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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Derby Notes

- I always try to learn from Derby bets gone bad. So it was in large part the lesson I learned from Bellamy Road in 2005 that made me determined to bet against Big Brown. No, I would not again fall for a lightly raced horse who earned huge Beyers crushing Derby preps of questionable quality. It wasn't that I didn't like Big Brown - I even made a case for him after he drew the outside. But opposing him as the betting favorite given the historical precedent regarding his inexperience which, in my opinion, was a significant one, seemed like the right thing to do.

I don't have any regret as regards to his $6.80 win price. But the triple paid a cool $3,445.60, and consider this - we discussed Eight Belles prominently here; I liked her and at least a couple of readers wrote in to agree. And Denis of Cork is a horse that I came around to late; he was in the third spot on all my tickets.

That triple was with the 2-1 favorite on top of two horses I thought were very logical. I'm thinking almost that it was easy in retrospect, at least relative to that payout. So the lesson I'll try to take from this Derby is that just because a horse is a short price in the win pool doesn't mean that there aren't ample opportunities to make a big score using it on top.

As far as Eight Belles goes, I have to admit that her stock had gone down a bit for me before the race. I was disappointed with the efforts on Friday and Saturday of Pure Clan and Alina, the two fillies she competed against in the Fantasy. I had defended Eight Belles' effort in that race partly on the basis of her competition in that race being quality. I started to question just how good that race was, so I didn't use her in the top spot, though I still had her for second and third.

I was spectacularly wrong about two things (besides last place Monba, UGH). Mike Battaglia's morning line, with some rather insignificant exceptions, was absolutely right on. I didn't think that the top three would be in such a group of their own - after Pyro, at 5-1, was Eight Belles at 13-1. I thought that Pyro would be higher and that we'd see more action on the filly and some of the so-called buzz horses - Court Vision, Z Fortune, Denis of Cork - on which I guess there really wasn't much buzz at all. Been reading too many blogs I suppose.

And then there was the matter of Big Brown clearly being able to rate. If I thought he could, I'd have had a piece of that triple for sure. I said he wouldn't, so good job by those of you who insisted he would. It makes him pretty scary to be sure. Are there any reasons to remain skeptical? Or should we just award him the Triple Crown now?

Well, at the risk of nit-picking considering what he accomplished in his 4th start, a look at Formulator shows that he ran half mile splits of 47 4/5, 48 3/5 followed by a final quarter of 25 2/5. It's of course not unusual for horses to slow down in dirt races. But consider that Barbaro came home in 24 1/5; and Street Sense closed into a 25 second final quarter. Even Funny Cide came home in 25 1/5. So, again at the risk of nit picking, I think it's fair to question what he's beating here. Check out the replay of the stretch run; with only a couple of exceptions, it's a pretty sad sight watching the cream of this year's three-year old crop floundering behind the winner.

- And who's in charge of advertising for Yum! Brands? I don't know how many of you saw this, but they repeated this one ad during the telecast which had the production values of something you might see on your local channel at 3 AM. And I'm not really exaggerating (much) at all. It was as tacky and cheap looking as can be. You'd think that, as the presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, the company would show some pride and spare no expense in presenting itself to millions of viewers on its big day of the year.


Anonymous said...

Alan...your comments are, as usual, right on. People have asked me whether he can win the triple crown and I have said "Well, he beat the second-place horse by 4 1/2 lengths, and she's dead. So technically, he beat the second best living horse by 8 1/4."

I suppose it will be very nice when he wins the Triple Crown, as I've already conceded it to him. However, when he does win it, there will certainly be questions about the quality of the crop and his legacy as a great horse (especially when he ships to Santa Anita and runs a non-threatening seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic presented by Polytrack).

As for the exotic payouts, I think its very clear that Eight Belles was the fourth choice in the win pool only, thanks to "girl power" at the betting windows. I expect there was more money on Court Vision, Gayego, Z Fortune and Dennis of Cork in the exacta and trifecta pools."

