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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Belmont Saturday (Mostly Inessential)

When I first went through the 8th, I put a big circle around So It Goes. He obviously relishes these shorter distances (though I think he may prefer 1 1/16), and it's third off the layoff for Donk, just three for 36 for the meet, but two seconds on Friday, including Strike the Bell, who couldn't quite last, at 8-1, in the overnight stakes. But after watching the replay of his last race, I'm a little less enthusiastic. He never looked a winner, lagging far behind while saving ground on the turn before finding a handy seam and finishing well. Nothing wrong with the effort, just looked less inspiring than on paper.

We were at the Francis Bacon exhibit at the Met last week, and I noted a quote from the artist to the effect that nine-tenths of everything is inessential. And I've often wondered on this blog how much of all the incredible handicapping resources currently easily available online is really essential to the job. It's not that it's a bad idea to watch a replay of a race, or look up detailed trainer stats in Formulator. But this being such an inexact science - indeed, one with a high degree of randomness - that any bit of mind-changing information could, perhaps, be just as likely to lead one astray as not. Since the paper Racing Form has always served us well - and even more so now than 20 years ago to be sure - maybe it's the case that once you formulate a strong opinion based on what's in the Form, you're better off not probing any further? I mean, it's going to either reinforce your opinion, or talk you off the horse, and does anyone know how that turns out in the long run?

I digress, sorry. OK, I'm not completely off So It Goes, but now I'm going deeper. North Country (12-1) comes off a layoff first time for David Duggan; he has the best grass Beyers in the field. He's one of those state-breds looking for a level after running out of his restricted conditions; but he raced well at this level on a 'good' turf at Aqueduct last November. Duggan sports an 0 for 12 in the 180+ category; but has two good seconds in stakes races with returnees Porte Bonheur and Stud Muffin; capable barn attracts Ramon here. Parc des Princes (10-1) led in the stretch before fading to 4th in his return to Belmont. He's reunited with Castellano, who rode him in two good front-running, though non-winning, efforts here last year. I'd actually prefer to see him ridden the way he was by Flores at Santa Anita two back; in any event, seems an overlay at those odds. Big Top (6-1) is my preference amongst the five that met on May 20; three wide around the turn in his turf debut, could be closer second time on the surface and a better trip.

OK, it's after noon, so no on is gonna read this one time just quickly, in the 7th, Piazza di Spagna (4-1) goes second off the layoff for Sciacca. This barn is just 1 for 43 at the meeting. But the horse usually makes a run, as he did finishing second in his return. The winner, Straight Story, then ran second by a head in the G2 Colonial Turf Cup. So, do you play the trainer angle and throw him out? Or the key race angle and single him? I dunno, you tell me.

In the 10th, Separatist is the 2-1 morning line choice for the red-hot Tagg, five for his last 11, with two seconds. But this horse is been beat in his last three at 9-5, 2-5, and 4-5, so beware. Saratoga Steve (5-1) returns to seven furlongs on the grass; seems the distance is definitely for him based on his rally for a close third. However, this is another whose race wasn't as impressive to me visually, and his trainer is 0 for 24 here. Do you go with the fundamentals in the Form, or with the trainer stats and replay? Why are you asking me? I'm off to the track, have a great day.


momenta said...

Wow, I had Separatist and thought Dominguez was gutless for not going through on the rail. I was moved up, so I really can't complain. I am sitting on my couch and he is ridding a 1000lb horse. I should just shut up.

o_crunk said...

There's a recently published book by Joseph Hallinan entitled "Why We Make Mistakes" that tackles some of the "inessential" you write of here. There's a chapter dealing with overconfidence that has an interesting tidbit about horse handicappers: we do as well with 5 bits of information compared to having 10, 20, or 40, though our confidence increases with the number of information bits available. By no means scientific truth but interesting nonetheless.

I don't know about you but the longer I look at a card when handicapping, the more it starts to look like a pile of babel and it gets difficult to separate the signal from the noise.

Now for some long winded thoughts on today's races.

I understand that the record breaking rain of late must make it difficult for track maintenance to keep the track from getting away from them but these big day, pre-sealed, lightening fast strips aren't cool, man.

Pure speculation on my part but Belmont day and today both had similar "fast" dirt that *may* (overemphasized because I may have no idea what I'm talking about) have contributed to Dunkirk and another vanned off today with injuries. God knows how many else have been injured on these type of days that we'll never know about.

That said, I think the RA track record will be overstated considering that non-winners clocked in 108 and change for 6 panels and the NY-bred stakes races had them going out in 108 and change also.

I like a little mustard with my hot dog sometimes and I'm down with Calvin Borel but the showboating before the wire is going to bite him in the ass one of these days and it's not going to be pretty. He's going to have one of those Bill Gramatica moments and it's going to look stupid in retrospect because there is no reason for it. Be a pro, get the horse to the wire.

alan said...

crunk - Thanks for the tip on the book...and I couldn't agree more about staring at the pp's for too long.

Besides the fact that the track was absurdly fast, the race was set up for RA like a time trial in harness racing! That said, she did shatter - by almost a full second - a record for a stakes which goes back 50 years at this distance (it was run seven times at the Big A around two turns), and for which the list of winners includes some of the legendary names in the sport.

Teresa said...

Right there with o_crunk on Borel. He's driven me crazy for years and it's just getting worse the more positive attention he gets from it.

And unfortunately, the Zito horse vanned off after the second was euthanized.

Anonymous said...

My original trainer would avoid running horses on the "big" race days, if possible, for the good of the horse.

Most owners have the opposite inclination.

NY has had record rainfall this June, yet the main track has mostly played fair, except for the Belmont Stakes card and yesterday.

Pretty good evidence that management intentionally speeds up the surface. Too bad racing does not have true beat reporters and press conferances where this question could be asked of Charlie.

Anonymous said...

PS - not to mention how boring the super highway dirt track makes the races, not a single close finish all day, and the top two finishers in all seven dirt races were 1-2, in the final order, at the eighth pole and in some cases for the entire race.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if this has been mentioned here, but I wonder whether the souped-up track on Florida Derby Day might have been the cause of Quality Road's quarter crack problems. I believe Jerkens is on record as saying that Quality Road had never had any foot problems prior to that. And the crack was reportedly first noticed in the winner's circle after the race.