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Thursday, February 19, 2009


I've not yet seen Thursday's much anticipated allowance race at Gulfstream. Thanks to Magna for pulling their races from Cal Racing, nice job there. And though I have Bob's login and password at both Equibase and Race Replays (and see that he has plenty of races left for the month at each....shame to have them go to waste), there seems to be some kind of mysterious ailment or conspiracy preventing today's races from being streamed at both sites.

However, a couple of comments nonetheless. As you likely know by now unless you've either been away on Mars or watching ESPN, Dunkirk stretched out and moved up to face winners successfully in his second start, in a race which described as an important 3-year-old allowance race.

You may recall that I cautioned against getting too excited about this $3.7 million Coolmore purchase after he won his debut, pointing out the dawdling fractions that he closed into. "I'm not at all interested in any futures lines on this one," I wrote dismissively. Hmmm.

However, there was no denying the style with which he swept wide past the field (as a reader pointed out at the time), and the effort grew on me in the ensuing weeks despite the lackluster 78 Beyer.

No, I'm not just saying that now. And the proof is that, earlier this week, I was the only participant in the testosterone-fueled Paulick Derby Index to include the horse in my top ten. That's right. And an impressive collection of contributors it is; I'm humbled and a little embarrassed to have been included. If you missed it, the Paulick Derby Index is a survey of 22 writers and bloggers, mostly men, manly men, doing manly things like making lists of (mostly) manly horses. Even Ray Paulick himself, who runs the survey in a manly and masculine way, failed to mention Dunkirk, and will no doubt subject himself to punishment, perhaps by donning nipple rings and reading every last word of every Haskin Derby column going back to 1993.

Dunkirk will probably be all over those lists next week. But you heard it hear first, at least after I initially dissed him. Next week I'll have to move him up, probably to #1.

Having said that, I still wouldn't get too excited. Yes, he overcame trouble on the turn (or so I've heard) and a wide trip throughout; and got the last three furlongs in a very fine 37.09 seconds according to Formulator; final eighth in 13.09. And it certainly got my attention that Garrett Gomez came in from the west coast for the ride. But the term "Kentucky Derby hopefuls" has a wide connotation these days, and this field, supposedly filled with them, was largely inexperienced and untested.

I also don't much care for the fact that Pletcher, as manly and virile as he may be, has indicated that Dunkirk's next start won't be until the Florida Derby on March 28. That's over five weeks away, and no doubt the horse would go directly to the big race from there - with just one race in more than ten weeks, kinda like ESPN's coverage leading up to the Breeders' Cup. I just don't go for that, Big Brown or not (he raced on March 5, two weeks later than this race, before using the Florida Derby three+ weeks hence as the springboard to Derby glory). We know that the Toddster prefers longer rest, but we also know he hasn't done well in the Derby, so maybe a change of pace is in order. Let the horse race, he seems manly enough. I don't understand, when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, why people stick with strategies which have failed them in the past.

The other observation about the race regards American Prayer Dance, the third place finisher in last fall's Remsen (who also races for Pletcher). He finished 6th, more than 15 lengths behind. This continues the pattern of horses who ran in the Remsen and are not named Old Fashioned performing in an extremely unmanly fashion as three-year olds. Second place finisher Atomic Rain, though a close second in his three-year old debut, finished 7th by 16 lengths at 5-2 in the Sam F. Davis. 4th place finisher Idol Maker was 10th by 22 lengths in the Holy Bull. And last place finisher Awesome Mich hasn't beaten a horse in his two races this year either.

Not saying this necessarily means anything, but it's certainly fair game to mention. After all, if it were the other way around and those horses were performing lights out this year, we'd sure be hearing plenty.


Anonymous said...

You have to go with TDN, Alan. They have both the regular view and the Head On of Dunkirk's latest. HE was extremely wide -- the race chart doesn't do it justice. He was closer to the beach than he was to the rail.

If Unbridled's Song gets a Derby winner, what is his fee next year? As much as Distorted Humor?

Anonymous said...

Watchful Horseman

Alan I know this blog, is not relevant, can u transfer it over, when u crank up next, Aqueduct saga blog.

