Kentucky Derby Trail: Quality Performances


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mike rullo


would you agree if dunkirk gets into the derby he would be very dangerous,I think he has more room for improvement than quality road.

30 Mar 2009 11:18 AM

I agree with the consensus and would also hesitate to diminish JoJo based on what we saw on Saturday.  Give him another shot on a track less biased and a hot pace up in front of him.  A lot of people are dismissing this horse based on just this race.  Could be a big mistake.  

30 Mar 2009 11:22 AM
russell maiers

Great stuff Steve. Both one and two really showed a ton of talent and potential. The Derby should be a great betting race with whats been going on. Oh yea, I have to give the huge Dunkirk fans the "you were right" atta boy for knowing he would do so well this race with so few races under his belt. I did not see it coming. I know it makes it the funnest and seem easy when your right on a horse. Well, keep it up Steve, and a nice job to the Well Armed and Indian Blessing and all the others that ran across the ocean.

30 Mar 2009 12:16 PM

Its easy to see why racing continues to decline in America.  Two brilliant races are shown on ESPN. Two new track records are set and instead of talking about the amazing performances and duels we just witnessed we have to get comments from Pletcher that the track was "juiced" or somehow unfair.  I didn't see allowance horses setting records I saw Graded Stakes winners posting records when pressed to perform their very best.  Here was our big chance to talk about fantastic horses and instead we are talking about the track.  The track didn't seem to bother Dunkirk beating every other horse by 6 lengths.  It only seemed to bother him when he tried to catch a monster of a horse in Quality Road who set a TRACK RECORD.  Funny no one talked about the track when some horse named Sham ran the second fastest Derby of all time.  Why not? Sham was no world beater.

30 Mar 2009 12:21 PM

If you were Todd Pletcher would you try to find another race for Dunkirk-or would you try to train up to the Derby? If you were to enter him in another race-where

would you run him? How about Derby Trial? Didn't Tim Tam win both?

30 Mar 2009 12:23 PM

QR and Dunkirk ran a good race, but, wasn't there some conact between QR and theregoesjojo? although desormeaux had to study him, i think desormeaux could have gotten the call if he had waited a split second, bu, he did what was est for the horse.

30 Mar 2009 12:49 PM

Steve - are Big Drama's connections re-inspired to put him back on the Derby trail after his DQ in the G2 Swale?

He has enough money to be likely assured of a gate and if there were doubts of his health, then the track record has to erase it.

30 Mar 2009 1:23 PM

dunkirk got beat fair and square. jojo had the momentum, but quality road's class showed up as they went further. Now we'll wait and see what the others got next week. I wanna see imperial council bounce back. I hear friesen fire is gonna work up to the big dance.

30 Mar 2009 1:56 PM

Can the Dunkirk fans please explain WHY you want to see this tired horse run again before the Derby ??? Even if he was to run again do you really think he would be a factor running AGAIN in the Kentucky Derby?  If you do you need to be told these are animals and not machines.  ANYONE who witnessed the Florida Derby saw Dunkirk was a very very tired horse.  Enough already...let it go.

30 Mar 2009 2:02 PM

Steve that was a great column. It was very interesting with the clocking with the Dubai race and Desert Party. I still don't know about bringing that horse over here for the Derby unless they get him to Churchill about three weeks before the Derby. Maybe Todd Pletcher could run Dunkirk in the Lexington Stakes two weeks before the Derby. I believe that the Gulfstream Track was super fast and we don't know how Quality Road's time could be on a drying out Churchill Track. Quality Road showed me much with his putting away Dunkirk once they met at the top of the stretch. I still like Chocolate Candy to possibly win the Santa Anita Derby and the KY Derby.

30 Mar 2009 2:21 PM

It looks like the Derby picture is starting to become clearer. Quality Run's performance in the Florida Derby was nothing short of brilliant. Dunkirk in my mind just needs some seasoning. He obviously needed that race. It is way too soon to tell how good he may still be. Because Barbao and Big Brown were able to pull off a very light racing campaign leading up to the Derby does not mean anyone else can do it. With regards to ESPN's coverage of the Florida Derby this past Saturday, Jerry Baily and Randy Moss are entitled to their opinion but to omit Pioneer of the Nile and The Pamplemousse from their top Derby five was an injustice in my mind. At this point I think Quality Run and I Want Revenge should be 1 and 2 on most folks list but the before mentioned duo should rate serious consideration. We will know much more this coming Saturday.

Steve, we need a network that is committed to horse racing. It seems that ESPN is slowly backing away, and NBC and ABC are only committed to the glamour races.

What are your thoughts on this and can we do anything about it?

30 Mar 2009 2:28 PM

Pletcher's a whiner. The more I see of him the less I like him. nay nay's right, we saw an awesome performance by Quality Road and then some of the spotlight falls on Pletcher's complaints? He should keep those thoughts to himself and for the good of the sport be talking about 2 very nice performances by Quality Road and his Dunkirk. See ya at the Derby Todd, I'll be looking for you just not in the winners circle!!

30 Mar 2009 2:29 PM

>>If you were Todd Pletcher would you try to find another race for Dunkirk-or would you try to train up to the Derby? If you were to enter him in another race-where

would you run him? How about Derby Trial? Didn't Tim Tam win both?<<

Years ago, the Blue Grass Stakes was run TEN DAYS before the Kentucky Derby, and lots of winners of the BG won 10 days later.  [Including...Northern Dancer]  Now, horses are "too delicate" or trainers don't know how to actually get and keep a horse fit (or both) so we now have a Kentucky Derby not much different from a NW of 2 allowance.

I suspect the coming trend will be to declare specific races as "win and you're in" and we'll see horses run who have not raced since the Breeders Cup Juvenile.

Is anyone hallucinating that the present fashions are producing better horses?  Stars for the fans to follow?  Attracting new fans?

30 Mar 2009 2:43 PM
Marc W

Comments are spot on as I saw the race Steve. QR, I thought Johnny V moved a little late which showed well for horse as he immediately picked up and re-surged as well as rated kindly. Only nice horses do that. Dunkirk has new found respect in my eyes, also a nice horse.

Now the problem, Churchill surface has rarely been cement like the recent Gulfstream meet. Although it is a better than the synthetic for handicapping but not much can you go to the bank on the results of yesterday. Nor QR's other race. You can certainly not knock a horse for winning impressively twice, but I am not sold on the races due to the bias. The wonders of trying to gamble with confidence these days.

The Saudi race, I still don't think it carries weight no matter what the surface which again was front runner biased because I don't like the horses prepping there for a race in KY, but I can be wrong. It will happen some day but I am against it this year.

30 Mar 2009 3:07 PM

I agree with you on this one Dray. Todd kind of came across like a big baby when they interviewed him. I thought Dunkirk put in a solid effort. Todd knew what kind of monster he was up against. Otherwise he would have never considered running a rabbit. He was clearly worried about QR long before post time. I will say though, the more I watch the replay the more impressed I am with Dunkirk's run. Steve makes some great points when he says Dunkirk has really learned a great deal by the traffic jams he has had to face and all the dirt flying back into his face. QR has not experienced that. He may not like it. The derby won't be so easy. QR will be facing tough competition and who knows what post he will break from. The derby is known for its traffic jams and rough racing. With that said I am certainly not counting him out. Just saying I don't think the race will be as clear cut as everyone thinks it will be. QR is quite the speciman though. He is a big imposing colt.

Jim... I felt that Dunkirk and QR squeezed JoJo out of the race and definately had contact with him. I thought it took some momentum away from Jojo. They called an inquiry but it didn't change anything. I guess the stewards didn't feel it was much. I wish I could understand them and how they make their decisions. They DQ Big Drama for bumping phil in the stretch run and it didn't look any worse than this move by QR and Dunkirk.

30 Mar 2009 3:18 PM

I agree with you Deacon. I was watching the lead up to the race on horse racing t.v. and 3 minutes before post time they said we would have to switch our channels to ESPN to catch the race and that they would re-cap the race later. WHAT???? I had to find my dishnetwork card to figure out what channel ESPN was on and finally got the T.V. switched over right when they broke from the gate. I could't believe the HORSE RACING CHANNEL didn't carry the race live. I wasn't very happy. Furthermore I agree with you wholeheartedly about them leaving the Pamp and PON out of their derby list. Everyone is just so sure of themselves this year. I don't see it that way. I see some very talented colts and think the derby could play out very differently than everyone thinks.

30 Mar 2009 3:25 PM

Why is there any needless urgency in getting Dunkirk to the Kentucky Derby? While it is a great purse and of course a prime entry on the resume it doesn't have to be the holy grail for a developing and talented colt like him.

Magnier, Tabor and Smith certainly should not try to hustle him into some last minute effort only to possibly bounce him in the KY Derby. Long time players they are seemingly fine with the chips falling where they may and in a worst case they go to the Preakness.

Their decision to nix Europe as the rabbit in the FLD showed they smartly stepped back and the Derby fever eased a bit.

There is more to 2009 then just squeezing a season into 1 month; there is the Travers, Jim Dandy, Haskell, JCGP, MassCap, Breeders Cup ...  

30 Mar 2009 3:53 PM

Bill, I agree except for the fact that it won't be a mistake for KY Derby betters as JoJo won't be there. JoJo was not ridden so as to provide him with his best chance. I understand why, just didn't agree with. I also don't think Dunkirk was given his best chance. Either should have been closer to begin with....or maybe should have waited just a bit longer with that run, reminded me of Arazi roaring up..then backing up. Too much to ask against at least 2 quality horses.

Draynay,as bad as I hate to say it, I agree with your comment about Pletcher. Would made for a better argument if he had waited til next day, when he would have come off a lot cooler head. It sounded terrible, like sour grapes and horse racing I think has and should always be above that. Have your gripes and complaints, just keep'em in good company, regroup and try to move on. Some might suggest Pletcher made the mistake, not Gulfstream.

