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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Morning Notes - May 18

- Well, it's the morning after and all good this time, unless you plan to spend the next three weeks bellyaching over the trainer and his various indiscretions rather than focusing on this phenomenal three-year old colt. I certainly had the right idea in trying to fill my tickets behind Big Brown with some longshot closers, but I just didn't like Macho Again at all. So I didn't have that particular longshot closer.

More on Big Brown's Preakness (or should we see, his Freakness) later, but have family obligations today, so here's a pick at Belmont today and then I gotta go. In the 5th, Gift of Giving (12-1) has shown some sneaky good form since getting onto the grass two starts ago. Last November in his turf debut, she made a fine middle move right up to the leaders before tiring behind repeat winner Queen of Protocol. It was nearly six months until her next start, at the Big A last month, first time Lasix. She was checked shortly after the start, was 2-3 wide on the first turn. After hanging back towards the back of the pack, she made a four wide move on the turn, bobbled slightly mid-stretch, but continued on with interest for 5th, beaten less than three lengths. She conceded ground and recency to a couple in this field who passed her late, but could fare better here at a fair price, with an advantageous post, and the race under her belt.

Stormy Catch was one of those who caught her, just getting up for 4th, but she benefited from a ground saving trip and finds herself on the far outside with the starting gate close to the turn. Her trainer, David Donk, took the Dixie at Pimlico yesterday with Pays to Dream ($40.40), and man, I had that one all over my tickets.....except in the top spot. Wouldn't have killed me to place a saver exacta since runner-up Stay Close was my key horse! Argh!!

Gary Contessa is another NY trainer with a rare out-of-town graded stakes win over the weekend when he took the Black Eyed Susans with Sweet Vendetta. For both Donk and Contessa, it was their first such wins out of the state in the five years covered by Formulator. In fact, it was just the second overall for Donk during that time; the other was Fishy Advice in the Knickerbocker last fall.

Two of my Kasey K horses in action at Philly Park today - Foolish Bid is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 6th; Mr. W.B. an outsider in the 9th.

Gotta go, speak to you later.


dana said...

I'm a bit surprised that you'd characterize any further examination and discussion of anything other than Big Brown the horse as bellyaching... how republican of you!

That mentality is the perfect example of the attitude that enabled the game to get to it's current f-ed up state.

Anonymous said...


I think just about everybody knows about Dutrow's past indiscretions by now. We're all familiar with weakening of the breed and horse safety issues, and are concerned about them.

Unless you've got something new to add, or a new idea for a policy implementation - how's about we actually take some time to enjoy what is clearly a great horse on the verge of doing great things.


steve in nc said...

OK, we're all contrarians, as thinking horseplayers are supposed to be.

But maybe it is the contrarian in me that is sharing Alan's feeling. The slings & arrows, have become so monotonous and the ones aimed at individuals are starting to piss me off. Is it jealousy that leads people to so easily discredit others' acheivements?

At least leave the horse alone. He can only control his opposition in one way and he's doing it -- by so impressing all the top trainers in the country that they're inclined to duck him.

He can't make the other horses faster. He's only run the fastest Derby ever on Ragozin figs. He's been drawing away effortlessly every race. The horsemen and jocks only use superlatives. Desormeaux calls him the best he's ridden. But to the experts here, he's mediocre. Uh huh.

I guess everyone who's slinging darts believes that none of the other horses have gotten steroids or anything else. You can go after Dutrow for lots of other things, but not for administering legal meds. I've felt all along that we should have no legal race day meds and no steroids ever, eith testing mandatory at all ages in order to maintain eligibility to race later, But until they change the rules...

It's just like the mentality that discredits everything Bonds acheived. Sure, he probably got extra help, but so did lots of guys, including many of the pitchers he faced. An incredible athlete, just like Big Brown.

It is possible to campaign for a clean & level playing field without demonizing & belittling. We can demand change and still take a few weeks to focus on a very deserving triple-crown prospect.

dana said...

I don't disagree with the sentiment that we should discuss and enjoy the impressive achievements of Big Brown, or any other such horse (Curlin anyone?). I can and have looked past the connections to praise Big Brown's performance in both the Derby and the Preakness.

My point is that to characterize any discussion outside of that as bellyaching seems reductive, useless and well, bellyaching.

Brooklyn Backstretch said...