I've been waiting for Paterson's, Aqueduct scapegoat, to be chosen - him of poisoned chalice.

just in -

The Racino at Aqueduct isn't dead. Not according to State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), who is also the new Chairman of the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee. "The Aqueduct VLT deal is complicated, but it is very much alive, and the contracts will be signed," Adams said.
The deal, announced in October with Delaware North selected as the casino operator, was supposed to break ground at Aqueduct earlier this year, but it is almost March and nothing has begun.

he has placed his head on their convenient, political block - bet Paterson's dept even guided him, into stating this 'suicidal' statement - simple simon, says.....being new, to this position, he is probably not aware of all of the facts...
NY politics it's finest.

Anonymous said...

What a combination.
Unbridled's Song and A.P. Indy mare.
Alan, I think you were on to something with Dunkirk, just on breeding alone.
Didn't the actual "miracle of Dunkirk" occur in the first week in May (1940)?

Anonymous said...

Race replay, now up on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

Need to view Smarty and OF's Southwest wins back to back to realize the difference.

Smarty showed an impressive turn of foot to dispatch of his rivals, which made me exclaim WOW.

I will stick with my description of Old Fashioned's win as workman like, got the job done but did not seem impressive visually.

After American Dance's failure I am downgrading OF.

Anonymous said...

What in the world does Senator Eric Adams know about horse racing and gaming? How could Paterson appoint him to the Senate Committee on horse racing? I know he has been an equal rights proponent which is good, and he recently led the charge to crucify the Post over the chimp cartoon, but what does he know about the NYRA Delaware North deal other than what he is told?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who thinks the youtube posted version is either way off with the audio/video or Larry Collmus blew the call? It wasn't until Dunkirk (in that vid) was at the wire that he cited him as being anywhere near in the front. Considering Dunkirk won by 4+ you have to assume something was lost in the transfer of video.

It's exceeding irksome that ANY tracks in 2009 restrict race replays in any form. Such b.s.

As for Ray's quasi AP Coaches poll for Derby hopefulls I have to say it gets tiresome that instead of letting the thing grow beyond the 1st stab people get all Ruffian v. Foolish Pleasure with the lack of women on the pannel. In fact the 'demand' to have more women sounds like this is some Title IX requirement.

I just like well thought out commentary and opinion that draws on historical perspective. If that comes from a female writer that's great. Same goes for a top 10 list. It doesn't take a genius to list Old Fashioned but listing once-hot and now not Munnings would require some support for that pick ;> Since on-camera comments are slim to none it shouldn't matter if the writter is male, female, white or purple or physically located in Kentucky or Western Samoa.

Dunkirk may be something special but as of right now he's won just two allowance races which is nothing more then Mr Fantasy. Both are exciting but who knows if they can win a Grade 1 prep race.

Alan Mann said...

>>Am I the only person who thinks the youtube posted version is either way off with the audio/video or Larry Collmus blew the call?

No, the video is off as the video poster acknowledges. If NTRA was really on the ball, they would have this video already posted.

Steve Zorn said...

On the off-topic issue of Albany: the new chair of the Senate Racing Committee doesn't know anything about racing, but at least we have a name, so we can start educating him. That's better than the Governor's office, where there's absolutely no one to talk to. And both the breeders and the NY horsem,en have decent sized war chests for their PACs, so we can start that education process.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the callout, Alan. Of course, now that Pletcher is going to run him in the Florida Derby, I'm now off of Dunkirk.

This is where these guys seem to outsmart themselves--especially when the horse is undefeated. The horse's timing is all screwed up...but he could make the Rebel in 23 days, with the Arkansas Derby 21 days later and the Kentucky Derby 21 days after that.

You know, like a normal horse.

Anonymous said...

Four races in 65 days??????

Are you crazy?? Can't expect today's thoroughbred to handle that excruciating schedule.

In seriousness, sure they would love to get him two more starts, the problem occurs if you actually WIN the damn Derby, then you have to run two more races in five weeks, which when combined with the above really does become too much to expect.

It's not the Derby that makes horsemen lean toward a light spring schedule, but rather the spector of competing in ALL THREE TC Races.

But if I were the owner and the trainer told me he could run once more before the Derby, AND he needed graded earnings to qualify, I would run in the ILL Derby.

Gotta be in it to win it. One bad break, literally, and you are sitting on the sidelines watching lesser horses from the Southwest and England run for glory in your spot.

God forbid you draw the extreme outside post against a FLA Derby field more talented than last years, and your derby dream is history.