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Thursday, May 29, 2014

All Systems Go For Cali Chrome....But We've Heard That Song Before!

 - OK, well, it's a busy week between work, and the Rangers, and the Dinosaur Jr show last night. So I'm gonna be a bit lazy here and reprint this post, which originally appeared on the TimeformUS blog on Saturday:

The big news on California Chrome from Friday is that he encountered a possum on the track while training.  He was apparently undaunted, and continued on his merry way. Must have been a particularly slow news day.  I see those damn critters in my backyard in Queens; even hanging out on the back porch one evening.  So I don't see what the big deal is; I can run away from them just fine too, and I don't make the Daily Racing Form website USA Today.
His assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, is really talking his horse up, telling us how California Chrome seems to be thriving despite the Triple Crown grind.
"He's a good-feeling, big, strong horse. He's just improved all the time....Most horses get a little tired during this three-race trip, but he just seems to be getting bigger, and stronger and better every day."
Oh. Wait.  Sorry, that wasn't Sherman.  That was Barclay Tagg talking about Funny Cide before he went for the Triple Crown sweep in 2003.  He finished third.  Well, OK, maybe there's no Empire Maker in this year's field.  Or, maybe there is.  Point is that trainers say what they say before these races, and these comments probably should be taken with a grain of salt. Even as good as the horse seems to be looking, and as supremely confident Sherman is.
"As good as he came out of the Preakness, I was shocked.....And he's showing me signs that he can be going forward. I don't see any signs of him starting to tail off."
Oh. Sorry again. That's not Sherman either.  That was John Servis talking about Smarty Jones prior to his attempt at sweeping in 2004. He looked pretty good around mid-stretch.  But Birdstone came along and caught him; he finished second.  Yeah, maybe his jockey Stewart Elliot moved him too soon that day.  California Chrome will have the more experienced Victor Espinoza on board.  You know, the guy who spoke about how he nearly had a panic attack and moved his horse too soon when he saw Social Inclusion moving on the turn of the Preakness.  I'm sure that won't happen in the Belmont, right? After all, we've seen that experienced riders don't make that mistake on Big Sandy. Just like Kent Desormeaux on Real Quiet in 1998.
But now it's 2014.  It's been 36 years.  We're due.  What could go wrong this time?  And, California Chrome is doing fantastic!
"I can't believe that I'm training a horse that looks this good and has done what he's done....There is no way in the world that there is any horse that is doing better.....He just looks unbelievable."
"It's a done deal."
Oh.  Damn.  Sorry again.  That was Rick Dutrow talking about Big Brown prior to the Belmont in 2008. He didn't finish the race.  Of course, Art Sherman isn't Rick Dutrow. We presume he'll have Cali Chrome's shoes glued on real tight.  So I guess it's in the bag. Right, babe?


Steve in NC said...

Really enjoyed this when I saw it on the Timeform blog - it deserves a wider readership. And since I didn't get to post earlier - belated congrats on your daughter's graduation - a beautiful moment!

As for trainer comments, any praise they give their own horse is typically worth about as much as the cuppy track excuse when they don't run well.

If a trainer sounds hot on his horse before its debut, I will take that into account, but otherwise, the only trainer comments I weigh in my handicapping are negative comments. I don't think I've ever seen a horse win after the trainer said "he probably needs a race."

The DRF clocker comments on the workouts are, to me, even more useless. Of course they all look great - they're the best horses honed for a prime effort.

It was extra funny this year how they thought California Chrome wasn't jogging quite right at Churchill. One of the smart British women on HRTV (Carolyn Conley?) showed video of CC in California and KY and he looked the exact same. I suspect there are sharp observers who charge a lot for their work, but sometimes I think Welch's best use would be bringing coffee and sandwiches to the DRF's poor IT department.

So do you think CC is a good bet-against? I like his chances a lot better than the other recent Triple Crown possibles, but probably the best way to play the race is with CC underneath exactas.

Dan said...

Steve- Great line about Welch reading CC watching his workouts in KY. I ignored his analysis. I'm really looking forward to the race & lets all hope the weather will be okay. We have no control over this. Long term weather forecasts are worth as much as how much the trainers praise their horses.

Figless said...

Nice read, congrats on the Rangers.

Steve in NC said...

I enjoyed your gif on the workout post on the Timeform blog, but I've got a quibble with Mike Beer's pick at Belmont today that was posted just above it.

I know the races are over so it is easy to say now, and I am grumpy after getting nosed out of all kinds of winnings in the 9th, but what I'm about to write matches the way I actually handled Beer's horse, Alternative Meds in race 6.

Originally, I viewed him as a contender, and would have agreed with Beer's "if he's ready," line had I seen it before the race.

Then I checked Formulator stats and with older horses laid off 6 months or more, Duggan was 0-18 with only 3 even running in the money. So even tho Maggie said Alt Meds looked OK, I tossed her, and she ran last.

It didn't help me because I played Caribean Beat who got badly bothered at the start but then ran decently for 3rd.

You'll need to get more years of back-stats for Timeform's trainer stats to be worth much, IMHO. And I rarely watched Beer because he was always there with Watchmaker but I am skeptical - those videos were surface-level beginner handicapping at great length. I'm hoping Timeform won't hire Watchmaker too.

Green Mtn Punter said...

Hey CA Chrome, you can always try the Fourth Jewel at Saratoga. Or, The Whitney!

Green Mtn Punter said...

What a low class outfit those CA Chrome connections! Just not up to the Big Time in the Big Apple!

Anonymous said...

Alan your "We''ve heard that song before" mention tellme that you are probably a fellow Big Band aficinado, or, at least, a Harry James- Helen Forrest fan?

Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...


The final could have gone either way. Lundqvist gave the Rangers the chance but,alas, they couldn't get the winner past Quick in OT. Both goaltenders were outstanding. Green Mtn Punter