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Beyer: California Chrome's Derby was historically slow
In almost every respect but one, California Chrome’s victory in the Kentucky Derby was satisfying and heartwarming, a triumph for the little guy that fans and the media always relish.
The colt’s co-owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, are so self-effacing that they dubbed their modest racing operation “Dumb Ass Partners” and feature a donkey on their racing silks. Trainer Art Sherman, 77, was asked a thousand times to retell the story of how he rode to Louisville in a railroad boxcar with Swaps for the 1955 Derby. He had waited almost six decades for his chance to come to Churchill Downs as a trainer.
And while Derby winners are frequently overhyped as rags-to-riches stories, no colt in decades has been such an improbable winner as California Chrome. His sire stood at stud for a $2,500 fee; his dam’s only victory came in a maiden $8,000 claiming race; his dam’s dam scored her lone career win at Charles Town. Based on pedigree, California Chrome was more likely to wind up at a track like Charles Town than on the biggest stage in American racing.
Most racing fans love this saga, and they may be unfazed by a winning time of 2:03.66, which was the slowest Derby over a track labeled “fast” since 1974. This slow time is not merely an indication that the current crop of 3-year-olds is subpar; it can be seen as an indictment of the modern American Thoroughbred.
The slowness of the Derby creates an intriguing story line for the Triple Crown series. The most impressive 3-year-old at Churchill Downs was neither California Chrome nor any of his 18 rivals in the Derby. It was the filly Untapable, who delivered a dazzling performance in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. She would be a formidable entrant in the Preakness – except trainer Steve Asmussen is disinclined to run.
California Chrome looked like a bona-fide star when he came to Churchill Downs after winning four straight races in the West by big margins. He was clearly the most accomplished horse in the Derby field and was justifiably a solid favorite, though there were two legitimate questions about him. Because he typically races on or near the early lead, would the usual hot pace in the Derby compromise him? And would he be able to go 1 1/4 miles?
When the gates opened, none of the jockeys aboard front-running types were inclined to go on a suicide mission. Chitu and Uncle Sigh vied for the early lead, but they set a sensible pace. “Everybody slowed down,” said California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza. “I was [thinking], ‘This is going great.’ ” And from the stands, Sherman thought, “All right, Victor, you’re in a perfect spot; just cool it – wait.”
In the previous two Derbies, the first half-mile was run in 45.39 seconds and 45.33, and the sizzling pace took a toll on the leaders. On Saturday, Uncle Sigh covered the distance in 47.37 seconds, an honest pace, and California Chrome was indeed in the perfect spot, sitting just outside the leaders.
Meanwhile, a number of his rivals were having difficult trips. The field was not strung out the way it was in 2012 and 2013, enabling most of the runners to secure a decent position by the time they had reached the first turn. The field Saturday was more tightly bunched, creating problems for some of the main contenders behind California Chrome.
Intense Holiday was parked five wide much of the way. Wicked Strong, after breaking from post 19, could not get close to the rail at the first turn. Candy Boy had a disastrous trip, getting squeezed back sharply on the first turn.
As the field rounded the final turn, California Chrome shot to the lead and seized command. To the eye, this looked like the type of bold move with which great horses such as Unbridled and Spectacular Bid have captured the Derby. But it was an illusion. California Chrome wasn’t accelerating; his rivals were fading. The winner covered the final quarter-mile in a slow 26.21 seconds and crossed the finish line in a time that translated into a Beyer Speed Figure of 97 — the lowest ever for either a Derby or Preakness win.
In recent years, the speed figures for the Belmont Stakes have been low by historical standards, and the most logical explanation is that U.S. breeders don’t try to produce horses capable of running 1 1/2 miles. A similar explanation might now be offered for the Derby: Few horses are bred to run 1 1/4 miles. Certainly, California Chrome isn’t. His sire never won a race beyond 5 1/2 furlongs. California Chrome excelled at 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby, but that extra furlong makes the Derby a whole different game.
The Derby runner-up, Commanding Curve, may have been one of the few in the field capable of going 1 1/4 miles effectively. He has never won anything but a slow maiden race, but the 37-1 shot rallied in the final furlong to finish only 1 3/4 lengths behind California Chrome.
The weakness of the Derby stood in sharp contrast to the Oaks. Untapable delivered a performance that was brilliant by any standard. She demolished a strong field of fillies to win by 4 1/2 lengths, and she ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.68, the second-fastest time in the race’s history, earning a 107 Beyer. Her effort was similar to the Oaks victory of the great Rachel Alexandra, who went on to be voted Horse of the Year in 2009.