Deacon, The "Mousse" was dog tired after his last too as clearly noted on this website as well as others. The surface has been, as should be a major consideration when listing "top 5". I guarantee you if IWR had not won when he went East, he would not even be mentioned either. In this sport, you have to prove it before you get the respect you may or may not deserve. QR, FF, IWR have done this. Dunkirk has proven to be a "will be really good soon" horse, just how soon is yet to be determined. He ran great. And having been beaten less than 2 by QR seems to show the best is yet to come. If Imperial Council can be considered "live", then so can Dunkirk to at least some level.

30 Mar 2009 3:56 PM
James Willoughby

Steve, Racing Post here. I time all races in Dubai meticulously and often find there are disparities. However, these are usually of the order of 0.5sec and consistent across all races on a given day. I make allowances for this in my speed figures.

I suspect there aystem is the same one used in France where an operator starts the system by hand and the sectionals and final time is done electronically. (It is a bit like the way that 40-yard dash times are recorded at the NFL combine, and we all saw what happened there!)

If that is wrong, my apologies. I will endeavour to find out for sure.

Anyway, on World Cup night, I get nothing like you. I caught Well Armed in 2m 00.35sec, which, when you add on the stopwatch operator's reaction time, comes out at 2:00.7/.8. I found the same thing will all races, except the Sheema Classic which came out bang on the official time.

If you are using a film, is there a chance it is running faster than real life?

Just in case you didn't know, there are official times and sectionals available at

I hope that helps.

May I say I am a huge fan of your writing and analysis. You have been a great influence on my career.

James Willoughby, Racing Post  

30 Mar 2009 3:56 PM
Mike Relva


Very good point regarding decline in racing. Guess you and I and a few others had the correct horse last Saturday!

30 Mar 2009 3:57 PM
Mike Relva


I don't think even Todd is foolish enough to try and squeeze another race in for Dunkirk before the Derby. At least,I hope not!

30 Mar 2009 3:59 PM

It didnt take a genious to figure out they souped that track up lightning fast, reminded me of the old Keeneland a conveyor belt for speed....Quality Road looked good but lets see what happens at churchill before we pencil him in just yet...What happens when he draws post 19 and theres 15 other horses this year that need the front GOOD LUCK

30 Mar 2009 3:59 PM

Not all that impressed with any of the present top 9 or 10. Feel Quality Road's and Dunkirk's performances in Fla. Derby suggest that neither wants 10f, but then again entire Derby field may be composed of similar. Should either Patena or Chocolate Candy impress, or sufficently hold their own in their next starts, would lean toward one of them.  

30 Mar 2009 4:06 PM

training a horse up to a race, or racing a horse, they are all people. Ask Woody Stephans what his views on training vs racing a horse [see circa 1982 Conquistador Cielo...Metropolitan[vs older runners]...5 days later the about that for doing whats right by the horse.How many out there would have agreed with that piece of brilliance!

30 Mar 2009 5:02 PM

Was very impressed with Quality Road's performance, unless Pioneer of the Nile runs one heck of a race, "QR" is my new Derby candidate.  Dunkirk?? I DON'T THINK SO!!  As for Todd P.  go somewhere else to whine, with an attitude like that it' no wonder you've never been inside the "horseshoe" at Churchill Downs.  

30 Mar 2009 5:11 PM
Marc W

OK, my two cents on a silly sidelight topic. Yes, Saturday Night Live had the whinners skit for weeks. It was funny because lets face it know one likes hearing people complain (I drown out my wife when she does)and poking fun is a way to stop it.

That being said--he has a case here.

I would be pissed as well if the track was playing like that--it certainly didn't play fair. Would the result have been different? Don't know?---but it would have been nice to know on a fair track.

Hope he makes the Derby if that is what they want to do. He certainly ran well enough to be much more worthy than some who might have more earnings-Bittle Road gives him one horse maybe that can save getting possibly injured, sweaty and dirty for no good reason on May 2nd that he maybe can control. It would be nice to think that some others wouldn't waste spaces available just to have their name as owner in the big race just to see it there with no shot.

30 Mar 2009 5:42 PM

Dunkirk is Todd's best chance at the roses.  So, he popped off like a human with real emotion.  At least - unlike most trainers - he is NOT running the horse again before Derby.

I am sticking with POTN until he loses.  And I might still stick with him.  But I think he should win Sat. if he is 100% because the grapefruit appears to be squeezed.  Very wary of Chocolate Candy, though.

30 Mar 2009 5:44 PM
2 time valley player of the year

Mikie R you have been around horse racing a longtime and surley must remember Dr fager, Buckpasser, Damascus etc , these horses  ran a lot and under much heavier weights became champions then modern horses -question what has happened to the training methods used on these champions and others like them from the 50's 60's 70's 3 races and a horse is tired what does that tell the world about conditioning and preparation used by today's trainers and owners? these horses are athelets and should be trained like iron horses of the past. I just don't get this so much time off and pampered horses who aren't in the the best condion as they could be to race! Does anybody think mike phelps became such a great athelete by working out once a week?The better fit a horse is the better he performs .

30 Mar 2009 5:47 PM
For Big Red

Just over a month left until Derby day, and there's still several important prep races to go before the field is set. So I'm not jumping on any bandwagon yet.

GLIMMERGLASS: I agree with you, and wish that Dunkirk was not going to be rushed into the Derby.

DRAYNAY: I've agreed with you all along about QR, but now must say that I don't know what to make of his race in light of the intense Gulfstream Park speed bias.

30 Mar 2009 6:21 PM

Attention Draynay:

For the past month or so I've have read your comments regularly. I have seen you jump off and on certain horses bandwagons. I will say your definitely at the drivers seat to the Quality Road band wagon.

However if your a regular horse player you can't sit there and tell me & everyone else seriously that the track on FD day wasn't juiced. There were two or three track records set! Not to mention in general that tracks on big days always speed up the track.

On both Kentucky Derby and Belmont day last year there were maybe at best two horses that won coming from off the pace.  If you pay attention on the big days you will see a very high  % of horses either win on the lead or no more than 3-4 lengths off the leader.

I didn't get to watch the race live but when I was told he set a track record and when I did have the chance to watch the race I wasn't in aw. Yeah the time is really fast but considering how the track was playing it wasn't as impressive as the time suggested.

I asked Matt Carothers his opinion about if he agrees with my statement that tracks always on big days speed up the track for that day and his response was,

That's the way it has been for as long as I can remember. The rationale is simple, let's speed up the track when everybodys watching and hopefully get a spectacular result because of it. As long as tracks are consistent with this philosophy I don't really have a problem with it. Trainers have to be cognizant of it and prepare accordingly.

I'm not saying Quality Road is not a great horse but you know it takes a very special horse to run the splits he did and not back up. I can't wait to the speed variant of the track on FD derby day.  So either he is already up in the league with the greats of all time or as most of the honest handicappers will tell you the track helped his final time.

Let me ask you this now that I have seen what he earned for a beyer in the FDBY. If that was such a great performance running 1:47.72 then why did he only earn a 103 beyer in the race. Thats rights only a 103. If he didn't run on a track that was lighting fast and was playing honestly no question he would of either matched or exceeded his last beyer of 113 from the FOY.

I don't have to be an expert on how they come up with the beyer to figure out why he only got a 103 it was BECAUSE THE TRACK HE WAS RUNNING ON PROBABLY WAS ANYWHERE FROM an 06-11 meaning the track was really fast!

Steve noted that Whatever the reason, before this week, you couldn’t find a horse that broke 1:50 for 1 1/8 miles, and now they go in 1:47 3/5 on Florida Derby day, during which several track records fell. But a study of the races during the week provided a forewarning of what was to come when a six-furlong starter allowance race on Thursday was won wire-to-wire in 1:08 4/5.

Draynay now please read carefully. I'm not on Dunkirks bandwagon just an honest handicapper who is telling you what the reality is..

This is from Steve i'm sure you read it but if you haven't  read carefully... Here you go Dunkirk’s performance under the circumstances was sensational, as he had everything against him, dropping back to sixth, eight lengths off the lead. . Of the other Seven dirt races on the card, FIVE WERE WON BY HORSES on the LEAD OR A HEAD OFF THE LEAD and TWO were WON by horses who were ONE LENGTH BACK.

Not a single horse on the card other than Dunkirk came from farther back than fourth to even get second....

Now Draynay if that is not telling you that the track was not only bias and juiced I don't know how much more clearer it can get.

He went from the five-eighths pole to the quarter pole in a scintillating :34 3/5, rattling off eighths in :11 3/5, :11 3/5, and :11 2/5, making up most of the eight lengths in that final eighth.

I'll take that kind of move on derby day rather than what your Quality Road did. Lets see him run that kind of race again on derby day if the track is playing somewhat fair.

I want to see him run that same race on a track that is deeper and not like he is running on pavement.

Food for thought is this your version of the 05 Bellamy Road 1:47.16  Wood Memorial?  Draynay now I see  why  people on here are always throwing you under the bus. Its because of your  ridiculous comments

" The track didn't seem to bother Dunkirk beating every other horse by 6 lengths.  It only seemed to bother him when he tried to catch a monster of a horse in Quality Road who set a TRACK RECORD"

If the track was playing somewhat fair with the times he ran  you and I both know Quality Road would of been backing up more than he did. In all fairness for now the better horse won.

That's right in your eye's hes a monster that's going to blow everyone off the track in the derby. In reality hes just a good horse that has been getting things his way lately.

You talk about Pletcher having excuses can't wait to hear your brilliant reasoning and excuses as to why I'm so wrong and how I don't have a clue... I'll be waiting with anticipation...

30 Mar 2009 6:35 PM
Karen in Texas

Totally agree that both Quality Road and Dunkirk ran really well and should be Derby bound. I hope they find an acceptable solution to the earnings situation for Dunkirk. Only this P.M. did I get to hear the post race interview with Pletcher, and the comments about the fast track. It wouldn't have sounded so bad if he had only complained about the track and left out the part about the Wood. That remark seemed unprofessional at best.

30 Mar 2009 6:39 PM

  Again kudos, great recap. I couldn’t agree with you more that 2 horses emerged from the Fla. Derby as potential real contenders for dreaded  1  1/4 at Churchill. But, will both be there???

