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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dunkirk Dazzles Too

I know everyone is ga-ga over Quality Road, and not to take anything away from his Florida Derby effort, but I thought Dunkirk really ran a hell of a race as well. I think it certainly would be a mistake to be dismissive of his chances in the Derby....other than of course the minor problem that he may not qualify on graded stakes earnings. It was just his third career start remember; his first against stakes company and his first in five weeks. Quality Road (passing the two-turns test with flying colors) stalked what I suppose was a quick pace. Hard to say for sure given the fast fractions all day and the fact that this was the only two turn dirt race (which makes the winner's 103 figure a bit of a Fake Beyer). But I think one can make the argument that he had a good trip, especially if you accept the notion that the track there was speed favoring.

I mean, you gotta love the way Dunkirk rallied up to the leader in a seemingly effortless manner while five wide; it was kind of comical seeing Johnny V look over his shoulder inside as the challenger was ranging up wide. That was one impressive brush, and from pretty far back too. According to Formulator (and I'm still hopelessly hooked on the software version, even though it requires me to run Windows on my Mac), Dunkirk got the final three eighths in a race-best 36.73, and while taking the circuitous route too. Once he got to the leader, he was confronted with a quality opponent for the very first time. Quality Road was certainly impressive in rebreaking, retaking and retaining his lead. But I didn't see anything that indicates that on another day, with another race under his belt, with a more contentious pace, some added distance, a shorter route home, and, perhaps, a better timed move, Dunkirk couldn't turn the tables. Whether that will happen in the Derby (if he even gets in), I'm not sure; I hate the way he's being campaigned. I love the Toddster as you know, but when it comes to the Derby, he's like a baseball manager who changes his style in the postseason, eschewing the hit and run, or using starters out of the bullpen. Nonetheless I'm putting Dunkirk at #1 in my Paulick list just for fun. I mean, it's supposed to be fun, right?

I also dropped Friesan Fire from second to ninth just because Larry Jones would even consider training this horse up to the Derby. Seven weeks off, and no prep beyond a mile and a sixteenth? Are you kidding me? I'll be betting and rooting in full throat against this one if Jones tries to pull this off, especially since he'll still get bet. Even without the bet, I'd still root against, because it certainly wouldn't be a promising precedent as far as our Derby season goes.

And how nice for the Sheikh of Dubai. He can spend millions to pick off promising two-year olds, bring them home, run them in stakes races which he himself funds with outlandish purses so that they can blow away the American competition on graded earnings and deprive spots to horses of more modest and, perhaps, heartwarming origins. Who's idea was it to count these races towards Derby earnings anyway? Just look at his Royal Sheikhness beaming in this photo; just warms the heart, doesn't it?

And why exactly should I care about Mafaaz?

26 Comments:

DiscreetPicks said...

Regarding the stretch drive in the Florida Derby, everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that it was Dunkirk who held the two-turn and 1 1/8-mile experience edge. The fact that Quality Road was able to kick away from Dunkirk thru the final quarter is made even more impressive when you consider that he accomplished that feat while making his two-turn debut.

It will be popular handicapping theory as the Derby approaches that Quality Road will regress off the hard effort, just as it was suggested he would bounce coming off the 113 Beyer (and regardless of the 10-point drop in his Beyer figure, I think it's ridiculous to suggest that he regressed). But who's to say this horse won't take another forward move with the initial route try under his belt? Especially as lightly-raced as he is. He's proven that he can relax off the pace effectively, he's proven that he can handle a fast pace, and he looks to be in razor-sharp form. Looks to be one of the prime contenders from where I'm sitting.

Anonymous said...

Agree its ridiculous to suggest Dunkirk will have an advantage stretching out, he looked Quality Road in the eye and QR responded and pulled away. The only reason he got so close to begin with is because JV did not see him coming. Remember Dunkirk will need to navigate a 20 horse field IF he gets in while QR should get a dream stalking trip.

Also agree its ridiculous for Pletcher to complain about the track surface. He knew the earning rules, and he know the propensity of tracks to speed up the surface. Love the "could have gone to Aqueduct" comment. Well why didn't you? Perhaps because I Want Revenge fan the fastest Ragozin by a three year old since 2006? Just asking.

That said it is amateur hour at Gulfsteam, there is never an excuse to speed up a track for a big race day just so you can brag to the novice media that four track records were set. A trainer I knew would never enter his every day horses on big race days fearing injury. A silly way to conduct business.

Also agree with your sentiment regarding Larry Jones, he should retire if he is going to let the sheets guys train his horses. Absurd.

alan said...