Also, the Cinco-fecta was the worst bet of the day, as it went unhit, with only $331k in the pool. I mean, if I'd picked the top five finishers of this race, I'd have expected a much better return on my investment! However, it becomes the best bet of the day when Churchill resumes racing, as there will be $331k of tourist dollars to chase when the line up a bunch of $15k maiden-claimers for the finale at Churchill on Wednesday. I'll be too tempted not to take a shot for glory.

Anonymous said...

The Triple Crown challenge for BB will come from his hooves rather than those of his competitors. Those two front feet look to be at least 25% synthetic. If his wheels stay on, he'll likely be our next TC winner.

Anonymous said...

Don't beat yourself up over picking Monba, the colt. I think Monba ran last because Ramon Dominguez fell off Chelokee into the mud on Friday and was reported as being "treated" for soreness the next day. If a jockey is even admitting to being less than 100% on derby day, toss him. Beat yourself up over picking the jockey! No, not really. Just another lesson. Remember when J Castellano fell off Pine Island in the Breeders Cup Distaff and she was euthanized? I switched all my bets from Bernardini to Invasor, and I'm still stunned JC even rode B to finish second.

On the topic of radical opponents of racing, you have to expect that anybody with a cause is going to leverage whatever they can. It's part of the move to regulate, which is politics. I think it is good. It raises issues and the complacent have to respond. We'd rather not, we'd rather handicap. But these are worthwhile arguments, if annoying when taken to the extreme.

ballyfager said...

Re PETA and the call for Gabriel Saez to be suspended; these people are beyond belief. The idea that, in our society, if something bad happens someone must be culpable, is childish and ignorant. That any credence is given to these people is amazing.

As to the thoroughbres themselves, it is undeniable that they are brittle and have become more brittle. But NOBODY has come up with a definitive answer as to why. Absent that information, tearing off in any direction just to show that something is being done is foolishness. The example of this at hand is synthetic tracks.

There is no substantive indication that synthetic tracks are the answer yet some people keep clamoring for them. People who are paying attention know that synthetics haven't worked out so well so far. People who haven't been paying attention and don't know the first thing about horseracing (PETA for example or the NYT) will want to step in and drive the bus. That's ridiculous on the face of it.

Brett said...

I cannot agree more with your "nitpicking" comments. I and many others came into this Derby thinking even if Big Brown blows by this field, which was a rationale thought before the race, we would always question how good this three year old crop really is. And personally I am still questioning it.

Yes, Big Brown ran one hell of a race. But did anyone besides Eight Belles and maybe Denis of Cork won even a decent race? I just think it is a very below average three year old group and if you were to throw Big Brown into last years crop he would have been right up there with Street Sense, Hard Spun, Rags to Riches, and Curlin, but there is no way in hell 95% of horseplayers would already be crowning him a triple crown winner after winning the first leg.

By the way, I really want to see Kentucky Bear run in the Preakness.

steve in nc said...

I didn't see the ads -- was busy cooking and barely watched all the pre-race stuff. But if your take on them is accurate, perhaps we shouldn't criticize Yum, and instead give them an award for truth in advertising.

Just ask your head chef... Aren't "tacky and cheap looking" ads appropriate for KFC, Taco Bell and Long John Silver?

By the way, don't forget that Big Brown was 4 wide the whole first turn and 3 wide the second turn. I'm hoping though, that even the adjusted time won't come up fast, so he has a smaller chance of bouncing in the Preakness.

Anonymous said...

Alan, nitpicking is fine and dandy, and I'm not sure what the conditions were like for Barbaro, Funny Cide, et al...but I can say from being there that Saturday was a very windy day, and the wind was blowing right down the home stretch. That has to be at least a factor in the final 1/4, since the entire thing was run into a head wind.

I'm also excited to see how Kentucky Bear matches up, and Harlem Rocker if he runs. Should be interesting, but a slow final quarter won't come into play anyway until the Belmont. Big brown also probably ran substantailly over 1 1/4 on Saturday. I'm not sure how the math works, but 4-5 wide all the way around must add some serious ground.

Superfecta said...

He's not getting the Triple Crown that easily in my book - the Preakness may not be shaping up as much of a race, but the Belmont should be. And that's not even taking his feet into account...

