- No news is good news, and nowhere is that more true than in our game. We don't click onto Bloodhorse and read something like Smarty Jones Has A Great Day - Services Three Hot Mares! Unless, of course, it involves Barbaro, and was borne of misfortune in the first place. I've also read recently Lost in the Fog had a good day, but that story is just too sad to even comtemplate, and will soon end in his passing.
Now comes word of the death of last year's Horse of the Year Saint Liam. We know that injury and even death can come any time a horse steps on a racetrack, but Saint Liam was merely being led to the paddock.
"Apparently he was just goofing off, and he fell," [Dr. Larry] Bramlage said. "Horses' legs are made to go front-to-back very efficiently, but they don't go side-to-side very well. Somehow he got his leg underneath him and just so happened to land on top of the leg." [Daily Racing Form]
So the champion's legacy will have to be carried on by the 115 mares that are in foal to him from his first and only season standing stud at Lane's End for $50,000. And soon his page in the Stallion Register will just disappear, as if he never existed at all. Saint Liam's reputation is perhaps sullied a bit by the suspension of his trainer for a drug positive during his championship year; but it wasn't the horse's fault, and he clinched the honors with class and style in the Classic. Racing has lost one of its champions before his time, and that always makes us a little poorer. Rest in peace, champ.
- Andy Beyer has been out at Del Mar, and he didn't like what he saw there. The emphasis on speed, both in the morning and afternoon, takes a toll, and Beyer reports that: In a three-week period I have never bet on so many horses who broke down or finished a race in distress.
Florida-based clocker Toby Callet spent the summer at Del Mar, and in the morning workout hours he observed, "I have never in my life seen so many horses that appear to be sore."Beyer also observed that trainers are as big of a factor, if not more so, than the horses themselves.
Over the past five years, according to statistics from the Daily Racing Form's Formulator software, Ted West has won with an amazing 35 percent of the horses he claimed in his last start. During the same period, Art Sherman won with 34 percent, Jeff Mullins with 33 percent and Mike Mitchell and Bill Spawr with 27 percent. When horses leave these trainers' care, their form often declines immediately. Horses claimed from Mullins win only 13 percent of the time in their first start for a new trainer.Sounds like Beyer is implying the obvious without mentioning it here - though he hasn't really been shy to do so in the past.
Any player in California would feel like an idiot if he missed a pick six by omitting a horse recently claimed by Mullins, West, Sherman or any of the other magicians. Horseplayers can readily adapt to the California version of the game, but it is a version that spoils much of the subtlety, the challenge and the exhilaration of handicapping. Here, the focus of the sport is the trainer, not the horse.
- OK, well, here is some good news for a change. Lawyer Ron is back from his injury, and will run in the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park on Saturday. If his figures weren't so damn slow, I would have been all hepped up on him around Derby time. He was a nice story, and showed some real versatility when he changed tactics and closed from off the pace, five wide on the turn, to win the Rebel. And he displayed some spunk and character when he dragged John McKee to the lead in the Arkansas Derby.
He hasn't scared people off though, and he faces 11 others, including the Peter Pan runner-up Lewis Michael, returning to the dirt.
And I guess it's also good news that Declan's Moon was diagnosed with a lung infection, which excuses his poor performance on Sunday with a benign explanation. Remember Afleet Alex's similar performace and post-race diagnosis in the Rebel last year; it didn't take long for him to recover from that.