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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Morning Notes

Master of Hounds is a virtual co-favorite along with Animal Kingdom in the will-pays for the Brooklyn Handicap-Belmont daily double. So looks like an excellent call by El Angelo on that. Shackleford is actually 5th choice in that betting, and may very well be sent off at well above his 5-1 morning line.

Rain in the area overnight, and both the main track and the grass course were listed as good as of around 7:30 this morning. Unfortunately, there's some scattered areas of green stuff on the weather radar heading this way. So it's hardly an ideal day (though it should be dry for the most part), which may hold down the crowd.

- I was absolutely shocked that the editors of the NY Times saw fit to give front-page placement to Joe Drape's way-premature victory lap piece, in which he speculates, based on little more than the times of this year's Derby and Preakness and a visual observation by Randy Moss (known more for his expertise on pace than on equine physiology), that the banning of steriods has resulted in slower and thus more sound horses. It seems to fit Drape's agenda more than constitute solid journalism based on convincing evidence over a significant period of time.

"The time posted by Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby is viewed by some as evidence that horses are not running on steroids," reads the caption under the photo. Really? That seems like pretty scant evidence. I mean, I just thought it was because these horses suck so badly that a turf/synth horse who had previously won a slowly-run Turfway stakes over a class C field was able to win. Of course, it's entirely possible that Drape will be proven to be right. But I think that several years and a comprehensive study of racing of all ages and stripes - not just a couple of three-year old stakes in the spring - would be necessary to reach such a conclusion.

Trainer John Ward is quoted as saying:

“Now we do not [have steroids] and maybe that’s why they are slower. But we’re also beginning to see a sounder horse that will last longer.”
And gee, that's funny, because that's the same outcome that many forecasted when synthetic tracks were introduced - that the surfaces would de-emphasize speed and eventually lead to breeders having to cater to stamina rather than precociousness. And most people rejected that notion out of hand as an affront to the traditions of the game, and a disaster for Kentucky breeders who had built their livelihoods by catering to buyers looking for 10-second furlongs in under-tack shows. Now, I guess the idea may be gaining acceptance. So maybe the demise of steroids should go hand in hand with a new attitude towards synthetic tracks and a possible second wave of their installation.


steve in nc said...

I guess today's results at Belmont, which seemed kind of random to me, could be an argument for polytrack, which would have played more formfully when wet. But no.

I'd rather just accept that days like this happen and next time try to remember to keep my wallet in its holster in weather like that.

I have to say it seems intuitive that horses would be a tad slower without steriods, and another tad slower if we can ever get rid of lasix, bute, and whatever other drugs those are masking. But you're right - it's just intuitive and there's no evidence yet.

In fact, in the fall, everyone was talking about how fast Uncle Mo was running. I see no reason why no more steriods would affect 3 year old routes only.

The kind of leap Drape's making is the kind of extrapolation from tiny samples people just discovering racing make in their handicapping. Amateur.

Anonymous said...

Kuddo's to Larry Colmus on a great call from beginning till the end.

Teresa said...

Arguably, the Belmont played completely to form. Ruler On Ice was the only horse in the field with a win over a sloppy track, and he won.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's a reductive observation...but shame on all of us who ruled him out! :)

Anonymous said...

Do you think you will see Ruler On Ice in the winner's circle again anytime soon? Just asking. We have had Triple Crown droughts of 25 and 32 years. Add the 20 year drought of Derby winners unable to also win the Belmont. /S/greenmtnpunter

El Angelo said...

Wasn't Thunder Gulch in 1995, i.e., 16 years ago? For the record, only 22 times has a horse won the Derby and the Belmont, and 11 of those were TC winners.

Anonymous said...

It's time for Tom Durkin to step away from the mic. His best days of race calling are behind him. His Belmont call was horrible.