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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shorter is Better

- Made it through the storm without much trouble here in Queens. Of course, that's not the case in places like Greene County in upstate NY, in Vermont, and a host of other places. The death toll from Irene is now up to at least 40; so much for it being overhyped. Hope everyone out there is OK.

Shouldn't be a surprise these days that, between the two Grade 1 races for three-year olds at Saratoga on Saturday, the seven furlong race far outshone the one at a mile and a quarter. The Travers was the latest demonstration that today's young thoroughbreds are by and large simply not bred to handle the so-called 'classic' distances of ten furlongs and, occasionally, beyond. I'm still not a big Stay Thirsty ($6.80) fan. Think his recent prowess is due in large part to the weakness of his opponents. But he did get the job done again. And I must concede that it was a more eventful trip that one might deduce from the past performance line. He left from the nine hole along with Shackleford right at his outside flank, vied, though in a non-combative way, with that one for the lead around the turn, then prodded the Preakness winner along for a bit until Velazquez retreated with his mount to third. Then he launched another move into the far turn, put away Shackleford easily, and found himself in the lead turning for home.

Stay Thirsty had done a lot to that point, and was quite visibly ready to be taken as he came home with much urgency in a sluggish 26.29 seconds. However, there was nobody up to the task in this Grade 1 field; a wobbly Rattlesnake Bridge was the only who offered a believable threat. A Beyer of just 101, for ten furlongs in 2:03.03.

On the other hand, the King's Bishop was a scintillating race decided barely a split second before the wire, easily amongst the most exciting horse races of the year thus far, especially given the storyline and significance. Between all of the commotion of the last second upset result and Mike Repole's post-race babbling as to how many races Uncle Mo has left, I think perhaps it's been overlooked just how good Uncle Mo was. (In fact, Repole managed to make himself virtually the entire story for Joe Drape in the Times.) For one thing, Uncle Mo rated quite kindly for Johnny V, a good four lengths off the lead early. I know that sometimes you'll see a horse who usually leads at a route run differently in a sprint; and nobody expected Uncle Mo to run a 45 half. Nonetheless, it was a new experience which should serve him well in his 0, 2, or 5 races to come. He'd surely never had to circle around three leaders before, but looked like a pro doing so despite being easily out in the five path turning for home. He also ran a little extra ground moving over to the rail. Yet, in his first race since what we're told was a serious liver disease, he dug in for a final furlong in 12.39 seconds, earning a Beyer of 106. Didn't do too bad in the 'looking the other horse in the eye' category either. Should have been enough to win.

But Caleb's Posse ($13.80) was a shade better on this day. After he won the Amsterdam, I wrote that it was "a clinic on the concept of races falling apart, as Caleb's Posse was the only one running after the rest of the field stopped in the last furlong." I documented how he won easily despite slowing down markedly, and spoke brashly of betting against him in his next race (especially if he ran out of town as a big favorite), expressing skepticism at his 105 Beyer. Wrong...again. And the King's Bishop surely didn't fall apart. As noted in the race chart, Caleb's Posse was asked from the start. He had to run a 22.44 2nd quarter to stay in contact, ran 23.34 while swinging even a path wider than Uncle Mo, and closed resolutely in a solid 11.94. Heard a fair amount of speculation as to whose race was better, The Factor (104 Beyer for the Pat O'Brien) or Uncle Mo; but I thought Caleb's Posse was the best three-year old of the day. Doesn't mean he will be next time, but this time he was, in my opinion.

- A reader poses the question: Can Uncle Mo win the 3yo championship without winning a Grade 1 if he runs in and wins the Pennsylvania Derby, and then loses narrowly and valiantly to an older horse in the Breeders Cup Classic?

- Wanted to mention a show from last week...St Vincent (Annie Clark) was scheduled to play on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was very excited to be able to score tickets for that, said to be the first concert in that spectacular setting overlooking the park. So it was disappointing when it became apparent that it was going to rain. But then I was intrigued at the news that the show would be moved to the Temple of Dendur. Very ancient and spiritual sounding. Indeed, it was certainly unique for a rock show to take place in full view of a 2000+ old sphinx (who seemed to be quite enjoying himself), and it made for quite a memorable night. A few more photos below, and a link here to some that are actually good, as well as to the latest video from St. Vincent's upcoming Strange Mercies album.

(Not Bowery Ballroom.)


Anonymous said...

Man I wish Stay Thirsty had folded. I keyed JW Blue in Exactas and triples with the 1/2/4 and 6 finishers of the race. I had no knocks against Stay Thirsty and hated Coil. But I needed Blue to finish 2nd and I take down everything. What a total money management fiasco! Put the damn 32-1 shot in 3rd and it's the easiest 655-1 triple you will ever hit, to say nothing of the 5,000-1 super. -jp

Alan Mann said...

jp - were you on Caleb's Posse this time?

El Angelo said...

Travers Day did have some fun racing. The Kings Bishop was probably the second best race of the year after the Delaware, the Victory Ride and Ballston Spa were great, and the Travers is still the Travers. Plus Jackie Kimmel's 2yo on the undercard looked great.

Anonymous said...

I was on him at the beginning of the day, but I wasn't at the track and not very focused on racing. It was a distracted sort of day and when my buddy incorrectly told me via phone that the track was playing kind to speed, I totally backed off. Disappointing day full of poor decisions. I suppose I was due after the year I've been having. But the Travers was brutal. Shoulda gotten paid for the opinions I had on that race. -jp

Alan Mann said...

>>Shoulda gotten paid for the opinions I had on that race. -jp

I feel that way all too often. I think I'm a decent handicapper, but a terrible bettor, and that's a crappy feeling that I know all too well. :-/

Anonymous said...

I think it's far more important to be a good handicapper than a good bettor. But deep-pocketed players have a huge advantage when it comes to playing exotics. Ultimately, I didn't play the race right and all the hemming and hawing about what should have happened doesn't mean shit if my chips weren't on the right pieces of felt when it came was time to put my money out there. -jp

Figless said...

I learned only recently that when I like a long shot, no matter how tempting the exotics are, I need to make a WP or WPS bet, if it means I play less on the exotics so be it. Much less kicking myself in the arse since I adopted this simple strategy.