  Ok, just where are the journalists and the reporters with the real news we all want to know at this point!?! ‘Is “Dunkirk” now on some wait and see mode to see if $150,000 is really enough to be a late entry’, when most all have already put the lowest earnings low figure to be in at $180,000 to $200,000 range??? Is “Big Drama” again going to declare ‘on the Derby Trail’ or is he off? Is “Charitable Man”, a still highly regarded contender, and yet in roughly the same earnings fix scenario with “Dunkirk” going to attempt to make one last stab and earn a spot???  Does “Mine that Bird” actually have another race within him before the Derby, all despite his so-so not so great Sunland effort to attempt to squeeze in??? Come on!!! Our inquiring minds want to know.

  The California Derby will teach us little we don’t already know regardless of the winner or the order of finish! The Wood Memorial is a nice race and it should not reveal anything extremely odd to us either! The Arkansas Derby and the Illinois Derby will yes likely alter some earnings standings respectfully, but are we really going to imply a real contender will come out of either one of those races at this point no matter who runs or who wins? Well, yes, possibility, but….if they were for real contenders, why aren’t they entered in the Wood or weren’t the entered in that weak Fla. Derby field besides the two 1-2 finishers??? We are running on anti-climax at this point up to April 28th- or 29th, that is, whenever the likely entrants should be declared and known and as to who cuts the cheese earnings wise, and etc., and is on the real dance card, so why haven’t the reporters and journalists gone out and found out for us what we really want to know at this point regarding the future plans of the likes of “Dunkirk”, and “Big Drama”, and etc.? And, such information being important, all so that we are properly informed and know the implied truth, especially so we can be on the lookout in the future as to our gate watches to see if potential runners are going to seal a gate spot or not, and especially all so hopefully well before Pool #3 rolls around!!!, where I for one, really don’t won’t to be on some fence guessing whether the likes of say “Dunkirk” is still to be considered ‘on the fence’ still at that point and have a much more definitive answer.

  We have known for some time that “Quality Road” is a serious contender and I for one did have much respect for “Dunkirk” going into the Florida Derby and maybe more coming out!, as he did run roughly around the track record that “Quality Road” actually broke!!  Great efforts and as where both of those look like a 1 ¼ is not a problem! Again, I have mentioned and have identified a reasonably solid top 6 up to this point in the “3 Amigos” still in Cal. and in “I Want Revenge” and “Friesan Fire”,--while I am still awaiting to still assess “Imperial Council”, “Patena”, and “Papa Clem” at this juncture over the coming weeks, being the only real reasons I see in staying awake and toned in over the next month in my opinion,--and of course “Quality Road”, and yet do desperately want to know if I am going to have to add both “Big Drama”, “Dunkirk”, and possibly the likes of “Charitable Man” to that list, as I have much respect for all of them also. However, as of yet, not one comment from a writer or a journalist regarding some discussion with the various connections regarding the planned courses of their horses. Please, do help us out in this regard. Thank You. A few days of thinking should allow the connections to decide something!, like “Dunkirk” is definitely now pointed to the Preakness or the “Belmont”, or that he will attempt some other run for needed earnings prior to ‘the dance’ for a true Derby shot? And “Big Drama” has now been declared either in or not in the Derby itself and thusly likely pointed toward the Preakness if not as a consideration?, and etc.

  Ok, and lastly after “Europe” was ‘scratched’ from the Florida Derby, as it appear as little more than all a head game a speculated, shall we speculate again?, thusly, will Baffert pull nearly the stunt with “Zensational” and declare him in the Cal. Derby?

30 Mar 2009 7:51 PM

Whining or not, Pletcher made a valid complaint about the surface.  Why the sudden change in track conditions before the Florida Derby?

Perhaps it was done to level the field with Pletcher's intention of running the rabbit Europe.  Why was Europe scratched?

It seems like the Florida Derby raised more questions about who will win the Kentucky Derby than provided answers.

30 Mar 2009 8:06 PM

To rephrase: …. And lastly, after “Europe” was ‘scratched’ from the Florida Derby, as it appeared that he was little more than the speculated head game that he turned out to be, shall we speculate again? Thusly, will Baffert pull nearly the same stunt with “Zensational” and declare him in the Cal. Derby? And then again, is this ‘rabbit’ speed freak a possible potential contender at a  1  1/8?

30 Mar 2009 8:15 PM

not that jo jo would have won but definitly lost all momentum would have given dunk run for money for sure for second and three across down stretch would have been great to see

30 Mar 2009 8:22 PM

How about "lack of quality" with Mike Smith apparently whipping Kelly Leak at Sunland over 20 times in stretch in a winning effort...good or bad thing?

30 Mar 2009 8:41 PM

An excellent Florida Derby, and Quality Road and Dunkirk are serious racehorses. Still, lots a time until the Derby. I hope all the leading contenders are able to stay healthy in the meantime.

I hope Pletcher does what he has been saying, and not run Dunkirk again before the Derby. I really don't think Dunkirk would respond well to 3 races in 5 weeks. This is a very lightly raced colt with big time potential, and the Derby isn't everything. Dunkirk would likely be a top contender in the Preakness and in particular, the Belmont, and there are still races like the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders Cup later in the year. The Kentucky Derby is a great race, America's most important race, but it is not the end all. Remember, Dunkirk's principle owner, Michael Tabor, won the 95' Derby with Thunder Gulch (as well as countless other classics throughout the world), so he should be more resistant to Derby fever than most.

Steve, if the official time of the UAE Derby was off this year, does this mean it was also off for previous runnings? The 2006-2008 UAE Derbys were all run in 148. If those times were correct, then you're re-clocking of Regal Ransom/Desert Party makes them compettive with these past runnings. However, if those past official times were off like this year's time, then Regal Ransom/Desert Party's time STILL does not compare well with past UAE Derbys. If the timing mistake is systemic and has biased previous races at Dubai in the same manner, then it doesnt change the fact that the time run by Regal Ransom/Desert Party is slow for the race. However, if it is a one year thing, it could help explain why the time this year appears so slow when compared to previous runnings. Regardless, I like Desert Party more than Regal Ransom, although I will take a skeptical stance on both colts' chances in the Kentucky Derby.

30 Mar 2009 9:19 PM


I see Giant Oak is entered for the Illinois Derby this Saturday at Hawthorne. I thought he was going to the Blue Grass? Could he run at Hawthorne? And is he now back on the Kentucky Derby trail?

30 Mar 2009 9:22 PM
Steve Haskin

Yes, Mike I believe he would be very dangerous.

Anita, no I would not try to find another race. That would be way too much. If he gets in fine, if not, it wasnt meant to be and you go on to the Preakness.

Glimmer, I would doubt. With only one seven furlong race all year how can you get him ready to go 1 1/4 miles?

Rob, I would imagine as James points out later on, timing off the TV probably can account for the time discrepency.

30 Mar 2009 9:27 PM
Matthew W

Steve RIGHT ON! Dunkirk had everything against him in that race! Quality Road, much like Bellamy Road, had a soft pace on a glib track--in that respect, Steve, I think Quality Road has more yet to prove than does Dunkirk--He needs to show he can rate off a strong pace, like there will be in Kentucky...Dunkirk answered my questions.....and this ain't "Romper Room"---Todd Pletcher had every right to vent after the race--I understand he vented BEFORE the race with track officials--indeed, Steve, if the track decides to tool with the track for their "big days"--don't you think the public/bettors ought to be privy to such decisions?

30 Mar 2009 9:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Deacon, I dont know where that network is going to come from, but youre right about ESPN. Maybe we can get our own network, like hockey and baseball and football.

Qatmom, times have changed since Calumet and Tim Tam. Pletcher is the No. 1 believer of sending a fresh horse to the Derby. So far he hasnt won, so who knows. Every horse is different and some flourish with more racing. Those are the kind I still like, but most trainers dont think that way anymore.

James, I e-mailed you. Thanks so much for your comments.

Sceptre, both Chocolate Candy and Patena could be live under the radar horses.

30 Mar 2009 9:35 PM
Matthew W

Draynay Sham ran the fastest Santa Anita Derby 1:47 flat! Huge race! Then beat Secretariat in Wood...He was legit--and your can celebrate Quality Road for however great you think he is--I've been in this game for 39 years and know this much: However good a horse looked winning a race, you have to take in consideration the track condition when it is obviously so biased...were Quality Road NOT to have won Fla Derby he would be a complete toss out--THAT'S how much his advantage was---He'll have to rate off The Pamplemousse and a strong pace did Bellamy Road in---Bellamy Road ran a similar prep in The Wood, on a similar track....

30 Mar 2009 9:43 PM
mike rullo


why cant espn take off the sports scores on the bottom of the screen during the race.this takes away from race, would you agree??

30 Mar 2009 10:16 PM

Draynay: Here is another fact that proves the track was juiced. Quality Road 1:47.72 and set a track record only gets a beyer of 103

Last year Big Brown on an 11 track clocks in 1:48 and earned a 106 beyer

So how is it possible that Big Brown ran slower time than Quality Road and got a higher Beyer? Simple Quality Road ran on a faster track.

Here's another fact they like to juice up the track on big days. Big Browns Alw win before  his Florida derby win 25 days between the races the rack magically went from being a somewhat heavy 24 track to a 11 track on Florida derby day.

Two years before that Barbaro ran in the Holly Bull and won and the track variant  was 04 and it was sloppy but the crew sealed the track.  

His Florida Derby win of 1:49 was on 06 track he earned a 103 for his effort.

If Barbaro ran 1:49 and got the same beyer Quality Road did that means Quality Road is running a track that is less than 06 and a faster track....

30 Mar 2009 11:18 PM
Paula Higgins

Dunkirk is a very good horse, but I think he was beaten by a better horse. But I think he could beat Quality Road given the right circumstances. I would hold off on racing Dunkirk and hope for the Derby, and if that isn't possible, go for the Preakness and Belmont. That's Dunkirk's best option IMO. I think if they try and run him again before the Derby, even if he wins another race, he won't win the Derby.  He'll be a tired horse. In the old days they were bred for stamina and frequent races. Not anymore.

