04/18/2007 11:00PM

Number crunching pointed out Dominican

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Trainer Darrin Miller used the advice of Equix Biomechanics to pick out Dominican at a 2-year-old sale for owners Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton.

When Dominican ran last Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, handicappers were trying to assess whether he measured up. Those closest to him already knew he did.

Dominican was purchased 13 months ago at a 2-year-olds in training sale in Ocala, Fla., in large part because of the work of Equix Biomechanics, a Lexington, Ky.-based company that uses measurements of horses as part of its repertoire for helping clients select racehorses and matches for breeding stock. At that sale, owners Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton - who race as Silverton Hill Farms - and their private trainer, Darrin Miller, used Equix's recommendations when purchasing Dominican.

"He was one of our highest-rated horses in that sale," said Suzanne Smallwood, the vice president and senior analyst for Equix. "He was athletic. Not big and strong, but racy. Proportionally, he was extremely racy and well-balanced. He met or exceeded what we want to see for stride balance and efficiency. And Darrin really liked him."

According to Smallwood, who has been with the company for 20 years, Equix has a multi-pronged, high-tech approach at 2-year-old sales that involves measuring horses and evaluating their strides in presale workouts via its proprietary EquiTrax video.

"EquiTrax uses a high-speed motion-sensor camera to track a horse down the stretch," Smallwood said. "It gives a precise view of stride length and efficiency, how they're traveling. The camera records 150 frames per second, so we can evaluate their landing and their foot strikes, all in slow motion. Based on that, we eliminate about 75 percent of horses from a breeze show. We then concentrate on horses that we like to say have exhibited grace under pressure."

At the sale where Dominican was purchased, Smallwood worked in concert with another analyst, Bill Hickey, and two other employees - Kristi Fly and Randy Thayer - who evaluated the video stride analysis. After they watched the video and determined which horses they were interested in, each prospective

purchase was measured back at the barn, a process that takes about 10 minutes per horse, Smallwood said.

"We take 38 body measurements and apply growth rates," Smallwood said. "We grow a horse out to maturity, looking at patterns of development that relate to a higher level of performance. We also ultrasound their heart to get an expression of their heart capacity. We do the same things with yearlings. The only difference at the 2-year-old sale is we also add the video analysis."

Dominican, a son of El Corredor, "was one of the best when we looked at the stride data," Smallwood said.

"We then examined him for conformation and soundness, and he passed that," she said. "And then we did the body measurements and the heart ultrasound."

When Dominican went through the sales ring, the Hamiltons were able to acquire him for $150,000. Dominican subsequently was gelded.

"He was a ridgling," Miller said. "He had an undescended testicle that made him uncomfortable, so we needed to do it. He's still a very aggressive horse. That hasn't changed."

With his win in the Blue Grass, worth $465,000, Dominican has now earned $586,259, as well as a trip to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Miller and the Hamiltons have another Derby prospect in Sedgefield, who was second in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park before a fourth-place finish in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland two weeks ago.

"I'm going to train him on dirt and see what we've got," Miller said. "I need to see how he works on that."

Sedgefield has never raced on conventional dirt. He has raced twice on Polytrack and five times on turf, an obvious choice considering that he is a full brother to the top turf runner English Channel. Like Dominican, Sedgefield was purchased on the recommendation of Equix. He sold for $300,000 one year ago at Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale.

"We have to make adjustments for each sale, because there's a difference in how a 2-year-old looks in February than in April, or how horses move on Polytrack at Keeneland as opposed to dirt at Ocala or at Barretts in California," said Smallwood, who estimates she attends 15 to 20 sales per year from coast to coast.

Prior to Dominican and Sedgefield, Equix's best finds were the top older horse Behrens; Steppenwolfer, who was third in last year's Kentucky Derby; and most of owner Eugene Melnyk's top horses, including Flower Alley, Harmony Lodge, and Strong Hope.

Equix's president is Todd Stewart, and the company is owned by Dr. Gary Knapp, whose farm, Monticule, last September sold a Danzig yearling colt at Keeneland for $9.2 million. That colt was a case of Equix putting its money where its mouth is, because Knapp used his company's OptiMatch mating system to produce the Danzig colt.

"We advise clients on purchasing and breeding horses based on analyzing the structure of the horse," Smallwood said. "For breeding stock, we take measurements of broodmares, and we measure stallions. The computer then seeks out good matches.

"What I like about what we do is any agent can look at a horse and tell you what they think. But we have the data to back it up."

In other Derby developments:

* A field of 10 was entered on Wednesday at Keeneland for the Grade 2, $325,000 Lexington Stakes on Saturday. Belgravia figures to be favored in the 1 1/16-mile race against the likes of Forty Grams, Joe Got Even, and Soaring By.

* At Pimlico, Etude and Xchanger were among six horses entered Wednesday in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes on Saturday.

* Nobiz Like Shobiz, in his first work since capturing the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7, worked a half-mile in 51.20 seconds on Wednesday at Belmont Park.


Who's hot: There are four newcomers this week to the top 25 of Derby Watch, but all are long prices for the May 5 Kentucky Derby in the opinion of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. Joe Got Even and Soaring By, who both are scheduled to run on Saturday in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, are 60-1 on Watchmaker's line. Bold Start, scheduled to run in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 28, is 80-1, while Xchanger, who is entered in the Tesio Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico, is 100-1. Curlin, the winner of the Arkansas Derby, is now favored on Watchmaker's line at 5-1 after being 15-1 a week ago. Also making a significant move was Blue Grass Stakes winner Dominican, who tumbled to 20-1 after being 50-1 last week.

Who's not: Four horses were dropped from the list after being removed from Derby consideration by their trainers because of either injury or poor performance in a Derby prep last Saturday. For You Reppo and Notional suffered injuries that will keep them from trying to make the Derby, while Deadly Dealer and Officer Rocket were taken off the Derby trail after disappointing efforts in the Arkansas Derby.

On the bubble: Trainer Patrick Biancone last week said there was no chance Belgravia would run in the Derby. Still, that colt figures to be favored in the Lexington on Saturday in his 2007 debut, so he merits being included here - for now. Forty Grams, another Lexington runner, also is worth watching, though he seems more likely to head to something like the Lone Star Derby.

- Jay Privman