- Brad Free, writing in the subscription-only DRF Plus section of the Form, laments the lack of an effective speedball in the California three-year old division this year, writing that it seems is as if the synthetic era - slow early, fast late - already has begun.
Earlier I proposed that Ravel be downgraded on the basis of Liquidity's disappointing showing at Fair Grounds, and Free expounds on the idea:
Ravel became all the rage Feb. 3 in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, another slow-tempo race that already has been exposed. The early fractions for the 1 1/8-mile Sham were 48.08 and 1:12.41. The six-furlong fraction was at least one full second slower that par.(He actually ran a 104 Beyer.) But despite Free's comments, and as much as I'd really like to, upon closer inspection, I certainly can't write off this horse. He may very well have benefited from sitting a couple of lengths behind a slow pace. But he started rolling around the turn, at a point at which Liquidity had picked up the pace; after the six furlong mark, he went 24.24 to the eighth pole as Ravel swung out way wide turning for home. According to Forumlator, Ravel came home in 35 3/5 seconds, wearing down a persistent Liquidity.
Ravel tucked behind the walking pace, angled out at the top of the lane, and won by a length with a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Was the race legitimate? Perhaps it was not. Because when runner-up Liquidity faced legitimate fractions next out in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, he fell apart in deep stretch.
Pace-figure analysis identifies potential vulnerability. Horses do look good in soft-pace races such as the Sham. But when those same horses (i.e., Liquidity) face legitimate, faster fractions, they often crumble.
Another interesting aspect of Ravel's pp's is the way he's been pounded at the tote. You expect Smith/Tabor horses to get bet if they're live, and this colt has been as live as they come. He was the 9-5 favorite in his first start (7-2 morning line), despite the presence of eventual winner Teuflesberg, who had been keeping graded stakes company and had run second to Scat Daddy in the Sanford. After graduating at even money in his two-turn debut, he was then the close second choice, at 5-2, in the Sham, which was his first race against winners, and where he was facing a horse in Liquidity who had just lost by a neck to Stormello in the G1 Hollywood Futurity.
Ravel could do much for the fortunes of his sire Fusaichi Pegasus should he show well in Triple Crown races. Though the stallion seems to have a fair number of stakes winners overseas, Ravel was only his 4th graded winner in this country, and first since Bandini took the Skip Away early in 2006 (Roman Ruler and Andromeda's Hero are the other two). Ravel is out of Let, a Grade 2 winner (CD Distaff) by AP Indy. Let is a half sister to Eagle Cafe, a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt in Japan.
So, I went from being negative on Ravel when I started to write this post, to finding myself quite intrigued. Who says I'm not open minded? I don't know if Free is correct to surmise that a faster pace would necessarily be bad for this horse. Looking at his form, he just looks like a closer who was a bit closer with a slow pace. I would think that if Liquidity gets involved with King of the Roxy or Cobalt Blue in the Santa Anita Derby, it could only be to Ravel's advantage.
As far as the Derby goes, it would only be his 5th career race, and just his third of this year. So I certainly wouldn't say that his 11-1 odds in Pool 2 represent anything close to value. But I can see why he'd attract attention. And I haven't even mentioned that he's trained by Pletcher.