30 Mar 2009 11:32 PM

Per Dubai...On the Emirates Racing Authority Website ( you can find the sectional times for the leader as well as each individual horse at 200 meter intervals.  Go to the "Latest Results" for the race date, scroll down to the bottom and click on "Sectional Timing". According to that, Desert Party ran in 1:50.07 to Regal Ransom's 1:50.00. Also, bear in mind that the track may have been sealed in anticipation of rains that never came.

31 Mar 2009 12:02 AM


yes jojo got squeezed but dunkirk maintained his lane but QR came silghtly into jojos lane but if Kent had not studied jojo both jojo and QR could have gone down. I know its hard to judge since it was still on the turn but if one sees a lot of races you could easily see that QR came out silghly into jojos lane.

31 Mar 2009 12:20 AM

Not surprised to see the word Sham pop up in Draynay's comments.

31 Mar 2009 1:06 AM

Why has Dunkirk, a 3.7 million colt, only run three times in his life? Why pay all that cash and keep him in the barn?

I don't think he has much of a future. He came back from the Forida Derby exhausted and a little tentative behind.

I couldn't understand the betting in that race. Three to Five for a horse who is still eligible for non-winners of two other than maiden,claimer,etc.

Qualty Road looked great physically and was ridden with extreme confidence. QR ran away from Dunkirk in the stretch(and it was Dunkirk who was tiring, not QR!)

How come no one is saying much about Win Willy?

31 Mar 2009 7:57 AM

Todd Pletcher is a whiner. I've been following Quality Road since his maiden win in NY. Jerkins is a good trainer and I hope he wins the Derby. A nice guy that says hello in the mornings. Unlike Todd who sticks his nose in the air. Dunkirk is a nice horse, but I'd rather see nice people win the Derby. Quality Road is just what his name says, Quality.

31 Mar 2009 8:17 AM

Rocker/Matthew...oil/ sez [and I am paraphrasing]...all trax like to "juice" on "big days"...the other sez, shouldn't the player know what the super is doing..well actually you can find that info about most tracks on there web sites...there is a section labeled maintenance, and at least it will give a cursory explanation..the other is to sit down have a beer and hot dog, and watch the first few races, and you should be able to get some indication of where if any changes in your handicapping methods need to be altered. Another although you need to be "on site" is to go out and observe the tractors ie; maintenance crew and see what they're doing..."floats", harrowing etc....lastly Matt W. you have made an observation that will serve you well in your quest for financial gain...use it when making your selection[s] for or vs QR and that's the best way to express yourself!

31 Mar 2009 9:39 AM

Matthew,  Sham was indeed legit, but he didn't beat Secretariat in the Wood.  Angle Light did.  Sham was a poster horse for Clint Eastwood's line about a man has to know his limitations.  In this case it was a horse.  Sham ran his eyeballs out and pushed Secretariat to set two track records.  One acknowledged [Derby] the other not [Preakness].  By the time the Belmont was run Sham was a shell of his former self.  Secretariat took the heart out of him.  Blame Pancho Martin for not knowing his limitations.

31 Mar 2009 9:43 AM

Mr. Bill, lottsa runners don't do 12 furlongs...Poncho was an excellent conditioner, and like they say you don't know unless you try...everybody is a Monday morning QB, or as Mr.Pak might say...anybody can red board...your horse runs 2nd in the first two legs of the 'Crown what are you gonna do? Should Coastal have gone home after the 'Bids Preakness win?!

31 Mar 2009 10:49 AM

Rocker people like you are the reason ESPN wants nothing to do with horse racing.  Its pretty bad when ESPN doesn't even want to cover you.

All of you can focus on the track being juiced all you want... thanks it does nothing for the sport and suggest cheating or an unfair advantage.  Great ! That is just what the sport we love so needs right now... right?  Golf isn't stupid enough to tell people the course was juiced for a long hitter like tiger ... the focus on the athlete and promote the athlete.  What is wrong with you people ???  Two very very good horses run their hearts out set records and you credit the track?

Saturday, these were the times of the other main track races:

Maiden Special Weight - 6f - 1:09.24

Allowance(Santana Six is a good three year old) - 1 Mile - 1:35.89

Maiden claimer - 5.5f - 1:04.92

Maiden Special Weight - 1 Mile - 1:36.08

Allowance(older horses) - 7f - 1:21.95

Swale - 7f - 1:20.88

Fla. Derby - 1:47.72(2nd place dunkirk 6 clear of show horse)

Maiden Special Weight - 1 Mile - 1:37.80

Was the track fast yes...but blazing or unfair? Hardly...

What is wrong with giving credit where credit is due?  Do we have to credit the track every time a new record is set? Look around last year people said it was the steroids now this year its the track... you guys really know how to promote a sport don't you.....

31 Mar 2009 10:57 AM
Travis L

Matthew & Draynay

Think about the track Record?????

First off into these blogs I thougt Draynay was more out to lunch, it now has to be Matt W. If QR got beat he would have been a throw out????? 2 out of 4 lifetime with 2 seconds against the derby favorite, a 5 lengh romp with a 113 beyer in the FOY tied for the highest beyer in the field. Track fast or not he basically set the track record in a hand ride. If JV would have pushed QR he could have beat the track record by a full second or even more. The way he set the track record is what is impressive,if he was all out he would have shattered it.

31 Mar 2009 11:15 AM

Can someone please explain to me how you can juice up a track. I am not familiar with this and what it means. Secondly if they do "juice" up the track, how does that play unfair if all the horses are racing on the same track?  I appreciate your opinions. Thanks

31 Mar 2009 11:26 AM

Hi Steve,

I think Karen2's question raises an important issue. I've been in racing a long time, but remain somewhat unclear on the methods for "juicing up" tracks, or its rationale. The process causes the tracks to play faster, but how does this impact on safety? Does it generally have an inverse relationship? I have read that there is a theoretical ideal-relative to the weight of the "runner", its speed and, perhaps, anatomy/physiology. That such a surface would produce maximum safety, but can't recall its impact on speed. I believe it had much to do with the "trampolene"" effect (its relative bounce). Would be interested in hearing what a racetrack super could offer on this subject. Might make for a good interview/piece...If, however, one assumes that a faster track tends to be less safe (ex.-scraped such that the horse may more easily penetrate through the cushion)I see no justification for this. It's one thing to juice-up a track for the 2 yr. old sales resulting in faster times which might result in higher prices (an obviously poor practice), but what is to be gained from causing faster times in a race? Visually, none can perceive any difference. Note also that this practice is generally implemented on days when the runners are of higher quality-faster horses. All else equal, the faster the horse, the more prone it is to injury. Does a potential track record add that much to the lure or excitement of racing? Should, however, the track supers contend that a juiced-up track is a safer track (ex.-minimizes "cupping", etc.) then why isn't such conditioning done on a regular basis?        

31 Mar 2009 1:15 PM

Nickie,  I understand what you're saying, but the Coastal analogy isn't good because he was a new shooter in the Belmont.  Bet Big or Easy Goer would have made more suitable examples. Sham was apparently not up to the challenge for whatever reasons, but it had been reported in the press that his condition was suspect.  All I know is the horse gave it up before any serious running began and never ran again. Pancho's career was never quite the same either after that.  Maybe the horse hurt himself during the race or maybe he wasn't himself that day. I just wonder what he knew about his horse's condition prior to the race. It's easy to second guess as you say and maybe I'm taking a cheap shot at the man, but it certainly appeared as if he was pushing the envelope in the Belmont.

31 Mar 2009 1:24 PM

STEVE:  I have one problem with the contents of your article in light of it's title.  There were quality performances relevant to our Derby trails discussion also in the Swale Stakes yet not one line of comment from you.  The Swale, in spite of being a sprint, has been a very relevant Derby prep with horse that affect forcasting calculations.  This year is no different as it applies to Big Drama.  We know what trainer David Fawkes has said about not aiming at the Derby but the fact is that they have 5 weeks to change their minds especially if the horse is "screaming" at them in the mornings.  The dispropotionate allotment of apologetic arguments for Todd Pletcher's Dunkirk (which might not make it into the Derby, unfortunately) at the expense of another that has already booked his ticket to the big dance and could conceivably make it to the starting gates seems unfair.  Todd Pletcher has complained about track bias but is there also media bias against a horse with moderate south Florida connections in favor of long pocket, big spending connections and an under-achieving trainer?  The Derby trail measures not only the 3YOs but also trainers and it would appear...journalists.  

31 Mar 2009 1:31 PM
For Big Red

TO WISTA: At 7:57am, you posted, "I couldn't understand the betting in that race. Three to five for a horse who is still eligible for non-winners of two other than maiden, claimer, etc."

It's because most handicappers, lemming-like, jump on the latest hot chalk horse, and the average bettor is swayed by what handicappers are touting. I admire handicappers who think for themselves and let the chips fall where they may. Every handicapper is going to lose more than they win, so why bother with bandwagons. Go with what your head and heart tell you.

Anyway, I appreciate your comments about Dunkirk. In both his ALW win and his FL Derby 2nd, I saw a promising colt who stopped in the stretch. As I've said before, he didn't get beat in the ALW only because there wasn't a horse in that race who had closing speed. Maybe he doesn't want a distance of ground despite his pedigree. Who knows, but I think the absolute luckiest thing for Dunkirk would be if he doesn't qualify for the Derby on earnings.

You asked about Win Willy. I, too, am a little frustrated that we aren't getting any news about other Derby contenders. Thanks to the free brisnet 3-yr-old PP's, I can report to you that Willy had a sharp work March 27th at Oaklawn, breezing 4f on a fast track in :48 2/5. It was his first work since winning the Rebel Stakes.

Speaking of closing speed, Willy has it. Another of the many lightly raced colts on the Derby trail this year, Willy has won three of his four lifetime starts, all of them coming from off the pace to win drawing away. His only loss was when his connections tried him on turf.

Several people have made much of Dunkirk going wide in his races, as though it's something unique and special. Well, it isn't. Willy went four-wide while circling the field to win the Rebel.

31 Mar 2009 1:32 PM

Sceptre.... have you not read the above post?  Enough with the track already.  You don't see people talking about the golf course they are talking about the performance of TIGER WOODS.  All the horses played on the same surface... talk about the horses and their brilliant performances... enough about the fast track.  geeeez....

