03/04/2010 3:22PM

Rachel, Mendip, Dr. Fager


I'm probably in the minority here...

But I just didn't like Rachel Alexandra's work the other day at the Fair Grounds.  Not only did she seem extremely eager and headstrong at the start of her breeze, but I thought the last quarter-mile was rather uninspiring.  Yes, she blew by her overmatched workmate, Depaul, a three-year-old colt eligible for an entry-level allowance race, in rather fast time.  But she switched back to her left lead after passing Depaul in the early stretch and it took her another couple of strides to flip back to her correct lead after that. 

I've seen several videos of Rachel's workouts this winter.  In all of them, she seems very energetic upon entering the track.  She's having fun out there.  But when it comes time to settle down and respond to Dominic Terry's early commands, she starts to pull, pull, pull.  Perhaps she's so fresh that she just wants to get on with it already, but it looks like she's a bit unfocused.  Over-eager and switching leads at the wrong times?  Maybe she's playing around. 

Zenyatta is not a toy.  You don't play with her. 

Perhaps I'm overanalyzing.  It's just one work. Rachel may not be even close to fully cranked for her date in the New Orleans Ladies on March 13.  Perhaps she's still getting into her rhythm.  But I'll be very, very interested to see her next work on Monday morning.


Vale of York, the winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, didn't do much in his three-year-old debut earlier today at Meydan.  Racing at the distance of About 1 3/16 miles over the Tapeta surface in the Listed Al Bastakiya, Vale of York, as is his tendency, was very eager at the start of the race.  He sat a decent stalking spot while on the outside but lacked a strong punch when the real running began.  Godolphin representatives had mentioned that he was a bit behind in his preparation so it may be wise to give Vale of York one more try in the UAE Derby. 
The Al Bastakiya wasn't a complete failure for Godolphin as Mendip, ridden by Frankie Dettori, moved his undefeated streak to three with a powerful six and one-quarter length win.  A son of Harlan's Holiday, a three-time Grade 1 winner at nine furlongs, Mendip sold for $130,000 as a yearling before being scooped up by Godolphin for $375,000 last year.  His second dam is Chaposa Springs, a multiple Grade 1 sprint winner.  Chaposa Springs is a half-sister to Met Mile winner You and I.  The third dam, La Chaposa, was a multiple Group 1 winner in he native Peru. 
While Mendip looked good, crossing over from his far outside post to prompt the pace from the two-path, the pace seemed to be dawdling.  I wonder if Mendip would stay 10 furlongs with a more American-type pace up front.


Mendip won't be on this page but here are the latest Derby Futures from Lucky's Las Vegas:

Download Kentucky Derby Updated 0302


We mentioned Dr. Fager's 1968 season in a recent FormBlog post.  Let's relive Dr. Fager's championship year through the legendary Charles Hatton's words from his "Profiles of Best Horses" column from the 1969 American Racing Manual

"Dr. Fager was a singular performer as a four-year-old in 1968.  He was appropriately awarded Horse of the Year honors, which is the ultimate accolade, and excelled in more departments and divisional titles than any horse since the DAILY RACING FORM and The Morning Telegraph poll was instituted in 1936.  William McKnight's Tartan Stable homebred also was proclaimed the handicap, turf course and sprint champion all rolled into one.
Dr. Fager set and tied records from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter, slashing the world mile mark to 1:32 1/5 en route.  He did everything with flair, though he was not tested at cup routes and his stamina was not incorruptible by the iconoclasts.  His prodigal wire to wire speed, his impartiality concerning track conditions, his bravery under fire and his ability to make light of enervating weights, elicited widespread acclaim..."

"...Nevertheless, any statistical summary of Dr. Fager's record has a ring.  At four, he won seven of eight races and earned $406,110, then retired to the breeding paddocks at Tartan Farm, Ocala, Fla., in sound condition.
In three seasons of his active career, he won 18 of 22 starts and placed ninth on the roster of all-time money leaders with $1,002,642.
Dr. Fager is partially syndicated for stud duty, with his breeder retaining 24 shares and his trainer and one-fourth owner, John Nerud, disposing of three of his eight shares at the heady rate of $100,000 each.  The horse is insured for $3,500,000, and this seemingly hysterical evaluation places him in the front rank of first season sires.  Two decades ago, one could scarcely give away a Florida-bred, and the fact Dr. Fager is out of a gift mare is more romantic than the gospel according to Vuilliers, Lowe, and other proponents of breeding theorem."

