09/15/2013 11:14AM

Weekend Thoughts


If Dank made the statement last month in the Beverly D. Stakes, then Alterite backed it up in Saturday's Grade 1 Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park.

The statement Dank made in the Beverly D. was Europe's female performers, at the very least, are miles better than our female turf horses. Dank, a good-but-not-great Group 2-type horse overseas, was so much the best winning the Grade 1 Beverly D. over another far less accomplished European shipper in Gifted Girl that she probably should have been forced to spot the field a 10 length head start just to make it a fair fight. In the meantime, Marketing Mix, our best middle distance grass mare and, by our standards, anyway, a truly top-class performer, finished a soundly beaten fourth behind Dank, without excuse.

On Saturday, Alterite, who had come close in two Group 1 races in her nine-race career in her native France, but who had yet to actually win anything beyond a listed event, met a couple of very nice American Grade 1 winners in the Garden City in Emollient and Discreet Marq. And as was the case in the Beverly D., the home team was no match. Under nothing more than a moderate hand ride, and that for only a little more than a sixteenth of a mile, Alterite took the Garden City in far more decisive fashion than her 1 1-2 length win margin would suggest.

Beyond her sharp performance, what was also striking about Alterite is she won the way she did on firm going. The turf Saturday at Belmont wasn't firm firm, if you know what I mean, not after significant rain two days earlier. But it wasn't anywhere near the soft ground Alterite is said to prefer. And that's a pretty scary thought.

Alterite is the latest in a procession of quality turf females owner Martin Schwartz has transferred from Europe to trainer Chad Brown. This combination won last year's Garden City with Samitar, but the sense is Alterite is much better than her, and closer in quality to Zagora and Stacelita. All those two did was win the last two female turf Eclipse Awards for Schwartz and Brown.

The big mystery in the Garden City was the performance of Emollient. Emollient, one of only two multiple Grade 1 winning 3-year-old fillies in the U. S. so far this year (Princess of Sylmar and Beholder are the other two), had not raced since she won the American Oaks two months ago. But Emollient won the American Oaks off a two month layoff, and several who finished behind her in that event had come back to run very well. Yes, Emollient did not break sharply, but thanks to her inside draw, she had perfect early position in short order, racing in company with Alterite, only to come up completely empty in the stretch to finish eighth of 10.

But for those who put credence in such things, Emollient's non-effort might not have been a total surprise. Despite being the most accomplished member of the Garden City field, she was only third choice in the betting at an ice-cold 4-1.

I'll check back in tomorrow to weigh in on the big Sunday races at Woodbine. It will be interesting to see how the two European fillies do in the Canadian, and how European shipper Trade Storm fares against Wise Dan in the Woodbine Mile.

Update, Monday morning: The few Europeans who came over to compete in two of the Sunday stakes at Woodbine proved unsuccessful. Ladys First, somewhere between a Group 3 and Group 2 performer in her native England, finished fifth in the Canadian Stakes as the second choice in the betting after attending a pace that appeared to be much faster than anything she had likely seen before. And Trade Storm, a Group 2-type on his best day, could only manage a third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile because, well, he ran into defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Wise Dan was very, very good on Sunday, not because he beat anything special (runner up Za Approval is a nice gelding, but is not a major stakes horse by any stretch of the imagination), or because he overcame adversity (Wise Dan had an ideal trip stalking a pace disputed by two horses stretching out off sprints). Wise Dan was good on Sunday because he won with such ease, and because he ran fast doing it.

Wise Dan's final time of 1:31.75 might seem otherworldly at first glance. But when you remember the not-unimportant fact that Za Approval finished 3 1-2 lengths behind that final time, giving him a final time (using the more accurate formula of one length equaling 17 hundredths of a second) of 1:32.35, it puts things into proper perspective. It is clear that the final time of the Woodbine Mile had to be more a function of very fast footing than a super-equine performance, although the race was still fast enough to earn a preliminary Beyer Figure of 108.

