08/13/2006 11:00PM

Showing Up ran big - but how big?


NEW YORK - On Arlington Million Day of 2004, the racing world was warned of a very serious turf horse in Kitten's Joy. Kitten's Joy did not race in the Arlington Million that day, but he did perform two races later on that card against fellow 3-year-olds in the Secretariat Stakes. He won in overwhelming fashion and stopped the clock .43 of a second faster than Powerscourt did going the same distance while beating a good international field of older horses in the Million.

That Kitten's Joy was able to run faster under identical weather conditions and with a comparable early pace was an unmistakable signal that he matched up favorably against the best older turf horses. Sure enough, Kitten's Joy went on to crush older horses in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and became the first 3-year-old in 12 years to be voted champion grass male despite finishing second as the heavy favorite after a strange trip in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Fast-forward to last Saturday's Arlington Million Day 2006, and we might have been given a similar warning when comparing Showing Up's victory in the Secretariat Stakes with The Tin Man's score two races earlier in the Arlington Million. At the same distance, under a clear sky, in races run only about an hour and a quarter apart, Showing Up won wire to wire in 2:00.09 for 1 1/4 miles in the Secretariat, 1.26 seconds faster than The Tin Man required in his front-running Million victory.

Right here, you could be wondering why I said we "might" have been given the same Kitten's Joy-type signal with Showing Up. With such a disparity in final time, wouldn't it be a no-brainer to conclude that Showing Up will match up favorably against his elders? The problem is in comparing the pace scenarios. While the early paces of the Million and Secretariat were similar in 2004, the early fractions of the two races Saturday were very different, making final time comparisons a tricky read and a much more subjective exercise.

The fractions in The Tin Man's Million were 24.75, 50.37, 1:15.18, and 1:38.64 for a final time of 2:01.35. The fractions in Showing Up's Secretariat were 24.32, 47.83, 1:11.19, and 1:35.79 for a final time of 2:00.09. The disparity in the half-mile, six-furlong, and one-mile fractions are obvious and quickly explain why there is such a difference in the final times of the Secretariat and the Million. When the internal fractions of one of the races - the Million, in this case - are three to four seconds slower than the other, it is nearly impossible for a horse to go fast enough in the late stages to close that kind of time gap. The Tin Man, however, tried valiantly to do just that, as evidenced by The Tin Man's and Showing Up's individual quarter-mile splits in the Arlington Million and Secretariat:

* The Tin Man - 24.75, 25.62, 24.81, 23.46, and 22.71.

* Showing Up - 24.32, 23.51, 23.36, 24.60, and 24.30.

Clearly, The Tin Man ran a beautiful race. Any horse who can finish as fast as The Tin Man did going an extended distance like 1 1/4 miles, regardless of the early fractions, should be A-okay in anyone's book. And The Tin Man's jockey, Victor Espinoza, deserves special mention, because his ability to preserve a clear early lead for his mount through those slow second and third quarter-miles was the key in The Tin Man being able to hold off Cacique by one length at the wire. In essence, Espinoza stole the Arlington Million for The Tin Man.

But here is where the subjective part of this pace and final time analysis comes into play. Showing Up ran faster than The Tin Man did in the first quarter-mile, and much faster through the second and third quarter-miles. And even though Showing Up's fourth and fifth quarter-miles were slower than The Tin Man's fourth and fifth quarters, The Tin Man's final quarter-mile was his only quarter that was faster than all five of Showing Up's splits. While The Tin Man deserves extra credit for running that fast quarter at the end, Showing Up merits extra credit for showing sustained speed over more quarter-miles.

This all depends on your viewpoint of what pace is. For me, sustained pace counts for more. So place me in the camp that believes Showing Up will be seriously competitive against top older turf horses on the level of those who ran in the Arlington Million. But it is not as clear-cut as a final time comparison would have you believe.