31 Mar 2009 1:33 PM
For Big Red

TO KAREN2 AND SCEPTRE: I'm no track maintenance expert, but do know that dirt track conditions are influenced by soil type, density, porosity, compaction and moisture content.

Generally, the more compacted a track surface, the faster horses will run over it. Anyone who has been to a beach can recall how hard and tiring it is to walk or run in the bone-dry loose sand farther up a beach, while it's easier on the moist, compacted sand close to the shorline.

If a track is harrowed deeply and is allowed to lose moisture inches below the surface, it will produce slower race times. Some horses run well on deeper tracks. Some prefer only more compacted tracks. A comparative few can run on anything.

31 Mar 2009 1:51 PM
Marc W

Juicing the track means they speed it up on big days so the times are faster than the norm. It would be the fast track version of sealing a track where press or compact the track a little more than normal. A sign of this is when you see horses head and head licking your chops as your horse is off the speed dual but the front runners keep going and no one picks up them.

Note--as mentioned previously, you can not take it away from the winners that day-they didn't ask or expect it. It is the cards they were dealt. Sharp jockeys and handicappers pick this up quickly and change there plans to suit.

As to promotion of the game-you have to be as old as I to remember grocery stores using old tapes of races to have giveaways and cards to match on TV instead of infomercials. Silly as that seems it kept racing in front of you. Movies were made yearly of the game, not once and a while-TV shows had scenes at race tracks regularly. You had to go to the track to bet-no simocasts or on-line betting. Sports betting was a illegal or or undercover sort of thing, unless you went to Vegas.

Now the competition is there for horse racing, slots feed bad racing in some areas with huge purses for below average horses. The game has a deserved bad reputation for drugs---in the old days outfit might not try as hard as they could with certain horses knowing that there horse would return to their barn and they could point him to a race where he or she could win--now if you take time with your horse he is going to be claimed--its rent a horse. Put whatever in them to win now because they won't be coming back if they have any talent. ( I am one of those that believes the horses really aren't as fragile as we are led to believe because of the breeding--its more that you can't do what is in the best interests of horse. Notice some trainers that use certain vets have higher win % -it doesn't have to be illegal it just isn't in the best interests of the horse because it is a business now more than a game as it would probably cost you $20K a year in fees to race a horse--Note I claimed (my last horse owned-gone last year) one for $8K he won $41K after a lay-up vets and training bills I made next to nothing and I lost him for $15K after 12 months. I had to eat a horse I paid $20K for and lost for $5K--because I cannot do it myself anymore it isn't a good investment to own them even for fun-it is too expensive--thus little guys like me-not syndicates, that bring their friends out to the track don't introduce new people. Who wants to come out to see a companies horse?

Good horses race for a brief time as there is more money in the breeding shed than ever could be made at the track even with the downturn of the sales and stud fees.

Don't blame ESPN put the blame where it belongs

Put a good product out there-form fan loyalty by racing the same horses in the same colors, get rid of or let tracks die out that water down the game, race a few months a year in places like Chicago, Miami and other cities and states, create a need through less supply. Make it an event, like it used to be.  

Do you want to see a Zito or Pletcher with 4 horses in the Derby or a bunch of little guys with a once in a lifetime chance--Who brings out more drama and interest? Do you want an oil baron spending millions, a syndicate buying a made horse like Big Brown for millions win a race or a crooked legged Canonero II bought for $1200 win the biggest horse race in the world?

Just some thoughts from someone that has been going to tracks for more than 50 years. My dad took me to work with him at the track as a 5 yr old and from 10-40 I worked there--I have seen superstars of racing run--Almost died when I wasn't home when Ron Turcotte visited with a jockey that lived with us in the summer meet (He was under contract to Lucien Lauren before his contract was sold to Frankie Merrill and I wasn't home as a kid the year after Secretariat.

One other note--Avelino Gomez and Frankie Merrill were characters that were entertaining and known almost like movie stars in my days as a kid--In the papers regularly-Ask anyone on the street if they know or heard of Todd Pletcher or Garrett Gomez? Not a chance.

Its just not the same.

31 Mar 2009 2:04 PM

Want to build fan base?

Take care that horses finish will finish their races with all four legs intact.  The public cannot take the notion that a horse and jockey will fall.

If racing safety (minus drugs) progresses, then, bring in your "racy" characters and watch what happens.

Watching Dunkirk in FD looms as a serious threat in the big race. It is a perfect set-up for him.  Leave him alone, let him rest up.

31 Mar 2009 3:05 PM

Thank you For Big Red. That answers my questions. So Todd was angry that they did this to the track for this race. Basically stating he wouldn't have run there had he known. Is it because Dunkirk doesn't do well on a fast track or is it because it is less safe?  My only thought was that if all the horses are running on the same track its hard to find excuses but like you said...some like it, some do not. Just like the Belmont last year. There were lots of excuses floating around regarding BB. He didn't like the track, it was to deep, it was to hot ... but the bottom line is all the horses were running on the same track. But we all know horses are finicky little buggers.. like us they have likes, dislikes and bad days.......I guess thats what makes it so interesting.

31 Mar 2009 3:13 PM

To: For Big Red. Thanks for your insights which sound accurate. My questions, however, dealt with a bit more, and I hope the process is far more sophisticated.

To Draynay: Your previous posting(s) have no relevance to the issues I raised. For that matter, I find your focus to be decidedly one-sided. Not all of us are singlemindedly bent on the promotion of horseracing, certainly not to the extent that we would (or should) refrain from voicing matters of potential importance, or truth. As, however, your narrow focus- the issue is less whether Quality Road would have beaten his opposition no matter what the track surface, but more on how one can judge his relative ability to, for example, win a Derby. In other words, owing to the altered track, was what we witnessed an accurate reflection of the horse's true abiity? And, for that matter, promoting potentially bogus stars may prove counterproductive to your desires. Lastly, if Pletcher's observations were indeed accurate, he is certainly entitled to voice his disapproval. He had reason to believe that his horse would be competing over a surface quite different from what was the case. The best interests of his horses and owners are his primary responsibilities.  

31 Mar 2009 3:21 PM
Jeff A

Steve -- I see you went back to the tie for 12th theory.  Good news for us Even The Score (Take The Points) fans ??  Or the "kiss of death" ??  :-)  

Jeff A

PS - Have people noticed that ETS' stud fee was very quietly doubled in this market ??

31 Mar 2009 3:40 PM

Draynay- Are you just a fan of the game or do you also consider yourself a handicapper as well?

If your just fan of the game and don't bet on the horses that much I will just say you know no better.

If your a handicapper then i'm assuming there are few days that you actually make money.

Myself I'm 27 and a huge fan and have been going to the track and betting horses for a long time. I'm actually in the process of getting in the University of Arizonas Race Track Industry Program.

So you questioned my passion about the sport and I hope I helped you realized that i'm very passionate about this sport.

After all things I said to you, You come back at me and start wanting to compare golf to horse racing? Are you kidding me? You want to compare a golf course to a racing surface? First off I'm not sure if you're aware of this but golf is a skill game it doesn't matter how big or fast you are.  

Second of all  I can't honestly tell you why ESPN has stop the coverage of horse racing but i'm sure its not because of people complaining about them cheating or speeding up the surface.

All I did was give fact after fact why Quality Roads record setting performance wasn't as impressive as it seems on paper. My comment to you had nothing to do with promoting the sport.

You choose to go that route because you couldn't rebuttal anything I said. You putting up the times of the dirt races just proving my point of how fast the track was.

If you decide to comment back to this post I just want you to answer me one of these question?

How is that Quality Road can run a 1:47.72  and set a track record but yet only earn a beyer of 103?  

Big Brown in last years Florida Derby Ran 1:48 and got a higher beyer figure of 106.  So you and all the other Quality Road fans tell me how Big Brown ran a slower time and earned a higher beyer figure?

Want to add Bellamy Road Wood Memorial time of  1:47.16   got a 120  how can there be such a difference of between Quality Roads 103 and Bellamy Roads 120 ran the same distance  and there times were separated by .56  & the difference of their beyers are 17?

That's right if we go with your thoughts the track never changes and always plays fair to everybody on everyday they run.

Like I said I would like you to answer one of my questions and prove to me how the track surfaces and bias have nothing to do with the final results on certain racing days.

Next lesson will be on after Pioneerofthenile finishes first or second in the Santa Anita Derby why he won't win the derby... Stay tune it will be good

31 Mar 2009 3:44 PM
For Big Red

TO BILL: You wrote of Sham's race in the Belmont Stakes, "All I know is the horse gave it up before any serious running began and never ran again."

I mean no disrespect to you, but are you serious? If you are, can I have some of whatever you're smoking? Sham probably would have been a Triple Crown winner in most foal crops. He just had the misfortune of being born the same year as one of the greatest racehorses ever to look through a bridle. (In my opinion, THE greatest.)

After 35 years, Sham is still one of only three horses to run the Kentucky Derby in under two minutes, despite smashing his face on the starting gate at the break and knocking out some teeth. (How would you like to run a race immediately after having been punched hard in the face?)

In the Belmont, the fractions were :46 1/5, 1:09 4/5, and 1:59 flat at the 1 1/4m call, faster than the new Derby record both Secretariat and Sham had run five weeks earlier. The final time of 2:24 is still a world record for 1 1/2m on a dirt track.

The Belmont began as essentially a match race, and Sham actually got about a half-length lead on Red between calls entering the backstretch. Sham gave it all he had, pressing Red to what every observer on the track that day thought was suicidal fractions. Suicidal, yes, for mere mortal horses, but not for the glorious red horse. In old-time racing lingo, Secretariat broke Sham's heart that day.

Sham deserves the utmost respect.

31 Mar 2009 4:02 PM

To: "For Big Red", excellent call on Sham. I was a Big Red fan, but you have to give Sham his due. Many have forgotten that he beat Big Red in the Wood only to lose to his stablemate Angle Light. Sham also came out of the Belmont with an injury. I witnessed Big Red's brilliance in person on many occasion and it was Sham who really brought out the best in Secretariat. Any other year Sham may have been considered a super horse.