And now, once again, the debate continues over Wise Dan's "greatness." Putting aside for a moment my belief that the term "great" is used far too liberally in our sport, greatness means different things to different people. So by definition, the debate over whether Wise Dan is a great horse can never end satisfactorily.

For me, Wise Dan's best case for greatness lies in the fact that he has been successful at a high level for an extended period of time, not unlike Zenyatta, or Cigar. Wise Dan has not attempted anything especially extraordinary; his campaigns have been conservative in nature, which is entirely the right of his connections. Because of that, however, Wise Dan, for all he has done, has beaten a legitimately special field only once, and that was in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile.

But where Wise Dan deserves every bit of the praise he receives is he has now won nine straight (six of them Grade 1 events, the other three Grade 2's), and is only a head away from winning his last 13 starts, dating back 23 months. It is no small feat for a horse to maintain that kind of form for that length of time, no matter what the level of competition.



Todd Saunders More than 1 year ago
mike: i do not think the issue of time is as moot as you seem to think. while it is certainly not the only factor in measuring the talent and "greatness" of a horse, going fast should count for something. in the case of WD, that track was not that fast on sunday, certainly not fast that it would have indicated a track and stakes record was imminent. WD went nearly as fast in his last 4f as he did the first 4f, under a hand ride that looked like he was breezing. with respect to the horse who came in 2nd, someone has to, right? getting beat by 3.5 or 4 lengths does not exactly say that much about him, other than the fact that he was good enough to be 2nd. Twilight Eclipse set a world record at a mile and a half on turf, and beat the 2nd p[lace horse by just a couple of lengths. in harness racing, world records have been set with horses winning by less than a length. the fact that someone else gets race timed in a fast time is a function of being there, in that race at that time, and the set up and final time gives the 2nd place finisher a fast final time as well. it should not matter that Za Approval ran fast. what does matter is that WD ran faster than anyone has in that race and that racetrack, and he did it without absolute ease and almost contempt for his competition. in this day and age, winning a lot of races, under different conditions and at different tracks, should matter even more. and when WD nearly breaks the course record at saratga, and then obliterates the track and stakes record at woodbine, more than a passing glance should be paid those accomplishments
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
We are in agreement for the most part. But Wise Dan running as fast as he did Sunday would have had an entirely different meaning if he had won by a huge margin. But he did not (and whether he won easily or not has no bearing on this specific point). Because Wise Dan won by 3 1-2 lengths, that means the nice by limited Za Approval also ran extremely fast, so fast that, given his established capabilities, it can only be explained by one of two things: a teletimer malfunction, or footing so extremely glib that it was responsible for the fast time. There is no evidence here of a timer malfunction (which are far more rare than people think, anyway), so it can only be the footing. Remember, Za Approval ran a mile Saturday in 1:32.35. He's a nice gelding, but he's not good enough to run that fast without a huge assist from very fast footing.
Todd Saunders More than 1 year ago
i just do not see the relevance of what ZA Approval did? as noted, someone has to come in 2nd, and it would have been a fast time if he gets beat by 3.5 or 5.5. it generally takes pretty good conditions to get fast times, and that is generally the case in all racing. i do not think ZA Approval being raced time in 132 and change is such a big deal. the other times that day were not so absurdly fast, and as mentioned, WD was within 2-3 lengths of the pace at all time, and when he took over, he ran the last 4f in like 46 seconds under restraint. i have no doubt that if he wanted to win by more he could have, but the margin of victory does not seem relevant here. i think his final time simply deserves much more credit
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
Final word on this: Wise Dan's margin of victory on this is extremely critical because that margin allows us to determine how fast Za Approval ran. On one hand you say that Wise Dan's final time of 1:31.75 deserves much more credit, and on the other hand, you say Za Approval's final time of 1:32.35 isn't such a big deal. That's completely contradictory. Za Approval's final time is important, because how often in North America do you see horses go 1:32.35 for a mile, on any surface? It rarely happens. Given Za Approval's well established credentials as a race horse, that he went that fast is overwhelming evidence of how fast the footing was for the Woodbine Mile. And that puts Wise Dan's performance AGAINST THE CLOCK in proper context. How easily he won - and he was very impressive winning as easily as he did - is an entirely different matter.
