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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Alternative Take on BC Bias

- Of course, you recall all the talk about the inside bias last year at Churchill. This year, the consensus seems to be that the track played fair; that after all the talk about how it had been favoring speed in the summer. I thought that was the case on Friday for sure. But as for Saturday, after reviewing the races, I'm thinking that speed horses maybe did have the advantage after all, and that the inside wasn't a bad place to be either. I'm not the type to go searching for biases, but check it out.

In the first, 10-1 Actin Good went wire-to-wire, fighting back on the inside to edge Trombetta's previously undefeated Now A Victor. The second went to Coco Belle at 5-1; she stalked closely before taking over after a half, went to the rail and held off 16-1 Intentional Fever, never worse than third. Cobalt Blue came from last to take the Select Stakes. I'll come back to that.

Then you had the two juvenile winners, Indian Blessing and War Pass, the latter of whom scored a 113 Beyer! They both went from gate to wire with inside posts. We'll argue until next winter/spring about how good each of these really are; but I'm thinking that their inside posts and speed played a big part, and you know how I feel about horses that go fast early, slow late. War Pass' fractions were 22.76, 22.80, 24.09, 25.99, and a final sixteenth in 7.12. As impressive as those first two quarters may be, I can't get excited about that. (I can get really excited about the race that Court Vision ran in the Iroqouis; closing from dead last into a final three-eighths of 36 flat over the Churchill track. By Gulch, who we know can sire a Derby winner, out of a half-sister to AP Indy, from WinStar and Mott, are you kidding me? WOO-HOO, COULD THIS BE MY DERBY HORSE?)

Oh, sorry. Ginger Punch got the inside trip in the Distaff, and had the lead by the 3/8ths pole. She was inside of Hystericalady through their stretch duel, and Octave launched her rally up the rail too, flattening out a bit once she moved outside.

The fact that Midnight Lute and Curlin, quite arguably the two best horses jn the country that are technically still in training, both rallied to win certainly doesn't dispel the theory of a speed bias. Great horses can overcome any bias, or track condition. Midnight Lute ran down Idiot Proof, who opened up after closely stalking the speed; Curlin outfinished Hard Spun, the inside speed who was still in charge at the quarter pole despite having run the first half in 45 4/5. That was just slightly slower than the speed I surmised in my BC top ten would have gotten him immediately retired at that point. That didn't happen, and I'm sure his second place finish figured into his $50,000 fee.

As for Cobalt Blue, he was ridden by Garrett Gomez, who successfully executed the same move with Midnight Lute and, just a bit less successfully, Octave. So maybe he just had the right idea as far as what was needed to overcome what I propose was the prevailing trend on Saturday. That was the only maneuver that produced any success other than being on or very near the lead. In any event, I can test out my theory at the mutuel windows over the next few months. I'll let you know how it goes.

Interesting too that Curlin and Midnight Lute were the two horses whose sheer size made some think they wouldn't handle the track. Man, I bought into that hook, line, and sinker. In fact, maybe there was something about the muck that actually gave them an edge. Or, maybe they're just a couple of freaks. If Curlin remains in training, maybe the two of them will meet in the Classic next year.

And if I had a cowboy hat, I'd tip it to Larry Jones. I was on his case a lot this year about the way Hard Spun was campaigned. But in fact, he did an unbelievable job. Not only was this horse kept fit over a very long campaign, but he actually may have saved his best for his last three career starts. The decision to run him in the Classic, which many, including myself, questioned, was the right one even if he could have beaten Corinthian. Not to take anything away from that one, but the Dirt Mile (And Seventy Yards) was just not worthy of a horse as tough and talented as Hard Spun in the final race of his career. He really won me over, and I'm sorry to see him go.

Proud Spell is also trained by Jones, and she ran great to be second in the Juvie Fillies, this in her first race around two turns. It was her just her first loss in four starts. She won two stakes easily, and is a daughter of Proud Citizen, a first-year sire I've been excited about, and WOO-HOO, COULD THIS BE MY OAKS HORSE?


Valerie said...

