JC / Railbird


Better than Post Zero

Less than 24 hours out from the Kentucky Derby draw, and there’s already a change to Saturday’s line-up: Stanford has scratched, also-eligible Frammento is in. Here’s the brief statement from the Churchill Downs press office:

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards were informed Thursday that #11 Stanford would be scratched from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby 141. The defection means #21 Frammento has drawn into the field.

Stanford drew post 11. All the horses after him in the gate will move one over, and Frammento, wearing a #21 saddlecloth (lavender — pretty), will break from post 20 (mercifully bringing an end to the jokes about Far Right breaking from the far right). “That is a lot better than Post Zero!” said trainer Nick Zito.

The historical criteria spreadsheet is now current for the 2015 Derby field.

There’s also a small update to the 2015 Derby prep schedule and results: UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij has been given an estimated Beyer speed figure of 97 for the race. Andrew Beyer describes how that number was determined:

Randy Moss, the NBC commentator and a member of the team that calculates Beyer Speed Figures, argued persuasively that Prince Bishop’s winning figure should be 112.

His reasoning: California Chrome had earned a 113 in the best race of his career, 108 in his second-best effort. In Dubai, he had a difficult trip, parked wide on both turns, and surely didn’t run his best number; 108 would make sense for him. If Prince Bishop got a winning figure of 112 — four points higher than California Chrome — the numbers for the third- and fourth-place finishers would make sense, too. In the U.S. Candy Boy often earned figures around 100; if the winner of the World Cup had a figure of 112, Candy Boy’s would be 99.

Give or take a point or two, the figure of 112 is right for Prince Bishop. And because Mubtaahij was 15 points slower, his winning figure was 97.

Make of that, and Mubtaahij, what you will — there hasn’t been a Kentucky Derby starter coming out of Dubai since 2009 when the 1-2 UAE Derby finishers Regal Ransom and Desert Party ran eighth and 14th. Contenders via Dubai are always a wild card — how will the travel and a mere five weeks between the two races affect the horse? It’s a lot to ask — California Chrome, luxuriating in Newmarket since finishing second in the Dubai World Cup, was just ruled out of an anticipated start in the Lockinge Stakes on May 16.

“He took a long time to get over the trip,” said trainer Rae Guest, who’s hosting California Chrome while he’s in the UK. “It was a long way from California to Dubai, then racing and coming here, it’s a lot for a horse to take in in one go … it would have been a rush to get him ready.”

Mubtaahij appears to be handling the experience. The Dubawi colt went for an three furlong breeze in :37.40 this morning with rider Christophe Soumillon up. “It was a very easy work just to stretch his legs,” said trainer Mike de Kock. “It just gets them breathing a little bit deeper, gets the blood oxygenated, lets them stretch and get the circulation going into the muscles.”

This Kentucky Derby will be Soumillon’s first, and the jockey — excited about his shot on Saturdayhas been studying (DRF+):

“I looked at the last 30 Derbies a couple times to see how you win it, but what I learned is there is no sure way,” Soumillon said Wednesday after taking Mubtaahij on a measured tour of the Churchill main track. “You need to be a good judge of pace, but you also need to respect your horse and ride for him. You need to be confident and clever — I saw some favorites that took the lead in the backstretch and stopped late. It’s more easy to lose this race than win it, for sure.”

That last sentence is so true, for handicappers as much as riders.

Links: It’s perfect for Kentucky Derby parties! Get the Hello Race Fans cheat sheet. How many strikes does your Derby pick have? Jon White is back with his system for 2015. If you like Materiality, forget Apollo. “With most stats of this sort, the curse is not on the horses.” Apparently this happened:

Friday Notes

As Ed DeRosa writes today in a piece about the importance of sanctuaries such as Old Friends, Joe Drape’s reporting on TRF has made the discussion about providing for racehoses when their careers end more public. It also seems to have made the conversation more urgent. The situations aren’t quite analogous, but there’s something reminiscent of the safety debate that followed Eight Belles’ death in the fresh attention on the retirement and rescue issue, a sense that racing has to come up with a solution to a problem that hasn’t been neglected — the work of hundreds of organizations attests to that — but is complex and will probably take collective action to solve. “The only chance that something good can come out of this mess is if this turns out to be a watershed moment in horse racing,” writes Bill Finley. He’s right.

