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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Morning Notes - Dec 9

- Pletcher told Bloodhorse that Sunriver "will be racing again next year and he'll be staying in California.". I wouldn't have been at all shocked if that was not to be the case after he got a Grade 1 win in the Hollywood Turf Cup, especially after first reading the trainer tell the LA Times:

"With a horse like this, and the major stallion prospect he is and with the pedigree he has, we were focused on getting that Grade I, so it was a big step for him."
Maybe it's not the biggest deal in the world, but I think that if I were the Mythical Commissioner of Racing, I would issue a memo gently suggesting to horsemen that, in the best interests of the sport and in the spirit of public relations, they don't make comments like this. Especially if they intend to race the horse in the future. That being the case (and if it really is in this instance), us racing fans would love to hear of the horse's short and longterm goals, so that we can contemplate and anticipate what is yet to come for a horse who made tremendous strides this year, and whose talents and bloodlines could very well lead him to the BC Turf next fall, or, who knows, perhaps instead (since the short time in between is far too short for the Toddster's tastes), a foray to Paris for the Arc. We couldn't care less about what his stallion prospects are, we really don't. And to hear about them immediately following a race only detracts from the moment and reminds us that this sport at its highest level is nothing more than a prelude to the more lucrative business that lies ahead.

I think that bettors got psyched out by all the talk about the turf conditions and Sunriver's preference for a firm course. It's hard to imagine a more obvious case of lone early speed than was indicated here; yet the bettors instead opted for Frankel's import Champ Elysees. (Ken Rudolph, on TVG, drew guffaws from the Head Chef when he pronounced the horse's name as Champ E-LEE-SEES.) I'd guess that those who helped make Sunriver the 2-1 second choice were second guessing themselves as soon as the gates opened and the son of Saint Ballado sprung to the lead, and especially after the first quarter of 25.92 seconds. From there, he and Garrett Gomez reeled off fractions of 24.28, 24.45, 24.62, and sealed the deal with a quick 23.66 around the final turn, before cruising home in 24.10, final time of 2:27.07. Champs Élysées was shuffled back before finding a seam and finishing well for second.

Pletcher didn't fare as well in the Native Diver with Ravel, made the 6-5 favorite despite being the only three-year old in the race. He saved ground from the rail post, but never looked comfortable when trapped down on the inside on the backstretch. When it looked like he finally had some room to get out approaching the turn, Michael Baze, on Heatseeker, kept him boxed in before circling five wide around horses and going on to the upset win at 30-1. It's his second victory in three starts since moving to Jerry Hollendorfer from the Frankel barn. I posted about him in July after his 5th in the San Diego Handicap, noting his tendency to lose focus in the stretch, and writing: "I'm going to continue to follow Heatseeker. He's lightly raced and only four, and there seems to be a lot of talent there if Frankel can straighten him out." But I lost my own focus and the son of Giant's Causeway is now a graded stakes winner at a huge mutuel. (It might help if I was getting those damn stable alerts, arghh!!) "We've been working and working with him and he did really well," Hollendorfer said. [Bloodhorse]

- You may recall that Sunriver missed by a head to Doctor Dino in the Man O'War before a disappointing try in the Canadian International. Doctor Dino had a good day too, winning the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Dylan Thomas was well back in 7th in his final start, and check out these post-race comments by Aidan O'Brien.
The JRA was unhappy with the results of a routine test for Equine Viral Arteritis and O'Brien explained: "He got caught in quarantine in Japan for a long time.

"He looked a horse ready to go into training than go out of training. Being realistic and honest, he was way overweight.

"We couldn't do anything about it, we put as much work into him as we could and the lads did a good job keeping him sound and right. We were delighted to be invited here (Sha Tin).

"It's important that he's safe. It didn't really matter the race we've had." [BBC Sport]
I'm sure that those who bet on Dylan Thomas would have liked to have heard his trainer's thoughts about the horse being overweight before the race. With all the talk we've heard about how much integrity there is in Hong Kong, with no drugs and the bettors' interests always at heart, one certainly can't say the latter was served in this case!

Ramonti won the Hong Kong Cup for Godolphin.


Anonymous said...

Let's be reasonable - at least Mr. Pletcher did not suggest the horse be removed from training immediately to preserve its stallion potential ...

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but appears Dave Litfin is liftin ideas from this blog.

Wrote an article Saturday in DRF about Keeping It Simple Stupid, the concept for which i am sure came from last weeks blog.

Not plagiarized, he added his own opinions to create a very nice column about rail speed at the Big A, but the overriding gist was identical to what was discussed here.

steve in nc said...

Thanks for bringing the weight (horse's weight) issue to public attention.

More than 15 years ago, I attended the races in Panama City (is it San Remon?), and was struck by the fact that the horse's weight was included in each past performance line in the program. And on a chalkboard in the walking ring, they listed each horse's current weight. It was obvious from the PPs that weight correllated with performance for a good number of the horses.

If I ran the racing zoo, horse weight would be part of the PPs here too and each horse would be weighed as it entered the saddling enclosure, with the new current weights then listed on the tote and on simulcast screens.

This would make the guesswork a lot more educated when it comes to how much a horse's last race took out of him, or how fit a horse might be coming in off a layoff.

Hey DRF guys (Litfin isn't the only one who lurks here -- I learned about this blog from Steve Crist's mention) -- how about tooting your horns on this issue and getting tracks to start weighing the animals as well as the people? Analyzing this factor, along with synthetics, could bring another raft of new handicapping books for you to sell!

Anonymous said...

Fallon failed (another) drug test. Positive for cocaine. He had the race fixing trial thrown out, but he faces 6 months or more on the bench if the second sample comes back positive.

Kennedy said...

Pletcher's post race comments give more weight to the suggestion that a drastic reduction in the total number of G-1's available would help racing. Immediately after horses win a G-1 connections start thinking about their breeding prospects even if they don't retire them right away.

Make G-1's a rare and difficult achievement and help to reduce the number of horses being whisked off to stud.

Anonymous said...

Steve in nc/Alan,
They do list the weights of horses in Hong Kong. Don't know if that would have done any good, though, as we certainly didn't have his weight when he ran here, and not sure if it's listed in Japan and/or Europe.