31 Mar 2009 4:39 PM

Hey For Big Red,  Sham has always had my respect.  As I said, when the real running began, Secretariat separated himself from Sham - as well as the others - and Sham was done. That wasn't the same Sham I saw in the Derby and Preakness. Do you seriously think he was the same animal?

31 Mar 2009 4:42 PM
For Big Red

TO KAREN2: I can't speak for Mr. Pletcher, of course. What I can tell you is that many tracks will have biases either toward front runners or toward closers, and the bias can change daily depending on weather and other factors. Biases even sometimes change from morning to afternoon. The goal of most track maintenance crews is to have the track surface be as unbiased as possible. For whatever reason, Gulfstream Park has been strongly biased toward front runners this entire meet, according to all reports.

Although it's absolutely true that all horses running in any given race are theoretically facing the same conditions, the truth is that no racetrack will ever be 100% perfect for every horse. Horses are living beings, not automatons, and training them is an art and a skill, not a science. There are many factors that determine why horses like some racing surfaces and not others. One that many people don't probably think much about is a horse's feet. They are not all created equal. Some have tough feet that can handle most surfaces. Some have thin hoof walls subject to cracking. Some have frogs that aren't as pliable as others. Some have big feet, some smaller. Harder, more compacted racing surfaces will sting some horses' feet. Some have feet that make them better suited to running on grass. Some love sloppy going. Others can't stand it.

Who knows -- pure speculation, of course, but Mr. Pletcher certainly knows details about Dunkirk that we don't, such as whether or not a harder, more compact racing surface would sting the colt's feet. I suspect Mr. Pletcher had something like that in mind when he made his comments in the heat of the moment.

TO SCEPTRE: I realize your questions went further than I could answer. I just tried to put my general description of track maintenance in terms that would help people visualize it. I have no doubt there's much more to it than we in the general public know.

31 Mar 2009 4:51 PM


Sham most certainly did beat Secretariat in the Wood; Sham finished 4 lengths ahead of Big Red in that race. However, you are correct that Angle Light also beat Secretariat. Angle Light won the race by a head/neck, with Sham 2nd, and Secretariat 3rd.

31 Mar 2009 5:36 PM


Quality Road may have beaten Dunkirk by a larger margin and run a faster time had Johhny V started riding him a sixteenth of a mile earlier, before Dunkirk had ranged up to the outside. However, once Quality Road was asked to run, he was running just about as hard as he could. Although Johhny V felt he had the race in hand in the stretch, this was not Rachel Alexandra being eased up under the wire. Quality Road was running hard, and wasnt going to beat Dunkirk by more than 2.5 lengths (actual margin 1.75).

At the top of the stretch, when Johhny V finally saw Dunkirk, he gave Quality Road two right-handed cracks of the whip. After Quality Road responded by not allowing Dunkirk to get by him, Johhny V gave him two more cracks, with Dunkirk only a half length back. Quality Road then opened up 1.5-2 length lead. Dunkirk kept coming at Quality Road, but Johnny knew he had Dunkirk measured. However, Johnny V was vigorously riding Quality Road all the way to the wire, and showed him the whip once more right before the wire. Given how the race unfolded, I really don't believe Quality Road could have run much faster; Johnny V was asking him to run fairly hard.

However, had Johnny V rode a different race, and asked Quality Road to move sooner, I think it is possible that he could have run 2-3 lengths faster. Johnny V wanted to save something for Churchill, and didn't want to ride Quality Road hard if he didn't have to. When Dunkirk finally did rush up to him, it was only then that Johnny V asked Quality Road for his run. But from that point on, I believe Quality Road was running about as hard as he could. Saying he could have run a second faster is saying he could have won the race by 7 lengths, and the only there was any chance of that happening is if Johnny V had moved on him much, much sooner (and then, there is no guarantee he would have closed as well as he did).

31 Mar 2009 6:00 PM

4 big red & tony c., and I still look for Sham in the pedigree, more specifically as a dam/ has worked well for me...for Bill, not here to play gotcha, but would point out that Sham[circa '73] certainly did not signal the end of his trainers' success...I remember his 2yo. filly Outstandingly winning the Breeders'Cup initial filly[2yo] heat in '84, at which time he was still a perrenial top 3 trainer on the toughest circuit in the US[appologies to Kentucky & Cali.]...anywho, his lineage has kept the family name alive, with Carlos still plying his trade in NY. I think we will all agree the "Shamster" did him self proud, both on the track and in the breeders shed.

31 Mar 2009 6:07 PM
Mike Relva


I didn't see the race of Kelly Leak,but I can tell you for certain if it were my horse and that happened I would be "finding the rider" quickly after the race. You can bank on it!

31 Mar 2009 6:21 PM
Mike Relva


Hello! Believe it or not I agree with you regarding what you are saying about the iron horse. But,you might disagree with me on this and thats ok,but I just don't think horses can hold up the way the great one's did back thirty years ago. You have interesting point!

31 Mar 2009 6:24 PM

Gulfstream was definitely very, very fast on Saturday, and did seem biased in favor of frontrunners. However, Pletcher was out of line by calling out the track maintenance crew and track officials, and suggesting that he should have run in the Wood. Pletcher came across very unprofessional.

What bothers me the most is that Pletcher SHOULD have known that the track was going to disadvantage Dunkirk. First, the track had been biased towards speed almost the entire meet. Even though the track has been slow most of the meet, producing 9 furlong times of 1:50+ for top older runners, speed has fared very well; horses just were not winning two-turn races from off the pace or from outside post positions. In fact, Gulfstream historically has been a speed favoring track. Pletcher had to know this.

Second, it was clear in the week leading up to the Florida Derby that the track was playing much faster than it had the previous few months. In addition to the Thursday allowance race Steve pointed out, there was the Bonnie Miss on Friday, with 3 year old filly, Justwhistledixie, running 9 furlongs in 1:49 ( as a side note, although Justwhistledixie's time was faster than most other 9 furlongs for the meet, her Beyer was only 87). And while a "souped up"/ fast track does not always favor speed, it usually does, and it was doing so the Thursday and Friday of last week. Again, this is something Pletcher SHOULD have recognized before the Florida Derby.

Third, Gulfstream officials/track crew typically does tighten the track for big days, particularly Florida Derby day. Once again, Pletcher SHOULD have known this. After all, Pletcher's horse, Scat Daddy, was the benificiary of a fast and speed favoring track when he won the 07' Florida Derby. By Johannesburg (Hennessy) out of a Mr. Prospector mare, Scat Daddy was beyond his limits running 9 furlongs. Yet, even though he was close to a quick pace of 46 and 3, 1:10 and 4, Scat Daddy was not challenged by a closer in the stretch. In fact, Scat Daddy was pulling away in the stretch, although he ran the final eighth in a tepid 13 and 1. Two other pace horses, Notional and Chelokee, ran 2nd and 3rd; no closer made an impact even though the splits were quick and the frontrunners were struggling in the stretch. The track was fast that day, because even with a final time of 149 flat, the Beyer was only a 98 (the track this Saturday was about 4/5ths of a second faster than in 07').

Most likely, Gulfstream officials didn't "soup up" the track just for Saturday. As I mentioned, the track was playing fast on Thursday and Friday. Given this, Pletcher's comments, especially those alluding to the track being souped just on Saturday (pointing out the track records Saturday w/o referring to the fast times Thursday and Friday) appear even more like sour grapes and just plain ignorant. Pletcher SHOULD have noticed the quick times earlier that week, and SHOULD have known that there was a great chance that Gulfstream officials were going to keep the track fast for Florida Derby day. Given how fast the track has been for previous Florida Derbys, Gulfstream officials weren't going to try to slow it down on its biggest day.  Track records are good for publicity. Does anybody remember Tom Durkin's call for Monarchos' 01' Kentucky Derby "He's as fast as Secretariat"? How much play did Monarchos' time get from the national media and ESPN? The answer- alot, even though Durkin was incorrect in his call. Monarchos' 1:59 and 4 was 2/5ths slower than Secretariat.

31 Mar 2009 7:09 PM
For Big Red

TO BILL: I think the record-setting runs in the Derby and Preakness were hard on Sham. Still, the truth is that he actually got a half-length lead on Secretariat between calls heading into the backstretch in the Belmont. When they hit the half-mile call, Secretariat had just a head lead over Sham. They had run the half in :46 1/5.

Good Lord, :46 1/5! In a 1 1/2 mile race! After a record-setting Kentucky Derby and Preakness. If that's not "real running" I don't know what is. For comparison, the Thoroughbred world record for a half-mile sprint race is :43 4/5 (set in 2003), and the world record for a half-mile sprint on turf is :46 3/5.

ALL of the greatest horses in American turf history over the past 103 years have run on the storied Belmont track. Yet none ever did what Secretariat did that day (or since). Sham was all out down the backstretch to stick with Red for nearly 3/4's of a mile on a day when the single greatest performance by a racehorse in history was happening. Is it any wonder Sham faded?

The real running between horses happened for nearly 3/4's of a mile. After that, Secretariat was racing himself and I don't believe there was another horse ever born who could have stayed with him that day.

31 Mar 2009 7:14 PM

The Santa Anita to Wood angle is a good one.  Sham was another horse who set a stakes record in the Santa Anita Derby (1:47 for 1 1/8) which stood for years.  He ships into NY and picks up second.  Very few horses have run sub 2:00 minute Kentucky Derbys.  Northern Dancer, Monarchos, Secretariat.  With Sham being 2 1/2 lengths off of Secretariat's 1:59 2/5th he most likely ran a sub 2:00 which could be considered no worse than the 4th fastest Derby time ever when compaired to Secretariat, Monarchos and Northern Dancer.  

31 Mar 2009 7:27 PM
For Big Red

TO NICKIE: You bring up a good point that Sham was also a very useful sire. His daughters have produced at least 73 stakes winners.

31 Mar 2009 7:28 PM
For Big Red

TO GUNBOW: Great points about the Gulfstream track and Mr. Pletcher's comments. You gave me a fresh perspective.

