2012 Breeders' Cup Wrap - Part III

Jeff Gross

This is the third of four posts taking a look back at the 2012 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park. In Part III, we take a look at the Trakus data from Santa Anita, with a keen eye at the ground loss and internal splits in each of the fifteen Breeders' Cup races.

I've taken the Trakus data from Santa Anita and put it into an Excel file for easier viewing. The data is organized by fractions, internal splits, total ground covered, ground loss (or saved) as compared to the winner, lengths behind the horse in front and, finally, total beaten lengths behind the winner. You can view the file at the link below (via Google Drive).

2012 Breeders' Cup Trakus Splits

With that as your reference point, let's dive into each of the 15 Breeders' Cup races and look at what the Trakus data might be telling us about the results.

Juvenile Sprint

This race was perhaps our first glimpse at what would be a very good rail all weekend long at Santa Anita. Favorite Merit Man clicked off opening internal splits of 22.36 and 23.64 only to get caught by a move from the inside at the wire by Hightail. When you consider some of the splits other horses ran and still held on for the win, it leads me to a couple of conclusions regarding the Juvenile Sprint. First, Merit Man had no business losing that race, regardless of any rail bias. Second, it's had to see Hightail winning if he attempted to make that same move a couple of paths off the rail.

Marathon

There were two Breeders' Cup races on the dirt where we saw a horse win from off the pace and down the middle of the track and both involved extraordinary circumstances. In the Filly & Mare Sprint, Groupie Doll simply outclassed her rivals by a large margin. The other race was Calidoscopio's win in the one-of-a-kind Marathon in which we have the following description of Calidoscopio's trip from the DRF chart (emphasis added):

Calidoscopio (ARG) broke a step slow, lagged well back through the opening seven furlongs, commenced a run off the rail leaving the three quarter pole, advanced between rivals leaving the far turn, swung six wide straightening for the wire, closed determinedly under stout left handed pressure, overtook Atigun approaching the sixteenth marker, had his rider switch to the right stick and eagerly kicked away.

Although Calidoscopio won with a move from off the pace and wide off the far turn, he was able to save a good amount of ground during the early stages of the race. In fact, according to the Trakus data, the winner covered significantly less ground than the next three horses behind him. Calidoscopio didn't travel the shortest distance in the race (that honor went to sixth place horse Ballardy) but he covered less ground than his nearest rivals:

Calidoscopio: 9,349 feet
Grassy: 9,383 feet (+34)
Atigun: 8,394 (+45)
Juniper Pass: 9,398 (+49)

Juvenile Fillies Turf

None of this year's juvenile races were particularly strong if you simply look at final times and fractions, but in terms of ground loss data, the win by Flotilla (FR) was not bad at all. The French-bred and trained filly covered 5,355 feet during the Juvenile Fillies Turf, which is 16 feet more than runner-up Watsdachances (IRE), 29 feet more than show horse Summer of Fun, and 41 feet more than the fourth place finisher, Tara From the Cape.

How do you overcome taking the longest way around the course compared to your rivals? You simply run faster. Flotilla ran the final quarter mile in a strong 23.03 seconds, the quickest of any filly in the field, and her 7/8th split was an eye-popping 10.78 seconds. With a turn of foot like that, a horse can overcome some ground loss.

Juvenile

Another race where the rail and speed bias were on full display as Beholder goes gate-to-wire despite the favorite Executiveprivilege breathing down her neck almost the length of the Santa Anita stretch. A gate-to-wire winner does leave a lot of analysis to be done from the Trakus data; Beholder traveled the least amount of distance in the field and she closed with the fastest split over the final 1/16th of a mile (6.58).

The Trakus aerial view provides a nice look at the move by Exectuvieprivilege coming off the far turn. She dips down inside of Kauai Katie as she moves up to the second spot but then drifts wide into the stretch, likely costing her any chance to run down the rail-hugging winner.

Looking to the future, there are a lot of reasons to think Executiveprivilege will perform better and that Beholder might be vulnerable over a less biased surface.

Filly & Mare Turf

If you're looking for awful trips at this year's Breeders' Cup, look no further than my selection in the Filly & Mare Turf, Ridasiyna (FR). This French filly put forth a tremendous closing kick over the final quarter mile (11.22 and 11.14) but ran 55 feet further than winner Zagora (FR) while finishing just a length and a half behind. Runner-up Marketing Mix fared only slightly better than Ridasiyna, traveling 34 feet further than Zagora and finishing just a half-length back.

Ladies' Classic

Royal Delta went to the lead on the inside and never looked back. Good horse + speed and rail bias = picture taking time.

Juvenile Turf

Not only did winner George Vancouver run the fastest race of any horse in the Juvenile Turf but he covered the least amount of ground in the process. Sitting in the middle of the pack along the rail down the backstretch, George Vancouver moved up onto the rear of the leader with no urging prior to entering the far turn. Ryan Moore had a ton of horse and he knew it. The ever patient Moore waited for an opening in mid-stretch from which George Vancouver powered through on his way to clicking off the final two furlongs in 11.83 and 11.43 and winning by a length and a half at the wire.

Nobel Tune and Balance the Books finished a good second and third despite covering 34 and 26 feet more than the winner, respectively. Balance the Books ran the final furlong in a race-best 11.37 seconds.

Check out the Trakus Aerial View of the Juvenile Turf and keep an eye on George Vancouver breaking from the #3 hole in the navy blue Coolmore silks. Notice the ground saving trip and the move up towards the front about mid-way through the backstretch.