Asmussen trained Rachel Alexandra, who went from the Oaks to the Preakness and scored a memorable victory over the best males of her generation. However, Asmussen says he is not going to take that path with Untapable. After speaking to owner Ron Winchell, he said, “We didn’t feel it was in her best interest to run back in two weeks.” If he examines the way the Derby was run, he ought to change his mind.
© 2014 The Washington Post
Gosh... there must still be a lot of venom or animosity for A.B.'s viewpoint to have been to the woodshed 561 times. Someone pointed out that we wouldn't pay for this privilege (having to pay for DRF+ and that's pretty much true. One of the things you have to have with their new model is to be able point to "how many views" a site is visited or "pages viewed" to determine advertising availability, spacing, rotation, and of course, pricing of said advertisement. I occurred to me that maybe the heart attack suffered by Steve (we know that at least a 1000 people "wished him well" finally woke of the rest of the troops. This could just be more clever tripe where A.B. already has the answers to the questions he posed and is just looking to supplement his income by writing a 1000 words for the Washington Post. It is exactly 998 words and that's how they pay. Let's face it, Andy's royalties for his licensing agreement has to be tied to the number of actual Racing Form's sold (whether in electronic or paper form) and this industry is down at least 10-12% from last year. This is just good business for DRF because they know that many neither envy or despise him enough to say anything really "mean" about Andy and thus, he is out there to stir of "views" for advertisers. Good job, A.B.
I see CC winning the Preakness as a paid workout. The trap is the Belmont. However...this is the year where there's such a gap between CC's talent and the next best horse, ala Smarty Jones and Big Brown that he could win the Belmont with a better ride than both of those horses got and not at all be suited for the distance. I thnk it happens by defualt this year, not because CC's a superhorse, it will be because he so far ahead of his generation. It will happen this year. Finally!
They don't run Untapable because they know she is good but not that good bottom line. Time's don't mean a thing it's the W that counts in any race and I'm pretty sure C.C. can take it to Untapable. Rasmussen knows to keep her in the barn let everybody think she can beat C.C. instead of letting the cat out of the bag and losing. Best to keep everyone believing instead of bursting the bubble. Wise move keep her in the barn and let the debates roll on.
Ride on Curlin, with Danza and Chrome battling it out for 2nd and 3rd.
I think he will win the Triple crown
7.25 rag for CC...and I doubt they ignored the wind...Untapable would deserve to be a HUGE favorite in Preakness....the colts are just historically slow to this point...(which means there is ALOT of room for one to emerge a la Bernardini....maybe the star of the division will be in the Peter Pan Saturday...
Before the race they took their picks and Donna Brothers had Dansa, Jerry Bailey had Wicked Strong and 3 or 4 more gave their pick but not one of them picked California Chrome..The horse just won the Ketucky Derby ! Every owners dream, every trainners dream..People with something negative to say about CC betted on another horse.....
My response to Mikeys reply. No I'm not joking and yes I watched Rachels Personal Ensign. Ever think of this Mikey & guys who think like you. There are those of us who have been around for quite a while that actually watched races at the Classic Distances in North America which were filled with super talented horses & where 1 or 2 Lbs. of weight made a dramatic difference in the outcome of a race. These horses carried 130 lbs. a mile and a quarter. That being said when you retire race horses at 3-4 years of age the quality of the races run at the classic distances suffers dramatically therefore the Industry shortens the races accordingly. Zenyatta is a perfect example of what you should do with a sound horse as oppose to retiring it at an early age. Allowing a horse to run as a 4,5 or 6 year old gives you a better idea of what you actually have instead of retiring a Colt who did nothing other than beating other Colts as a 2 or 3 year old. And yes at a mile and one quarter Zenyatta would have eaten Rachel up and spit her out. Zenyattas win in the BC Classic at Santa Anita showed her running the last mile in around 1:33 give or take a few fifths. Yeah I know the track was concrete and we know how Beyer feels about concrete!
Of all of the 3 year olds in the world only one of them can win the Kentucky Derby ! The Derby is not about breaking records or how fast the race was run..Those were all grade 1 horses and any horse in the race had a chance to win..The jocky has to ride a good race and have some horse left for the strech run..In other sports if you win by 1 or by 20 it don't make a difference..Victor shut the horse down after he took a look back..watch the replay.
how come the drf+ doesn't get this many post on an article?