JC / Railbird

Speed Figures

Belmont Stakes Day

Tapwrit wins the Belmont Stakes, and the 2017 Triple Crown season ends with trainer Todd Pletcher taking two of the three races and super-sire Tapit getting his third Belmont winner, achieving that record within four years:

The star of the Belmont card, though, was Songbird, making her 4-year-old debut a winning one in the Ogden Phipps. It was hardly an effortless return for the champion, who had to fend off a strong challenge from Paid Up Subscriber on the turn and work to get past her in the stretch. An appreciative crowd gave the filly and jockey Mike Smith an ovation when the pair paused in front of the clubhouse apron on their way to the winner’s circle.

“Let’s call this a great race off the layoff,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “I’m not sure she’s at the top of her game right now, but she did very well today.”

Beyer and TimeformUS speed figures for the Belmont card graded races:

Race Winner BSF TFUS
Belmont Stakes Tapwrit 103 120
Manhattan Ascend 104 130
Met Mile Mor Spirit 117 130
Just a Game Antonoe 101 119
Woody Stephens American Anthem 102 121
Jaipur Stakes Disco Partner 109 120
Ogden Phipps Songbird 97 116
Acorn Stakes Abel Tasman 99 117
Brooklyn War Story 102 114

Figures via DRF stakes results and TFUS figuremaker Craig Milkowski.

Watch the Belmont Stakes and replays of the other graded races:

Belmont Day Figures

Creator noses out Destin to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes
Creator noses out Destin to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes. Photo Credit: NYRA.

Beyer and TimeformUS speed figures for the Belmont Stakes day card:

Race Winner BSF TFUS
Belmont Stakes Creator 99 120
Manhattan Flintshire 110 129
Met Mile Frosted 123 135
Just a Game Celestine 107 129
Woody Stephens Tom’s Ready 95 117
Jaipur Stakes Pure Sensation 102 121
Ogden Phipps Cavorting 102 127
Brooklyn Shaman Ghost 99 120
Acorn Stakes Carina Mia 98 114

Figures via DRF stakes results and TFUS figuremaker Craig Milkowski.

The WOW performance of Saturday afternoon was Frosted’s 14 1/4 length win in the Met Mile as the 2-1 favorite. His winning margin is believed to be a record for the race, as is his final time of 1:32.73. Watch the replay:

View the complete Belmont Stakes day playlist ›

Respect

The 2016 Kentucky Derby field turns into the Churchill Downs stretch
Turning into the stretch of the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist earned a Beyer speed figure of 103 for winning the Kentucky Derby, the highest Beyer of his career; his TimeformUS speed figure came up 123. However you measure his performance on Saturday, it was a peak, and trainer Doug O’Neill looks like a pretty smart guy for bringing his Uncle Mo colt to Churchill Downs in condition to move forward off two prep races, only one of which was around two turns. I thought Nyquist would come up short for that very reason, especially if the early pace as as strong as projected.

Just like Ed DeRosa, though, running down what he got right and wrong about this year’s Derby, I have no regrets:

RIGHT: Nyquist was the best two-year-old and best three-year-old. This might sound like a funny brag considering I didn’t pick him to win the race, but at 2-to-1 keying a 14-to-1 exacta I have no regrets about opposing him on top because even if I had picked him to win I still wouldn’t have won anything on the race at that price with (my actual pick) Exaggerator second. But the respect for Nyquist’s talent was clearly there. I just gambled against it trumping the rest of the group.

WRONG: Picking against Nyquist. From a horseplayer perspective, it’s easy to forgive the pick against—especially considering how well Exaggerator ran—but the fact is everyone wants to pick the Derby winner, and I had my chance after having Nyquist on top all year.

The winner went to post at a price of 2.30 and paid $6.60 — Nyquist’s odds were the lowest for a favorite since Point Given in 2001, and lower than the odds of the three winning favorites since 2013 — Orb’s price was 5.40 that year, California Chrome’s 2.50 in 2014, and American Pharoah’s 2.90 in 2015.

Here are the incremental fractions for the Derby from the DRF chart:

The 2016 Kentucky Derby fractions
View the official Equibase chart (PDF).

Danzing Candy hustled to the front and led the field through the first three quarters in times of :22.58, :45.72, and 1:10.40 before yielding his position to eventual third-place finisher Gun Runner and then Nyquist, who assumed the lead entering the stretch and wrapped up the 1 1/4 mile Derby in 2:01.31. He did run his final quarter three seconds slower than he did his first, but that he was in front at all is what’s impressive, as Mike Watchmaker points out:

He was the only true survivor of a Derby pace that completely fell apart, and Nyquist did much more than merely survive.

Every other horse involved in the Derby pace either collapsed, or out and out disintegrated. But not Nyquist. He kept on with dogged determination the way champions so often do, and he safely turned back a runner-up in Exaggerator who had this race set up for him …

Watch the replay:

Derby recaps: Now Nyquist has real respect as he sets out to exorcise a Triple Crown demonNyquist wins the Kentucky DerbyNyquist answers call, reignites Triple Crown chase with Derby winNyquist stays perfect with Kentucky Derby victory. He ships to Pimlico on Monday for the Preakness.

Belmont Stakes 2015 Wrap

The crowd at Belmont Park after American Pharoah wins the 2015 Belmont Stakes and becomes the 12th Triple Crown winner
The crowd at Belmont Park celebrates. Credit: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

The Triple Crown winner isn’t sticking around — New York, at least. American Pharoah met the media, charmed the “TODAY” show audience, and boarded a van leaving Belmont Park around 7:30 AM, arriving back at Churchill Downs by 1:30 PM, less than 19 hours after he won the Belmont Stakes and became the 12th Triple Crown winner in American racing, the first in 37 years.