All said in the name of spirited conversation, and pleasure in the opportunity to discuss cherished topics with informed folks:

The English teacher in me responds: "Is it jealousy that leads people to so easily discredit others' acheivements?"
Nope, but it might be envy. =)

"I guess everyone who's slinging darts believes that none of the other horses have gotten steroids or anything else."

As Railbird pointed out to me earlier today, there's something troubling about the non-steroided Eight Belles having lost to the admittedly-juiced Big Brown in the Derby...and I'm not talking about her breakdown. If Big Brown weren't on steroids, isn't it at least possible that the result of the race might have been different?

And yes, the analogies to baseball are apt: what kind of a sport is it if you have to juice yourself--even legally--to keep up?

Anonymous said...

After five races Big Brown's record is as good or better than any other horse I can come up with. Five wins, five blowouts, three Grade 1s, Triple-digit Beyers. Yet to be challenged.
Anyone got a horse in history to compare with him after five races?

Let's enjoy Big Brown and give him his due while he is still racing. Let's not wait until he retires to accept what a thrilling Thoroughbred he is.

Anonymous said...

i think you guys believe horse steroids are something far better then they are. i have had horses on steroids and horses off steroids. coat quality is better with steroids and they eat better and hold weight well. do they run faster? no, you cant take a 5k claimer hop it up on steroids and make it a 10k claimer it doesnt work that way. it makes them a little more cranky then normal and it makes them train a little more amped up.also in my opinion steroids are necessary for geldings

Anonymous said...

What I get out of the 2008 Preakness is this: There may be a new paradigm emerging to aim a horse for the Triple Crown. Since the assumption seems to be that the modern day, injury prone, infirm, speed demon steed only has 6 or 8 good races in him/her, the savvy trainer eliminates the old 5-7 prep race model and goes into the Derby with just 3 races such that the Belmont Stakes is only career race # 6, i.e., don't waste your time with the races that don't count an d run in only the ones that do. Seems obvious when put this way, doesn't it? And if his luck holds up, and everything breaks Big Brown's way again, and he doesn't break down, with or without the help of illegal substances, then maybe, just maybe he might do it. Give credit where credit is due, apparently these connections understand how the poorly bred 21st C racehorse can win a Triple Crown, they may have figured out the "angle" in the best NY tradition. But it is not noble or pretty, there is little romance and poetry in it, it's as if a nasty old hedge fund has taken over the biz. The very soul of racing is being sapped from it's weakened body.

So far, everything has gone BB's way and he has now had 2 easy victories; we still don't know if his racing luck will hold up in what we all know is oftentimes the biggest hurdle of all in the series, the Belmont Stakes on Sat June 7. The fields he has faced in the Derby and Preakness appeared to be hopeless plodders- Preakness run in 2+ seconds off the stakes record- and therefore we still don't know how he will hold up against stiff competition. I expect there will be some new shooters at Belmont, there always are, horses which have been very deliberately pointed to win this one stakes race at a mile and a half on the first Saturday in June a la the legendary Woody Stephens. So the champ really must be ready and get the breaks for the 3rd straight race in 5 weeks.

However, should BB prevail at Belmont, I think it will probably be said that he won it against mediocre competition and therefore does not deserve placement in the upper reaches of the Pantheon along with Affirmed, The Slew, and Secretariat. And all of the media -driven talk fueled no doubt by the KY breeders, and talk of a hedge fund involving racehorses, and the expected syndication/sale price for stud, and all of the money the connections reportedly will make, just makes me root harder for a Belmont upset. Jealousy? Envy? No, I would say it is more resentment at being used, I feel like racing fans are mere pawns in this high stakes game, we're just being unwitting accomplices, we're just tools, cheerleaders for these people to make a lot of dough on the breeding side and the racing part is just something they have to put up with for a few months before cashing in. What good is that long term for racing? What good do they intend to do for racing? We're all just accomplices to the further perpetuation of poor breeding practices and infirm offspring. And their solution is more synthetic tracks and more dope.