Filly & Mare Sprint

How dominant was Groupie Doll in the Filly & Mare Sprint? She made her winning move from several spots off the rail in what was clearly the worst part of the Santa Anita main track. Despite running in the least desirable part of the surface she put up final splits of 23.86 and 12.41. Of those two numbers, the third quarter split of 23.86 is the key; that fraction was almost a half-second faster than any other filly or mare in the field. She ran 17 feet further than runner-up Dust and Diamonds but finished 4 ½ lengths ahead.

Dirt Mile

While the Santa Anita main track was extremely kind to front-end speed and horses running near the rail, it didn't appear to help runners that were attempting to get a longer trip than they were used to. Exhibit A is Emcee in the Dirt Mile.

Emcee broke well and set the early pace while under pressure from eventual winner Tapizar. With a first quarter in 23.93 and a half in 46.59, Emcee didn't get any kind of breather as he tried to stretch his sprinter's speed to eight furlongs. Tapizar had a head in front after three quarters of a mile after which Emcee threw in the towel on his way to finishing 6th.

Turf Sprint

This race... man. Talk about fast. The final time for the Turf Sprint from the Trakus data is 1:11.28. From the Santa Anita teletimer it's 1:11.39. I don't care how you slice and dice it, that's some serious speed. Of course, when horses run downhill, especially sprinters, it's going to be fast.

Had this race been on a traditional flat, one-turn set-up, Mizdirection would have lost a ton of ground attempting to win from the 11-hole (especially after breaking slow and running 10th of 14 in the early stages). But because the downhill course at Santa Anita requires horses to make a slight right turn in the early stages, the field tends to be well strung-out by the time they make the big, sweeping left turn when entering the stretch. Yes, Mizdirection lost ground during the race but not nearly as much if she ran over a traditional set-up.

According to the Trakus data, Mizdirection covered 4,378 feet during the Turf Sprint, which was less ground that runner-up Unbridled's Note (4,406 feet) and show horse Reneesgotzip (4,384 feet).

What's the moral of the story with turf sprints on the downhill at Santa Anita? Outside posts aren't a death knell and can be an advantage depending on the running style of horse on the inside. Case in point: California Flag drew the rail and ran 26 fewer feet than Mizdirection but had to contend with half the field collapsing on him as the field entered the big, sweeping left-hand turn.

Check out the Trakus aerial view of the Turf Sprint where you can see how the outside posts were able to get very smooth trips down the hill, while the inside horses had little room for error.

Juvenile

This race is another example where simply running on the rail and out front was not enough on it's own to speed to victory. Title Contender grabbed the rail and the lead (he was in the 1-hole) but faded badly in the stretch to finish 8th. Given the manner in which the track played on Saturday, I'll be adding a negative next to Title Contender if he attempts to route in his next start.

Turf

If Little Mike is able to rate and win a race at 12 furlongs like the Breeders' Cup Turf, why the hell has he been racing as a "need to lead" horse for the past two years?

Tough to find excuses for Point of Entry in this race: he ran 12 fewer feet than Little Mike and he ran a faster final six furlongs than the winner. But, unfortunately for Point of Entry, he had too much to do entering the stretch and couldn't make up the ground. In fact, you could make an argument that Point of Entry's chances to win the Turf were over after a quarter of a mile when he ran a second slower than the winner. Despite running faster splits in almost every section of the race over the final 10 furlongs, Point of Entry was never able to make up that deficit.

Sprint

As someone who had The Lumber Guy as their top play in the Sprint (the second year in a row I've managed to pick the runner-up and not the winner), I would have loved to see that race over a less speed-favoring track. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

Despite that fact that he finished second to Trinniberg, I think The Lumber Guy ran a hell of a race.

Mile

23.75, 22.56, 22.69 and 22.77 - those are the quarter mile internal fractions by Wise Dan leading to his 1:31.77 domination in the Breeders'' Cup Mile. Not only was Wise Dan the fastest horse in the field, but he also covered the least amount of ground after Mr. Commons.

Classic

I've got multiple things to point out from this race:

  • Alpha still hasn't run a decent race outside of New York in his entire career. Inside NY, he's never finished out of the money. Outside New York? He's a disaster, finishing 11th, 12th, 6th and 12th in all four attempts. Alpha finished last in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, over 40 lengths behind the winner.
  • Surprise! Fort Larned covered the least amount of ground of any horse in the Classic - 6,663 feet. Runner-up Mucho Macho Man ran 31 feet further than Fort Larned.
  • The worst trip in the Classic (in terms of ground lost)? Sixth place finisher Nonios; he covered 40 more feet than the horses finishing just in front of him - Richard's Kid and Ron the Greek.
  • Speaking of Ron the Greek, a fourth place finish given the nature of the track isn't bad at all. Ditto to show horse Flat Out.
  • Game On Dude was certainly affected by his poor start but I still don't know why Bejarano didn't send him harder towards the front based on the way the track was playing to speed.
  • While the Classic payouts look (at first) a bit low given the fact that Game On Dude finished out of the money, the fact of the matter is the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th choices on the tote board all finished in the top four. Not a single horse with odds at or above 10/1 finished in the Super.

And, finally, here are a couple of quick ground loss facts via the Trakus charts.

Worst Ground Loss at 2012 Breeders' Cup:

This can be a very subjective metric but from the perspective of a horse that covered the most ground as compared to the winner, the award goes to Know More in the Juvenile Turf. Know More ran 87 feet further than winner George Vancouver.

Best Ground Saved at 2012 Breeders' Cup:

Since all the races are run at different distance, the "ground saved" award goes to the horse that ran the fewest feet as compared to the nearest rival. For "ground saved", He's Had Enough in the Juvenile ran 50 fewer feet than winner Shanghai Bobby. But while other horses saved more ground as compared to the winner, He's Had Enough ran 26 feet less than the next closest horse, Speak Logistics.

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