Anonymous said...

IMO, the point made by nate about the wind direction is very relevant in this case, and it affects the final time of the race as well as the final quarter fraction.

After all, if the wind was blowing against the horses through the homestretch, it means they had to run into a headwind twice and with a tailwind once.

If the wind direction was constant, it means the initial fractions for the one-turn races would have been faster than normal.

Patrick J Patten said...

allow me to toot my own horn, in the NYT i picked Colonel John (6th), Eight Belles (2nd) and Denis of Cork (3rd), I played that as a tri box, I'm a little upset to say the least. And I knew to threw Pyro out, so "F" Big Brown, I'll bet against him in the Preakness too!

Alan Mann said...

>>If the wind direction was constant, it means the initial fractions for the one-turn races would have been faster than normal.

Looking back at the charts, it seems that those fractions were indeed quite fast - the second race went in 20 4/5 to the quarter - and the come home times generally on the sluggish side. So it would seem that the point you and Nate make about the wind may well be a solid one.

Anonymous said...

The sheets will come back with a very big number for BB because of the ground loss/wind. SS ran a slower time while being on the rail all the way around.

BB was not hard used for the win - it seemed difficult for Kent D. to pull him up in the gallop out. Looking at the overhead, D of C doesn't catch him if they go around again.

Only Barbaro won easier - and people were giving him the TC.


Anonymous said...

Alan: I felt BB was very tough to beat. Just look at his PPs and find me another horse (EVER) with PPs like his after four races. Foour for four. All blowout wins. Two grade 1s. Huge Beyers. You will not find many. (IN HISTORY).

I did put BB on top and fell on the right horses underneath. Here's what I posted on Dave Tuley's sites days before the race:

Alan Mann said...

>>I did put BB on top and fell on the right horses underneath.

Nice going dude!

>>The sheets will come back with a very big number for BB because of the ground loss/wind. SS ran a slower time while being on the rail all the way around.

Agreed on all your points, including the way BB was pulled up.

So, assuming BB gets that big number, considering the time he's had to recover from his previous efforts, that would make him a prime bounce candidate, yes? (not that there's necessarily anyone who could beat him even if he does.)

Anonymous said...

While I wouldn't give BB the TC title just yet I will give him the Preakness. Who is going to show up? None of the Derby runners, for the moment, appear to be expressing a desire to run back at Pimlico.

If the best that field that can abe assembled are the likes of Kentucky Bear and Icabad Crane, then yes I will give it to BB.

What I want to see is Bob Baffert put up the late nomination money for Samba Rooster [Coolmore Lexington runner-up]. Then we might have a race where the rabbit sans-whip can go the distance full throttle.

Who knows if BB will still be phsycially all good for the Belmont. Tomcito and Casino Drive can go the 1 1/2 mi distance in the Belmont albeit without BB speed.

Erin said...

Belmont: Tomcito's revenge

Anonymous said...

Hey handride, keep playing those three horse tri boxes in wide open 20 horse fields. Let me know when you hit one if I'm not dead from old age by the time you do.

Erin, shouldn't Tomcito run a beyer figure at least approaching that of n2x allowance quality before we consider him a major threat in the Belmont. It's only 12 furlongs, not 12 miles long. Even if it were 12 miles long, he'd be life and death to get up against a plow horse.

Anonymous said...

How many times do I have to say it. This the worst crop of three year olds I have ever seen.
Do you believe me now?
Big Brown? He looked sore walking into the paddock - he will win the triple crown pursuant to lack of competition and probably retire right after - before he breaks down.
Any other year he is just a nice horse.

How about Ferriola and Lostritto getting into it. Bye Bye Pistol.

Anonymous said...

Ready's Echo WIns the Belmont!!

Anonymous said...

that would make him a prime bounce candidate, yes?

The anti-Dutrow brigade will want to see a Preakness horse or two work very fast going into the race. The anti-Dutrows need some quality speed in there vs. Big Brown. Every race he's had he's been able to run freely until it was time to get serious. He might not take as kindly running behind another horse or two with a horse or two to his outside. How would he react if Kent D. had to tap on the brakes a little?