Jaycito returned to the track this morning for the first time since his runner-up effort in the San Felipe last Saturday. He’ll be getting blinkers on again in the Santa Anita Derby, reports Steve Haskin, “after losing his focus a bit while apparently bored being at the back of the pack …” The San Felipe was the first career start the colt, my PDI
#2 #4, made without blinkers. “I love the way he took dirt and settled well off the pace,” said trainer Bob Baffert replying to an emailed inquiry about Jaycito. “He will improve more next time.”
Dick Jerardi defuses angst about Uncle Mo’s so-so Timely Writer speed figure (DRF+): “It only went down that way because of the way the race was run, something that does happen in Beyer World, but not all that often.” [TT reports a Ragozin number of 4 for Uncle Mo, adjusted for the slow pace.]
A potential rivalry? “Whether Premier Pegasus will be the one to push Uncle Mo and give us an incredible rivalry is open to debate,” writes Bob Ehalt. “Maybe he’s another Sunday Silence, or maybe he’s another Buzzards Bay.”
Churchill Downs could install the Trakus system in time for the spring meet, putting an end to the occasional Kentucky Derby chart error.
Via Thoroughbred Times, an academic study confirms that higher-class racemares produce higher-class offspring. (Interesting, and must-reading for anyone doing late-night kitchen-table broodmare research.) Faster mares, stakes winners or not, also produced above-average foals. Using Equibase speed ratings, the University of Louisville researchers found, “Speed is the breeder’s friend…. comparing speedy dams to slower dams reveals that the speed of the dam is highly statistically significant …”
Bind earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his performance and a Ragozin Data performance figure of 1 1/4, which is so good it’s bad, according to Len Friedman, a partner in Len Ragozin’s The Sheets.
“The history is that it’s a negative, not a positive,” Friedman said Wednesday. “It’s more likely to affect him negatively, but who knows, maybe [Bind] is another Uncle Mo.”
… when a first time starter like Bind apparently runs a hole in the wind, then it is logical to look toward the horses who finished behind him for validation of the big figure. But when the horses who finished behind him all have scant form that is uncertain at best, then the best thing you can do is wait until horses out of the race in question run back. Their subsequent performances will either confirm the big Beyer, or bring it into even greater question.
It’ll be at least a month before the question is answered. Until then, enjoy:
All the best dirt horses in America featured and it produced an above average winner, and, for that matter, an above average runner-up. Blame had proved himself a progressive horse in the top division this season and on Saturday he climbed the final pass to the top of the handicapping ranks with an RPR of 131. Zenyatta, in receipt of a 3lb mares’ allowance, matched her previous best ease-adjusted RPR of 128+ from last year’s Classic. On the raw figures, this was the best performance of her life.
Both Blame and Zenyatta received a Beyer Speed Figure of 111 for the Classic. That matches Blame’s previous top in the Whitney, in which he defeated Quality Road, and is one less than the career-high 112 that Zenyatta was given for the 2009 Classic. The consistency suggests we saw the best of both.
How about Uncle Mo? Mike Watchmaker on the Juvenile winner’s BSF:
The 108 Beyer he earned in the Juvenile was the second highest since Beyers were first published for this race in 1991. The highest Beyer ever in the Juvenile was War Pass’s 113 in 2007. But that Juvenile was run over a sloppy, sealed track, and we all know that conditions like that can often produce aberant [sic], untrustworthy figures.
Mo’s figure ties that of Street Sense in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also at Churchill Downs. Street Sense went on to win the 2007 Kentucky Derby off two preps, which is what trainer Todd Pletcher plans for his young star.
Breeders’ Cup handle, attendance, ratings, and website traffic were all up this year. From Tuesday’s press release announcing the gains:
Traffic to the Breeders’ Cup web site and micro sites, also experienced strong growth. Traffic to the Breeders’ Cup main web site, www.breederscup.com, was up 25% over 2009 and traffic to its specialty handicapping site, www.breederscup360.com, was up 600%.
I’m so pleased. And now that we’re a couple days away from the stress of keeping the BC360 site up, I can delight in the fact that we broke the server on Saturday afternoon — that’s how good traffic was across the BC network. On BC360, every significant metric — pageviews, unique visitors, time on site — showed tremendous growth. We had visitors from 127 countries, up from 90 in 2009, with increased numbers from the UK, Canada, and Australia. All credit to the editors and contributors, and thanks to everyone who visited!
While compiling the final BC360 stats report on Monday, I noticed that the iPad, introduced in January, came in #6 among visitors’ browser/OS combinations, and that not only did it register so high for a new device, but that it seemed to supplant smartphone usage, which was down across devices. Part of that may be due — at least for iPhone users — to the successful introduction of the Breeders’ Cup iPhone app this year, but it also occurred to me that people may prefer the tablet for mobile web browsing over the smartphone experience. Turns out, I may have stumbled onto a trend: “Are tablets the smartphone killer?,” asks Wired. It’s certainly plausible.
Commenting on yesterday’s post, Sid Fernando provides some interesting historical context on how modern American and European racing came to diverge. Sid also asked of the post, “Was that a shot at DRF, or did I misread?” Well, I suppose it could be taken that way. Let me explain my thinking …
In the decades since speed figures emerged as a powerful handicapping tool, and in particular, in the 20 years that Beyer Speed Figures have been widely available, the numbers have affected not only how players bet, but how horses are purchased, raced, and marketed for breeding. They’ve revolutionized the game, at every level; the numbers work, they’ve illuminated. “Speed figures are the way, the truth, and the light,” wrote Andrew Beyer on page 119 of “Winning Horseplayers,” and for a generation, with some tweaks and refinements, that’s been so. A reinforcing circle has been created based on that truth, flowing from handicapper to horseman to breeder and around again.
