Mid-Week Thoughts

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 02: Breeders' Cup Classic hopeful Game On Dude gallops over the track during morning workouts for the upcoming Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 2, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

I've been a few days late getting this post up but, you know, Super Bowl hangover and all. We've had some issues with the main network here at SB Nation over the past few days, which has resulted in a lot of the errors and site slowness that you probably have experienced (and FanPosts aren't showing up on the right hand sidebar...they weren't deleted and will be back when things are ironed out). Our tech guys are hard at work trying to take care of the issues and, hopefully, they'll be able to get things running smoothly from here on out. I know nothing about any IT-type issues so I just wait for somebody to tell me things are fixed. Anyway, on to horse racing...

It was a pretty interesting weekend of stakes action last Saturday and Sunday, capped off by a fantastic performance by Game On Dude in the G2-San Antonio at Santa Anita. Despite breaking slowly from the gate, Game On Dude was content to sit back as they field went into the first turn, took command of the race midway down the backstretch, and then put away all his rivals coming off the far turn.

For me, this was the most impressive performance from Game On Dude to date and he appears to be a horse that has improved from the last time we saw him at the Breeders' Cup. Kudos to trainer Bob Baffert for the job he's done with this colt.

I've updated the Graded Stakes file, along with the divisional standings. You can find those at the link below. Not much to really make of any standings at the moment since most horses have run only one race on the year, with the exception of Uh Oh Bango and a few others. As we start to run more Grade 1s over the next few weeks, there will be lots of opportunities for horses to pick up significant points.

Divisional Standings & Graded Stakes Results

The three-year-old division once again looks like it is going to be a wild ride all the way to the 2012 Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, we saw a heavy favorite take the Withers (Alpha at ¼) in an effort that was good, but not eye-popping, a huge upset in the Lewis at Santa Anita, where a 43/1 shot, I'll Have Another, sped away from his rivals at the top of the stretch en route to an easy win, and a maiden taking home the Sam F. Davis at Tampa. About all you can do is grin and shake your head when you see results like that. (Now, to be fair, the maiden win by Battle Hardened at Tampa wasn't hugely surprising - that colt has run credibly in good races at Churchill and Gulfstream (and he went off at odds of 9/2, so it wasn't like a lot of the crowd didn't see this colt's talent.)

We'll see how things shake out going forward but, simply based on the speed figures from this past weekend's Derby hopefuls; it's hard to really get a grasp on where things stand. Below are the Beyer, Equibase and Brisnet speed figures earned by the winners of each race:

Horse Race Beyer Bris Equibase
Alpha Withers 90 100 109
I'll Have Another Lewis 96 102 101
Battle Hardened Davis 81 91 94

All three systems think Battle Hardened ran the slowest race of the three winners. No big surprise there. But they have differing opinions on the Alpha and I'll Have Another. Beyer and Bris each rates the Lewis as the best of the three races, but Equibase has Alpha's win in the Withers as the top performance (and by a pretty good stretch). And check out where the figures fall within the range of numbers. Beyer has Alpha and I'll Have Another as much better performances than Battle Hardened. Bris also puts those two above Battle Hardened by a fair amount. But the distribution from Equibase is more spread out, with I'll Have Another's win in the Lewis essentially the mid-point between Alpha and Battle Hardened.

Elsewhere, Calibrachoa's win in the Toboggan was the top rated performance by all three figure makers last weekend, and it's not hard to see why. Sent off at odds of 2/5 as part of an coupled entry with Caixa Electronica, Calibrachoa stalked the early pace of Diski Dance and then steamrolled by at the top of the lane under minimal urging from jockey Cornelio Velasquez. They performance was visually impressive, as well as objectively impressive. The final time of 1:09.47, over an Aqueduct track that appeared to be playing a little slow (or at least a little tiring to front-end speed), was quite good and reflected as such in all the resulting speed figures.

Alternation made his 2012 debut on Saturday and posted a good win in the ungraded Essex Handicap at Oaklawn. He'll likely push on towards the top races for older males over the rest of the year.

Coming up this weekend: the G1-Donn and G1-Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, along with the Hutcheson, San Marcos, and Suwannee River, all taking place at Gulfstream and Santa Anita.

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