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While the first steps on this year's Derby Trail were in the spotlight Saturday, it was a pair of last year's classic candidates who turned in the day's top performances.
Friesian Fire and General Quarters ran 1-2 in the ungraded $75k Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds, a race that came up 14 Beyer points faster than the featured Grade 3 $100k LeComte for 3-year-olds three races later. Friesian Fire swept last year's Fair Grounds preps, winning the LeComte, Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, then finished 18th as the 3.80-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby. General Quarters won the Sam F. Davis and the Blue Grass, then ran 10th as the 10.30-1 fifth choice on Derby Day. Both colts returned in the Preakness, running 9th and 10th, then both went to the sidelines until losing their seasonal debuts in separate Fair Grounds allowance races last month.
Perhaps those losing returns is what made these graded winners 3-1 and 6-1 respectively on the morning line for the Louisana Handicap (behind a pair of locals with a combined record of 0-for-11 in graded stakes), but they were bet down to 9-5 and 2-1. Both improved sharply second-time back and crushed the competition -- Friesian Fire scored by 1 1/2 lengths and it was 7 1/2 lengths back from General Quarters to ML favorite Good and Lucky in 3rd. The time for the mile and a sixteenth was 1:43.39, which translated to a Beyer of 104.
Friesian Fire, trained last year by Larry Jones, is now in Steve Asmussen's stable, and the trainer said he thinks the A. P. Indy colt still has room for improvement. The question now is whether he stays at Fair Grounds or goes to Gulfstream to take on Quality Road in the Grade 1 Donn Feb. 1.
As for this year's LeComte winner, Ron the Greek is an exciting colt who drops way back and makes one run, but his winning time of 1:40.09 for a mile and 40 yards translated to Beyer of only 90 -- no disgrace for a 3-year-old in January, but he'll have to improve. He also got a perfect set-up in the LeComte, benefitting from a sharp and contested pace. Maximus Ruler, who was sent off the 2.30-1 favorite, ran very well in just his third career start to win the pace battle and still hold second to the last-to-first winner.
Saturday's other graded Derby prep, the G3 $150k Holy Bull at Gulfstream, earned a 91 Beyer for the victorious Winslow Homer, but the entire race may have been better than it looked on final time, given an unusually strong pace in which most of the leading contenders were involved. Early fractions of 23.86 and 45.76 may not sound blazing, but they are for Gulfstream's oddly-timed (virtually no run-up) one-turn miles. The opening halves in the day's two other races at that distance were run in 48.23 and 48.18.
In the Holy Bull, there were five horses just heads apart through the opening quarter, including Jackson Bend, who was under pressure from start to finish and arguably ran as well as the winner. Winslow Homer was just off the hot fractions, moved well to the lead, and outlinished Jackson Bend by three-quarters of a length in 1:35.97. The final quarter of 26.33 doesn't immediately make you smell roses, but the pace took a toll. IF you believe the posted fractions, the entire field ran sub-22 second quarters.
---Meanwhile back at the local ranch, Aqueduct is dark until Friday after running races for 11 of the last 12 days. There was a $118k pick-six carryover in Saturday's sequence, but it looked too tough to me to get involved, and it was. Only two players came up with the winning combo and rewarded with $190,629 apiece. Only 6 of the 12 horses were covered in the finale, from 1 to 4 times each.
It was harder than the win mutuels ($4.60, $26.00, $15.20, $3.80, $27.60, $18.00) might make it look. The second and fifth winners both were much longer than their 12-1 win mutuels in the other multirace payoffs, and went off as the 6th and 7th choices in their fields.
Saturday's card also featured the return of Saturday guaranteed pick-4's, at $250k through the end of the current meeting. The guarantee drew a Saturday pool of $379, 838, up from $225k a week earlier.
Walt P. Nice idea. Let us all know when even one of the apparatchicks that administer our great game does something for the common good.
Steve (and everyone else), the Magna 5 returns Saturday. Will you be playing again this year and will you be posting your ticket structure and thoughts?
Given the situation with New Jersey possibly having to cut back to a 50-day meet at Monmouth after this year, I was going to propose myself a dedicated three-state circuit of Monmouth, Philadelphia Park and Delaware Park that I think could be done in this manner: Philadelphia Park runs like Aqueduct does in the winter: End of October/beginning of November (usually the Friday Breeders' Cup Day) through Derby Day, with Derby day being closing day of the season. The Cotillion can become the main eastern prep race for the Kentucky Oaks, while the PA Derby can be run in November as the last big-money race on dirt for three years olds after the Breeders' Cup. Racing would generally be six days a week, Thursday-through-Tuesday in October/November and five days a week, Friday-through-Tuesday in December and probably January-end of meet. Delaware Park runs two meets: The Friday after the Kentucky Derby through (usually) July 4 or whereabouts (depending on where Labor Day falls later in the year) weekend AND Labor Day through the end of October/beginning of November (Monday before the Breeders' Cup). Racing would be on a Thursday-through-Tuesday basis, with Wednesday as the lone dark day. Monmouth runs an eight-plus week, 50-day meet from (usually) the Saturday following July 4 through the Sunday before Labor Day, working backwards from the Sunday before Labor Day to get the dates. If this were the case for 2010, the dates would be from July 10-September 5. Racing would again be on a Thursday-through-Tuesday basis, with Wednesday as the lone dark day. This would have most of the Monmouth meet going when NYRA is at Saratoga. The six-day-a-week schedules would be feasible because only one of Philadelphia Park, Monmouth or Delaware would be open at any one time, and with all three on one circuit and not running opposite each other, more horses would be available to race at each of the tracks. The three tracks are close enough to each other to form such a circuit and between them offer a solid enough purse structure for horsemen to work with such.