Carmine Joe More than 1 year ago
The fast final time was NOT merely a consequence of the fast footing. It was a result of a exceptional horse running a ONE turn mile rather than a two turn mile. Wake up.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
If that's true, then you must have Za Approval as a superstar, too, since he ran his mile in 1:32.35. I don't think Za Approval is a superstar.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
A lot of horses have been sucked along in fast to very fast times. While I agree that he didn't beat much, I think the euro Trade Storm is a lifelong chaser, but the way Wide Dan won is what was impressive. His head was cocked under a stranglehold reminiscent of Points Offthebench when he beat Cyclometer under Tyler Baze. The scary thing about Wise Dan is his cruising speed. He doesn't take a deep breath 2 lengths off wicked splits and he doesn't bat an eyelash when asked to blast between horses or slam the brush. What we know right now is that none of the older turf milers can beat him. I am intrigued by the thought of Gabriel Charles taking a shot against him though. An improving 3 yr old with a wicked turn of foot. Maybe that is what it will take to beat him. A youngster stepping up.
Jeff Brown More than 1 year ago
he is a great turf miler. there can be no debate about that.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan is great. I get it. Gamblers can't stand him! He kills multi-race wagers and is a constant short priced favorite.
Hector Lebron More than 1 year ago
I want to see him in the BC Classic against The Dude and the other big boys.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Sometimes, when a horse gets so good, the only real competition he has is against himself. Wise Dan setting a new record was about the only thing left for him to do on Sunday, given his competition wasn't all that spectacular, and his trip wasn't particularly difficult. Like your comments that maintaining a spotless record over an extended period of time in and of itself is noteworthy and commendable, no matter what the competition. Just walking to the starting gate, loading into the gate, any steps along the way can pose disaster for any horse. Merely keeping him healthy and sound over an extended period can be a hugely difficult task. About the only place he is likely to see any real competition will be at the Breeders' Cup, as most will avoid him. He is fun to watch, heartwarming to cheer for, and he does not disappoint. What is not to like?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well said.
Albert More than 1 year ago
This past weekend was a disaster for me at Belmont, but Alterite's win was one of the few bright spots. It was more a matter of not really finding any special figures among the other contestants that pointed out this no-figure European. Emollient had some visually impressive races, but her ground loss adjusted numbers were only about 4th best in the field, which was average to begin with. I use Equibase numbers. You can check it out.
Ronald Dodgen More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan can compete with the best of Europe especially on firm turf. Europe's big advantage is at 9.5 furlongs and up, watch his Breeders Cup and the Woodbine mile both track records. When and if the Euro's take on Wise Dan in the Breeders Cup he will dispose of them no doubt.
craigb1818 More than 1 year ago
No excuses for Marketing Mix in the Beverly D, but she didn’t run well at all when 4th in Chicago. There’s a big difference between, “our horse ran great, she was only 4th on the day,” and “our horse didn’t run her race, hopefully she’ll run better next time.” In the Beverly D, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place finishers, Ausus, Marketing Mix, La Tia, and Solid Appeal were all within about a half-length of each other. Not to disparage those horses, they are all nice mares and we’d love to have them in our barn, but thus far they’ve been G2 and G3 horses in North America. The fact that Marketing Mix finished within a neck or so of each of them I think is more of a reflection of her performance that day than the fact that she was beat 6 lengths by Dank. There may have been no beating Dank anyway, but I’d like to see Marketing Mix run well against her. Marketing Mix has a 6-2-3-0 record in G1 races. She’s done pretty well vs. most European shippers. The Beverly D was not a good race for Marketing Mix, hopefully she’ll run better in the Rodeo Drive.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
Well, I just saw the horse win as easy as horses can win and I'm left with the feeling that it would have taken Secretariat to beat him today. Can't argue with success.