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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Questions Remain on Barbaro

- With his win in the Holy Bull, we now know that Barbaro can win on a sloppy main track in addition to the turf. But I may disagree with both aspects of trainer Michael Matz’s assertion that "He won with something left......It answered the big question, first time on dirt." [Philly Inquirer] The race chart notes that he was “all out” at the finish – that may be too stern upon visual inspection of the finish, but he certainly did not display the explosive finishes that were the trademark of his grass wins. It took him nearly 39 seconds to get the last 3/8ths and 13.16 seconds for the last eighth. His final time of 1:49.31 was, as Walter pointed out, around a second and a half slower than that of Brass Hat, who must have run nearly a mile and a quarter given how wide he was in the Donn (yes, those were older horses, but as a contrast, take a look at Santa Anita, where Bob and John’s time was just .15 slower than that of High Limit), and, as Andy Beyer pointed out, only .25 second faster than a fair group of mares who ran an hour earlier.

As far as Barbaro answering that big question, the sloppy track will loom as a giant question mark over not only him, but for the other contenders as well, all of whom can point to the track condition as an excuse if they wish. The fact that much of the field was so wide going into the first turn didn’t hurt the winner, who has the speed to get good position, and it’s no coincidence that runner-up Great Point was expertly steered to the rail before the first turn from the 13 post by Jeremy Rose. On the other hand, my selection Itsallboutthechase couldn’t possibly have been wider. Flashy Bull, sent off as the 4-1 second choice, ran a creditable 4th in his first race since his second to Bluegrass Cat in the Remsen.

- For Bob and John, it was another nice step forward, but the Sham Stakes was probably not much less for a “workout” than the allowance race two weeks ago that Baffert described as such. According to the chart, he won under a couple cracks of the whip and steady handling. He got the last three furlongs in :37.12, with a final eighth in :12.62.

As for the Strub, yeah, it wasn’t the greatest field, but you gotta be impressed with High Limit, and the way he has come back at four, after becoming a reliable money-burner late in his three year old campaign. It seemed as if he would become another talented colt that suffered lasting consequences of being rushed into the Kentucky Derby – and then into the Preakness after running last at Churchill! And this was all after just two preps at three. It’s interesting to note the contrast between he and the horribly overbet (though not as much as Canteen, an inexplicable favorite at 5-2) 4th place finisher Greeley’s Galaxy, another one who just had to run for the Roses, and has since yet to come anywhere near the dynamic form he showed in the Illinois Derby last April.

If there’s one thing that Giacomo, a thoroughly decent third in his return to the races, had going into last year’s Derby, it was foundation; he had seven races under his belt, six of them since Oct 22, 2004. That was in contrast to horses such as the abovementioned pair, as well as Bellamy Road, who attempted the Derby with just two preps. Even with Afleet Alex, one can speculate that it was the wasted Rebel and the missed training time afterwards that caused him to be a bit short in the Derby, rather than any riding error by Jeremy Rose. With Bob and John, Baffert is taking the approach of bringing the colt along with races - a couple of easy spots thus far (as opposed to First Samurai, who ran very hard in defeat); in contrast, we’re seeing horses that are supposedly Derby contenders that haven’t even made their 2006 debut as of yet – Private Vow and Bluegrass Cat to name two. History favors the foundation approach of course, and I believe that’s something to keep in mind as we approach May.

- Trevor Denman is extremely sharp with his in-race observations, and he had High Limit tagged as the horse to beat early on. “High Limit is racing nicely in third, taking a good hold,” he noted with some enthusiasm as they straightened on the backstretch. It was a very professional effort by a colt who seems to have really matured at four.

- Eventful weekend for Baffert – his pair of prospects, Point Determined and Royal Legacy, both ran second in their respective allowance and maiden tests on Friday; though neither of them ran nearly poorly enough to totally write off. Also, on Friday, Point of Impact flew six furlongs in a bullet (out of 11) 1:11 flat. All three of these are intriguing colts, though as far as the Derby goes, they would all lack both the foundation we just discussed (and for heaven's sake, two of them are still maidens), and, again as pointed out by Walter in his lengthy dissertation, enough earnings in graded stakes to qualify for what promises to be a full field of three-year olds in Kentucky.


Teaman said...

It's a shame that the regular posters here can't get a job writing a column for the D R F. The quality of the info. I read here far surpasses that of the "Weekend Warrior" Mike Stiffmaker who consistantly fails to pick a horse that hits the board. How can a guy get paid for writing a column when he appears to be clueless on a weekly basis?
I'm sure most of the regulars here who post, don't believe in "JINX".. but Watchmaker might just epitomize the word. Saturday he picked Suave in the Donn Hcp.(6th) He had Sunriver in the Holy Bull (7th) and @ Oaklawn in the King Cotton he picked Top Commander (9th). This guy is a paid handicapper/columnist?? Can anyone enlighten me as to the last time he picked a winner? Or one that paid more than $6.00 ?? I'm starting to use his column as a "handicapping tool" for a automatic throw out in the feature races on Saturdays.
On a Oaklawn note (my new favorite track) keep an eye on John Jacinto and Calvin Borel. Borel brought home some nice price winners this weekend and Jacinto has figured in some nice FAT exactas since the meet started. I get the feeling Cory Lanerie is going to catch fire soon too. I'm loving the consistancy of the fat EX. payoffs at Oaklawn since they opened. I hope it continues.

Anonymous said...'re right, T...Watchmaker ain't exactly the sharpest tool in the he got his job (let alone how he keeps it) is a complete mystery to me...many of the "experts" you see on tv are no better...incidentally, here's asomewhat related story that you might find interesting...back when i lived in Texas, i intervied for the job of "Fan Education Director" at Sam Houston Race Park...basically they had a little room set up where novice racegoers would come in, and you'd show them how to handicap...a friend of mine at the track who knew some management types thought i was a very good handicapper, and recommended me for the job...anyway, it was between me and "Dr. Reid McClellan", who apparently had some type of degree in equine science from Louisiana Tech or some such they gave HIM the job, undoubtedly because of his degree, and likely because they thought someone called "Dr." would come off as more of an question is, what the hell does having a degree in equine science have to do with handicapping a horse race???...i'm sure it's much the same type of deal with DRF or the tv networks...they're probably more concerned with who has a journalism degree or whatever, as opposed to someone who actually knows what they're doing...don't get me wrong, they do employ several knowledgable people, but they also employ several who are pretty clueless...and some of the European commentary i've seen approaching Breeders Cup time (Alan Shuback not included) leads me to believe they're just making stuff up on their own...i've read direct quotes from owners/trainers in overseas newspapers/websites that say one thing, and then i'll read some DRF guy saying something completely's obvious they aren't doing any research at all...