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Monday, May 17, 2010

Lookin At Preakness

We were talking here in the comments section about the last second observation by Donna Brothers-Barton Barton-Brothers on NBC that Super Saver had lost weight since the Derby (and not to mention that she also presaged Dublin's wayward journey towards the grandstand after the start)....and the fact that the telecast was filled with far less useful information such as the repeated references to the jockey change on Lookin At Lucky (and not to mention an unnecessary post-mortem to Pletcher's Derby streak that no longer was!). The horses are individually scrutinized so closely before the Derby that any slight misstep is widely reported; not so before the Preakness.

Of course, Ms. Barton-Brother's observation was just one person's opinion, and you'd think someone in the racing press would have put the question to Pletcher by now. In any event, the horse ran like crap. To me, the idea that he was worn out by some kind of grueling campaign and now needs to rest up for a summer campaign is ridiculous. He'd only run three times this year prior to Saturday, and, as far as grueling races go, Super Saver's Derby was as un-grueling as one could expect under the circumstances. He just wasn't very good, was he? I've read some criticism of Borel's ride, that he was pressing too close to a fast pace; and I guess that's a reasonable point. But the pace, while honest, was hardly suicidal, and I think the horse was pretty much where he should have been. And not that it really mattered anyway, he was bad, that's all.

For all of that talk about Baffert replacing Garrett Gomez with Martin Garcia, honestly at the time I thought he moved too soon and that Lookin At Lucky was gonna get caught. Not sure if his final three and half furlongs in 43.81 (the chart in Formulator only breaks down the final fractions as much as that) is good or bad; but I suspect he was lucky in this case that there just wasn't much behind him.

Except for First Dude of course. I saw the overhead replay on Sunday, and I thought it really highlighted just how amazingly well he ran and how game he was; how he dug in after setting those honest fractions against his far more experienced and accomplished rival, even appearing to fight back and put his nose in front after first being passed. Dale Romans was being interviewed about Paddy O'Prado before the race, but became animated when asked about First Dude, saying that he'd trained as well as any horse in his barn.

First Dude is a son of Stephen Got Even out of a Smart Strike mare, and is bit unusually bred for these times in that he's a complete outcross through five generations. He has a four-year old half-sister, Via Veneto, who currently campaigns for Baffert, and has earned over $80,000 on a record of 9-2-2-1, though in races only up to 6 1/2 furlongs. And yup, he's headed for the Belmont, along with Ice Box. And who knows who else. Not the Derby or Preakness winner. NYRA is going to have its work cut out for it this they have nothing else to worry about.


race said...

Good Morning---"Dude" reminds me of Hard Spun, starts out fast, and stay's fast--He impressed me very much after zipping to those fractions, no quit in him at all--a Horse to contend with all year--r

Anonymous said...

I think the media members that cover horse racing were too busy criticizing the strength of this years three year old crop to actually gather any useful information.

onecalicocat said...

I posted here on First Dude last Friday after seeing Dale Romans being interviewed on HRTV.
Romans really sold me on the fact that the horse was ready to do something good.
Maybe I'm gullible but the man sounded sincere.
Sometimes listening to people is better handicapping than all that arcane math that gets thrown around.

I think the dumbest posts were the ones that alluded to Lucky being psychologically damaged or weak spirited when it came to going through a small hole. That colt is as honest as any. I don't think he needs to be psychoanalyzed..

Anonymous said...

You contradict yourself, onecallicoat. In your first paragraph, you essentially say, "Screw all that math stuff, you need to listen to people." In the second paragraph you say, "Forget about what people say about the horse. He's a good horse."

Now, having been one who thought Lucky was not tough enough, he had a nice wide trip, stayed out of trouble and barely beat three grade 3 animals. I guess you could say I was wrong. Or you could say the horse still struggles with tight quarters and doesn't like to run inside other horses. Either way, Eskendereya would have eaten this colt for lunch and it's too bad that one wasn't around to whip this weak crop. -jp

onecalicocat said...

I don't think I'm contradicting myself because I listened to a trainer who sounded like he was really excited about his horse and didn't listen to some posters on a message board.
There are some very knowledgeable people here, Alan being among the foremost, but I just didn't buy the fact that Lucky was timid. If he was timid he would not have kept fighting in several of those races.
In fact, I would put Lucky up there with Alysheba and Afleet Alex for fighting spirit.

jamesp said...