31 Mar 2009 7:34 PM

You guys are great...its fun to sit and discuss horse racing with some very knowledgeable and passionate horse nuts. Thanks for all your opinions.... I get smarter everyday thanks to you!

31 Mar 2009 7:53 PM

Karen, I would guess (although there are other variables too), that a "fast" (hard) track favors "speed" because it has less shock absorption.  Shock absortion (softer) absorbs some of the energy the horse expends in thrusting forward.  A speed horse is going to use less energy moving over a track like this and consequently a "closer" will not be closing in a tired (and potentially backing up) horse, but one that can carry the speed a little farther than usual because the energy is expended more "productively"/efficiently.

Just a guess, I'm open to being slapped down by facts!

31 Mar 2009 8:39 PM

Gunbow... huh ? what ? publicity? what publicity.... all I have heard is that the track was unfair...that the track was juiced.  NO ONE has mentioned or talked about the brilliant performances by 4 gifted horses.  Give me a break !!! Dunkirk and Quality Road were dead EVEN at the top of the stretch how did the track have ANYTHING to do with the outcome at that point ????  Save it and sell it to someone else.  I am tired of hearing about the track.  Sham won one important race in his life and ran the second fastest Derby ?? You talk about a juiced track !!! Sham has fewer big wins then Tale of Ekati or Colonel John.

31 Mar 2009 8:47 PM
For Big Red

ALL: This is from the owner's website. Old Fashioned worked 5f in 1:00 2/5 today and galloped out in 1:13 without any urging. The track was muddy. The only comment about Friesan Fire is that he's at Keeneland and is doing very well.

31 Mar 2009 8:52 PM
Matthew W

Bill Angle Light beat Sham a neck I believe--and at least three back to Big Red Of Meadow Stable...actually Angle Light was from Meadow as well...Sham broke his maiden by twenty...won SA Derby by six over Linda's Chief, Groshawk, Ancient Title in 1:47 ft...ran lights out in Derby v Secretariat! Jack Whittaker and Haywood Hale Broun and Lucien Lauren and Ron Turcotte and Penny Tweedy and my Dad and me  saw it all in that once in a lifetime Spring!...also re my comments about If Quality Road DOESN'T win Fla Derby (on that speed biased track) he is a Derby "throw out"---as strong a statement as that is, I stand by my words! That was his race to win and he did! I take issue with Draynay cuz I need to see more before I agree with him about 'Road....BUT DRAY was spot on last year with Big Brown--he was annointing him very early indeed! Alas, I cannot allow The Drayman (or anyone) to dis Sham! Few people know Sham beat Secretariat by over three lengths in The Wood Memorial Stakes---and he also stressed Big Red a few weeks later in Kentucky.....

31 Mar 2009 9:11 PM
Matthew W

FOR BIG RED---I agree with your "single greatest performance" being Secretariat's Belmont---This transcends the sport as one of the iconic events of the twentieth century! Too bad it was at that terrible distance! I'd really like to see the Triple Crown changed to this: Ky Derby....ONE MONTH to Preakness....ONE MONTH to Belmont at 1 1/2 miles on TURF!....Big Red woulda won THAT ONE, too!

31 Mar 2009 9:18 PM

To For Big Red, Matthew, Gun Bow and Nickie,

Where to begin?  I acknowledge that Sham did indeed beat Secretariat in the Wood.  My memory is not what it was.  Pancho Martin was a dominant trainer during the 60's and 70's on the NY circuit, but I think if you check the record his dominance started to decline after Sham's loss in the Belmont - Outstandingly not withstanding.  Trust me, I think very highly of Sham and I agree that no horse was going to beat Secretariat that day.  However, I still feel that the Sham that ran in the Derby and Preakness wouldn't have folded his tent as soon as the Sham we saw in the Belmont.  Didn't he finish last?  Sure, that could be attributed to the wicked early pace he accompanied, but remember Secretariat ran each successive fraction faster than the preceding one.  That is incredible.  I just think that Sham wasn't his best that day and was a broken horse.  I'm through beating a dead horse.  My apologies for my memory lapses about the Wood.

31 Mar 2009 9:32 PM
Matthew W

NICKIE thanks for the mention---I love to hit the Derby--But I LOVE to blog about all of this and I'm noticing your posts and I'm liking what I see! I'm Cali all the way but am in agreement that New York was/is the #1 eternal quest for Derby bliss ($$) this year...starts/ends with Julio, Alex and a Grapefruit Schnapps!

31 Mar 2009 9:33 PM
Matthew W

Bill you bring back vivid memories! I was fourteen and very much into the game in '73---Sham was a defeated animal and just an unheralded guy---"he won less big races than Tale of Ekati" the latter day fan sees it like that, Bill...Here's to our memories! Sham was at the least a very good horse...Sham was perhaps--we'll never know--a great horse.....

31 Mar 2009 10:02 PM

Some of these posts regarding Secretariat and Sham lend support to the view that "souping up" tracks should be avoided-but now for a different reason-it potentially lessens our ability to accurately judge our stars' relative merits. Notice how often the times (even fractional times) are offered as evidence in extolling the merits of Secretariat and Sham. I was at Belmont to witness Secretariat's Belmont, and was also on hand for Secretariat's Derby. I well recall Forego tying Belmont's 1 1/16 M record on Secretariat's Belmont undercard. That track was super fast that day. The public hadn't then seen a Triple Crown winner since Citation in '48, and the world, including the powers that be at the NYRA-Belmont wanted Secretariat to be victorious. I'm not suggesting that Secretariat wasn't a "great", but that the Belmont final time of 2:24, more than anything else, enabled him to be viewed by many as among the two or three greatest of all-time. Sham, because he was in the vicinity of Secretariat in both the Derby and Preakness is now also afforded a due exceeding his true worth. Some here have even extended this to an erroneous appraisal of his (Sham's) abilities at stud. Sham, who was afforded a reasonably good opportunity, would be judged as only a moderate stallion at best (I bred to him). Yes, Secretariat was impressive in both the Derby and Preakness, but what can be said for his competition? Forego (at 30-1) ran in that Derby, but smacked the rail while finishing 4th. The tall, then gangly Forego was far from his prime. Secretariat and Forego never met again, but one wonders how Secretariat would have fared against the real Forego. Had there been the opportunity later for several races between them, and had they swapped or been close, Secretariat would not now be held in such reverance (let alone Sham). As far as Secretariat's Belmont- the field was extremely short (only three other horses I recall- a spent Sham, My Gallant and Twice A Prince). Some horses perform quite bravely when there's no competition. Also, his track record has withstood the test of time, because there really hasn't been much of a real test of time. The distance is seldom used, and I doubt the track was ever any faster than that day at Belmont. I understand the limitations we have in accurately comparing horses of different generations, but I could never accept Secretariat as one of the elite greats. Among his relative contemporaries (25 yr. time frame) I'd place several well above him-Buckpasser, Graustark, Tom Fool, Dr. Fager and Ribot. Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid were likely his equals or better, and same could be said for the more recent Dubai Millennium. I'm sure most on this blog, and its author, will view this as blasphemy.          

31 Mar 2009 10:32 PM

Another mea culpa.  Frank Martin was the NYRA's leading trainer from 1973-1982, so I guess his decline started a wee bit after his time with Sham.  Funny thing about memory....

31 Mar 2009 11:14 PM

dunkirk ran a very good race. but quality road ran the better race. he was looked in the eye by dunkirk who had all the momentum at the top of the stretch and had a head in front then quality road shrugged him off and pulled away. that is a special horse who does that. i have a lot more respect for dunkirk but qr answered every question and more and will be favored in the derby. he deserves the credit for a spectacular performance.

31 Mar 2009 11:43 PM

I have not read all of the comments...but Sham did not ever run again after the Belmont but comparing him to Col John and Tale of Ekati who both did is just odd to begin with. Sham came along in the wrong year.  And ran with a bloody mouth after banging his head on the gate in the Derby.  Lovely horse.

Secretariat lost the Wood due to the abscess under his lip.  Turcotte said in retrospect he thinks he resented the bit as it hurt him and that he should have just given him his head.

Angle Light was not owned by Meadow Stable, he was trained by Lauren.

Hey Sceptre, how is it that Big Red set records in all three TC races on three different tracks and as I recall tied one at Arlington Park if his talent was just about the souped up NYRA tracks?  Was the Gotham a souped up track in the winter as well?  Saratoga when he broke the 1 1/8 mile track record in a work out? How did he run so fast in the Man o' War on turf - that was a course record, too, right?  Oh, that's right - the grass was fast that year, too...

01 Apr 2009 1:12 AM


I agree with you regarding Sham in the Belmont. He wasnt the same horse he was in the Derby and Preakness. Had he run at the same level in the Belmont, he wouldn't have fallen back until the top of the stretch, and he would have held on to be 2nd, maybe 15-20 lengths behind Secretariat. Yes, the pace in the Belmont was insane, but Sham was good enough to hang in there longer than 6 furlongs.

Sham's Beyers for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were around 125. Secretariat ran Beyers in the high 120s for those two races, and Sham was 2.5 lengths back both times. In the Belmont Secretariat ran a Beyer of 148 (although I have seen 139 quoted as well). Either way, it was the highest Beyer since Andy Beyer started making figs 40 years ago.

Sham was a very, very good horse. However, he did not accomplish enough for me to consider him great. It's too bad he wasn't healthy after the Belmont.

01 Apr 2009 1:21 AM


Almost everyone on this blog has given Quality Road his props. He's a good horse. At least 75% of the blog picked him to win. Alot of people have also given credit to Dunkirk, Big Drama, and This Ones For Phil. They are all good horses. But the fact is, Gulfstream was extremely fast Saturday, something reflected in the solid, but not spectacular, Beyer figs (108 for the Swale, 103 for the Florida Derby). Still, these are nice, young horses and they certainly earned those track records. Big ups to Quality Road and Big Drama in particular.

And, yes, track officials do like track records. It's not a coincidence that often surfaces are very fast, and records broken, on racetracks' biggest days.

