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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not Jacques Who

- Reader Bank Check wrote: Highland Cat......the new Jacques Who????? As you may know, Jacques Who is a horse who raced in the early 70's and acquired a reputation for finishing the point where his name has become a catch phrase for horses who display the same tendency. Actually, looking back at his career record of 117-6-24-18, maybe he should also be known for running out of the money a lot. However, in the fall of 1973, he had a winless streak of 30 races over two years, and had run second 13 times just that year.

So when he finally won, on September 27th of that year, a Thursday with 23,144 in attendance at Belmont, it merited the headline of the NY Times' At the Race Tracks column, by Michael Strauss. Angel Cordero was on board for the first time (probably not a coincidence), and said that the horse was of a "friendly nature....that he apparently didn't like to part company with other horses in a field.

"After we took the lead in the stretch," said Cordero, "Jacques Who seemed unhappy to stay up front."
Not as unhappy as those of us who bet on him. Indeed, the Jacques Who label generally implies that the horse "doesn't like to win;" that he/she's a "cheater," as a friend once called them. No heart.

I've always considered these horses to be prime targets to bet against - almost automatic - especially those who are tantalizingly close enough to get bet every time; Jacques Who paid just $6.60. However, I've noticed that I've been losing consistently to these types lately. A few who come to mind are Deputy Indy and Holiday Trip from the Stanley Hough barn; Good Request, from Frankel; and Joppa Flat's, who was 30-1 in winning graduating in his 20th start.

I've noticed this to the point that I've adjusted my attitude, and become more open-minded towards betting them on top. The fact is that even the least combative horse will, if he's around the top consistently, win on occasion. Sometimes it just can't but help find a race in which there simply aren't any others as fast. Or it may have genuinely improved.

Other horses with cases of 'seconditis' may be falling short simply because of circumstance, and not due to any inherent attitude problem or need for company. I think Highland Cat belongs in this category. It's not that he doesn't wanna win. However, as cute as he may be, he doesn't have much tactical speed, and often finds himself wide. He doesn't really rocket off the turn, but rather takes a little bit to get himself going. So he usually falls a bit short.

But if you have any doubt about his desire to win, try to check out his race on Sunday (unfortunately, not available on Cal Racing). This was truly a great finish - two thoroughbreds obviously straining with all their will to try to get to the finish first. (Don't know how fast they were coming home since the fractional times are unavailable; later grass races were switched to the main track....anyone know why?). As reader onecalicocat pointed out, Approved By Dylan is a horse with a fair amount of back class. So I think that, given the right circumstances, Highland Cat will be visiting the winner's circle some time soon.

- Really interesting little tidbit I ran across in the Times article referenced above. It was written for the Friday edition, the day before the 1973 Woodward, run at a mile and a half at that time. Trainer Lucien Laurin intended to start only one of Secretariat and Riva Ridge. Eddie Maple was hoping to pick up the mount should the latter start. Unfortunately for him, the weather wasn't cooperating.
"If the track comes up fast, we'll wait until the Man O'War a week from Monday [with Secretariat]. In any event, I'm only going to run one."

This decision came as bad news to Maple, who ordinarily has the leg up on Riva Ridge when the two Meadow stars compete in one race. Had not Maple been hoping to ride Riva Ridge, he probably could have had the mount on Hobeau's Prove Out. But now it appears that Jorge Velasquez will draw that assignment.
Indeed, it rained, Riva Ridge scratched, Secretariat ran, Prove Out upset him with Velasquez aboard. Here's one classic race that I can't find on You Tube....though you can watch the stretch run here.

And, oh yeah, Secretariat ran in the Man O'War nine days later anyway. And Maple got some consolation when he rode Big Red in his final race.


Anonymous said...

I believe that Jacques Who got his name because every time the owners wife answered the phone at the house and people asked for Jacques (her husband's first name) she would say, "Jacques who ?" It was her way of reminding callers not to use the informal method of addressing her husband in such a manner.

Anonymous said...

Agree wholeheartedly on Highland Cat.
I think he would have collared Approved by Dylan if he had another sixteenth of a mile.
I hope some of your readers are racing historians because back in the early 70s on the Florida circuit there was a horse named Zoom Loom who had an uncanny knack for coming in second.
In fact, if a horse came in second twice in a row the guys would comment that "Hey, we got another Zoom Loom here."
In those days you could go to Hialeah and hang out with the likes of Walter Matthau, Pete Axthelm and, of course, Harvey Pack. What a racing education for a young reporter who was in awe of the whole scene.ulewzb

El Angelo said...

Over 23000 at Belmont on a Thursday. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Jacques Who was named for Jacques D. Wimpheimer?, not sure of spelling.

Never heard the telephone story but possible.

Besides running second a lot, he was very popular due to being almost white.

SaratogaSpa said...

I'm stuck on the 23,000 at Belmont on a Thursday. More and More I am apt to believe that Television sports exploded after that and horse racing missed the boat. Look at the NFL-they know how to make the TV think work-which only helps with attendance too. Ditto for NASCAR.

steve in nc said...

Seconditis -- useful tendency if one can spot it, often with talented maidens -- play them under logical longshots in exactas.

But I agree about not religiously betting against them. I'll excuse almost anything if there are significant positives and double-digit odds available.

Anonymous said...

I was able to find that Zoom Loom was DQd out of his maiden win and placed second.
He must have picked up the habit from that experience.
Wish someone could look up his complete record of second-place finishes.
I remember it as being amazing.

Alan Mann said...

The only thing I found on Zoom Loom thus far is that he won at Liberty Bell on June 21, 1971, setting a track record in the process. One of four winners on the day for jockey Donald Brumfield.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Zoom Loom won at Liberty Bell. That's where Jacques Who earned a career at stud (I don't believe Keystone had opened yet). Late in his career, he won the Squires Stakes there and eventually stood in New York.

I also believe he was either a full or half brother to Heavenly Cause, the champion filly that Woody Stephens trained.

By the way, another Woody trained Jacques Who, the vastly underrated Woody Sedlacek, who also trained the likes of Shy Dawn, Champagne Charlie, El Basco, Purple Mountain, and Bounding Basque, which won a split division of the Wood [Woody?] Memorial with Gregg McCarron in the irons.

Another legendary New York runner-up of note was Full Quid, trained by the late Red Terrill in, I believe, the early 1980s. I think he might have run second something like 9 times in a row.

Tom Barrister said...

Jacques Who was in the field for Secretariat's first start. Neither horse hit the board that day, the only time Secretariat finished out of the money.