>>Agree its ridiculous to suggest Dunkirk will have an advantage stretching out, he looked Quality Road in the eye and QR responded and pulled away.

Fair point, but I respectfully submit that this one confrontation on this particular track and this particular early stage of development for both colts necessarily portends what will happen down the road, no matter what the distance.

Erin said...

Quality Road did what he did pretty easily and wasn't challenged in the stretch, so I doubt anyone will be mentioning bounce. (Okay, maybe Tessitore on Derby Day, but I don't count that.)

I do think Dunkirk has a ton of room for improvement after this race, and that he got a lot out of it both in conditioning and as a learning experience. Hopefully Pletcher did too, although his post race comments lead me to believe otherwise, more likely.

However, while I don't think QR got as much out of the performance, he may not have needed to to get the job done on the big day. Storming down the stretch making the other horses look like miniatures, he sure did bring Forego to mind. And you gotta love those connections.

Anonymous said...

From a betting standpoint I pray Dunkirk makes it into the Derby. I think he is a nice horse that may be better later this year but give me a break on the Derby. I think his most impressive performance so far is his first one. Breaking your madien at 7 furlongs is very tough. If he ran a 90, 103, 109 I would give him a chance, but only if he did not look like a horse that ran 2 miles after the Fla Derby. Dunkirk was absolutley spent. Yes he made an impressive move, but most of the horses were starting to back up after chasing a hot pace. Two more points and I will shut up - 1 the way I saw the race, he was ridden the whole time by Gomez; 2 He is much smaller bulk wise than a Big Brown, Barabaro, Street Sense or even a Quality Road. Bottom line he needs to get bigger and mush faster if he is to be a serious horse.
30for60

Erin said...

Okay I'm a bit confused by your comment 30for60, but I too do want to see this horse get his chance in the Derby (if that's what you're saying).

Or at least, I think Dunkirk sure as hell deserves a chance over the likes of Mafaaz. There are going to be some mighty pissed off people if that one goes to the gate and Dunkirk doesn't make the cut, and I think it'll really warrant rethinking the concept of that UK race.

I don't have a problem with considering foreign stakes/group earnings for making the Derby in concept - who wouldn't like international participation for any US races? But for our horses to have to compete against Dubai-sized purses to get in is not playing on a level playing field.

Erin said...

Joe Drape's top ten. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Quality Road has gotten all the accolades, Alan. In fact, I've heard more people rave about Dunkirk's 2nd place finish while I've heard plenty of commentary about what an easy trip Quality Road got. Well he made the trip with his tactical speed.

The horse has plenty of stamina in his breeding. He looks to be very legit for the Derby. And that's to take nothing away from Dunkirk who ran an excellent race.

alan said...

>>I don't think Quality Road has gotten all the accolades, Alan.

Yeah, I am seeing some more Dunkirk hype now, you're right. But QR is solidly on top of Paulick's poll. Also reading conflicting reports on the gallop-outs....some say that QR shut down almost immediately after the wire....others feel that Dunkirk seemed the more exhausted of the two. I didn't see that myself, anyone else have any impressions?

>>Joe Drape's top ten. Wow.

I think he wants to be able to say that he picked the drug-free import should the horse happen to win. I can't really see any other justification for having him on top. I mean, on what grounds? (Unless he's just having some fun too.)

Anonymous said...

Erin
To clear any confusion. I hope he gets in so the money laid down on him will inflate the odds on the horse(s) I bet (yet to be decided). Not a question of whether he deserves to get in or not - rules are the rules. I just hope he does get in and goes to the gate at 5-1. That and a bunch of other over bet horses would be a dream scenario. Essentially that is what makes the derby such a great betting race.
30for60

Anonymous said...

Alan - two imprssions wathcing on ESPN. Quality Road did shut down after the wire - probably because he is a sprinter. Look for him in the starting gate of the King Bishop this summer. Dunkirk was absolutely spent and rightfully so. He just made his third lifetime start all 7 furlongs or more. I would look for him in the starting gate of the Preakness as I dont see $150 and change getting him into the race.
30for60

Anonymous said...

30for60 - You are making a giant leap of faith assuming Quality Road is a sprinter. His female side is oozing with stamina, and Elusive Quality has already sired a Derby winner. Hey, if you're looking for a price, I can't blame you for looking elsewhere, but I'd bet you any amount of $ you like that we won't see Quality Road in the King's Bishop this summer, or any other one-turn race for that matter. He just laid down 9 panels in 147 and change which means even if he bombs in the Derby his connections have a right to be confident about the Haskell.

But hey, I hope this horse goes off at 5 or 6-1 in Louisville. He won't be the reason I lose at that price. -JP from Suffolk Downs.