Prepping for the Florida Derby, Dialed In worked four furlongs in :47.55 at Palm Meadows yesterday. Trainer Nick Zito, who said the colt “bounced” in his last race, “caught the final eighth in :11 flat.” Handicapper Mike Maloney calls Zito’s prospect one of three likely Kentucky Derby winners. “If he shows a decent finish in the FL Derby, even if not winning, I think he will be fine.”

Tomorrow is Dubai World Cup day, and Raceday 360 has an overview of every race. I wrote about the UAE Derby, a weak renewal this year, for the HRF Derby Prep alert, and only glancingly mentioned the remarkable entry of two Aidan O’Brien trained starters in the race, the first in six years. Like last year, I assumed that this year no UAE Derby finisher was likely for the Kentucky Derby — Sheikh Mohammed seems have given up on that path for Godolphin 3-year-olds after the disappointments of Regal Ransom and Desert Party in 2009 — but Alan Shuback proposes Coolmore could be using the race as a Derby prep for Master of Hounds or Alexander Pope. “It would be a large irony, indeed, if Magnier & Co. pulled a Kentucky Derby runner out of the UAE Derby hat in Sheikh Mohammed’s backyard.”

Sweet Ducky, recently sold and transferred to trainer Herman Brown, is apparently possible for Churchill Downs, though, if he runs big in the UAE Derby. “It would be tough to turn it down if he runs a great race.” That would certainly be an interesting move, considering the colt’s new ownership. Would Kentucky license Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, called by the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, “a Stalin of our times“?

Black Caviar made it 11-for-11 in the William Reid Stakes.

Thanks to Pull the Pocket and The Knight Sky for posting about Kentucky Confidential. Have you pledged? We hope you’ll consider it.

Dubai Decadence

A.A. Gill visits Meydan:

The track sits in a wasteland surrounded by the exhausted squirm of motorways. I walk around it and look not at the galloping horses and their bright jockeys but back up at the stands. Here in one long panorama is the Dantean vision of modern Dubai — the Arabs huddled in a glass dome, looking like creatures from a Star Trek episode in their sepulchral winding-sheet dishdashas. Next to them are the stands for Westerners, mostly British, loud and drunk, dressed in their tarty party gear. The girls, raucous and provocative, have fat thighs that wobble in tiny frocks. Cantilevered bosoms lurch. The boys, spiky and gelled, glassy-eyed and leering. In the last enclosure, the Asians, packed in with families and picnics, excited to be out of the Portakabin dormitories and the boredom and the homesickness of Internet cafés. In front of them all are the ranks of wired-up security guards, making sure the layers of this mutually dismissive society don’t pollute each other. After the horses have run, Elton John will perform.

Dubai Scene

From “Dubai is for flamingos,” Harpers, June 2009:

The Dubai World Cup, touted as the world’s richest horse race, goes on as scheduled. Each year on a Saturday in the spring, thousands of people descend upon this patch of grass in the desert to watch horses circle a magnificently fancy track. In the public section, where admission is free, the Sudanese, most of them northerners, turn out in the biggest numbers, followed by the Pakistanis, the Indians, and assorted others; together they partake of a Woodstock-sized group picnic. In what is referred to as the Apron View section, where tickets go for several thousand dirhams, droves of drunken expats, beet-colored from the sun and abundant booze, stumble about the lawns in pointy heels and hats shaped like birds and paisley suits and watch anything but the races. There is a champagne bar called The Bubble Lounge, a Style Arena in which an elaborate ladies’ fashion competition is staged, and much slurred enunciation and giddy gyration to very bad house music.

Call it Ibiza meets the Kentucky Derby with a dash of Royal Ascot …

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