01 Apr 2009 1:29 AM

The track does not set records brilliant horses performing at their best do !!!  To suggest the track was VERY fast is to take away from their individual performances.  Unless the track "Super" is a liar the track was prepared the same on Saturday as it was on Thursday and Friday. The rest of the times that day were fast but not blazing.  Its not like claimers were setting records you and all of us were a little lucky to get to see back to back records from two outstanding horses that were pushed to perform their best.  Talking about the track being unfair or "juiced" is just crazy talk and does NOTHING to help or promote the sport. Big Drama and Quality Road are the real deal and track records from them is not a shock.

01 Apr 2009 9:44 AM

Sceptre...Forego[not in his prime]...tuff call since he was a gelding and was fortunate enuff to stay healthy, but '73 Belmont had a race on the undercard that included Forego[8f. I believe] where he won drawing the "gangly" part is debatable...he went on to stamp himself as a great older horse, but I remember Petey Anderson had him in Florida, and he was said to be something special early in his 3yo.campaign. Not an expert on breeding, my only remark was for me I have had luck with runners who have had their dam being sired by Sham.

01 Apr 2009 10:29 AM

When you are an experienced trainer knowing that a track has been showing speed bias all season and you nominate a "RABBIT" to set things up for your "silver bullet" horse, then at the last minute pull the "RABBIT" out of the race and end up not "pulling a RABBIT out of a hat" to get your top horse into the Derby (thereby turning your "silver bullet" into a "blank shot"), then turn aroud and whine about speed bias, how can an honest observer be sympathetic to your cause?

I sincerely wish trainer Todd Pletcher all the best and hope that Dunkirk gets into the Derby field because he is indeed a live contender.  However if he is denied a shot, someone needs to face up to their responsibility, and lets not get any more loads of sympathy for the horse and "red herring" discussion flowing from a "big time" trainer's whinings.

01 Apr 2009 10:33 AM
Marc W

Scepter -you missed Hoist the Flag and Damascus---But Why?

Secretariat was best of his generation and was a champion and great horse as were a number of horses. I am huge fan of saying Dr. Fager was the best-but I can't prove it.

I will say one thing though---Finishing second doesn't mean if the first place horse was not in there the second place would win. Lets look at the Gotham--would the horse put away by the winner actually been caught by the second horse? As for excuses and this goes way back to a horse called "The Scoundrel" I worked with his groom. He placed in Triple Crown races and big races around the country--he always had excuses and bad trips--nice horse but not a winner.

I definitely am not in the Sham camp---would he have won the Derby-quite possibly but get off the second fastest Derby kick--times and records are only for winners. Triple crown? I seriously doubt it. Good horse yes, great?-Hardly to be rated near Secretariat and I don't have him on top as mentioned-I am not knocking him as great and certainly could be wrong as anyone picking him.

Although not in my top twenty Prove Out when he beat Secretariat might have won against any horse in history that day-Period!. He was soooooo good that day-

--Funny Cide's Preakness--does anyone think Empire Maker although I rate him better of the two, would have beat him that day if he had run? Doubt it.

Horses get beat by lessers that have that one big day all the time.

Throw in Youth, All Along, Dalhia, why not even the Diva, and as mentioned Hoist the Flag--If Jean Cruguet rode Slew and I rate him in the top 5 says he former was better-what kind of horse was he? His stud career was much too limited but that was great as well.

All guess work---argue all you want-there will never be a clear cut winner. Is there a God?-Same argument but different topic-lots of discussion with no side having defining facts-I am sure someone is right.

01 Apr 2009 1:15 PM
Matthew W

Sceptre I agree with you the '73 Belmont Park track was souped up---But the '73 Derby, run in 1:59 2/5, was won by a horse who came from LAST place! Out of those horses you named--at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill, I'll take a Secretariat/Bid exacta box and I'll take your $$ too!

01 Apr 2009 8:10 PM

Hi Matthew W:

Since the issue of this blog is souped-up tracks I'll respond to your reply by saying-the fact that a horse (Secretariat)comes from dead last to win that Derby at Churchill doesn't eliminate the possibility that this track (or any track) was souped-up that day. Not saying that it was-at least any moreso than on other Derbys-I don't know, but I suppose a careful review of the other races on the card that day may shed some light. As far as the 1:59:2 (track record)-note that Secretariat beat Sham by two lengths (approx. 2/5 second)-so Sham that day also broke the record. One could also argue that Sham ran the more taxing race. I'm not suggesting that running times are entirely irrelevant when judging relative ability, but only that they should be considered with a grain of salt. After all, let's face it, Sham wasn't in a league with any of the greats. And I doubt you'd take my $$. Buckpasser, for one, never lost a race without having a legitimate excuse. This cannot be said for Secretariat. I also believe that Buckpasser competed against stiffer competition-and was a member of likely the greatest crop in history (yes, my perspective is broad-I'm aware of the 3 yr. old crop of 1957, and those others). I mention him again, because it annoys me that fans of today fail to appreciate his absolute greatness. Simply the most perfect thoroughbred I've ever witnessed. They rave about Secretariat's looks-trust me there is no comparison. They rave about Secretariat's pedigree-I'd argue that Buckpasser's was better yet. But, had Buckpasser competed in that year's triple crown (and had Graustark likewise) I'm not so certain that Buckpasser would have taken it all. That's how brilliant was Graustark. I've followed this for 50 years, and have never again seen their like. Since those days it's all anti-climax.    

01 Apr 2009 10:45 PM
Matthew W

sceptre--I disagree! I'll "forgive" Sham for taking so long to break his maiden---but I won't "face it" about Sham not being great--based on what? Cuz you saw Buckpasser? Buckpasser and Graustark and other greats did not compete in the Derby! Sham broke his maiden by twenty, won SA Derby by six in 1:47 over Linda's Chief/Groshawk/Ancient Title---then beat Secretariat in Wood---THEN he faced off with Big Red---WHY couldn't HE run under 2:00 in The Derby? Cuz YOU SAY?

02 Apr 2009 12:39 PM
marc W

Sham shouldn't be taken in the same breath as Buckpasser-one was a winner one wasn't. When he, Dr Fager and Damascus ran in the same race I think they were the best 3 horses ever to be on a track in the same race at the same time. 3 winners--although I take a little exception that Buckpasser was the best of three-I rate him 3rd in that group. There have been better than 2 of them but never in the same race of 3 greats. (Slew and Affirmed would be another all time greats match up-Sham would have been about as far behind as in the Belmont there as well)

Dr Fager--people who didn't know him will never one what fast was---no horse ever alive could beat him going 6F lets just say up to a mile, and needed help doing it at 1 1/4. Even with it couldn't do it most of the time.--Remember his 3 yr old crop---the best ever.

Again whats the point? I firmly believe Kelso was much superior to John Henry, and Forego and in today's purses probably would have made $25 million--whats the point-can't prove it. I loved John Henry. He and Forego were certainly great horses, but they came when in my opinion the challengers were a little weak. The Bart and Honest Pleasure although nice horses won't ever hit the top 100-150.

Mathew why times? No meaning--I have seen 10K go in 108: & change and stakes won in 1:13. In the old days of Turf Paradise 3K claimer used to shade 1:10 in 6 races a day

Fager once went 6f in 1:06 in a longer race, miles in 1:32 and carried far more weight. In his last race his trainer said to put 160lb on him it wouldn't matter--he broke the track record that day too and it stood for over 20 years---although I not going to look this up but I believe he carried close to 140lb----Sham that!

02 Apr 2009 4:11 PM

The 1967 Woodward featured 4 yr. old Buckpasser against Dr. Fager and Damascus, both 3 yr. olds. I was there, and knew then that this would be the greatest field I would ever witness. The real Buckpasser couldn't show up that day-by then he was hobbled with an arthritic rt pastern and hoof (always plagued by quarter cracks-at least 9 as I recall). Phipps ran him that day as a "sporting gesture" (pleasant phrase for a risky and very poor decision). I bet him that day despite knowing that he couldn't win. Read all you can about him, watch his races, and perhaps then you'll understand my regard for him.

02 Apr 2009 7:23 PM

This argument is old and regurgitated already. Why do people get into debates about the great horses that have passed? We all have our favorites and we all have reasons why. All of these horses deserve our utmost respect. They are all part of our ever changing racing history. It is a winless argument. It is all opinion and pure speculation. Let's remember all of our great favorites with much love.

02 Apr 2009 9:08 PM

First and foremost I have to say that Quality Road is def all that and then some and take NOTHING away from his amazing win!!!!

Having said that and watching that race over and over again in replays I think that the way Gomez rode Dunkirk in that race had alot to do why he couldn't ultimately close in the end..

Quality Road had a super easy trip from the start and ran just off the pace.  I realize Dunkirk is a closer but making him use that much juice to catch up f/ 7 lengths AND come from the outside he didn't have anything left.  

Call me crazy but I think Mike Smith would be the PERFECT Jockey to ride Dunkirk!!!!

04 May 2009 10:06 PM

Sorry in advance if it was mentioned already but could someone give me the Beyer on Quality Road in the Florida Derby? I understand Dunkirk got a 108 rating in this race...never did hear what QR's was though...

Thx in advance!

04 May 2009 10:13 PM

Does any one doubt Secretariat could not have ran the mile in 1:32 1/5 or less? He went through the 1 mile post in 1:33 before he set the record in the Marlboro & was clocked 1:57 & change pulling up at the 1 1/4 post. This was done on a "wet fast" track. No doubt in my mind if he did not had to be slowed from keeping Riva Ridge in the rear that 1:33 time would have been less. Know of any horse run every quarter faster than the one before like he did in the Derby? Unheard of in horse racing. Heck, lets knock 1 1/2 seconds because of that juiced-up so called track & still ran it faster than any in history. Could I say the Dr. ran on a super fast track for his record 1 mile? Nope is the answer. Any ever see a horse with such burst of speed as Big Red show us in the Preakness coming from last to first in about 180 yards? In his workouts he set records. Eddy Arcaro said in a interview in 1997 he was the best he ever seen. Citation & Kelso the best he ever rode. Eddy told Lucien Lauren he was the fastest he ever saw & told Ron Turcotte the same. Let me tell ya folks, that big red powerful hoss had plenty of dynamite to back up his claim.

21 Jan 2010 11:51 PM

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