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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Louisiana Derby "Gun-Job"

- I see a couple of readers are upset with the ride that Ketchikan got from Larry Melancon in the Louisiana Derby. He was the hot horse on the board to be sure. 8-1 in the morning line off of an impressive win against entry-level allowance horses, Ketchikan was the 7-2 third choice, behind Liquidity, who was bet heavily late, and the 8-5 favorite Circular Quay.

As Lenny pointed out, Melancon was indeed sitting pretty as they rounded the first turn, behind Liquidity and Slew's Tizzy, before suddenly and quickly circling them to get the lead. Melancon told the New Orleans Times Picayune:

"I had a him on a long rein, and he was settled....The next thing I knew, they were backing it up."

Melancon said Ketchikan pulled him to the lead.
Trainer Albert Stall told the paper that when he saw the move, his "blood pressure went through the roof.."
But Stall said he's pleased that Ketchikan is continuing to improve. "I don't think that he went in the wrong direction," Stall said. "He has all the attributes, including a smart mind. That's why I was shocked by that gun-job (to the lead)."
I highlighted that last sentence because I'm wondering if he's criticizing the rider there. After taking the lead in a first quarter of 23.61, Ketchikan zipped to the quarter in a half of 46.53; that's a second quarter of 22.92 seconds. Seems strange considering that the horse seemed to rate comfortably in his two victories, you can certainly understand why the trainer sounded like he was as astounded as Lenny was.

His early antics certainly helped to set things up to Circular Quay, and you can credit the fast pace and the clean trip in a short field for his win. But as with Scat Daddy, about whose FOY win you could say the same, I think you have to get him his props. He proved he can win around two turns (and even though Pletcher, who asked with what seems to be a growing tone of indignation over perceived slights to his Derby hopefuls, "Thunder Gulch out of a Grade I winning mare (Circle of Life), why would anyone think he couldn't handle two turns?," it's still a legitimate question until proven on the track). And Circular Quay is admirably consistent, firing every single time (at least when a horse isn't falling in front of him).

However, I must add that I think his 8-1 Pool 2 wagering is crazy. A horse such as he who will have to navigate his way through much of a 20 horse field can't be worth much less than than on race day, unless he's just sooo much better than his peers (though who's to say with certainty that he's not?).

After seeing O'Neill/Reddam's Mistical Plan win the Oaks that preceded the race, I was further entranced with the idea of the California horses being the real deal, so I was all in for Liquidity on top of some triples that did include Zanjero, who ran on decently for third. But Liquidity couldn't keep up, and was definitely a disappointment.


Anonymous said...

"I was further entranced with the idea of the California horses being the real deal"

Seems like this was the general view last year, too. Didn't work out that way in the classics.

Cowtown Cat's win flatters the Florida runners. Finished a well-beaten third behind the 4th placed FOY runner in an earlier prep.

Anonymous said...

I bet on Liquidity too, and was not pleased with the gun-job. It always seems to work out badly for anyone involved in the pace when such a ride happens. Had it not happened, I wonder whether Liquidity would have fared any better. Moss's pace figures suggested he had faced relatively soft pace pressure in his last race, which may have led to his 102 BSF.

As an aside, in my experience the gun job is usually more likely to happen on the turf in California with a bugboy up as gunner.

Am still going with Street Sense. His 108 BSF in the BCJ should not be believed, at least if a person was betting on them as they stand today. I am guessing in the Tampa Bay Derby he makes a mid moved and hangs a little (ala his Keeneland prep) and Any Given S is more cranked and wins, but that Street Sense will show more in his second prep and will run big at 10 furlongs.

Gotta have an opinion, I guess.

Keep up the good work, Alan. I am a daily reader of your stuff.

