqueduct inner track record to four with a hands-and-heels win in the Stymie on Sunday.  I must admit I wasn't a believer after Understatement coasted around the track on an easy lead en route to a 115 Beyer score in the Evening Attire Stakes on January 16, but he sure looked good again in the Stymie.  Understatement rated kindly off the pacesetting NATIONAL PRIDE, blew by that one on the final turn, and kept to his business under a confident David Cohen. 

"My horse is very professional," said Cohen.  "He made my job very easy today.  He took the lead at the three-eighths pole and pretty much galloped home."

One must wonder if Understatement beat anyone of quality, however.  National Pride was off the bridle and a beaten horse with three-eighths to run, yet still held second.  Still, Understatement seems destined for a date with tougher competition.  Whether he'll successfully transfer his form to other venues remains to be seen, but he's worth following in the handicap ranks in the months to come.


Here are the Top 25 Winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's racing action:

Here are the lifetime past performances for this week's top Beyer earner:

Download Understatement

Was wondering how handicappers viewed a contentious race. If they typically tried to avoid them, or if they saw them as opportunities. What is your definition of a chaotic race. Is the word chaotic to harsh a term? Are there any similarities between a chaotic race and a contentious race? What is the minimum class and condition level race that you would bother with, when when you are serious and not taking an action wager? What is your opinion about the principle reasons why some tracks have a larger percentage of winning favorites than other tracks? Would you rather play the most difficult tracks? In your opinion, what is the principal reason(s) for a race to 'breakdown' into a chaotic race. Do you ever wager on the expectation a race will breakdown. What is you definition of a favorite. A contender. A longshot. How do the odds play into it? How does the position on the tote board play into it?? Thanks,
chicago gerry

Gerry, for me, a contentious race is one where there are five or six "logical" contenders (runners with evenly-matched speed and pace figures, class lines, etc.).  These horses will be bunched in the wagering without offering "bombs-away" value.  I like playing exotic wagers in these kind of races (trifectas mainly) in the hope of catching a nice score with horses that certainly figure on paper. 

My definition of a "chaotic" race may differ from others.  I use the term when I see a vulnerable favorite that is compromised by the pace scenario.  In this case, there may be double-digit horses that don't exactly "figure" on paper, but would benefit from a pace meltdown.  If the pace unfolds as I expect it to, the favorite will get the case of the staggers and it's virtually anyone's race (chaos!).  If I can get double-digit odds on a horse that could benefit from the setup, I might look to play that horse to win.   I think that pace is the principal reason for a race to become chaotic.

My records indicate that I do my best work in maiden races.  I'll play stakes races when I have to (i.e., pick them for the blog and get my hat handed to me).  I don't play claiming races that often.

I would guess a track that has small fields without much depth in them would lead to more winning favorites. 

I like to make my own race card of maiden races throughout the country when I'm playing so I don't have a preference for "difficult" tracks. 

A favorite is well, a favorite.  He or she is the horse that has taken the most money at post time.  My definition of a contender is a horse that fits on the basic merits of speed, pace and trip.  Sometimes I find one or two true contenders.  Sometimes, in a contentious race, I may have six.  A longshot is a horse that is being dismissed on the tote board.  I consider that to be different than an overlay, a horse that is being dismissed on the tote board, but one that you feel has a better shot than the odds being offered.  I have minimum odds requirements for my win plays and only watch the tote board for "early action" in maiden races. 


Not sure if there was ever another dead heat for horse of the year honors. Maybe you can pull that one up when you get the chance Dan.
over the last 30 years we've seen some real serious horses take the wood. Which was your favorite? Anybody else out there have a favorite Wood winner. Mine would have to be Devil His Due, I loved that horse! pp's for Devil Is Due if you got them please.

1952:  ONE COUNT won the DRF/Morning Telegraph vote for Horse of the Year while NATIVE DANCER took the Thoroughbred Racing Associations award.

1957:  BOLD RULER (DRF/Morning Telegraph), DEDICATE (TRA)

1965 - ROMAN BROTHER (DRF/Morning Telegraph), MOCCASIN (TRA)

1970 - FORT MARCY (DRF/Morning Telegraph), PERSONALITY (TRA)

BELLAMY ROAD's Wood Memorial win in 2005 was absolutely stunning.  He stopped the clock in 1:47.16, earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure, and won on his own.  FUSAICHI PEGASUS was impressive in 2000 and I'm always going to be partial to EASY GOER's win in 1989.  I'll always wonder "what if" after CAHILL ROAD broke down following his 1991 Wood Memorial win.  Unbridled's little brother earned a 109 Beyer that afternoon and "could have been any kind."


Download Devil His Due


Since you already did the PPs on Damascus a couple of blogs back, if you can do Dr. Fager and Buckpasser, that would do then
Walt P.

Here they are:

Download Buckpasser

Download Dr Fager


dan, over recent years we have seen some gallant champions display immense amounts of courage and win. tiznow's classics holy bull's travers da hoss in the mile. My question is who would you judge as the gamest horse off all time. I naturally prefer the good doctor.
doctor fager fla

DR. FAGER was before my time but I'd have to count AFFIRMED and JOHN HENRY as two of the gamest horses I've ever seen.


Not to complain, but I thought that generally the HG race was supposed to be on Wednesdays.  Lately it's been all over the map (sometimes with good reason, sometimes without).  Do we have a general rule?