The satellite radio coverage on Preakness Day with Dave Johnson and Bill Finley was pretty decent, including lengthy coverage of the undercard. It was way more designed for bettors than the feel-good fluff found on network TV.

Anonymous said...


You've made a complete fool of yourself. Find a new spot.


Anonymous said...

And Lucky did move too early, but it worked to his advantage because he forced caracortado to move early as well. I strongly believe a real jock could have done some damage with that horse...

Anonymous said...


You're a disgrace.



steve in nc said...

onecalico -

Sounds like you must have had the exacta, so congratulations. But
c'mon now. One winning bet doesn't mean you've found the holy grail of handicapping. You might as well conclude that horses with U in their names are good exacta plays.

Of course the nation's top young 3YOs are doing well and giving their trainers room for optimism. Go back and look and you'll probably find a glowing trainer quote about every single Derby starter.

If you ever find a trainer publicly touting a winning $5,000 claimer instead of quietly cashing his bet, that is worth noting. Just don't tell anyone. Once the word is out and the price drops, you'll find your public tout has gone cold.

But there are many things about which you can trust trainers. Go ask Dale Romans whether he believes that some horses shy away from traffic more than others. You might find that your new favorite oracle is just another dummy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your points, however, after watching the replay I think the best horse in the race was Jackson Bend. He was as unlucky as Lucky has been in the past couple of races and the jockey had to check twice before finally opening him up to find a spot to run, and the horse kept running strong.

I thought that if Jackson Bend has passed on the inside of First Dude in the far turn as he was trying to do, he would have been very difficult to beat.

Anonymous said...

The fact that First Dude and Jackson bend were still around at the end after also taking part in that "grueling" pace puts to rest any blame they want to assign to Calvin, the horse was empty for whatever reason, would not surprise me if they found something wrong with him.

The other front runners were there at the end, Super Saver was not.

Perhaps he is simply a mud or CD surface specialist, perhaps he was worn out, perhaps something is wrong, but it certainly was not Borel's fault that he finished 8th.

All the speculation about Esk is as meaningful as the speculation that IWR would have won the Triple Crown last year, means nothing, part of the weeding out process is staying sound.

Esk is the latest in a long line of talented horses that could not stay sound, thats all.

He was probably turf meant with that pedigree and might have stayed sound long enough to show it if not misdirected onto dirt in search of the Holy Grail.

case said...

Speaking about good analysis before a race, I remember watching the KY Oaks on my couch in 2002. Chris McCarron was interviewed by someone on a pony during the post parade and McCarron said something like "this (Farda Amiga) is the best 20-1 shot I've ever been on."

Didn't do me any good from my living room and I didn't have a phone account.

Anonymous said...

Jan Rushton sometimes gave out gems from the paddock, 9 of 10 times the information she provided bordered on somewhat useful to useless, but other times she would clearly point out a contender that I otherwise would not have considered, for instance relaying an excuse for a prior bad performance just mentioned to her by a trainer or sometimes better that a favorite was acting poorly. Her info was particulary useful for debut runners.

NYRA needs to find another paddock presence whenever the money becomes available. Serling and whomever are not even paying attention to what is going on in the paddock half the time. A horse could toss its rider and kick its groom and they would just keep talking about the trip or trap from its last race.

Decent analysis, but they are not horsemen.

steve in nc said...

I too found Rushton's work really valuable. And those were mostly with firsters, and horses returning from injuries/layoffs, when trainer comments on the horses' condition could make a difference.

A trainer can say whether a horse is doing well. But is it better than the competition? That is the handicapper's job.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jan Rushton is a great contributor of frequently useful horse knowledge and observations. And besides, she looks a helluva lot better than Andy Serling. Bring Jan back at the Spa- a warm up on Belmont Day would be nice. /S/greenmtnpunter

onecalicocat said...

Steve in NC:
I don't mind being lectured -- and I'm only making a minor point here, no big deal -- but I make no bones about being a total amateur and just a racing fan.
However, I've been in journalism all of my adult life and have interviewed thousands of people. Romans simply impressed me with his sincere enthusiasm for First Dude.
It's an easy out, I agree, because I can't do all that math anyway.
On the other hand, I also posted here (more than once) that Backtalk's connections were talking up their horse who had no place in the Ky Derby and is basically a mediocre sprinter.
So I'm not that easily impressed by every trainer's evaluation of his horse.
I'm sure not saying I have found the ""holy grail" of handicapping but as several posters here have attested, it's not a bad idea to listen if someone knowledgeable has an interesting observation.