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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Useful Prep for Union Rags

While some people might be jumping off the Union Rags bandwagon in the wake of his third place finish in the Florida Derby, maybe I'll hop on to some vacated space. After all, the race was a prep for the Kentucky Derby, and not a race that he had to win in order to qualify on earnings. And how better to prepare a horse for the Derby than subjecting it to the kind of race conditions he's likely to encounter on the first Saturday in May? So, instead of excoriating himself for having Union Rags too far back as he has, perhaps Julien Leparoux should be patting himself on the back. Son of Dixie Union was pinned squarely into a box in and amongst horses for the length of the backstretch, thanks in part to the efforts of Javier Castellano, who may have been more interested in justifying his much-maligned selection of Algorithms over Union Rags as his Derby horse than doing the right thing on El Padrino. Turning for home, finally extricated from traffic, horse and jockey found themselves behind a wall of horses and with much to do. Finally put in a decent late run for third, in an effort that reminded me somewhat of the third and second place Wood Memorial finishes of Genuine Risk and Monarchos, respectively, prior to their Derby wins. He got the final furlong in a race-best 12.45 seconds (according to Formulator, 12.58 according to Trakus), and earned a Beyer of 93.

Having said all that though, I do think Union Rags seemed a bit short. I'd classify his trouble more as nuisance than catastrophic (bad word to use these days) debilitating - indeed, not a single mention of trouble in the chart call - and he didn't suffer significantly from any ground loss compared to anyone but the winner. I'd have thought he could have been more explosive in the final sixteenth than he was. And, let's face it, he's still never run all that fast, at least on the Beyer scale. The difference to me between Union Rags and the aforementioned Derby winners is that those horses had the kind of foundation that made me believe at the time (did I mention that I had both in the Derby?) that they could build on their Wood efforts and progress to a career-best effort. With Union Rags, not to mention with virtually every other three-year old these days, their running records are so spotty in terms of frequency, spacing, and level of competition, that one really just doesn't know. Now though, the odds on Union Rags may make finding out worthwhile in this uncertain season. (How much lower than 7-2 do those betting him at that price in the futures pool think he will be at post time?)

As for Take Charge Indy, LOL at the thought of him winning the Derby. Clever rating job by Borel on the front end on a day on which that seemed to be the place to be. Got in breather quarters of 24.11 and 24.38 after a first quarter of 23.60. allowing him to pick up the pace to 23.87 to the 1/8th pole, which gave him the margin for tiring that he needed to hang on at the end. But this horse, previously eligible for entry-level allowance conditions and winning his first race ever on dirt, strikes me as being on the mediocre side, and it would be a depressing commentary on the quality of these horses, and another losing Derby for me, should he prevail. Should take a boatload of money with Borel though, the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

- In the "better to leave well enough alone" category, the Dubai Gold Cup turned out to be a double disaster on Saturday. Re-run after the World Cup after it was halted mid-race following a fatal breakdown shortly after the start, yet another horse perished during the second running (and yet a third had to be pulled up). Can't blame medication for these accidents, as they are strictly prohibited in Dubai. Sometimes this stuff just happens.

And as we pause for the idiotically anachronistic Palm Sunday break here in New York, nine days of racing on the main track at the Big A have now passed without a catastrophic event....and that before the new condition book with lower purses for cheap races takes effect. So....was it the inner track? Is it possible, as I've seen speculated about from time to time on Twitter, that the unusually warm weather caused problems on a surface constructed specifically to withstand the cold? Increased scrutiny since then by the track vets resulting in more scratches? Or, was it all just a statistical quirk?


Anonymous said...

How can you say that since drugs are not allowed at Dubai the breakdowns there must not be related? Part of the drug use issue seems to be from the extended use of a horses career. Just because a horse isn't given drugs before Dubai, doesn't mean the accumulated effects of drugs can be ruled out in breakdowns at Dubai. Masking injuries & pain, strain on internal organs, these things can be cumulative.

Alan Mann said...

I don't disagree with what you say, but these were both Dubai-based Godolphin horses.

Anonymous said...

What kind of foundation did Manarchos have?

Screen Name said...

Monarchos raced twice at 2 then had 3 starts prior to Derby as a 3yo. The Florida Derby was a stunner. Too bad there's no video of it online.

Figless said...

I was thinking the same thing about UR during the final furlong, another logical favorite losing its prep and thereby increasing value while the next latest thing takes all the money on Derby Day.

One caveat was his lack of "turn of foot" Saturday.

I realize it was a slowish pace but once clear he never really exploded the way you expect to see in a G1 horse. This can be deadly in a 20 horse field when holes open only for an instant. Will need to watch all his replays before I jump on the band wagon.

I hate Leparoux in a big field, he does have a tendency to take back too far and prefers wide to rail, not a recipe for success.

Patience is a virtue on turf but a dirt race, even at 10f, requires being in the race a little earlier, especially in a big field.

I fear they will regret losing Castellano as much as he regrets losing them.

Figless said...

Regarding the Futures Pool I simply do not understand taking 7-2 on anyone when recent history shows the favorite going off sometimes as high as 5-1.

The last few years the HIGHEST price on the board is rarely more than 30-1 so the play in these things is to dabble with longer prices in hopes they make the gate and provide value.

I have Sabercat, who looked like crap in his first 2012 start but will almost certainly make the gate having the earnings already. Hoping for a big run in his final prep.

My buddy had Take Charge Indy at long odds from one of the earlier pools so was very excited to see him wire the field and qualify, not that I like him at all in the Derby but he has value. The same guy had Monarchos at 56-1? in the first pool that year.

7-2 makes zero sense, but to each his own.

Anonymous said...

I think it was a good prep. Ultimately though you've got a horse who has a lifetime best BSF of 95 and he's going to be 3-1 or something when the gates open. Then again, I feel as though Beyer has adjusted his entire figure scale downward from the way it was a decade ago. Nate's Mineshaft ties the FG track record at 9f on Saturday on a day when the track wasn't seemingly that glib and he gets a 113. Now before you go into comparisons about how the weak winner of the Louisiana Derby got a 91 and it makes sense, I think the entire scale has been shifted downward. It's not even possible to get a 120 beyer routing anymore unless you win by 20 lengths and break the track record by two seconds, I guess. Also, betting on three year old races at this time of year is pretty much a waste of time. -jp

Anonymous said...

Union Rags highest Beyer is a 95.He's a complete throwout!