12/02/2017 4:13PM

Bergman: The many reasons for failure


Are we all hypocrites?

How is it there are those that are sure they know exactly why horses perform badly despite having the education to understand the multitude of possibilities?

It didn’t take the haters more than a few seconds to easily digest the loss of Springsteen (as opposed to the impressive performances of Lost In Time and Stay Hungry) in the Governor’s Cup final.

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Detention was the simple answer put forth with 100 percent certainty by some to what ended Springsteen’s brief winning streak. No mention of the increased competition within the race or of the trip and the pace that helped determine the outcome.

Sure, we all want simple answers and at the moment that was in fact the simplest.

Goldsmith Maid victor Plunge Blue Chip went virtually undefeated during her 2-year-old season. Trainer-driver and part-owner Ake Svanstedt told me prior to the race that his filly was “sick” and thus the reason for her lone defeat in the New York Sire Stakes final at Yonkers in October. I didn’t question or suggest to Svanstedt that maybe the detention barn, in place for all New York Sire Stakes finalists, was the cause of Plunge Blue Chip’s sudden form reversal.

Yet we find ourselves in the midst of intense hypocrisy when it comes to assessing the villains we have cast stones against.

Jim King Jr., the trainer of Nike Franco N, tried to couch the situation as best as possible when discussing his mare’s effort in the $25,000 TVG Mares Pace on November 18 versus what he expected to see in the final. King told me that Nike Franco N just doesn’t seem to be able to race hard week-in and week-out and that she generally puts in her best performances after easy races.

Then there was Jimmy Takter, the Hall of Fame trainer currently mulling a future retirement date in 2019. Takter spoke on Saturday about Lost In Time, a horse that drew post 10 in his elimination race a week earlier at The Meadowlands and was given as unaggressive a steer as humanly possible. This was in fact the Metro champion “training-up” to a big mile with the public’s money invested (Takter did mention in the track’s program comments that his horse “would need the race for sure.”). Takter recognized what others had in that the betting race wasn’t nearly as important as the Governor’s Cup final this past Saturday. The incredible difference between Lost In Time’s elimination performance and rock solid effort in the final apparently caught none of the critics by surprise as they poured it on Springsteen’s followers yet showed no sympathy for the poor souls that wagered on Lost In Time foolishly the week before.

What apparently has become lost in time to those witnessing what we attempt to put forth as competitive races is that in as much as we try to point the finger at the alleged guilty parties, very often our own systems have brought us down. The non-competitive elimination races where we mysteriously try to eliminate one or two horses from a group of 10 doesn’t deserve to be put on public display. How can we pretend it is fine that we give license to owners, trainers and drivers to publicly stiff horses in these races? How is it more acceptable than quickly pulling the trigger and thinking our game is cured by disposing of the Allards and Bancas of the world?

It is impossible to fathom that anyone could have thought Lady Shadow’s dismal performance in the TVG Mares final had anything to do with detention or added testing when it was a blatant fact that she looked awful on the racetrack prior to the race, not nearly as sound as she’s looked in the past. That someone could willingly ignore Lady Shadow’s uninspiring performance a week earlier is even more shocking. But again, to some the simple answer is all that matters and it was much easier to credit the detention or the testing as opposed to pretend there are more reasons for failure in this business than success.

Thankfully, since we’re in that season, we can look forward to the promise of next year’s top 3-year-old performers and wish them all an uneventful vacation from the racing wars and perhaps stardom in 2018.

In speaking with Jim King Jr., he revealed that it was unlikely that Nike Franco N or Christen Me N would be nominating or racing in the Matchmaker or Levy Series races in the spring at Yonkers.

“I just don’t think he’s the type of horse that can do it six straight weeks,” said King of Christen Me N. The trainer was still lamenting a nose loss at Yonkers in an Open event in September that could have gotten the $2 million winner invited into the $250,000 Open on International Trot day.

“I think there’s a reason he’s only had around 75 starts in his career,” said King Jr. of the soon-to-be 10-year-old’s lifetime number of races. Essentially King wants to treat Christen Me N in a different manner in 2018 and hopefully have him at his best when it counts. “We’re going to try to pick out a few races we want to have him ready for,” said King Jr. “I think that’s the way he’ll race his best.”

While Nike Franco N will likely race more often, King believes a similar strategy is necessary for her to keep her in peak condition through the long season.

While on the subject of next year’s stars, trainer and part-owner Tony Alagna had to be pleased with the performance of American History in his first real encounter against the best juveniles, a third-place finish in the Governor’s Cup.

“We’ve liked him all along,” said Alagna before the race. “We had his dam when I was with Erv Miller,” Alagna recalled from 2008. “She won a qualifier in (1:)53 and change at Lexington.”

Since then Alagna has been following Perfect Touch’s foals and it took some time to find the right one. “Her first three foals were train wrecks,” said Alagna of the collective that brought under $40,000 together before American History was garnered for $150,000 at last year’s Lexington Selected sale. “We’ve always loved this family.”

American History had a hard time settling behind Lost In Time during the middle half and that may have taken some of the pop out of him while looking for room in the stretch of the Governor’s Cup. The son of American Ideal will likely be fresh and ready for a solid sophomore season.