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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By now we’re all familiar with the term “too big to fail.” If large corporations fail, there probably is a bailout available somewhere. But what window does a horseplayer take losing tickets to?

The question here concerns measured speed, specifically the performance figure assigned by Thoro-Graph to a recent debut winner in Maryand.

The figure belongs to a juvenile filly named Shippy, the 2-1 early line favorite for Saratoga’s opening day co-feature, the Grade 3, 6-furlong Schuylerville.

Shippy earned a “3” on the TG performance scale, a figure that can win Grade 3s anytime, anyplace and anywhere, wherever the age or sex.

The second fastest filly is Aurelia Garland, who earned a “9-1/4” breaking maiden on debut at Belmont May 2, also at 5 furlongs. By definition, that makes Shippy a lay-over.

And there are others things at work here. Following the 10-length maiden win, Dean and Patti Reeves of Mucho Macho Man fame bought a controlling interest in the filly and turned her over to trainer Doug O’Neill.

But this is a young filly who raced 27 days ago and ships to upstate New York with a stopover at Belmont Park where she breezed a half-mile in 48 2/5, 2nd fastest among 43 of her peers to work that week. Jose Ortiz replaces Edwin Gonzalez.

While the rail is a high percentage post for Spa youngsters, 5 or 5-1/2 furlongs would have been preferred here. But the question ultimately is a matter of class and quality of today’s rivals compared to those at Laurel June 14.

The odds of her regressing in her second start at probably lower than the 2-5 offered in her debut. But, as they say, she can bounce and still win. Either way, this is not an easy call.

Aurelia Garland (3-1) has a better chance of moving forward than the favorite, unless Shippy’s Ruffian reincarnate. ‘Aurelia’ is posted outside, Joe Bravo in the boot for Wesley Ward.

For instance, how good or fast is first-time starter Buxom Beast, who blew out in 35 2/5 for Gary Contessa on July 37, fastest of 85 peers that week?

From a small sample, sire The Big Beast (a Spa winner himself) has a 25% strike work and mama has produced nine winners from as many starters. She sold for twice the sire average at the Ocala breeze-up sale in April.

Hey, it’s a two-year-old stakes in Saratoga, and it’s a crap shoot. The one we are likely to bet is Comical (5-1), the “other O’Neill” who gets Castellano. She was a 6-length debut winner in fast time at Santa Anita May 26 and is eligible to fall between the parimutuel cracks in this loaded bunch.

SUNDAY RESULTS: Selection Prince Lucky set fast, pressured pace throughout and still got it done, paying $13.

Opening day co-featured G3 Quick Call will be posted Wednesday.

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