Synthetic surfaces threatened to disrupt that circle — at least, temporarily.
Speed figures have been most valid on dirt surfaces, and synthetics, with their profiles commonly referred to as turf-like, upended what’s become conventional thinking: Speed always rules. Even when it’s cheap. Especially when it’s lone. Is it any wonder that when notoriously speed-biased Keeneland became the first prestige track to install a synthetic, what had been muted grumbling about the surfaces turned into howls of outrage? And that after the CHRB mandated synthetics, transforming an entire circuit virtually overnight, outrage turned to panic? Irrational rants against synthetics intensified from handicappers’ forums to the pages of major racing publications. The proven truth of speed — and the millions of dollars in handle and data and information services spending it guided — was in danger. A whole (racing) worldview was under siege by synthetics and their misguided supporters.
(Thank goodness Santa Anita is returning to old fashioned, always reliable dirt. The Pro-Poly-Tapeta-Track barbarians may be turned back yet.)
It may not have been fair for me to single out DRF, not when complaints have come from every corner — except that DRF’s columnists and handicappers have been, for the most part, stubbornly opposed to synthetics, and that as racing paper’s of record, the standard for past performances, DRF is uniquely influential. Beyer Speed Figures, exclusive to DRF, are a major differentiator for the paper, and speed handicapping informs its perspective and products from EasyForm to deluxe Formulator PPs. There’s really no getting around that, or what I’m about to suggest now by what I’ve argued above — that the synthetics antipathy found in its columns, blogs, and handicapping analysis is driven to some extent by a sense of threat to a long-standing way of playing the horses — and to selling papers.
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Many thanks for the comments and Twitter discussion re: another post this week, “No Allowances,” which spurred more questions for research about how and what juvenile races are carded. More on the subject next week, after checking out a few condition books, in time for Breeders’ Cup handicapping.
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10:00 AM Addendum: Related to the above, here’s an example of the speed circle from Pete Denk at the Thoroughbred Times today, regarding Quality Road’s future career as a stud and the multiple track records he’s set:
Although Gulfstream’s reconfigured dirt surface is only six years old — it was redone before the 2005 meeting — the authenticity of Quality Road’s performance was confirmed by speed figures. Thoro-Graph, the New York-based company that computes performance figures, gave Quality Road a –7 1/2 for his Donn win, the fastest figure Thoro-Graph ever has given out, according to Thoro-Graph’s Jerry Brown.
Uncle Mo might become a star. He might be a future footnote. Either way, handicappers should be aware that recent history suggests Uncle Mo is likely to regress Saturday in his second start. When a 2-year-old firster runs a triple-digit Beyer, it takes time to revitalize.
In the past 10 years, writes Free, 15 2YOs have run a triple-digit BSF in their debut. Only two improved on their figure in their next start.
Bob Ehalt’s Ragozin anaylsis runs to a similar conclusion: “Weighing all of those possibilities, Uncle Mo seems more likely to regress than advance …”
10/9/10 Update: Question answered. Uncle Mo dominated the G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont today, winning the one-mile race by open lengths in 1:34.51 after being pressed through a half in :45.92 by I’m Steppin’ It up:
Said trainer Todd Pletcher after, “He’s obviously a very fast and talented horse and it looked as if he was doing it easily.” Uncle Mo will ship to Churchill Downs on October 26 for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Beyer speed figures, via @andyserling: 94 for Uncle Mo in the Champagne Stakes, 81 for AZ Warrior in the Frizette Stakes.
That’s Monmouth, this weekend and next. Rachel Alexandra arrived at the track on Tuesday morning for the Lady’s Secret Stakes on Saturday (she may paddock school on Friday, reports Monmouth), and the likely field for the Haskell on August 1, which already included Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky, gained Derby runner-up Ice Box. “It’s everything you hope for,” Monmouth general manager Bob Kulina told the Star-Ledger. “It’s shaping up to be the premiere 3-year-old race after the Triple Crown, after the Derby.” (And what about the Travers, the mid-summer Derby? “… we will just have to wait and see what happens in Jersey.”)
Not to slight glorious Saratoga, which opens Friday and drew 127 entries for its 10-race card. Seven are entered in the Schuylerville Stakes, including Belmont maiden winner Stopspendingmaria, one of the buzz babies I’m following here, and Rick Dutrow trainee Le Mi Geaux, one of the first winners for freshman sire First Samurai. He did quite well at Saratoga in 2005, winning an allowance and the Hopeful Stakes.
Speaking of juveniles attracting buzz, Date With Destiny, the only foal of the late champion George Washington, is pointing to the Group 1 Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile on September 25 after her impressive maiden win. The Fillies’ Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Challenge race, but even if Date With Destiny does win, she’s a longshot for the Breeders’ Cup. Trainer Richard Hannon, addressing talk of sending his star milers to the event, said last month, “I am not interested in what they have to offer across the pond.”
Getting back to Monmouth, somehow I missed Dick Jerardi’s DRF+ column of last week. Per the Beyer speed figure makers, “Monmouth is getting faster (and better) horses at this meet than it got over the same period last year.” The only group not running to higher pars? Jersey breds.
From The Rail (NYT), 6/4/2009:
… thoroughbreds put out bigger efforts these days than their muscles, ligaments, suspension systems and bones can easily sustain. Their physical structure is tested to the utmost to maintain the speed they can now achieve with modern training methods.
From the Thoroughbred Record (HotC, p. 163), 6/3/1911:
Somebody once asked a famous Kentucky turfman what was the chief requisite in the makeup of a great racehorse, and the answer was “speed.”
“And what was after that?” was the next question.
“More speed,” was the reply.