Calgary, Alberta

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't think i've so strongly disagreed with Alan in the entire time i've been reading the blog. Let's get Liquidity out of the way first. While the Cali horses have no doubt been impressive, and Liquidity was further flattered by Stormello's effort in the FOY, he was extremely vulnerable here. He obviously has good speed, as evidenced by his fast maiden win and his front-running style around two turns. But look at the fractions of those two route races. They weren't very fast. In fact, the pace of the Sham was downright slow. He really had no excuse not to win that race. Going further, his only previous start outside California (the Champagne) had been a complete disaster. It's not surprising at all that Liquidity wasn't able to cope the faster pace, particularly on a surface that he may not have cared for. As for Circular Quay, well, i considered him vulnerable also. But i was EXTREMELY impressed with his effort here. How Alan can compare it to Scat Daddy's FOY is completely beyond me. It's true, the pace was fast up front, but Ketchikan wasn't slowing down. Circular Quay got the win in 1:43 flat, which is pretty damn fast at the Fair Grounds. He also got his final sixteenth in just over 6.40, which is also very strong. This wasn't a case of the race falling apart in front of him. Circular Quay was able to offer a sustained rally, and looked to be moving with power pretty much the whole way. It also looked to me as if he might appreciate some added distance. I was also very impressed with Ketchikan. That bold early move obviously cost him some energy, and he was still able to hang on extremely well in the late stages (despite being unable to change leads). He battled back noticably when Circular Quay ranged up alongside. And while Circular Quay rallied from well behind, Ketchikan did all the dirty work up front. You can make a case that he ran just as well as Circular Quay. However, it didn't look to me as if he'll enjoy going much further. Just a hunch. I could be dead-wrong about that, particularly if he's able to relax a little, and gets the lead-change thing worked out. He certainly has room to improve, of that there's no question.

Anonymous said...

Ketchican needs a rider switch, plain and simple. If he rates he wins. Circular Quay, you can have him. He will be dead last in a twenty horse field and there is a good chance he will find trouble. He will likely fill out the super, but I can not see him on top. Ketchican can wear the roses if he can take another step forward in his next race.

Cowtown Cat did not impress me. He beat a mediocre field and Summer Doldrums did not show up. He will be in tough if he comes back in the Wood.

As of now my super for the derby would be Adore the Gold, Any Given Saturday, Ketchican and Circular Quay.


Anonymous said...

Walter - OK, I was dead wrong about Liquidity, enough said. As for Circular Quay, while I did compare his race to that of Scat Daddy in that he got the kind of pace scenario and trip that he needed, I would agree that his was the more impressive race. But he's still going to have to have many, many things go right for him to win at Churchill.

Anonymous said...

Dudes, c'mon Ketchupman is a son of Glitterman. I know a lot of breeding precepts get broken on derby day, but I don't think this one really wants 10 panels. And you know he'll have plenty of company up front. What you saw on Saturday wasn't necessarily Larry Melon-head gunning him to the lead on the first turn (a-la Secretariat in the Preakness). It was a beastly headstrong animal hellbent on dominating other horses. He has one more race to learn how to rate before the Derby. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

And Adore the Gold is not getting 10 furlongs either.

Alan Mann said...

The only question I have regarding the perfectly reasonable argument that Ketchikan was headstrong and gunned to the lead himself is why he seemed to be able to rate behind a reasonable pace in his prior race, which was also around two turns?

And a correction to one of the comments - Ketchikan is by Mr. Greeley. He's also out of a full sister to Ky Oaks winner Blushing KD.

Anonymous said...

Mr Greeley, Glitterman, what's the difference? No seriously, is there a difference? Is the progeny of one more likely to go 10 panels than the other? Just curious. Thanks AM.

Anonymous said...

So I just looked up MR GREELEY as a sire. He's by GONE WEST and his damside has some decent endurance sires in there. What I found interesting is that this horse has never sired a millionaire on the track and his stud fee is currently $75k. Seems a bit crazy, eh? His most famous progeny all seem to be middle distance types, so KETCHIKAN isn't totally hopeless to get 10 panels. Heck after FUNNY CIDE I'm ready to believe almost anything. But I still think KETCHKAN didn't want to rate the other day.

Alan Mann said...

In addition to the 75K stud fee you pointed out, Mr. Greeley foals have been commanding some big prices over the last year; most recently a $1.4 million colt at Calder to Coolmore. Someone must think that he can get runners with classic distances. I see that Mr. Greeley's foals have an average winning distance of 6.71 furlongs; not much to write home about, but higher than Glitterman's 6.25.

Anonymous said...

There are always exceptions. To say that Horse A can't win the Derby because he's a son of Horse B is simply close-minded. Look at Holy Bull. I once read that, according to his breeding, he should've been a claiming-level sprinter. Bloodlines ain't everything, dude. Btw, tell Lauren Stich i said hello.

Anonymous said...

Ouch, being compared to Lauren Stich. That one's gonna leave a mark. I can't stand that broad's handicapping approach. Well, I like CIRCULAR QUAY right now so I guess I have to respect the KETCHUPMAN a bit.