09/08/2013 12:07PM

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.

Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
I take your opinions seriously Mike, but I don't share your thoughts on Boisterous. Went back and watched the race a few times and still feel that it wasn't the ground but the trip that did him in. Had no wager other than a P3 ending with Hyper but I thought Castellano deliberately kept Velazquez where he wanted him in a nice tactical ride. Form cycles can be a nuanced thing to pick up on and although you could be right on I'll be wagering that with a different trip Boisterous will run much better next out.
richard cowles More than 1 year ago
You love departing,I love arriving Time will tell.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
I agree the fillies ran better than the colts in Churchill, that Tapit filly is tremendous and can be effective in November should they decide to run her in the BC. As for the colts, just a blah group till now Shug's A.P.Indy colt is the best by many lengths, Lukas has a good one , maybe(now he is a horse I'd like to see on turf just because of his action), but all those that ran this week-end do not raise the blood pressure.... As for Departing, it is the usual for North american racing, trainers rarely try their stakes winners on turf if they are earning good money on dirt, the purse money is better on the one hand, on the other from a horseman's point of view, some horses not all but some horses once they try the turf they never want to run on anything else again...therefore, they keep them on dirt. In horse racing heart is where the money is.
Holybull More than 1 year ago
Mr. Watchmaker: Please. Never leave DRF. It would never be the same without you. You are one of the great handicappers and columnists and the information you share with us is truly invaluable. Blessings.
Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
To Eddie Smith Just curious where you got your internal fractions from for the winner of the Iroquois, Cleburne? The official DRF chart under options and incremental splits show Cleburne with 24.28 , 23.61 , 24.68 , and a final 5/16 in 33.09. If I extrapolate to the horse running evenly each of the last five sixteenths, I get 26.47 and 6.61. Granted, not a whole lot of difference but I am especially curious where the final sixteenth is found. Also, do we even know if the timer starts when the gate opens or when the guy drops the flag or when they go by the starter stand and someone pushes the button. At least the Pocohontas and the Iroquois gate positions were in the same spot. Ron Zuercher
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
boisterous has not lost his form, he is not the same horse on firm turf. just look at his record on a soft or yielding turf. i hope everyone feels the same way as you so i can get a good price on him next time he runs on soft turf
Eddie Smith More than 1 year ago
You can't just look at the fractions of the leader in the Iroquois, that doesn't tell the story. The winner had the following internal fractions: 24.44, 23.67, 24.62, 26.21, 6.71 There is no way to ascertain how the Pocahontas horses would have reacted needing to keep up with such a hot pace for the first 1/2 mile.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
I never said that the Pocahontas horses would have won the Iroquois despite encountering a different pace, or anything like that at all. My point, which I think is very clear, was given the pace in the two different races, the final time of the Iroquois should have been faster than the final time of the Pocahontas, and that fact that was instead profoundly slower speaks poorly of the horses who contested the Iroquois. Let's also not forget the fact that the Iroquois winner didn't exactly keep up with the hot pace, either, as you internal fractions for him only serve to prove. He was 5 1/2 lengths behind after a quarter, 7 1/2 lengths behind after a half, and still 5 1/2 lengths behind after three quarters, even though the race was well on its way toward falling apart at that point. I don't like the following comparison because there are too many other variables it doesn't account for, but I'll throw it out there anyway: The Iroquois winner would have been right with the pace in the Pocahontas with a duplicate of his half mile split, and with a duplicate of his final time, he would have lost by about seven lengths.
Holybull More than 1 year ago
Perfectly stated.
jttf More than 1 year ago
robby does a good job keeping departing out wide so he doesnt get any dirt in his face. war front horses do not like dirt in the face. they usually win when placed towards the front or making the widest of all move in the final turn. war front horses have the highest tomlinson numbers when it comes to turf. so now the top four american earnings leaders are orb, game on dude, verrazano and departing. all four never used lasix at the age of two. why doesnt animal kingdom get listed as the top earner ? why are americans so biased toward foreign racing ? when the foreign horses come over, dont their past performances show how much they earned ? animal kingdom used lasix just once at 2.
