05/13/2016 8:23PM

Bergman: Dig deeper before reaching conclusions

Curtis Salonick
Pure Country wasn't given enough respect in the Miss Pennsylvania and she scored as the second choice.

To anyone that has played this game long enough it’s no secret that history plays a major part in success. Past performances are exactly that- a capsulated history of a horse’s recent and somewhat past races.

As the saying goes, those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Thus it wasn’t a major surprise this past Saturday to see bettors fall over themselves to some degree in the Miss Pennsylvania at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. There was no other way to explain the off-time odds.

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Past performances being what they are, a majority of those wagers that came in pointed towards Darlinonthebeach, an elimination winner a week earlier and the first conqueror of Pure Country. Without question, Darlinonthebeach did defeat Pure Country fair and square in her prelim and came out of the pocket to do so.

How much weight should bettors have put on that effort?

Herein lies the major history lesson to fans and bettors alike. Was it plausible to believe that everything we needed to know about the two fillies could have been answered in just the one race that they both competed in? Is it realistic to draw all conclusions from one line with less than two minutes worth of data?

This is where past history, something older than seven days, is important to reflect upon. Not just past history of these two horses but history of the sport and the entire landscape of horses moving from their 2 to 3-year-old seasons.

Incredibly lost in at least this instance was the fact that Pure Country did not lose as a 2-year-old and her rival Darlinonthebeach lost eight of her 10 starts.

Should the slate of an entire racing season be washed away because Darlinonthebeach was now one-for-one and Pure Country winless in 2016?

That one race had made Darlinonthebeach a 4-5 favorite and Pure Country 2-1, essentially says that at least some bettors put extensive weight on that one performance.

This column isn’t set forth to diminish either of the two fillies nor to suggest that Pure Country’s victory on Saturday and Darlinonthebeach’s seventh-place finish are accurate depictions of the nature of their divide. The reality is that Saturday’s finish is likely more of an aberration than a fitting account of the two.

The Miss Pennsylvania final is what I consider a breakout mile. Actually it would be more accurate to consider it a breakout quarter mile. That’s because a 25 2/5 first quarter is pretty much the maximum speed any of these fillies can travel for that distance. Expelling that energy in the first quarter is more than enough to change the ability to go an entire mile. More often than not, with any horse not named Niatross or Somebeachsomewhere, a first quarter of that nature spells disaster.

There’s no way to fault any driver of a favorite for looking for the front end and David Miller didn’t reach $200 million in his horses’ career earnings by not putting horses where they belonged. Yet in this instance, Miller was not alone in his quest for control. Both Scott Zeron (Call Me Queen Be) and Tim Tetrick (Newborn Sassy) also had ideas of getting the perfect trip. Those two had preceded Miller to fight for control. Darlinonthebeach may have been reserved a touch as they battled, but she worked nearly as hard to keep third on the outside and then had to continue her move parked nearly three-eighths of the mile for the front.

From that point in the mile the fractions were relatively normal, but that wouldn’t help the favorite as she could only go to the head of the stretch before calling it a night.

Pure Country’s mile was extremely powerful and was an indication that she has in fact grown up nicely from her 2-year-old season. While the Brett Miller-driven filly did have a chance to settle early and off the hot pace, the fact that she was without cover and advancing over this track for five-eighths of a mile is astonishing. She proved that it was no accident that she won all of her races in 2015, completing the effort in 1:50 3/5, the identical clocking of the Pennsylvania Classic for the boys in the very next race.

In as much as we learned from one race, the Pennsylvania Classic was a lesson in how not to challenge the big boys when they dominate the field. Whether racing commissions choose to separate horses for the wagering or not, it was impossible not to detect the impact a quartet from one stable can have on opposing drivers. Despite the 4-1 odds against Lyons Snyder as the outsider against the Burke contingent, the bettors made him the 2-1 choice.

On paper Lyons Snyder looked every bit as good as his rivals, but driver Scott Zeron had to correctly realize that with three of the four Burke horses to his inside, no matter how hard he pushed his horse early, the likelihood would not be the lead or the pocket but probably a 3-hole behind two Burke horses. With that in front of him, Zeron chose not to kill his horse and the public watched as the entry dominated the pace and the race. Check Six was at the quarter in 27 2/5 and got the lead from his entrymate Big Top Hanover with no resistance. That’s a full two seconds slower than the fillies, a clear result of the competition taken out of a race when horses and drivers are working with each other as opposed to against.

There is no takeaway from the Pennsylvania Classic. Maybe some of the also-rans will show up later in the year. At the same time, it’s impossible to gauge the quality of the top horses since the slow pace neutralized the testing canvas.

Anyone that watched Wiggle It Jiggleit’s performance on Saturday had to question his gait more than the actual loss. Again, let’s look at history. Here’s a horse that at times during his 3-year-old campaign looked every bit that bad on the racetrack yet in most cases still dominated. A major difference this year could be the horses he faces. That said, it’s rather premature to suggest he will not bounce back.

Finally, those who have watched Ake Svanstedt in his short stint on these shores should recognize how talented he is at sending out horses in peak condition in their initial starts. In 2014 Svanstedt sent out Your So Vain in his first start as a 4-year-old to victory in the rich Hambletonian Maturity at The Meadowlands. This past Sunday, Resolve put in a spectacular mile in the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the same track. In both cases the Svanstedt trainee would defeat Bee A Magician, who finished second twice. This past Sunday, though the mare was elevated to top prize, Resolve was clearly the best horse on the track.

Again, let us not be doomed to repeat history. Resolve may have been the best horse on Sunday but the season is long.

One race will always be just a small part of history.