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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Keeneland Chief Struggling Too

- Keeneland CEO Nick Nicholson acknowledged that bettors' lack of confidence in the Polytrack surface may be contributing to the decline in handle.

"It's not as easy as it once was....And I'm not going to criticize the critics. I understand their frustration." [Lexington Herald Reader]
Sounds like he's having a bad meet himself.

Dale Romans made what I think is a good point when he said: "I'm not so sure it would be a problem if it were longer than a two-week meet, so they can get a gauge on who's running well." Reader rgustafson had posted the winning favorite percentage for the grass races - 4 for 23 coming into Wednesday - which were even worse than the Poly. I know it's an extremely small sample, but perhaps it's an indication that the races there are just hard, period. Horses pour in from tracks all over the country, which makes comparisons difficult. And since they race so infrequently these days, you rarely, even in the meet's final days, get races in which you can attempt to determine the contestants' relative strengths based on them having run against each other, or at least over the track. For example, check out today's 6th - 11 horses who last ran at eight different tracks, none of them Keeneland.

- Thursday's third is a baby race, and Pletcher, the meet's leading trainer (11 wins from 43 starters), unveils Mr Mistoffelees, a Storm Cat colt who brought $1.5 million from Coolmore at Calder in February after breezing an eighth in 10 1/5 seconds. Not too often that one sees such expensive horseflesh this early in the season, so I'd have to assume that he hasn't missed a beat and is ready to roll. Indeed, he comes off two blazing workouts, earning the clocker's comment looked sharp, about ready for his debut when getting a half in 46 flat on 4/19. Mr Mistoffelees is out of Country Romance, a stakes winning Saint Ballado mare who's a half-sister to the graded winner Katz Me If You Can. His second dam is the late Grade 1 winner Cuddles.

- Mattieandmorgan, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, makes her debut in the 9th, a seven furlong sprint; she's a half-sister to the once-defeated grassy Grade 1 winner Shakespeare, by 15% first-out sire Smart Strike. Turf in this one's future for sure, but what better place for her to debut than on the Keeneland Poly?

- Handicappers aren't the only ones finding Keeneland to be difficult. Steve Asmussen has just one winner from 23 starters thus far.


TripCrown73 said...

That's one reason why I've just about given up on betting the spring meet. I've discovered it's better to wait until the fall meet when the horses return because then I can at least look at their performance during the spring meet for some type of basis/rational for my selections. Maybe everyone is doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Alan -

I agree with your criticism in the last post of ESPN's use of still photos of the horses' legs to help make their Derby analysis. This lands squarely in the column of Absurd Handicapping Angles.

It's like dividing a second into hundredths instead of the fifths they used to use (e.g. 45.27 instead of the easier-to-read old way of 45.1) or announcing that so and so will be racing with one pound of extra weight. Who cares?

It's all so much of the smoke and mirrors part of horse racing, and makes me want to get my dog and let him put his paw on a page of the 20 Derby entries to come up with a selection.

Anonymous said...

Horse come from all over to run at the Spa, and many of the patrons are less astute than the Kentuckians, yet the win percentage holds up just fine.

No excuse for KEE.

ballyfager said...

Anonymous 11:40

I couldn't agree more with your comment about timing races in hundredths. The game seems to be trending in that direction and it's asinine.

It pretends to a level of accuracy that this game neither possesses nor needs. Picking horses is not about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Anonymous said...

Even with the kerfuffle over hundredths timing, check out these fractions for the Mr. Mistoffelees baby race today:

21.48, :43.89, :50.02. Gate-to-wire, 9 1/4-length winner, hand-ridden out. Dunno about anyone else, but I'm satisfied. Forget derby Futures, is there a future book for the '09 BC Sprint?