Steve. On the subject of Gulfstream: Did you happen to catch the last 2 races on Wednesday, Jan. 27? 1. A Pick-6 carryover is announced after the 7th race. 2. The eighth race is held up at the gate for about 15 minutes as "Whispering" Larry Colmus announces that a horse is returning to the paddock for an equipment change. 3. Race 9 is held up for 20 minutes at the gate,as the #6 horse is taken back to the paddock for a jockey change. Apparently, Prado refused to ride this horse. His (EL Kingdom) morning line was 10-1, but he opened up at 4-5. After the announcement, his odds drifted up to 5-1. About 10 minutes later, it is announced that the horse is scratched. In the meantime, Remittance, the #5 horse, drops to even money(came in 3rd). Maybe all was legit, but I was just upset, as I had the scratched #6 horse going in a $1,286.60 pick-3.
Skip Away ran 4 120+ BSFs in a little over a year at 3 tracks / 3 distances. http://www.drf.com/news/weekend/images/SkipAway.pdf http://community.drf.com/files/formalgold.pdf Skip Away and Formal Gold each had one race where a BSF was not calculated. Their averages are: Formal Gold: average BSF 112.53 in 15 races. Skip Away: average BSF 105.68 in 37 races. An interesting exercise would be to find the horse with the all-time best average BSF.
"California Dream'n or Scream'n??? I'll take an 80 degree day at The Spa anyday....the August Place to Be is simply the best!!!
Hey Steve, or anyone else, for that matter- Some friends and I were talking about the time when the riders went on strike at Aqu. I think it was late in the year because some guy named Fox got the mount on Forty Niner in the Cigar Mile (or was it then known as the NYRA mile?) Anyway, does anyone know if any of these "replacement" riders ever became well enough known to the point that race fans would recognize their names today? Just wondering. Thanks. [Grasslover: It was 21 years and three months ago that the "replacement riders" -- largely from Philly Park and Kentucky, as I recall -- rode in the inaugural $567,000 NYRA Mile Handicap on 10/22/88. The riders on the six starters, in order of finish, were: W. I Fox Jr. (Forty Niner), D A Sarvis (Mawsuff), A Vega (Precisionist), W A Ward (Claramount), J A Romero (Talinum) and B Thornburg (Parlay Me). --SC]
Steve, Since I know he's one of your favorites, who was the last horse to equal Ghostzapper's feat of four 120+ Beyer fig's at four different distances, at three different tracks to boot? [None since, and the only comparable horse I can think of figure-wise is Formal Gold, who in 1997 ran four Beyers of 122 to 126 at FOUR different tracks (Suf, Sar, Mth, Bel), three at 9f and one at 8.5f. --SC]
steve_t Using the standard error methodolgy with a % of injury that small you can't say at with a high level of confidence level that those results are differnt. You need pretty large samples when your sample proprtions are that small. Also if you compared delmar to saratoga for instance you'd come to a different conclusion. There is also some evidence that soft tissue injuries may be more frequent and more serious on artifical surfaces I don't think there is any clear answer yet whether one surface is better.
According to the charts, there were two other 1 mile races run on dirt, a 3 year old claiming race for fillies in race 1 and an allowance race for 3 year old males in race 5. Race 1 was run in 1:38.66, and race 5 in 1:39 flat. That makes the Holy Bull in 1:35.97 between almost 3 and over 3 seconds faster than those two mile races. What was the Beyer for race 5, a 40 BSF? Maybe a 42 BSF for race 1? Race 9 was run substantially faster than those two races, well over 10 lengths all things being equal. How did they come up with that 91 BSF? I know there was a freakish maiden horse who blew the maiden field away in a 6 furlong romp in 1:08 and change, about .40 off the track record, but by all accounts, that horse is super fast. Besides 6f is an entirely different dynamic on that track. Somehow a BSF of 91 does not sound right for a 3 year old stakes race in January that is multiple seconds faster than the other two races that day at 1 mile on dirt. [The figures are strightforward and the raw final times corresponded pretty closely to the expected differences. In the two other one-mile races, both the $15k N2L fillies and the $25k maiden-claimers generally run in the mid-50's as opposed to the Holy Bull crew, which you would expect to run in the mid-90's. So the "multiple seconds" in fact translate perfectly to the 30+-point differences in the figures for the races. --SC]