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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Morning After

First of all, I did not end up using Super Saver on top, for a variety of reasons and even though I did unenthusiastically include him in my top group in my final rundow. As greenmtnpunter noted, he had become the obvious bandwagon horse, and that was even before the guy bet $100,000 to win. If I hadn't already made my bets, that would have been the last straw! But no harm done, had a great day, great BBQ here in our backyard, and I didn't have Ice Box, Paddy O'Prado, nor Make Music For Me anywhere on any of my tickets, so it wouldn't have mattered anyhoo.

Now, let's take a look at some numbers, which I think bear out of a couple of assumptions that most of us made before the race - 1) that the race would fall apart after a fast pace and 2) the field was a mediocre one, at best. The final time of 2:04.45 was the slowest since 1989 (Sunday Silence, 2:05, on a drying-out track), and the second slowest since Tim Tam in 1958.

Nonetheless, Super Saver received a respectable Beyer figure of 104, but as far as I'm concerned, that number means ZERO. There were three other two-turn dirt races run on the day, enough under normal circumstances to provide a sufficient sample. However, the last one before the Derby was run at 12:40 PM, nearly six hours and who knows how many raindrops before Race 11. You might have heard Donna Brothers Barton explaining that the nature of the track was changing from race to race, so one can easily surmise that the track at 6:30 bore little resemblance to that of 12:40. So it seems to me that the Beyer boys did their usual projection magic to make all of the numbers fit neatly into the context of the runners' histories rather than relying on any hard numbers. Super Saver's 104 is a logical progression from his improvement over the year, Ice Box, at 100, makes sense after he (supposedly) improved to 99 in the Florida Derby, Paddy O'Prado, at 100, makes little sense at all, but neither did his odds nor his finishing third as far as I'm concerned. Noble's Promise (95) (and yes, that pedigree sure seemed to catch up to him in the final furlong), Looking At (un)Lucky (94) and Dublin (93) all fit in nicely.

In this race, relying on final times in order to create or project figures can't possibly tell the whole story of what actually occurred. For that, the internal fractions relate what really happened, and it ain't pretty at all. There might not have been the anticipated head-to-head battle on the front end, as Conveyance and Sidney's Candy were a clear and uncontested 1-2. But the leader was moving swiftly through fractions of 22.63, 46.16, and 1:10.58; splits of 22.63, 23.53, and 24.38. From that point on, this race suddenly slowed to a walk. It was another 27.07 seconds before Noble's Promise hit the front at the quarter pole, and a slightly more acceptable 26.80 before the finish; that's a final half of almost 54 seconds after the first one in 46.16. Can anyone tell me that a Derby on a "fast" Polytrack surface could have been any uglier? Even Giacomo's fall-apart Derby was a faster final half than that, at 53 1/5, and by a relatively wide margin.

So Super Saver earned the Toddster's first Derby and his 104 Beyer by running a ground-saving final half of 52.77 seconds, and I wonder how his final quarter (26.55) ranks in Derby history? Giacomo had to be going faster than that considering that he closed a lot of ground (final quarter that day was 26.87). And it's a further indictment of the field that Ice Box was the only one making up any serious ground at the end....and, as fast as it appeared he was going, his final quarter was 26.10. So, if you answer the question of "Which horses were able to get the distance?" with nobody, I don't think you're being inaccurate.

- Awesome Act, who I did use on top, finished 19th with no obvious excuse, yuck!

Trainer Jeremy Noseda said: "Julien said that he was happy round the first bend but that down the backstretch Awesome Act was never really firing.

"It was a very disappointing run," added the trainer. "We thought there was no issue with the sloppy track but perhaps there was." [Racing]
- Baffert on Lookin At Lucky's Preakness prospects: "I'm going to keep you all in suspense....I'm just going to wait and see how he looks on the track." [Baltimore Sun]
"I quit watching after the first bump," Baffert said. "He was done. I wish Garrett would have pulled him up. But that's horse racing. You have good luck and you have bad luck and I've been lucky to win this race (three times) when other guys had bad luck." [Albany Times-Union]


The Turk said...

I was just sitting down with my calculator to do the math on yesterday's Derby and I read here you did everything that interested me. I couldn't agree more with the Beyer numbers: They fit a notion of what a sloppy Derby without a runaway winner, not reality. If this was an allowance race in the slop at Oaklawn I doubt we see a triple digit Beyer.