"...Dr. Fager's knees and ankles were mushy as a young horse and he was not nominated to the futurities.  He was afforded time for the bones to develop, before the introduction of X-ray programs for yearlings' underpinning, which has made some significant differences to horses' conformation, concerning the soundness of the species.
In the course of the '68 season, Dr. Fager won the Roseben, Californian, Suburban, Whitney, Washington Park Handicap, United Nations and Vosburgh, and placed in the Brooklyn.  He won from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter, under weights ranging from 130 to 139, carried 134 pounds a mile in 1:32 1/5, winning the Washington Park 'Cap by 10 astonishing lengths, and gave Advocator 22 pounds and a beating in his only start on grass in the United Nations.
It required the combined efforts of Damascus and his surrogate, Hedevar, to negotiate his defeat in the Brooklyn, run in 1:59 1/5 for the 10 furlongs.  At three, the Tartan flyer won seven of nine starts and $484,194, including the mile and a quarter New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham in track record time of 1:59 4/5.
Conceivably, Dr. Fager was his own formidable foe.  Except for being at once arrogant, conceited, impetuous and ingenuous, he might never have known defeat.  A rank, headstrong individual who was a hard puller with a hard mouth, he always led trumps.  Little Willie Shoemaker, with his delicate hands, never really fit him.  Braulio Baeza got on fairly well with him, through cajolery and exercising care not to antagonize him."

"Dr. Fager could never tolerate following a rival or stalking the pace once his blood was up, and his impatience had a low threshold.  Rival riders knew this and in the Woodward, when he was three, they made a dead set at getting him on the muscle early in the race, yelling alongside him and slapping their whips to excite him into excessive use of his resources.  Somewhat similarly, Hedevar had only to prompt him into the first turn to set him up for Damascus in the '68 Brooklyn. 
Nerud was delighted, naturally, to find the colt had phenomenal speed at two - and he made the most of it.  Could he have foreseen what manner of horse Dr. Fager would become, the trainer might have endeavored to teach him to wait, rating behind horses in his work.  But then this tactic often has the effect of confusing and at length discouraging a horse so that he does nothing well.  Considering Dr. Fager's mettlesome, volatile nature, it is quite possible he would have been utterly spoiled and too hostile for any use.
The NYRA's learned Dr. M. A. Gilman sized up Dr. Fager with standard and tape last September.  The colt's vital statistics:

Height,  16 hands, 2 inches.
Point of shoulder to point of shoulder, 15 inches.
Girth, 73 1/4 inches.
Withers to point of shoulder, 29 inches.
Elbow to ground, 38 1/2 inches.
Point of shoulder to point of hip, 48 inches.
Point of hip to point of hip, 24 inches.
Point of hip to point of hock, 41 inches.
Point of hip to buttock, 24 inches.
Poll to withers, 43 inches.
Buttock to ground, 57 1/4 inches.
Point of shoulder to buttock, 69 1/2 inches.
Circumference of cannon under knee, 8 1/2 inches.

Dr. Fager's easy competency at eliminating time and space is explicable in his conformation, which implements his fluent action.  For the sake of comparison, he girths a quarter-inch more than did Kelso, but the latter measured 43 inches from hip to hock.
Buckpasser girthed a substantial 75 1/2 inches and measured 43 inches from hip to hock.  All have in common the fact they proved intuitively genuine race horses.  The action, heart, nerves and combustion of oxygen into motivation power for the muscles are things one cannot see studying a horse in his box.  They are the most crucial factors..."

"Dr. Fager is something of a sport, or freak, as old-time horsemen say..."

It's interesting, but Mr. Hatton didn't seem to consider Dr. Fager as one of the true all-time greats.  Also from the column:

"If not a great horse in the purist sense that France's Gladiateur, England's St. Simon and Ormonde, Ireland's Barcaldine, Hungary's Kincsem, Argentina's Botafogo and our own Man o' War epitomized that character, he was assuredly exceptional."

"Even in saying that, one suspects some of the more enthusiastic and impressionable Dr. Fager buffs among contemporary connoisseurs will demur he is being 'damned with faint praise.'  It may sound pompous but it is one of the few benefits of increasing age that with it comes widened experience and a resultant development of critical faculty.  It is not possible to pass judgment of value on different racing eras and their champions without having lived with them.  Even then, one's comparisons of the horses are insupportable by factual evidence. 
Acquaintance with Old Rosebud, Exterminator, Reigh Count, Ribot, Gallant Fox, Regret, Equipoise, Eight Thirty, Pharis, Man o' War and Hyperion tempers one's enthusiasm for venturing curbstone opinions on the successive seasons' champions.  Emotional judgments of the moment are not terribly important once they may be seen in the perspective of time."

I wonder what Mr. Hatton would think of the state of the game - 2010.



Didn't get a chance to really look at the pp's but i'm pretty familiar with a few of these. I was at Belmont when wesley cleared his first level allowance condition and was speaking with dominguez following the race regarding a horse he had coming up the following weekend. He was very high on Wesley that day but for whatever reason didnt ride him back in the hall of fame which he won fairly easily. He's run well of the layoff before and let's see if hennig has him re4ady to beat this nice field. 100 win wesley

For HG let's go with The Gotham Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at the BIG A.

Congrats to americashorse for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  Here are the past performances for Saturday's Gotham at Aqueduct.

Download HG178



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 Saturday with the HG analysis along with some weekend picks.  Will get to questions, comments, and pp requests on Monday.

Take care,