Well, that's was a pretty good weekend of racing, wasn't it? And it only gets better next weekend with a trio of Grade 1 races at Santa Anita (Big Cap, Kilroe Mile and Las Virgenes) and the Gotham at Aqueduct. So much good racing. So little time.
As I went back and reviewed this weekend's results it was difficult to pick out just one or two of the top performances. Awesome Maria was just that in her easier-than-expected romp in the Sabin. Union Rags barely had to break a sweat as he cruised home in the Fountain of Youth. El Padrino and Mark Valeski staged a great stretch duel in the Risen Star. And The Factor defeated Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Amazombie with relative ease at Santa Anita. There was as lot of quality racing across the country.
Some bullet point thoughts on this weekend's results:
- One of the things I really liked about Union Rags win in the Fountain of Youth was the professional nature of his race. In the Breeders' Cup he drifted out in the stretch, a factor that played into his head defeat to Hansen at the wire. While he was under much less urging on Sunday, it was nice to witness a nice, smooth gallop down the stretch.
At this point in Derby prep season it's more about things not going wrong than things going incredibly right. While we still have questions about Hansen, Union Rags, and other contenders, from a physical side they all appear to be in good shape. On the opposite end is a horse like Algorithms; while his injury could be just a minor bump in the road, it's never good to miss races or training time during the build-up to an event as challenging as the Kentucky Derby.
- Discreet Dancer would have been all alone on the lead of the Fountain of Youth if Kent Desormeaux hadn't hustled News Pending to the front after a slow start. If you go back and watch the replay, you can see News Pending making a big move on the first turn to go from the rear to the front of the field. I don't think that was why Discreet Dancer didn't win (Union Rags was much the best), but it sure didn't help his cause to get pressure all the way down the backstretch.
- Any doubts I had about El Padrino's ability on a dry track was put to rest in the Risen Star. And then some.
- One of the consequences of the Risen Star was the confirmation of the weakness of the G3-Lecomte, a race that was initially quite weak on paper and which was solidified as such due to the relatively poor performance of Lecomte starters in the Risen Star. Z Dager ran the best of the Lecomte horses but he was over five lengths back of the top two and never seriously threatened either one in the stretch.
As we look forward to the Louisiana Derby, I'll likely be tossing Lecomte horses and focusing solely on El Padrino, Mark Valeski, and any new shooters that might ship to the Big Easy.
- I went back and watched the Sabin a couple of more times and each time I thought, "Awesome Maria should be the horse that ships to Dubai.' While Royal Delta will likely be much better in her next start, Awesome Maria is already in great form.
- It's tough to find an excuse as to why Grace Hall couldn't put away Yara in the Davona Dale. The Trakus data indicates that Yara raced 31 feet more than Grace Hall, yet she was able to get up by a head at the finish.
- 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro returned to the races with an easy win over $17k Optional Claimers at the Fair Grounds on Saturday afternoon. I like Nehro and I hope he can come back and be a major contender in the older horse division this year, but I'm not yet buying into some of the superlatives that were lobbed his way after he beat a field of borderline claimers. The phrase "he didn't beat anything" should be typed in bold next to this race on his past performance line. Additionally, he revived just an 86 Beyer for that performance, a pretty soft figure even when you consider that he wasn't asked for a ton of run in the stretch.
Nehro's win on Saturday was a good comeback but he needs to prove himself against stakes competition before we can envision him challenging for top honors in 2012.
- I personally didn't punch a lot of winning tickets this weekend although Sunday ended on a decent note with Simmard's win at 4/1 odds in the Mac Diarmida. Scratches and clear, heavy favorites really put a dent in some of my wagering plans.
- After The Factor won the San Carlos, his owner suggested that they are considering sending him to Royal Ascot this summer, a interesting option but a really, really tough situation this colt. The Factor wins races through a devastating turn of early foot, forcing his rivals to chase him down over hard, speed friendly tracks. Ascot is not a hard, speed favoring course and the undulations in the early parts of the race would greatly reduce effectiveness of The Factor's natural speed.
I'd like for more American-based horses go to Royal Ascot because it's something we just don't see very often, but I'm not real confident that The Factor would find the racing conditions in England to his liking.
Below are the updated Divisional Standings (Top 3 by points in each category) based on graded stakes results for the first two months of 2012. The points continue to be tightly bunched in each division due to the low number of races and repeat runners early in the season. You can find the complete Grade Stakes Results file at the link below (via Google Docs).
I'm contemplating making a couple of tweaks to the divisional organization beginning with an adjustment to the Turf Classic category to include races equal to or greater than 10 furlongs. Currently, the category includes races at or above nine furlongs; I think those races should probably get lumped in with the Turf Mile category.
Additionally, the speed figure bonus (which isn't applied until the end of the racing season after all graded stakes are completed) will involve ranking figures within each system (Beyer, Bris and Equibase) and then creating an combined rank from the three. Horses will be able to earn a speed figure bonus multiple times within the same division. For example, if The Factor were to earn the five highest ranked figures in the Dirt Sprint category, and those encompassed all of the top 5%, then he would get the 15 point bonus five times, one for each race that fell within the top 5%.
This whole ranking/divisional standings exercise is a bit of an experiment at this point as I'm curious as to how the points would play out over an entire season. Perhaps the system won't tell us a thing, or maybe it'll provide a slightly different way of looking at stakes results. At a minimum, it keeps me busy updating a spreadsheet throughout the year.
|I'll Have Another||35|
|Say A Novena||40|
|Willa B Awesome||25|
|Uh Oh Bango||35|
|Prayer for Relief||15|
|Dirt Mile Fillies|
|Include Me Out||35|
|Great Hot (BRZ)||25|
|Vision in Gold||25|
|This Ones for Phil||25|
|Capt. Candyman Can||15|
|Dirt Sprint Fillies|
|Home Sweet Aspen||45|
|Made to Love Her||25|
|R Holiday Mood||25|
|Game On Dude||35|
|Uh Oh Bango||25|
|Slim Shadey (GB)||35|
|Snow Top Mountain||25|
|La Reine Lionne||15|
|Hit It Rich||15|
|Turf Mile Fillies|
|City to City||35|
|Turning Top (IRE)||25|
|Up In Time (GB)||25|