Charles Berkeley Miller said...

I was aligned with a lot of your pre-derby observations but I think you're too much of a contrarian for your own handicapping. Super Saver was the obvious choice to win (call it a bandwagon if you want) with Borel near the rail in the slop. Ice Box was guaranteed to be the fastest horse to lay back early and clean up after the pace breakdown (and who didn't see that coming?). And Paddy O'Prado we knew loved the track and mud all week. While it was a poor crop and a wide-open race in general, this year's derby makes a lot more sense than Mine That Bird's race.

Anonymous said...

I will agree that this years race makes more sense than last years's results and Super Saver did have some things in his favor ( a good looking improving form cycle, Borel, pedigree) to name a few. But I think everyone on this blog knows that 8-1 was way to short a price to take on this horse in a 20 horse field. I really think Borel was the single Biggest reason this horse went off at such low odds compared to his morning line. I bet a lot of Churchill races and Calvin Borel gets bet down hard there on a day in day out basis (kind of like pat day used to there). When the Derby betting opened up on Oaks day, I really think that's the day when a lot of locals at Churchill put their derby bets down, they hammered Borel's horse, and the Public
followed the next day right up until post time.

Also to say this was a somewhat predictable result with Make Music and Paddy O crashing the tri/super is ridiculous. The Super paid over 200,000 !!!

Super Saver will be a big underlay again in 2 weeks no matter what he goes off at in my opinion-


steve in nc said...

I'm not sure we'll really know whether the track was really changing and how. Lots of smart people on ESPN were saying things like "the track isn't kind to speed" and "it doesn't look like the rail is the place to be," right before Borel went wire to wire on the rail (again!) in the ninth race.

But that doesn't mean the track changed. Sometimes, coin flips come up heads three times in a row, then tails three times. So before I take Donna Brothers Barton's word for it, I'd like to hear her evidence or reasoning.

The jocks throughout the day said the track was pretty even. Winners came from many running styles and paths. The one really slow paced race was, logically, the only one with a small field and a dominant obvious winner who stayed off the pace. Rather than a shifting bias, could it simply have been wet but fair?

Nonetheless, I will also view speed figures from Derby Day with a more than a few grains of salt, and I do share Alan's doubts about variants that get too subjective. But the big reason yesterday's figures won't help much in the future (unless this year's BC turns out to be "Monsoon II") is that so many horses don't give their normal efforts under extreme conditions like that.

I've thought more about Gomez' ride and I'm left shaking my head. Half the pre-race talk was about the large number of committed frontrunners and whether the pace would be suicidal or simply fast. The other half was about how much chance Lucky had of getting squeezed into the rail. I know this is after the fact, but why didn't he just take the horse back and out of trouble as soon as the gate opened? Didn't coming from far off the pace figure to be advantageous, and in Lucky's case, much more safe?

The other terrible ride was Mike Smith aboard Free Flying Soul in race 8 (yes, I bet him). Four wide dueling for the lead the whole way, rather than taking back and trying to save a little ground once the duel developed down the backstrech. And this horse had rated a few lengths off the pace successfully a few times. I suspect Smith might pick the 4 path in a match race.

malcer said...

The Derby Beyer is junk-science for the second year in a row, but then we live in an age when lots of people say "let's wait if the Beyer is 100 or 105 before we form an opinion on how Rachel Alexandra ran in the La Troienne" rather than seeing this figure for what it is: one of many things to consider when rating (or handicapping) a race.

Good job reviewing a strange Derby.

onecalicocat said...

As an admitted amateur, I just want to say that the overall "sense" of the blog all week led me to Super Saver and Ice Box, so I want to thank Alan and all the posters for their knowledge and input.
(I also bet a little on Lucky and Mission as well)

If there is any justice, Lucky will win one of these big races with a fair trip -- but he may be too beaten up to go in the Preakness.

Finally, as an unabashed Smarty Jones fan, I would like to publicly ridicule Larry, Moe and Curly (Goldmark, Amoss and Mena) for putting a totally unsuitable colt (Backtalk) into a huge race and coming in last by 70 lengths. No Smarty baby has been able to go more than a mile (if that) in decent company. I don't know when we will see Backtalk again (maybe at Mountaineer) but I believe he could be a decent sprinter with new connections.

Anonymous said...