Holy cow! Alan praising Hard Spun…my jaw just hit the ground. LOL!

Seriously, $75,000 for Street Sense or $50,000 for Hard Spun? I would happily be a bargain hunter there. However, Stormello for $15,000? Pass...

Anonymous said...

Yes, Hard Spun proved his worth on Saturday. He won the King's Bishop against a horse, Bobby Frankel's, which was conditioned specifically to try and deny Hard Spun's connections the $15 mil bonus they won.

Hard Spun would have won the Mile and 70 yards. He would have also won the Sprint.

Dave B said...

I remain unconvinced there was much of a bias but I don't think there is any doubt that 'some' horses didn't run their races over the muddy track. The problem is deciding which ones REALLY disliked the course and which just didn't show up. I note that almost every trainer of a lower priced also-ran cited the 'didn't handle the track' excuse. For some this is likely to be true but how does one really tell? We can compare their previous wet track form (if they have any), their breeding preferences for slop, their action on the track, but it is still mostly conjecture. As a related comment, it always seems ironic to me when the Europeans ship over for the Breeder's Cup and then encounter softer grounder because I think they generally ship horses that prefer (or at least handle well) firmer ground. That didn't beat Dylan Thomas but a tough Arc, shortish layoff, trans-Atlantic ship and the going to the BC Turf as an after-thought (great sporting gesture yes, but probably not the best way to prep for the race) probably did. Must say I thought 4/5 on him was a staggering expression of faith in his ability to overcome these obstacles.

Michael said...
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Michael said...

Kudos to you for giving Larry Jones a much deserved atta' boy.

Thank goodness I never had to do an about face after all the sh* I talked about Discreet Cat -- that's a lot of crow to eat.

Of the new sires, I think Hard Spun may end up being the best deal. Graded Stakes winner at both routes and sprints, on dirt and polytrack, runner up in the Derby and BC Classic. On the board in the Preakness... beat Street Sense at Turfway... too bad they never raced him on the Turf.

Superfecta said...

Not to mention the fact that Hard Spun can slot into the Danzig/Danehill mold -- Street Sense doesn't have that same appeal since his sire is very much alive and kicking.

Brett said...

I also turned big on L. Jones and Hard Spun like you did Alan. Hard Spun really showed himself last weekend and of all the horses that are retiring right now I wish him and AGS would not go to the breeding shed.

Anonymous said...

brett - AGS may not be headed for the breeding shed. If he was, he probably would have had his stud fee announced already like the other Darley horses. Looks like he may be the Sheikh's big horse for next year.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be shocked if there was a small bias early in the card and then when the rain stopped, the track began to play more fair to closers. Besides Midnight Lute from off the pace, you also had Octave coming from way out of it then hanging a bit like she always does. In the Classic, Street Sense rallied well on the inside and stopped, probably because he's a tired horse from a long campaign. And of course, you have Curlin who is awesome but if there's a true bias he doesn't win.

The biggest argument for a bias was War Pass going 45 and 2/5ths and coming home for a 113 beyer. An amazing performance by a 2yo under any circumstances, but even in this race, Pyro was able to come from well out of it and run well.

And yes, Hard Spun is a bargain at $50k. He will go on to be one of the greatest sires of the next 20 years. His connections were also vindicated in the end for pointing him to the Classic.

forego is my witness said...

I would have had a winning BC day if I had just kept Dylan Thomas out of all my bets for that race. Shamdinan was the one horse I wanted to put in there after DT, English Channel and Red Rocks. But everything I was inundated with kept convincing me, "You HAVE to put DT in there!" I should have went with my gut on that one. $282 $1 trifecta! Why o why didn't I just place that one bet....? Sad!

alan said...

>>And of course, you have Curlin who is awesome but if there's a true bias he doesn't win.

Roto - don't know if I agree with that. I believe that great horses can and do overcome even true biases.

Anonymous said...

When one great horse overcomes a bias, it can still be considered a bias. When Curlin, Octave, Midnight Lute and Pyro all overcome a so-called "bias" to run good races from off the pace, I have my doubts.