Now if BB's connections were to reconsider their already stated intentions to go to stud at the end of this season and announce that BB will have a 4 year old season facing open company, under handicap weights, then I might begin to pay attention. Then there may be a chance to enter the Pantheon. But if this goes like most of us think it will, including Alan, I will be underwhelmed by a BB Triple. And although the media will do their usual over-the-top pronouncements about how BB is the greatest of all time, a "monster" horse, a "machine", and yadda, yadda, yadda, many long time fans such as I will not be snowed under. And let's face it, many of us are less than enthused because Dutrow is involved, quite an inconvenient reminder of his long record of drug violations, sort of the Barry Bonds of racing as a Baltimore Sun racing writer put it; he's probably last or near the bottom of my list of deserving trainers I would like to see win a Triple. When are the good guys going to prevail?

Losing another top 3 year old to early stud duty before the big races are even run should be another wake up call to the racing industry that it's time to do something about this state of affairs, it's time to do the Willie Sutton who once famously said in response to the question of why he robbed banks: "Because that is where the money is". Racing needs to recognize this basic principle by cutting itself in for a bigger share of the breeding and sales market for it's product. Perhaps one place to start is to substantially raise the entry fees for the big Grade I races such that all racing associations can share in the breeding and sales market. The Triple Crown races and BC races are the obvious candidates and there are other Grade I's at tracks around the country where these fees could be collected. Sort of like the "tax" in baseball paid by big market, big revenue teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, et al.

In other words, the more bucks paid at these sale levels the bigger the fee paid to the various racing associations when your tiger is entered in the big Grade I. And owners/breeders will have no choice: No glory in big name Grade I races, no big stud fees and yearling/horses of racing age sale fees on the other end. May help to keep the lid on the inflationary stud and sale fees brought to us by $4/gallon gasoline. Racing people should never forget that they ultimately control the game here, i.e., the racing associations, and it's about time they acted like it by charging what the traffic will bear. And NY must get control of the OTB's, OTB's which are using NYRA's racing product to stay in business and support the hackarama.Ultimately there is no industry unless the big names are running for one or more seasons. It's well nigh time that the racing industry receives it's fair share of the loot. /S/Green Mtn Punter

steve in nc said...

vermonter --

It is the mediocre comment that gets me. On Ragozin, BB got two fast #s leading into the Derbt and his Derby # was the best ever for any Derby. He ran into a stiff wind twice, and was very very wide both turns. In fact, had he lost by 1/2 length, all anyone would be talking about would have been ground loss. You think he had racing luck??

Bid also scared away competition. This is aflattering thing, not a question mark about BB.

I think if Casino Drive beats him, he will have stamped himself too as something special, and not have exposed BB.

steve in nc said...

One more thing about racing luck...

BB can be rated, can rev up then wait, then accellerate again, and he has very quick move. His ability will make alot of "luck."

Anonymous said...

Green Mountain,

Surely, you're not claiming that BB's connections purposely held him out of races in the fall and spring because they wanted a lightly raced horse for the Belmont.

They had a very good reason - his bad feet. This was not in their "plan", it's just the way things broke for them.

Let's not start making stuff up to fit our pet theories (and yes, I did call you Shirley!).


Anonymous said...

billybats says Gift of Giving ran 4th today. I guess that is a nice try pick.

Anonymous said...

Secretariat beat four horses in the Belmont, and the lone quality horse got hurt during the running.

And he was retired after his 3yo year.

No one questions his greatness.

Anonymous said...

my problem is that everyone is using what happened this year as the overall trend of how the triple crown is run. its not like every year the derby winner is making career start four. street sense ran plenty of times, so did funny cide and smarty jones. one bad crop and its the end of the world. big brown is a monster in any year. he had quarter cracks that doesnt mean he is brittle.

carolm said...

OK, a little more bellyaching. No way can I get behind BB, what with the trainer and the meds. When Affirmed won the Triple Crown 30 years ago, he did it on guts and class, not Winstrol. That's the I'm waiting for.

But what I'm curious about is how many runners are "helped" with steroids? With shame, I admit to being pretty naive about this. (I read first time off claim stats with a jaded eye, but the prevalence of steroids surprises me a bit.) Is a monthly regime of steroids typical? Are most top-class horses running on steroids? Or is this unusual? Why doesn't DRF post those stats?

(And, yeah, I am one of those "hay, oats, and water only" people.)

Erin said...

Like carolm, I want to know why Bute and Lasix make it onto PPs but not steroids. Very conspicuous. And think how many more people would still be in the dark that racehorses received steroids had Dutrow not admitted it so openly to media, admittedly while being so brash as to act ignorant of their purpose. Dutrow does indeed make it difficult for the horse himself to stand fully in the spotlight.