Steve, as the anon that took some heat on the prior thread for criticizing Gomez, thanks for putting my thoughts into words better than I.

Why did he feel the need to rush the horse out of the gate into what was obviously going to be a traffic jam going into the turn. Did he never watch the head on shots from prior Derbys. This happens, EVERY time an inside horse attempts to establish position mid pack.

Then once he checks the first time, he again asks the horse to move up inside instead of just letting him settle.

His third mistake was getting off the rail way too soon, the inside was wide open in the stretch, again, as everyone not named Borel swung wide like it was the third race at Belmont.

The blinkers were off for a reason, the plan should have been to settle in, let the pace develop, then try to work out a Mine That Bird trip. If it fails, it fails.

Of course, it is entirely possible Baffert gave instructions contrary to my desires, but we will never know since the racing "media" is not exactly known for tough or intelligent questioning of the participants. If so I apologize to Gomez.

Baffert is not shy, you just need someone willing to ask something other than "how did LAL come out of the race" and "will he run back in two weeks".

Anonymous said...

You can't really blame Gomez for what happened to LAL. It was bad racing luck as much as anything. Also, LAL had already shown he was the type to check when bumped by other horses. Didn't he do it in each of his last two races? Maybe that's not fair, but the writing was on the wall.

I liked the top 3 finishers but my key ran out. I thought it was a dull Derby. The general public did a good job with it. Surprised the tri only paid a little over two grand. Super Saver should be tough in the Preakness with his forward running style and ability to grind it out. -jp

Anonymous said...

Wonder how many Pletcher will run in The Preakness?

IF he lost you can be sure he would run a bunch, now those other owners have to sit back and watch.

Interesting sidelight to an otherwise boring two week.

Had to go to the NY Post to get a list of potential starters at Pimlico, the racing media has been asleep since the race.

LAL will probably run if ok, Ice Box will pass and none of the new shooters really scare anyone.

Aikenite is probably the most talented and I suspect Todd will find a reason not to run.

I guess Pleasant Prince has to be considered a threat off Ice Box's performance. but his two races since have been horrible.

Two horse race, if LAL goes.

Ironically, Baffert lost the derby with favored Point Given to another son if Maria's Mon, Monarchos, then turned the tables two weeks later. History may repeat itself.

Teresa said...

Anon 8:33: No knocks against the Post, but the Daily Racing Form has had a list of possible Preakness starters up since yesterday mid-day.

steve in nc said...

JP - I can't exactly recall how the old saw goes, but I know there is one about luck being the product of design, and I think that applies to Looking at Lucky's ride.

The only way that Gomez' leaving-the-gate strategy would have succeeded was if Lucky could out-quick the 3 horses outside of him and clear to grab the rail before taking back like SS did. The PPs indicated that Lucky had very little chance of that especially as anon noted with blinkers off, and as you noted, with the horse's penchant for checking in traffic.

That last point could be a key here, especially since it is now a confirmed tendency, not a one-time unlucky thing. When Lucky came up the rail in that last prep, I thought he would bull through the way I've seen countless others do. When you come inside others, you have to do it quickly and strongly, and be more willing to foul than to get fouled since you're the one who could die if the horse hits the rail.

I don't know whether Gomez is too tenative with him or if it is the horse that is risk-averse. Either way, if I were the connections, I'd find a new jock just for this horse - I'm not attacking Gomez overall, since he certainly wins tons of races.

It just is painfully obvious now that this pair is a bad fit. Sure, Gomez might win with him again if a betteer trip presents itself, but so might Rudy Rodriguez - this is one talented horse. How many more disasters need to happen before Gomez and Lucky are allowed to move on with their lives and find new partners?

ballyfager said...

People who pay attention to Beyer numbers (or Thorograph or Ragozin) get exactly what they deserve.

I believe Thorograph gave American Lion the best figure going into Saturday's race. Get real.

Anonymous said...

Super Saver was highly competitive on both TG and Ragozin. Let's not start assaulting these figs. In my experience, they are a good tool, but anyone who takes them too literally is bound to suffer the consequences at the windows. They should be augmented with other handicapping in order to make the best use of them. I will add, however, that they become less helpful on off tracks and in soft turf conditions and in situations where pace can make the race. Classic example a few weeks ago in that Forever Together race at Keeneland. She had a huge fig edge over the winner, but the winner had a huge pace advantage and wired.

