- Storm Cat is firing blanks.
- Recapturetheglory was the Beyer star of the weekend's Derby preps, earning a 102 for his front running victory in the Illinois Derby. Haskin points out that that prep has produced unexpected numbers in the past.
Once again, for some reason, the Illinois Derby was an impressive race on paper, with the winner jumping from an 80 Beyer to a 102. But let’s not forget Sweetnorthernsaint’s stalking 9 1/4-length romp and his 109 Beyer in 2006; or Greeley’s Legacy’s stalking 9 1/2-length procession and 106 Beyer in 2005; or Pollard’s Vision’s wire-to-wire victory and his 107 Beyer in 2004; or Cowtown Cat’s front-running victory and 98 Beyer in 2007. While none of those horses even came close to winning the Derby, we do have to remember War Emblem’s 6 1/4-length, wire-to-wire score and 112 Beyer in 2002. But that was at Sportsman’s Park. Hawthorne is a tricky surface that some horses love and others hate. [Bloodhorse]Thanks to reader David for pointing out that I overlooked the fact that co-owners Ronnie Lamarque and Louie Roussel, the latter the horse's trainer, were the connections of Risen Star....and that calling Lamarque "fun" doesn't quite capture the flavor. This piece from the Times archives reports on how he sang to Risen Star before that colt's smashing Belmont win. "I tried to keep it mellow," Lamarque said. "No 'Blue Suede Shoes.'" Some are disparaging the effort of Recapturetheglory, pointing out that he was allowed to set an easy early pace. But he did get a little pressure early, and besides, just because a horse gets to the half in 48.64 doesn't guarantee that it will accelerate home as he did - 36.17 for the last three furlongs; 12.12 for the last eighth. So here's a nice improving colt, probably not a Derby winner, but who knows what Lamarque will sing to him before the race.
I'm not going to dispute the Beyers assigned to Colonel John and Tale of Ekati here - 95 and 93 respectively. Steve D would come to remind me that 'the fig is the fig.' Steve Crist contends that the numbers were entirely straightforward on tracks that played consistently throughout the day. (Though I don't see how the Big A number could be straightforward considering that there were only two routes, both with totally opposite and extreme pace scenarios. But I said I wouldn't dispute the figs...) Crist even makes this argument, met with much skepticism from his commenters:
If [Colonel John, War Pass, and Tale of Ekati] were to meet again in four weeks going a mile and an eighth, Colonel John might well be the third choice. Handicappers would believe that earning 93's after setting or chasing unusually strong fractions is a little better than earning a 95 after a relaxed early trip. [Cristblog]Perhaps. But to me, that's why I think that the Beyer figures, as important and dependable as they might be, are only one piece of the handicapping puzzle. Mike Watchmaker, writing on the same website about the same race, observed instead that it's amazing how much of a different feel Colonel John's Santa Anita Derby victory had to it. Don't see how one can watch the two races and make any comparison between them at all, even just on the visual observation and forgetting the wide disparity in closing fractions. I think that one will be missing the boat if they're just looking at those figs. (And besides, why should a fig earned on synthetic track have any more relevance than a turf fig when handicapping a dirt race?)
One race I didn't get to previously was the Ashland; perhaps because it went off at virtually the same time as the Wood. This had to be the biggest disappointment of the day from a fan standpoint, with Country Star and Proud Spell both floundering in the stretch. The latter at least had the 'first time on Poly' excuse.
"I have no real excuses," said Robby Albarado, Country Star's rider. "I had a great spot. I was right where I wanted to be, right next to Proud Spell. There's just no rhyme or reason for it." [AP]Of course, there was the long layoff, but that doesn't seem to serve as much of an excuse these days.
The winner, Little Belle, is a Darley homebred by AP Indy, out of a Mr. Prospector mare; and she descends from the distaff family of champion Mineshaft (the second dam of Mineshaft is the third dam of Little Belle).