Erin said...

QR has Strawberry Road on the bottom with a brilliant miler on the top...his dam is a full to Ajina, a classic distance mare who didn't need maturing time in spite of that fact. So not much of a sprinter's pedigree, and he's built the opposite of the way a sprinter should be. Not seeing much chance he'll be strictly a sprinter.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I Want Revenge will be number one next week, horse is a freak on the dirt, fastest two turn Ragozin by a 3yo since 2006 and working up a storm.

Will you be there to see him in person?

Anonymous said...

QR fits the recent profile of Derby winners, Mr. P line on top with distance oriented dam side of pedigree.

Will get a better line on LA quality this Saturday when Giant Oak and Free Country try the ILL Derby, odd placement for these two considering their running styles, but I guess they are looking for the easiest spot for earnings.

Anonymous said...

Last comment, Pletcher should have run his rabbit.

Anonymous said...

JP from Suffolk Downs (love that place by the way) Quality Road reminds me of Hard Spun. I don't think the Derby winner has stepped up yet. Right now I am leaning towards something coming from out of the country - and I don't mean England. I think the Sheik's get their Derby this year unless someone steps up in the next two weeks.
But hey there are 4 weeks left and if you can get 5-1 on QR then you may be just as happy to bet him as I will be not too.
30for60

Anonymous said...

Erin - I dont see how Starwberry Road on the dam side and Elusive Quality on top add up to a classic distance. The mare's ability to go long means nothing for QR's pedigree for distance. He looks (visually and on paper) and acts like a sprinter to me. Sorry Alan but I woke up thinking about this very subject this morning.
30for60

Erin said...

30for60, a great article on QR's pedigree:

http://www.paulickreport.com/blog/tag/strawberry-road/

Putting milers over stamina has long been a recipe for classic winners. (And as noted, Funny Cide: these days even sprinters/milers win the Derby)

Not sure if you are saying Strawberry Road isn't a distance horse, or if the damside doesn't influence a horse's ability to get a distance. Strawberry Road's AWD is 8.66. (A.P. Indy, well regarded as a classic sire, is 8.71.)

Sprinters are usually more tightly coupled, smaller, more compact, muscly horses, not big lanky things, although if you were at the track you had a better vantage point than I to judge QR on that. No doubt about him being big though, and big usually doesn't = speedy.

belles forever said...

everyone said smarty couldn't win the derby..enough said..dunkirk did look like he ran two miles..not enough body mass..i hope they do not run him in the derby.he is way too nice of a horse to be rushed like that.quality road shut down cause the race was over.

Anonymous said...

Belles Forever, I am not sure how you can compare Smarty Jones and Quality Road? Smarty was way more accomplished than QR before the Derby. Erin you obviously know more about breeding than I do and your analysis makes me think just a little bit better of QR's chances.
30for60

Erin said...

Full disclosure: this is coming from someone who's never cashed a ticket on the Derby!

(I stopped betting that race years ago...the best horses don't usually win)

belles forever said...

erin i compare quality road to smarty,who was more accomplished ,because everyone said he couldn't get the distance at the derby..he did and i think,in my humble opinion,that quality road can as well.dunkirk looked way to used up after the race..i think they should use him in late summer and the fall classics because he could get ruined by too much too fast.as a horseperson i do not think it would be to his advantage to push him now.he is very talented no doubt.

Anonymous said...

In truth neither QR or Dunkirk have proven anything at this point, they each ran against the other an no one else, bad race.

All potential, long way to go to catch I Want Revenge, Pamplemouse, Pioneer of the Nile or Friesan Fire, all of whom have run well numerous times in graded company.

Niether will be a factor in the Derby.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh. A lot of you have absolutely no clue about the talent and ability of horses that you actually watched. 0 for 60, don't give up your day job. Quality Road will win the Derby. He is a freak. His running style has NO weakness. Physically and talentwise, he towers over the other horses. 4 races and 3 100+ Beyers. The other race, he was sick. Distance and pedigree were never a question with this horse. Only those unfamiliar with Quality Road's pedigree, would make an ignorant comment about him not being able to handle the distance. Johnnie V. will win his first Derby on a non-Pletcher starter. Jimmy has started a total of 3 horses in Breeders Cup races. He has 2 wins and a 3rd. He will have Quality Road ready and winning May 2nd. You can say, I told you so. They have not gotten anywhere close, to the bottom of this horse.

Anonymous said...

when you say ragozin what was the horse from 2006 to runthe fastest ragozin and what was iwantrevenge's number against a bunch of pigs--his ragozin was not a negative was it. what was dunkirks ragozin in the florida derby