As for LAL, I agree a jockey change is necessary. He's obviously a very talented colt, but it's hard to be too confident betting on him because he has a nose for trouble. Reminds me a little bit of Dollar Bill, only he's better than Dollar Bill. -jp

alan said...

Some Sheets guys I know felt that three weeks was too soon for SS after his new top in the Ark race.

Three weeks? Used to be that was a relative eternity!

>>I was aligned with a lot of your pre-derby observations but I think you're too much of a contrarian for your own handicapping.

Yeah, fair point to be sure!

steve in nc said...

As a Sheet guy, I know there are a lot of other Sheet guys who are really strict about certain Sheet dogmas and tenets like waiting 4-8 weeks after a top.

But when a 3yo with an otherwise healthy pattern equals or goes past his 2yo top by a point or two for the first time, that is when big forward moves are likeliest to happen and when I'm most willing to forgive a short interval between races. From his Sheet, I really expected him to run a new top.

In this field, there were lots of colts with great patterns and higher odds, though, so I do understand those who left SS off. I gave him extra credit for the expected rail trip and that's what pushed him to the top for me.

El Angelo said...

Quick and easy handicapping at its finest: add the last 3 Beyers of every horse entered in the Derby. The Derby winner has been in the Top 5 something like 15 of the last 16 years--Giacomo was, Mine That Bird wasn't. This year that group was Sidney's Candy, Dublin, Super Saver, Conveyance and American Lion.

ballyfager said...

@Anon 9:35 - for the umpteenth time, the fact that these numbers are for sale is a tacit admission that the creators of those numbers can't make money betting them. They are opinion, and that's all they are.

They maybe okay for newbies but if you've been at this for any length of time you need to form your own opinion...or find another hobby.

Saying after a race," I can't wait to see what number Jerry gives this horse", just doesn't cut it.

Anonymous said...

You're 100% wrong, ballyfager. These guys sell these #s because they can make more money selling the #s than playing horses. Racing is an ever-changing game. But that it isn't even the point. Your second insinuation -- that these #s are only for newbies -- is such complete balderdash. I'm not going to prance around like the typical internet lunkhead and claim I beat the game consistently, but I can tell you that a number of professional horseplayers use sheets and TGs to augment their handicapping. Not to mention, you constantly hear guys like Assmusen and Pletcher talking about how they look at these numbers. Jimmy Jerkens too.

Of course anyone who consistently beats the game needs to do a heck of a lot more than "look at the sheets," but you're kidding yourself if you think they are for newbies only. It's a cheap potshot, and you don't know what you're talking about. -jp

El Angelo said...

Don't the sheet numbers cost something around $50 for a card? Because there aren't a lot of seasoned players I know, let alone newbies, that will toss around $50 for a handicapping guide that's good for just one day. Also, there have been numerous examples of people who have bought horses in consultation with the Sheets guys--Student Council and Richard's Kid are two that jump to mind.

Anonymous said...

I don't care who uses them, they are all balderdash.

EVERY horse is different and needs to be trained based on its own merits.

To be training a horse based on figure patterns is absurd and probably one of the reasons Pletcher has such an abyssmal record in these races (one win does not changes this, no one has more talent in his barn than this guy, he was going to win one sooner or later by accident).

A horsemen shouldn't need a figure to decide when to run a horse, he needs to know his horse. Tough to do when you have hundreds of them all over the country, so the easiest crutch to lean on are the figs, which is why the big barns use them.

A bettor should not rely on them, novice or pro.

The pros that make money using them must have the discipline to wager only at the correct times and would be just as successful doing it the old fashioned way.

Money management has always been the key to success, as it is in every gambling venture and life in general.

El Angelo said...

Let me guess--you also think that RBIs are the most important hitting statistic in baseball and those who rely on VORP and its brethren are nuts?

Anonymous said...

El Angelo, another reason I do not trust the fig makers is conflict of interest.

Once they crossed the line to bloodstock advisor how in the world can a gambler trust those figs.

They make more money on one horse sale than they make all year selling those figs to gamblers.

They give a huge fig in a Derby prep then broker the deal to sell that same horse to some fool overcome with Derby Fever.

Trust no one, in this industry more than most.

Anonymous said...

El An, no comparison, horse figs are subjective, too many variables.

Baseball stats are not.