No general rule.  One of the perks of finishing first in the exercise is to pick the next week's race.  Cayman mentioned that Wednesday is easier for him so I'd prefer we keep to that schedule if possible.


I noticed Elusive Quality ran a 123 Beyer, and Quality Road ran a 121 Beyer.  Any more Father/Son combos with high Beyers like this?
Captain Bodgit

Since 1992, ELUSIVE QUALITY and QUALITY ROAD are the only father/son combo with 120 or more Beyer Speed Figures.  I'm sure this was done before Beyers were published in the DRF.  For example, WILL'S WAY ran a 126 in 1997.  I'm sure his sire, EASY GOER, went over 120 at least once in his career, but that's before Beyers were published in the DRF. 


I can respect your comments about Encaustic's effort but do you really think that Russell Road was cranked up for that effort? He has a appointment for 1 million dollars on April 17th at his favorite track Charlestown. Russell Road hadn't raced since Oct and this was his first back since the lay off this was a classic case of a trainer looking to get a race in for something down the road.
Robert Slifer

I agree with you that RUSSELL ROAD probably wasn't cranked to 100% fitness, but I'm sure his connections didn't expect him to fade to last the way he did.  ENCAUSTIC may eventually fail victim to the dreaded "Mid-Atlantic Inflated Beyer Syndrome," but he won the right way and beat a pretty good field (RUSSELL ROAD, AH DAY, etc.). 


May I get the 3 year best times for FG and Tampa at 1 mile 40 yards? I think they are the only two tracks that run that distance (and it's the last time I'll ask for those!). Thank you

Fair Grounds:  1:38.93
Tampa Bay Downs (About Distance):  1:40.47
Tampa Bay Downs (Exact Distance):  1:39.36

TejanoRun also asked about CORONADO'S QUEST's best progeny on turf.  He hasn't been very successful in North America with his grass runners.  I've yet to find one that hit the board in a graded race.  According to our database, he connects with 11% of his turf starts.


In anticipation of a potentially historic 2010 Apple Blossom, would you mind providing the lifetime past performances of the participants in the 2008 Apple Blossom?  I'm particularly interested in those of 2nd place finisher Brownie Points...
In addition to my earlier request, would you mind providing the Winner's Book data from Oaklawn Park on April 5, 2008?
Blue Horseshoe

Here are the past performances from the 2008 Apple Blossom (note that GASIA scratched):

Download 2008AppleBlossom

I'm sorry, but I only have Winner's Book data from 2009 to the present.


Hey Dan,
I just noticed BIOFUEL is on your disabled list. Still waking up in the middle of the night seeing Maragh on Negligee running into BIOFUEL in the deep stretch at the breeders cup. What's the injury?

BIOFUEL reportedly suffered from swelling in a leg following her fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.  She was originally going to be pointed to the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park on March 20, but has yet to record a published workout this year. You can follow her progress (recent works, next or major goals, injury updates) by clicking on the "View the Complete Disabled List" link on the bottom of the list. 


I really enjoy your Race Of The Day segments, and I enjoy them with both Andy or Mike.  They are informative and entertaining.  You seem so comfortable doing this, and I am wondering:
Do you enjoy putting these together?
Do you have to practice much before "filming"?
Do you usually do these in one take?
Van Savant

I really love doing the "Race of the Day" segments with Mike and Andy.  They both have a passion for the sport and are able to pass on new and interesting information on a given race. We don't practice at all.  We go in there and knock it out usually in one take.  If I start stumbling and bumbling, we'll do 'em in two or three.


Hi Dan,
Could you explain how the rail position in turf racing affects handicapping horse's racing style? Does a certain position benefit early speed or closer?
Thank you for all your hard work and inciteful blog.

Handicapping lore/conventional wisdom is that the further out the turf rail, the narrower the track/stretch width and therefore the more difficult the ability for closers to win. In other words, RAIL OUT = FAVORS FRONT-RUNNERS.
I've spent many, many hours keeping spreadsheets for various turf courses around the country (including inner vs outer courses at BEL and SAR), and the truth is much more complicated than conventional wisdom...

Hi chris. I think Alan hits the nail on the head with the above description.


Mr. Illman,
Any chance we can get Beyers pars (or year-by-years) for the Big Cap, Kilroe, Sham and SA Oaks?
Thank you kindly.

Hopefully, this is better late than never.  Including this year's races, the Beyer pars are as follows:

Santa Anita Handicap:  113.28
Frank E. Kilroe:  106.65
Sham:  98
Santa Anita Oaks:  95.76


Mr. Illman, Am wondering if you can find past performances, or anything, on a runner named Kiawatha, a claiming mare who ran at Aqueduct in the late 1970's? Believe she was trained by Patrick Quick. Thank you very much.
Paul S

Here is what I have for Kiawatha:

Download Kiawatha


HG 178:
I like the #4 here Awesome Act...plenty of speed to set up his late run....gets it done at a decent price as well.
I am going to say the 8/9/10 are throw outs for me to reduce my cost here:
$5 Triple key;
total $100
Good Luck To All!

OK..just looked up the weather for this week..
it looks dry all week in California...
so lets go on Wednesday March 10 the 7th at Santa Anita a solid down the hill event!
7th (4:07)

Congrats to Mickey for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  Here are the past performances for this week's race:

Download HG

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. 

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.  The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.

Back Wednesday with my HG play and some more questions, comments, and pp requests.