RSS Feed for this Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Morning Notes - Nov 27

- Four winners for Todd Pletcher at Aqueduct on Saturday, as a crowd of 4,484 saw the last graded stakes of the year in New York We seem to be establishing new attendance lows each week, as they struggle to break the 2,000 mark during the week, and can’t seem to be able to reach 5,000 on a weekend. Maybe the closing of the grandstand has kept people away; perhaps it’s just too damn depressing for some. With three quarters of the plant shut, and with past promotional items being sold throughout the track for five bucks, it’s apparent that NYRA has no shame in showing their desperation to the world. In fact, perhaps that’s exactly their strategy. The amount of money it would take to get them through to slots (and we still haven’t heard anything about the start of construction; what the hell is going on??? I have a post from Nov 7 with Hayward predicting the "hammers to be flying in a couple of weeks") is just a drop in the bucket for the state in the scheme of things, and a drop that seems well worth the investment. The loss of revenue from a halt in racing would quickly eat into the $20 million that the state is seeking to prevent NYRA from raising with two seemingly harmless sales, and which could get them through until next fall.

Back to Pletcher, all these wins are just gravy as he adds on to the single-season earnings record that he’s already established. He started his day with two year old state-bred maiden World Cat (Tomorrow’s Cat) in the second. Then, in the third, his Pool Land (Silver Deputy), making her first start late in her three year old season, was established as the 1-2 favorite, the proverbial “fastest horse in the world.” But 1-2!? And though she looked like a 1-2 shot every step of the way, there’s gotta be better ways to invest one’s money. For Pletcher, that’s five first time winners at this Aqueduct meeting alone. Pool Land is out of a Slew City Slew half sister to BC Sprint winner Very Subtle.

Pletcher then had a setback in the Grade 2 Demoiselle for two year old fillies, despite the fact that he accounted for no less than three of the five entrants! His Cinderella’s Dream, the 9-5 second choice, ran second to Wonder Lady Anne L (Real Quiet), at 10-1 the longest shot on the board. Jerry Bailey tried to steal the race on the trainer’s Wait A While, cutting out a half mile of :49.4, and dooming the chances of the 8-5 favorite Better Now, rated along far behind with Javier Castellano seemingly oblivious to the developments, or lack thereof, up front. Looked like Pletcher had a lock on this one with Cinderella’s Dream tracking the slow pace, but the longshot surprised them all for Richard Dutrow.

In the Grade 2 Remsen, Pletcher sent out the 3-5 favorite Bluegrass Cat, who shook off a pesky 18-1 shot in Flashy Bull for a wire-to-wire win. It was his first start around two turns, which had me looking around for a possible upset. Lauren Stich wrote about this one’s blue-blooded pedigree in the Form the other day.

Bluegrass Cat is a half-brother to Lord of the Game (Saint Ballado), a multiple stakes winner this year who was on the also-eligible list for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Bluegrass Cat's stakes-winning second dam, Get Lucky, was a full sister to a 2-year-old champion and Travers Stakes winner, Rhythm, as well as Not for Love, a leading Maryland-based stallion. Another half-sister, Oscillate (Seattle Slew) is the dam of stakes winners Mutakddim and Smooth Charmer. Bluegrass Cat's third dam is stakes winner Dance Number, and his fourth dam is 1971's 2-year-old filly champion, Numbered Account, who also produced Private Account and Polish Numbers. [DRF]
Pletcher capped his day in the G1 Cigar Mile with Purge, the most unlikely of winners at 25-1. I was skeptical of all the top choices other than Scrappy T, but even if I looked for a longshot, it wouldn’t have been this one. Never in his 14 prior starts had Purge ever been over 9-1, and that was in last year’s Belmont. He ran 6th in the Cigar last year at 7-2. Here, he benefited from a quick early pace set by stablemate Value Plus to rally for the win. The trainer spoke as if he’s unlocked the heretofore unknown secret to this guy. "I realize more why he did what he did today and why we didn't do better with him the rest of the year.....Last year I felt he could be as good as any older horse in the country. Things just didn't jell early in the year." [NY Daily News ] He’d run fairly well finishing third in the Iselin (at 6-5) and the Meadowlands Cup (at 5-2).

Remember yesterday that Frankel seemed to make a pre-excuse for beaten favorite Badge of Silver, saying “He might be over ready?” After the race, he indeed said “Maybe I breezed him too fast." [Bloodhorse]

- Readers Walter and Dave discuss the relative merits of the Beyer and Bris speed figures in the comments section here. My understanding is that the Bris figures are raw speed figures with no adjustments made; while the Beyer boys make adjustments, using projected figures. That means that if a horse has been running consistent 98s, but then a figure comes up as an 85, they’ll figure “well, he always runs 98, so he must have done about the same in this race,” and they’ll "project" the fig accordingly, depending also on the past figs of others in the race. In the case of French Park that Walter cites, his 80 in the Pocahantas was likely based as much on what other horses ran as what he did; thus the higher fig than Sabatini, who ran faster at the same distance on the same day. This is why Dave’s BRIS figures had a higher number for Sabatini than it did for French Park.

I’ve always wondered about these projected speed figures that Beyer uses. It seems to me that by the logic of projecting what a horse’s real figure is based on his past races, they can calculate some figures for a race before it’s even run! There’s no question that they sometimes have bad figures, and in fact, they will occasionally go back and adjust a figure after a subsequent race casts doubt upon it. Dick Jerardi, who is one of the figure-makers, wrote a column about this process this past summer in the Form, discussing a race from June 17.
The day was what we call 13 Beyer points fast or -13. To get the proper figure for each race, the figure-maker had to subtract 13 points from the raw number (which equates to the actual time of each race).

Each race seemed to fit nicely into line - except the third. It was a race for 2-year-old New York-bred maidens. The time (57.23 seconds for five furlongs) equated to a 110 raw number on the scale. After subtracting the 13 points, the actual figure was 97. First-time starter Classic Pack had defeated fellow firster Mr. Sam I Am by a head, so both horses earned a 97.

Was it possible for two New York-bred maidens to get such a big figure? Yes. Was it likely that these two horses could earn a figure that would make them among the fastest 2-year-olds in the country? Not really, but you could not truly know because there was no context.

So Mark Hopkins, who does the New York figures, entered the 97 into the database and put a question mark next to the figure. Absent any compelling evidence, Hopkins went with the data.

"When it's not certain, we try to put a number down that has the best chance of being right," Hopkins said.

When Mr. Sam I Am ran back in a statebred maiden race on Aug. 1 at Saratoga, his 97 towered over the field. He was an odds-on favorite. He dueled for the lead and finished fifth, earning a 47.

Hopkins adjusted the original figure downward to an 83. When Classic Pack appeared in an open allowance at the Spa on Aug. 7, he went off at 22-1 and finished last, getting a 62 Beyer. [DRF]
For me, the proof is in the pudding, and while I sometimes question the figs, they seem to, more often than not, justify themselves in time. (Indeed, French Park won the Golden Rod. In fact, maybe that 80 was far too low considering his 95 in his debut.) So I wouldn’t go as far as Walter did in calling them “garbage;” however I don’t hesitate to view them with some skepticism when I believe it’s called for. And Dave and Walter are both right on in pointing out that the crowd does jump all over the high fig horses, even when they were earned on a surface or at a distance that’s not relevant to the race at hand. Those situations can create some of the best value you’ll see at the track.

- Private Vow atoned for his Juvenile loss with a solid win in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.