11/27/2012 3:37PM

Slow KJC, Fast Remsen


There has been a lot of buzz about how slow last Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes was, and for good reason.

The Beyer Figure for the KJC, which sometime before Tuesday morning was bumped to 76 from a preliminary 75, meant that three of the first four finishers in the race all sustained substantial Beyer drop offs. Uncaptured, who prevailed by a neck over Frac Daddy, fell off anywhere from 12 to 20 Beyer points from four of the five Beyers he earned prior to the KJC. Frac Daddy, whose Beyer in his maiden romp earlier in the month was nudged up after the KJC to 91 from 90 (as was Uncaptured’s win in the Iroquois in his previous start), fell off 15 Beyer points. And fourth-place finisher Tesseron, who earned Beyers of 83 and 84 in his first two career starts, dropped to a 72 in the KJC.

What’s weird about this is it is all so counter-intuitive. You can always understand when one horse takes a big step back speed figure-wise because individual horses suddenly go out of form all the time. But for three of the first four finishers to all have their Beyer bottoms drop out, especially when all ran well from a visual sense, is just very strange.

Pace, which is one of the first places figure makers look when final times don’t play well together (this happens all the time in turf races; I know a little something about this. I have made my own figs since the mid 1970’s), isn’t a factor here. The pace in the KJC was only slightly slower than the two other two turn races on the card, nowhere near enough to make the sort of meaningful impact on the final time that would have to be at work here.

A change in the relative speed of racing surface would be another likely culprit, but that doesn’t seem to be in play, either. There was no “weather” at Churchill on Saturday, and the main track there isn’t like Big Sandy at Belmont Park, which dramatically speeds up, or slows down, depending on how heavily it is, or isn’t, watered. The Golden Rod was run one hour before the KJC, and the final figure of that race borne from a final time that was two one-hundredths of a second faster than the KJC, seems totally logical. Although the final time and figure of the KJC are not logical when compared to the day’s other routes, it just seems implausible that the speed of the track could have changed that much in the hour between the Golden Rod and the KJC, particularly when there was no apparent reason for it to have changed.

One of the interesting things about this KJC mystery is that it has deflected attention from how fast the Remsen, run earlier Saturday at Aqueduct, came up. In fact, a skeptic would say that the Remsen came up as suspiciously fast as the KJC did slow.

On a dry afternoon in Queens on a track that showed zero signs of speeding up (or slowing down) during the day, and after an early pace that was comparable to the other two two-turn races on the card (the Gazelle and Demoiselle), the Remsen was completed in a time that translated to a 99 Beyer Figure.

To anyone who watched this Remsen, that big a figure was also counter-intuitive. Overanalyze, who was put to a drive with three-eighths to go, somehow prevailed by a nose in blue collar, grind-it-out fashion. Runner up Normandy Invasion looked like he was a mortal lock in the stretch after making a big run from off the pace, but he appeared to hang. And close third-place finisher Delhomme just wasn’t good enough after setting a pace that did not appear to be demanding.

Visually, this Remsen didn’t look anything like the breakthrough race the final time says it was. Yet Overanalyze’s 99 Beyer was 14 points higher than his previous career top over four prior starts (and, notably, 23 points higher than what he earned in his distant third behind Uncaptured in the Iroquois), Normandy Invasion’s 99 Beyer was 18 points higher than his lengthy maiden romp earlier in the month, and Delhomme’s 98 Beyer was four points higher than his impressive maiden victory in his last start.

What’s funny here is that most of us will find the suspiciously high Remsen Beyer easier to accept than the suspiciously low KJC Beyer. That is because we are talking about 2-year-olds, and because there was a near 17 length gap in the Remsen between Delhomme, and the fourth place finisher. But those two points fail to take into account that there was precious little behind the top three in the Remsen, and that just because young horses have a license to dramatically improve from one race to the next, it doesn’t automatically mean they will.

In any case, these two stakes will require extra scrutiny next year. It could turn out that the truth about the suspiciously slow KJC and suspiciously fast Remsen will be found somewhere in the middle.