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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Beyer On Speed Closers

- Andy Beyer writes in the Form:

Keeneland's executives wanted to rid their track of its reputation for unfairness, which is one of the reasons they chose to install Polytrack. Based on the early results, they did not succeed. They merely replaced the old bias with a different bias.
That's a fair point, given the lack of wire-to-wire winners on the Polytrack there. I don't have the latest stats, but Bill Finley had written last week that only two horses won wire to wire......Forty one of the first 54 races run over Polytrack were won by horses who were fourth or worse in the first call.

Personally, if I had to be given the choice of one of the other, I'd take a closer's bias. The races are more exciting, and I just usually find myself drawn to betting on closers. Ideally of course, you want the tracks to be playing fair. But I recalled reading a column by Steve Klein in the Form just before the meeting in which track superintendent Mike Young made some interesting comments that are worth talking a look back at.
"I want to see a horse who should win on the lead win," explained Young. "I want to have a horse who comes from behind to have just as good of a shot. I want it to be as even as it can be."
.....
And what happens if the track turns out to favor closers?

"I guarantee that you won't hear as many people complaining about it as you would if it helped the speed," Young said.
Indeed, I hadn't read any complaints, at least until reading the column by Beyer. And I was surprised to read that, because back in February, he lamented a Polytrack world without biases. Though the practicality and safety of synthetic surfaces may make them irresistible, a sport filled with Polytrack sounds boringly homogenized. [Washington Post]

Now, even though we're seeing differences among the three Poly-tracks, he's complaining anyway. It seems as if the esteemed Mr. Beyer is just not ready to move into the synthetic era. He goes on to write in the recent Form column:
While horseplayers are examining the effect of synthetic surfaces, leaders of the racing industry should do the same. Speed has always been the most prized quality in the sport. Racing fans love Thoroughbreds that flaunt their speed. Breeders have invested billions of dollars in pedigrees designed to produce horses with speed. The people who have championed synthetic racing surfaces should take a careful look at Keeneland and decide if this bizarre, go-as-slow-as-you-can style of racing is what the sport really needs.
Actually, I think it's mostly breeders and the sheikhs they sell their horses to who are the ones obsessed with speed. Racing fans love Thoroughbreds who run hard and win regardless of their running style, and if anything, may fancy closers even more - Secretariat, Forego, and Deep Impact are three enormously popular examples who immediately come to mind.

Come to think of it, though we all want be dazzled a la Discreet Cat from time to time, I don't know if racing fans really give a whit about speed as opposed to competitive racing and healthy horses that can run longer and more often. And besides, we've all read how this emphasis on speed is destroying the game by making horses fragile, so a track surface that de-emphasizes its importance - and not necessarily to the exaggerated degree we're seeing thus far at Keeneland - should only be better for the breed down the road.

- There were actually three front-running winners over the Polytrack this weekend; two on Sunday, including Teuflesberg, dropping into maiden special company after four tries in graded stakes. His narrow loss to Scat Daddy in the Sanford at Saratoga was an agonizing beat for me on the second day of the meeting from which I never really recovered. I had a nice bet on the cold exacta, which was paying $52. Teuflesberg was badly beaten in his two tries since, and here, was not even the favorite. Ravel, a $950,000 Fusaichi Pegasus colt making his debut for Todd Pletcher, closed for second at 9-5. Pletcher is now just 3 for 29 at Keeneland.

Superfly ran 7th at 3-2 on Sunday in the 7th there, and man, what a money burner this one is. I thought that Andromeda's Hero was bad, but his little full brother takes the cake. He's one just once in 13 starts, and has losses at 3-5, 4-5, and 6-5 besides today's debacle.

2 Comments:

Mike E said...

I don't know if racing fans really give a whit about speed as opposed to competitive racing and healthy horses that can run longer and more often...emphasis on speed is destroying the game by making horses fragile, so a track surface that de-emphasizes its importance...should only be better for the breed down the road.

That is first-rate my friend! With due respect to Beyer & the lot...your writing is way out in the lead.

QQ said...

Hmm... gotta like the juxtaposition of these two sentences:
"Breeders have invested billions of dollars in pedigrees designed to produce horses with speed. The people who have championed synthetic racing surfaces should take a careful look at Keeneland and decide if this bizarre, go-as-slow-as-you-can style of racing is what the sport really needs."

Seems to me that breeders are spending millions breeding horses who retire after one season. Maybe what the sport really needs is more champions who stick around for a few seasons and develop a fan base. So when Andy talks about "best interests of the sport," should I be reading that as the best interests of folks who are trying to sell me speed figures?