09/08/2013 1:07PM

Saturday Notes

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Some random notes on Saturdays stakes action:

I said it last month after he won the West Virginia Derby by almost nine lengths, and I will repeat it in the wake of his four length victory in the Super Derby: Departing is a horse I would love to own. He's already earned nearly $1.4 million, and with care, this gelding will be a money machine for years to come. And as I also commented last month, what I find especially intriguing about him is, he hasn't even explored his options on turf yet. Departing is a son of War Front. He ought to love the grass.

Still, lets not go too far over the top with Departing. No matter what you think about the leaders of this years 3-year-old male crop - and with the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers all won by different horses, there are good reasons to question the overall quality of this group - they are still much, much better than the company Departing beat Saturday at Louisiana Downs, or last month at Mountaineer, or four starts back in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

Departing ran against legitimately good 3-year-olds twice, and was found wanting both times. He was third without excuse behind Revolutionary and Mylute in the Louisiana Derby. And though his sixth, beaten 10 lengths, in the Preakness was better than it looks on paper because he moved near the dead rail late on the far turn, the run he made before that was a grinding one that at best would have earned him only a marginally better finish.

That said, Id still love to have Departing, and there is nothing that says he still cant improve. The Super Derby was only his eighth career start.

Did Ken Ramsey take the legend of bluesman Robert Johnson to heart and make a deal down at the crossroads? He landed yet another graded turf stakes with Hyper in the Bowling Green at Belmont Park. Hyper, who has always been a useful overnight horse and not a lot more, is now a Grade 2 winner.

As for Boisterous, who finished third in the Bowling Green at 3-5, yes, maybe he wants a little more give in the ground than Belmont's turf courses were offering Saturday. And yes, he did have some traffic trouble on the inside into the stretch. But honestly, did Boisterous ever really and truly look like the Bowling Green winner? Despite an otherwise easy trip, he never quickened, not even when he got out in the clear, and was begging just to get third. I sense Boisterous has lost his form.

After watching the Arlington-Washington Futurity and then the Arlington-Washington Lassie for fillies, you would have had to come away with the conclusion that the Futurity was by far the stronger race. In the Futurity, the well bet Solitary Ranger scored by 5 1/2 lengths over co-favored Whyruawesome, who had almost seven lengths on the third finisher, with another 3 1/2 lengths back to the fourth finisher. But in the Lassie, Shes Offlee Good prevailed by two lengths, with only one length separating the second though sixth place finishers. We all know its never a good sign for a race when that many horses are that close together at the finish, and finish prominently, as was the case here.

Visually, it wasnt even close, right? Yet the final time for the Futurity was 1:38.17, while the fillies went in 1:37.98. Lets take a look at each races quarter mile splits.

Futurity:

22.89, 23.54, 25.52, 26.22

Lassie:

22.66, 22.84, 25.39, 27.09

After similar opening quarters, the second and third quarters of the Futurity were significantly slower, especially the second quarter, and that's why the Futurity's final time was slower. The males simply ran too slow though that middle half-mile to completely catch up by the end, time-wise. But the significantly faster final quarter mile in the Futurity is why that race seemed significantly stronger visually.

In any case, Solitary Ranger was impressive coming off an over four-month layoff while stretching out from 4.5 furlongs to a mile. Of course, you have to keep in mind that this was a synthetic track performance, which means it could translate to turf, but was probably of little impact in the more important context of dirt racing.

There were also two 2-year-old stakes in the evening at Churchill Downs, and again, the fillies ran faster. The final time of the 8.5 furlong Pocahontas Stakes for fillies was 1:44.38, while the final time for the Iroquois, run at the same distance, was 1:45.65. Here are the internal fractions for each race:

Pocahontas

23.73, 24.67, 24.10, 25.09, 6.79

Iroquois

23.34, 23.27, 25.02, 26.81, 7.21

As you can see, the early pace of the Iroquois was much faster than the Pocahontas, especially the second quarter. Putting aside for a moment what much faster fractions in one of two comparable races do to horses close to the lead (because running styles dont matter for purposes of this discussion) a much faster pace should result in a faster final time. Horses who go slower early will have to run faster later to just to catch up time-wise, and often it will be impossible to run fast enough late to completely close the gap.

But in this case, even though the faster initial fractions of the Iroquois set it up for a faster final time, it didnt turn out that way. And that is because the Iroquois didnt just fall apart in the third and fourth quarters (as you can see by the splits), it disintegrated. The fact that the Pocahontas, despite an unfavorable pace set up, was able to have not just a faster final time, but a significantly faster final time, is incredibly damning of the group who contested the Iroquois.