"It was perfect."
"He's as fit and sharp as he's ever been."
"He's ready to roll."
These were the comments of Chip Woolley, Eoin Harty, and Bob Baffert, respectively, right after each of their BC Classic starters turned in their final works. Woolley, who has Mine That Bird, Harty (Colonel John), and Baffert (Richard's Kid), all sounded extremely confident that their horses would run the race of their lives on Nov. 7.
Later, I ran into Helen Pitts and she too was optimistic that Einstein would turn in a big one based on his recent training.
It was at that point that I bumped into a colleague and he and I shared the same thought: Has any trainer ever publicly said that their horse's work "wasn't what they wanted" or "left something to be desired?" If they have, I can't remember.
My point is, often times we tend to make too much of works, especially during big events like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup. Each one is picked over in critical fashion, and the fact is, most times you'll find observers saying the same thing: "Wow, he looked great." Or, "he's getting over the track really well."
From a handicapping perspective, the works are often overrated. Baffert said it best: "I'm happy the way that he's been working, but you know, it's not the way they look in the morning that matters; it's who shows up on race day."
In the Classic especially, we are all looking for any edge we can get. It's one of the toughest Classics to handicap in a long time. There are so many variables with each horse--Zenyatta going against males at a new distance, Gio Ponti switching from turf, the Euros running on synthetics for the first time, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird facing elders, and so on and so forth. Works are part of the equation, but they are not everything. You will need to go much deeper with your handicapping in this race, and then you'll still need some luck to win.
For what it's worth, in my opinion, Richard's Kid's work was visually more impressive than anyone. He looked like an express train in the stretch.
But then again, you know what they say--all of them looked great.
Quote of the morning went to Baffert, who when commenting on the time it took him to acclimate his training to synthetic surfaces said: "The first year they put Polytrack in at Del Mar I thought I was going to have to quit training and get a job selling shoes at Nordstrom."
Back tomorrow afternoon with thoughts on the draw and more...