JC / Railbird

Keeneland

A Perfect 25

Why Black Caviar is the right horse for this moment:

In short, the vibe when you watch a Black Caviar race is one of assurance. The absolute certainty that Black Caviar is indisputably better than those around her.

This is no small thing. In this age of online commentary and social media, everything is up for debate. Everything can and will be refuted by someone, somewhere, and with venom.

You can’t troll Black Caviar.

She’s so freaky good, she converts even the skeptical: “[Black Caviar] takes us away from our daily grind … like some 21st century Pegasus.”

And now she’s 25-for-25, the winner of a record 15 Group 1 races in Australia after the T. J. Smith Stakes. “Her odds of $1.14 made her unbackable.” Did anyone care? “You’re beautiful,” they shouted when she entered the paddock.

More Black Caviar at Randwick on Saturday here, in this fantastic album posted to Facebook by photographer Bronwen Healy.

4/17/13 Update: Black Caviar has been retired.

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On Friday, Horse of the Year Wise Dan (pictured here in the post parade) returned a winner in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland (the odds were in his favor). He looked eager on the backstretch, but waited for rider Jose Lezcano’s cue to go. “He wanted to go on, but I wanted to slow him down,” said Lezcano. “I waited as long as I could, but he’s a champion, you know.”

The win was a relief to trainer Charles LoPresti: “I did not want this horse to get beat today. I would have been really sad if he got beat today.”

1:00 PM Addendum: Beyer speed figure of 99 for Wise Dan, via Dan Illman.

Irrelevance

Nick Kling pushes back on the Blue-Grass-is-irrelevant crowd:

Strike the Gold (1991) was the last Blue Grass winner to go on and repeat in the Kentucky Derby. None of the next fifteen dirt or six Polytrack winners went on to Derby success.

Two Derby winners came out of those final fifteen Blue Grass Stakes run on dirt. Sea Hero (1993) and Thunder Gulch (1995) finished out of the money at Keeneland, perhaps victimized by the speed bias, before going on to Derby glory.

Polytrack runnings of the Blue Grass have been similar. Street Sense was narrowly-beaten in that 2007 Blue Grass, then went on to dominate the Kentucky Derby. Since then the Derby winner has come from other venues and Blue Grass graduates have not been a factor.

Matt Gardner, looking at Blue Grass results in the Polytrack era, found that “the top 3 finishers in the Blue Grass are 13-1-0-2 in the Derby since 2007.”

Compare that to the Santa Anita Derby over the same years: The top three Santa Anita Derby finishers are 13-1-1-0 since 2007. Or the Florida Derby: 9-1-1-0. If there’s an irrelevant Kentucky Derby prep lately, it’s the Wood: The top three finishers out of Aqueduct are 10-0-0-0 since 2007.

The Synth Difference

Matt Hegarty reporting from the Racehorse Welfare and Safety Summit:

The latest analysis of the data also continued to show a statistically significant difference between the rate of catastrophic injuries on artificial surfaces when compared with dirt surfaces and turf surfaces. Over the past three years, horses running on synthetic surfaces have suffered catastrophic injuries at a rate of 1.3 per 1,000 starts, whereas horses running on turf had a 1.6 rate and dirt horses had a 2.0 rate, slightly higher than the overall rate of 1.9, according to researchers.

We can’t keep ignoring the facts: Synthetic surfaces are safer. Any serious discussion about or initiative for reducing fatalities must include synthetics.

Odds and Ends

Is Wise Dan the best American horse in training? Sure, why not. He’s certainly one of the most versatile and interesting. You could call him freaky.

And this is a year in which there are several very good elite horses, but no standouts running historic campaigns.

The message is not that “the all-weather is a messy sandpit of intrigue and skulduggery,” but that the BHA is watching.

At Keeneland, all-weather means full fields. For the first three days of this October’s meet, the average field size is 10.8 (on both surfaces).

Of course, connections have many reasons to run at Keeneland. It’s competitive, and it draws a great crowd — that devours 6,000 pounds of bread pudding with 50 gallons of bourbon sauce per week.

[C]alls for medication transparency are not going away.” And they shouldn’t.

Racing’s economic indicators: Things are looking up.

Weekly IHA update: He’s not drowsy, like the other stallions.

Interventions

Alicia Wincze talks with breeders and buyers about corrective surgery:

“I think if they’re talking about weakening the gene pool with medication, then they’re also weakening the gene pool by doing (corrective surgery),” said trainer Charlie Lopresti. “They’re taking mares that produce crooked foals, cosmetically fixing them and selling them for a lot of money at the sale. It used to be back in the old days, only the strong survived, and if they were crooked and they could run through it, they were good horses.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think we all need to get on the same page. And if they’re going to try and clean up the racing act, they need to clean up their act too.”

The International Market

Keeneland auctioneers adapt:

“You try and get rhythm in your chant, but at the same time you understand you’ve got people out there speaking probably 15 or 20 different languages, and most of the time they’re looking at the tote board now instead of listening to you,” he said. “So it’s very important that you are clear and precise in your numbers and everybody understands what the bid is and what the current asking price is.”

An Inconvenient Truth

Nick Nicholson, retiring president of Keeneland:

There is a difference in dirt, turf and synthetic, and the turf and synthetic are safer. We should not as an industry ignore that fact because it’s an inconvenient truth. If you care about riders and you care about horses you have to continue on the journey of safer racing surfaces. This is not subject to the whim of a few people, including me. It’s an industry responsibility. Does that mean we have to continue to make better dirt tracks? Sure. Shame on us that we haven’t done it for 50 years.

Following California’s mandate and the three-year debacle that was Santa Anita’s installation(s) of synthetic(s), the movement toward synthetic surfaces in the United States pretty much came to an end. As a matter for discussion, synthetics are dead. No track has converted in years. Keeneland, which has experienced great success with its Polytrack, dissolved its partnership with the company that made the surface in late 2011, citing market conditions.

What a shame.

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