Anonymous said...

>Money management has always been the key to success, as it is in every gambling venture and life in general.

Ok, so you're saying if you can't handicap your way out of a paper bag, as long as you manage your money, you'll be a success betting horses. And I have some cheap gulf coast land I'd like to sell you...-jp

steve in nc said...

JP said it well when it comes to where figure makers make their $$ and that they're not for newbies.

But Bally, you are absolutely right that all speed figures are subjective. Where we differ is that I know from experience that using speed figures is nothing like buying a tip sheet. It's all in the interpretation, and after almost 20 years using Sheets, I'm still honing my own interpretations of patterns.

Most Ragozin Sheet players probably agreed that Stately Victor and Devil May Care would bounce, but opinions on lots of the others were all over the place.

Also, TG and Rag may have near identical formats but their approaches to variants are quite different and the same horses' lines often look very different. Lumping them together is a mistake.

I used to make my own figures for the NYRA circuit, Beyer style. Now I have a family. While making figures definitely informed and improved my handicapping, I feel I have a bigger edge with Sheets, since all circuits are covered and ground loss and wind are included and they're just plain good at it.

Obviously, there's a lot more to this game than raw #s, but sometimes, it really matters which numbers you use. In the race won by Atta Boy Roy last saturday, he looked a tad slower on Beyer than the two chalks. But on Ragozin, he had run a very fast "1 1/4" twice last year (once while skimming the rail), a number only matched once by Musket Man and once by Warrior's Reward. Sheet #s couldn't help you settle the distance question, but they did tell you that Roy was just as fast as the two chalks, despite the way it looked in the DRF (and on the toteboard).

I'm home from work this week and plan on playing Churchill on Thursday. Bally, if you want to experience a different view on using Ragozin sheets and Alan is willing to facilitate, send him your e-mail address so we can communicate.

You'll have to buy your own Sheets ($5 a race for a minimum of 3, or $35 for the card and they should be available on-line after 9 tonight EDT) if you want to do this. Talking through the races with someone else always helps me see subtleties I may have missed from handicapping too fast, so I'd enjoy doing it with you - maybe after the scratches are posted on Thursday. I'm not a Sheet employee, and the staff there might well disagree with some of my handicapping, but I am a long time user.

Anonymous said...

jp - no, out of context, I was clearly referring to pros who I presume can handicap a little.

But I will state that the best handicapper in the world will lose money over time if they can not manage their money.

ballyfager said...

@ Anonymous 7:48

You refute your own argument in your second sentence. Wish I had seen your post yesterday. There might be people in the intervening time who think you actually know what your talking about.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I agree the Rags and other sheets are more helpful than Beyer, which I find close to worthless except when able to identify a false fig and play against the masses.

Since you are off Thursday and playing CD, and I happen to be in the same position, if you want to have some fun we can have a little challenge.

I will post my top four selection handicapped the old fashioned way, and you can post yours with the help of the sheets.

We can see where we agree and disagree. Obviously it will be too small a sample to draw any conclusion but we can all have some fun and maybe even make some money in the process.

You in? I will provide my top four selections by post time of the first race on the latest blog entry comments section.

If Alan has some time perhaps he can chip in his picks too and anyone else of course.

steve in nc said...

Can we make it a discussion and not a challenge, and focus more on HOW we evaluate horses and structure our plays than on whether they win or lose?

You are correct that the small sample makes drawing conclusions impossible. I'm not interested in a selections contest of any kind or any length.

Maybe others would like to see an anonymous poster's picks (Alan's hunch plays are every popular), but the only thing I'm interested in is learning what you might be seeing in a horse or race that I might be missing.

And if you'd like, when I find a race where the horses look very different on Sheets than using DRF, I'll post about it. If that leads to discussion, than maybe I'll do more. If that's not of interest to you, I'll save the time. I have no interest in bragging rights.

Anonymous said...

It's of interest to me but appears I do not have the time tomorrow, a personal issue just came up that will have me away from my computer from 1030-1 at least.

I plan to handicap and play CD but unfortunately will not have time for an in depth discussion since I will not even have track conditions, turf status or scratches before I depart and will be rushed when I return.

Will try to post something but don't want you to waste your efforts since I may not be able to participate.

Thanks for the offer, sorry I posed it as a challenge, you are correct who cares, discussion is always more interesting.