Ann More than 1 year ago
The 'top four American earnings' means the top earners in North America, i.e. the US and Canada. Dubai is not in the US, not even in North America. If you had a list of earnings by North American-trained horses you could include Animal Kingdom and No Nay Never.
jttf More than 1 year ago
animal kingdom has just over $ 6 million earned this year. no nay nerver has $ 368, 000 this year. orb is listed as the leader with $ 2.55 million. animal kingdom has a huge lead.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Your point is clear....again. But I have to ask,and I do so with seriousness and curiosity; what is it you hope to accomplish by repeating this over and over? Owners and trainers are going to do what they want to do. Is this an aberration? What are the statistics for years past?
jttf More than 1 year ago
american racing doesnt have any logic. lasix is keeping our horses from becoming superstars. arent we taught to drink plenty of fluids ? so why do we drain fluids from the horse ? there are a few bad bleeders out there that need lasix. but dont make all of the horses take it. why are the horse of year awards handed out to horses who didnt use lasix ? why are the multiple breeders cup winners, horses who did not use lasix ? remember when new york was the only state that did not allow lasix to be used ? that only lasted a few years and it produced holy bull and skip away. but americans dont want to see horses run to their full potential. americans want their horses to run only once a month, not twice a month. does this make any sense ?
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Great wrap up of the weekend's racing action, and I particularly enjoyed your take on Departing. I'm glad he is in the hands of first-class ownership who likely will do right by him. I hope he is allowed to mature and develop at his own pace. Also, let's hope he inherited the durability of his dam's side of things and that the Round Table/Princequillo genes will hold him together. Since as a gelding he is expected to have a long career, I'm hoping he got more of Round Table's strength and durability than some of the negatives on his sire's side. I had to smile when I read your analogy of Ken Ramsey with Robert Johnson! Please don't take this as anything other than a compliment, but it's nice to know you have at least more than a passing acquaintance with the origins of our modern music. Having grown up and lived in the deep Southern Delta, graduating high school from Clarksdale HS (the "ground zero" for where the blues is said to have originated, as well as the location of "the crossroads") and growing up in Memphis, TN, as well, I had the good fortune to experience first hand the "music revolution". My favorite artist who I think channels Robert Johnson about as well as anybody is Eric Clapton. Of course, "the blues had a baby and they named it Rock 'n Roll!" :-)
edb More than 1 year ago
Love your tune. Absolutely right on EC and his mastery of the blues. Speaking of the blues, who the devil is the best 3 yr old this year? They are playing the game of " it's your turn". Year started out with Shanghai Bobby leading the pack and then so many average trials. Everyone overreacted to new point system and all you needed was one good race to get in. We've seen so many horses disappear and many not show up on race day. I have to give the horse with the biggest heart award to Oxbow who never gave up and never stopped. He stole the Preakness and he did earn it. It will be interesting how many of the TC horses run in the BC. Don't think any of them will be less than 5-1.
Kendall Daniels More than 1 year ago
The real problem with the Iroquois is its timing. I think early September is too soon for most of these colts and fillies to run 8.5 furlongs on dirt. If you win the race, you're faced with 2 bad options: Train up to the BC juvenile and run the risk of your horse not being fit or run again at 8 or 8.5 furlongs as a prep for the BC juvenile and run the risk of your horse being tired. I think this is another example of a race track being greedy and trying to fit racing in where they thought a void existed. See Gulfstream's summer racing as exhibit A. I hope that this will be just a 1 year experiment.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Two turns in September is not a good idea for 2yos in general. The tendency to run two-turns earlier and earlier in the season has been growing over my lifetime. First was the Garden State State in the 1950s. Then a few other, now defunct, races in the 1960s in October, plus the Norfolk. Then formerly one-turn races like the Remsen (in the 1970s), the Breeders' Futurity (in the 1980s), and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (after a few years - you didn't know that the BC JV was originally a one-turn mile, did you?) all in October or November. Turfway's old Ky Cup Juvenile (aka Alysheba S) was the first 1 1/16 stakes I remember in September. And the trend has continued until now we see 2-turn turf races for 2yos in AUGUST. What all this does to youngsters' leg joints I don't want to think of.