RSS Feed for this Blog

Monday, April 28, 2008

Final Word on Workouts

- Not much else to talk about other than workouts these days as far as the Derby goes. And when it comes to daily, timely clocker reports, it seems as if Mike Welsch of the Form is really the only game in town. James Scully provides his visual impressions for the Kentucky Derby site each day, but I don't think he's an official clocker, with a stopwatch and an official clockers certificate. And of course, Haskin checks in from time to time as well. But Welsch's reports are up by mid-afternoon each day, and many people consider him to be the best in the business. I'm listing his reports in the right sidebar for your convenience.

So, it's always interesting to read his take, and today he comments on works by Pyro ("appears to be flourishing"), Denis of Cork (the work of the day), Big Truck ("began to tire noticeably nearing the wire"), and Visionaire ("under some pressure to complete his final furlong around the turn in 13:04"). (Scully confirmed Welsch's impressions in each case.)

Welsch has been right on, picking the winner the last two years. But I went back to his final report last year just to see what he'd written about the others. Any Given Saturday ("couldn't look better"), Zanjero ("looks great and has really flourished here"), Circular Quay ("appears to be in peak form"), Cowtown Cat ("another member of Team Pletcher who has stood out").

Now seriously, I really don't mean to embarrass Welsch here. Just wanted to make the point (and for the last time - I promise) that most of these horses look great in the morning, but that doesn't mean that they'll get the distance, have the agility to deal with the traffic, have the right kind of running style, break well, have the good fortune to get a clear run, or simply be fast enough when it counts.

Having said that, of course I'd be lying if I said the I completely ignore these reports - who can when they're reported in such detail on so many outlets. Obviously, Colonel John's workout reinforces my positive opinion of him. I've been coming around to Visionaire, but I don't really like reading that he didn't finish up well. Pyro was on top of my list until the Blue Grass, but I could come back to him at the right price if I'm reading that he's doing well. I don't like Big Truck, and the negative report goes to reinforce that opinion. But I'm not going to change my mind on horses like Denis of Cork and Court Vision solely on the basis of workouts.

One memorable case in which a horse's workouts were not at all a good indication of Derby performance was Swale in 1984. Trained by Woody Stephens (though he was hospitalized at the time), the son of Seattle Slew had been considered the likely Derby favorite off of a win in the Florida Derby. But his workouts leading up to the Derby caused quite a lot of concern. The Times reported:

Swale just does not seem as fit and sharp as he was for the Florida Derby, when he turned back Dr. Carter's stretch drive in a courageous effort. The colt's last two workouts were crucial because he has not raced since April 17, but he worked slowly both times - seven furlongs in 1:29 1/5 Sunday and a half-mile Thursday in 50 seconds. Mike Griffin, who has been deputizing for the hospitalized trainer Woody Stephens, says that the colt is in fine shape and he flatly denies a published report that Swale might be scratched.
I liked Swale, and I have a distinct memory of agonizing for days over what to do. You can probably guess that I went off him, and if memory serves well, the $8.80 win price was one which reflected the uncertainty surrounding the horse. In fact, I believe he was second choice to Lukas' filly Althea, who finished 19th. I don't know for sure because I can't find a result charts with odds anywhere....and please don't get me started on that topic again!


ballyfager said...

Since most of the horses have never run at CD I think the works are extremely important leading up to this race.

I wanted to toss Colonel John but can't do that after that work. Since the vast majority of comments about the horses are positive, that really doesn't tell you much. As with the PP's, you have to evaluate works for yourself.

John said...

You are correct, Swale was second choice. Althea went off at 2.80 -1and was favored in the entry with Life's Magic.

Anonymous said...

But Steve Haskin says if you're ranking horses by coat shine, none of them can touch Visionaire.

rather rapid said...

interesting on Swale, in light of what was to come.

Jen R said...

The colt's last two workouts were crucial because he has not raced since April 17.

How times change...