The first in 37 years.

Like a lot of horse racing fans, I don’t remember the last one. I’m not quite sure what to do with this one. He’s marvelous! It’s wonderful! The minutes before the race were nerve-wracking, the seconds it took him to cross the wire — 5 1/2 lengths ahead of runner-up Frosted — thrilling.

There is satisfaction in discovering that a Triple Crown is still possible.

“After seeing what we saw on Saturday,” writes Jason Gay, “can we all agree that stubborn old horse racing had this the right way all along?”

The Triple Crown just needed a racehorse who could take one of the hardest things we ask a young horse to do and make it look easy.

American Pharoah completed the 1 1/2-mile race in 2:26.65, and he did it by going to the lead and reeling off steady :24 quarters, running the first half in :48.31, the first six furlongs in 1:13.41, and the first mile in 1:37.99:

The incremental times for the 2015 Belmont Stakes
DRF incremental times above. View the official Equibase chart (PDF).

He was never pushed, never threatened. Materiality, tasked with keeping the 3-5 favorite honest on the front, was out of contention before the mile. Frosted looked like a challenger at the top of the stretch — for a stride. American Pharoah gave him no ground. He was going to get away with it all.

“I’m telling you,” said jockey Victor Espinoza afterwards, “in the first turn it was the best feeling I’ve ever had.” Watch the replay:

The 12th Triple Crown winner was given a Beyer speed figure of 105 for the Belmont Stakes. TimeformUS gave him a speed figure of 128. His figures are as consistent as his fractions — American Pharoah’s Preakness and Kentucky Derby Beyers were 102 and 105, his TFUS numbers 125 and 127.

Trainer Bob Baffert reported on Sunday morning that American Pharoah came out of the Belmont in good shape. “Looking at the horse today, he looked pretty darn good for a horse that just ran a mile and a half,” said Baffert. “He’s a tough horse. Today he looked like he could run back in three weeks.”

Per the NYRA press office notes, the plan is for the colt to race again:

“After we freshen him up, we have options,” said Baffert, who mentioned the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, and a “little race” at Del Mar, most likely the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

Jay Privman explains why he believes the Pacific Classic is likely: “it would certainly be an endorsement by Zayat of the return to dirt at Del Mar to run there this summer, and there’s no bigger ‘get’ right now than American Pharoah, who — remember — hasn’t raced in California this year. Yet.”

The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland is the goal for his final career start.

Recaps! Tim Layden recounts the Belmont Stakes and the weeks before, when the word chingon became code for the confidence of the American Pharoah campJoe Drape captures the moment the Triple Crown became real to the 90,000 at Belmont ParkBrendan Prunty writes about the build-up.

More recaps and reactions are bookmarked on this page; I’ll be adding to it.

Preakness 2015 Wrap

American Pharoah breaks from the gate in the 2015 Preakness Stakes

Sealed, opened, soaked: The condition of the Pimlico track surface became the X factor in the Preakness Stakes when a torrential downpour turned the dirt to mud minutes before post time on Saturday. If anything, the rain was a boon to the 4-5 favorite, already a winner on a wet track. But nothing can be taken for granted in a Triple Crown race: “I took a chance and sent him as quick as I can,” said rider Victor Espinoza, explaining how he hustled American Pharoah from stall #1 and into the lead from the start, outmaneuvering jockey Martin Garcia and stablemate Dortmund, in stall #2, at the break.

American Pharoah won the 1 3/16-mile race by seven lengths in a final time of 1:58.46, “the slowest for the Preakness since 1956, when Fabius was the winner over Needles and No Regrets on a fast track in 1:58 2/5.” Here are the individual fractions from the Daily Racing Form chart:

Incremental times for the 2015 Preakness Stakes

The winner’s split for the mile was :26.32, and for the final 3/16ths, :20.72 (both those numbers from the official Equibase PDF chart). So, American Pharoah slowed down at the end after a quick opening quarter, and I’m inclined not to read too much into what’s 1) a typical race shape for dirt routes, 2) a pretty good example of what we mean when we talk about tactical speed (see, not only the break, but the way American Pharoah draws away from the others rounding into the stretch), and 3) a finish without challenge (Dortmund checked out, Mr. Z tired out, and Firing Line never fired) over slop.

Jay Privman reports that American Pharoah earned a Beyer speed figure of 102. TimeformUS’ figuremaker gave him 125. He was awarded figures of 105 and 127, respectively, for winning the Kentucky Derby.

“I’ve never won this race as easily and handily,” said trainer Bob Baffert after. The ease does seem almost supernatural, or maybe that’s just the rain:

American Pharoah’s Preakness win was the sixth for Baffert; his Belmont Stakes start will be the trainer’s fourth shot at a Triple Crown, the third for Espinoza.

“It’s hard for me to imagine I’m going through this again,” the trainer told the NYRA press office on Sunday morning, and quipped that he’d like a fast track at Belmont. “Like the one Secretariat had. I’ll take that.”

The Belmont Stakes is June 6, and there are currently eight likely contenders, in addition to American Pharoah, including Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve, Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky, and Kentucky Derby runners Frosted, Materiality, Keen Ice, Carpe Diem, Frammento, and Mubtaahij.

British bookies are taking bets — Ladbrokes has Pharoah at even money.

1:15 PM Addendum: American Pharoah was the only horse to gallop back without a mud mask, thanks to his gate-to-wire run, but he was carrying a little extra water weight via Espinoza’s boots.

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