HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 16, 2022 – Handicappers and turf writers are not as dumb as they appear, although it sure seems that way many times. Guilty as charged.
Trip video, performance figures, pedigree, form-cycle analysis, pre-race appearance, jockeys, trainers, and even owners–all are the elements by which racetrackers and fans measure equine ability.
Some days horses, being only human, just don’t want to do what they do best. Mentally and physically, they take a day off. Often there are good reasons, but just as often it’s a who-knows, a shrug of the shoulders mystery.
But that’s the game. It’s why they run races between fences and not between the pages of a set of past performances.
The media is pretty good at god-ing up these magnificent beasts. Guilty, again. But I must also say that most respected analysts admit when they’re wrong and try to learn from their errant judgments, finding plausible reasons, not excuses.
As an example, we were so moved by a series of jaw dropping performances by Bulldog Hanover, the fastest Standardbred in history, that we implored the HRI Faithful to watch his October 7 start at The Red Mile.
The Allerage Open Pace was supposed to be little more than a mile trial. Could he better his world record mile in 1:45 4/5 set in the Haughton Memorial at The Meadowlands? No. He shortened stride late and finished second.
Upon further review, however, these thoughts: A series of weekly miles raced in 1:46+ following his record performance likely had him over the top of condition. Further, a thoughtful strategy by rival driver Todd McCarthy contributed to the huge upset.
Allywag Hanover left quickly from his pole position, forcing Dexter Dunn to push Bulldog Hanover forward a little faster than usual, making it a harder for The Bulldog to make the top, simultaneously allowing the winner a perfect pocket-trip second.
When ready, McCarthy tipped Allywag Hanover outside the leader and out-paced him to the wire, stopping the timer in 1:46, the fastest time ever posted by a gelded Standardbred. So there was that.
We know harness stock is hearty, but The Bulldog was less ferocious last week and presumably would benefit from a freshening. But then we only bet’em; we don’t train’em.
This weekend, we pushed the envelope again. Paraphrasing: “Be sure to tune in to the Champions Day program at Ascot Saturday morning and watch the top-rated Thoroughbred in the world—Baaeed, not Flightline—win his 11th victory, seventh Group 1, and retire undefeated.
The last odds we saw posted in U.S. betting pools held Baaeed at 1-9. He failed to hit the board and finish fourth.
Thoroughbred race watchers need not to have been too sophisticated to find the reason for his lackluster performance. Baaeed simply did not handle the boggy ground.
The course was not “bottomless,” as many grass courses can become, but it was soft enough whereby Baaeed clearly struggled to get a hold of it, churning away but showing no forward progress whatsoever as clods of turf shot straight up in the air.
Clearly, the racing gods have no respect for perfection.
The ground didn’t help the chances of Trueshan or Inspiral, either, while aiding the fortunes of Kinross, Bay Bridge and Bayside Boy in their events.
Wonder what the gods have in store for Lexington on November 5?
Speaking of Breeders’ Cup… we can’t think about the event without thinking of Jack Will, long time reporter, publicist, and head of the Breeders’ Cup notes team, who passed on earlier this month.
Turf Writers from all over the world depended heavily on the information dispensed in those teams of veteran reporters. Many boots on the ground are required when trying to cover 14 “Kentucky Derbies” in 48 hours.
For decades, writers could not walk into any press box in Florida without sharing a few words with Jack, an endless source of leads and backstories.
We bonded over cocktails in 1987 when Hollywood Park hosted the event for the second time. We will miss you Jack, RIP my friend…
Thoroughbred racing lost another significant member of the racetrack community when Ed Mackie passed suddenly this week.
The long time mutuels manager at Gulfstream was always willing and helpful any time I made contact and was always forthright with his answers. Condolences to his Gulfstream Park colleagues and his many friends in the industry. #Respect …
Lots of morning trials Saturday all over America with penultimate workouts posted by Flightline, Rich Strike and Hot Rod Charlie. All impressed their connections.
We saw the Flightline drill on video and once again he was remarkable, with three-quarters of a mile in 1:12, then galloping out 7 furlongs in 1:24.
But it’s not about the speed of those trials. Obviously, he’s fast. Rather, it’s the manner of his drills which resemble morning open gallops than timed workouts. Remarkable, really.