Haskin's Derby/Preakness Wrap-up: Fortnight Follies

The next time a trainer mentions his or her concerns about running back in two weeks after the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), can we pay no attention to it? It is now 25 of the last 28 Preakness (gr. I) winners that ran in the Derby, and one of the ones who didn’t was Rachel Alexandra, who ran two weeks earlier in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Despite the fantastic performance turned by Bernardini in the Preakness, let’s remember, the Derby winner, Barbaro, only ran an eighth of a mile before suffering an injury. The only other new shooter to win the Preakness was Red Bullet in the mud.

This year, horses coming out of the Derby (five of them) finished first, second, and fourth, and another horse finished sixth after losing a shoe and getting cut up in the race.

Is it possible that today’s Thoroughbreds are more resilient than most trainers think? The belief here is that horses get on a roll, or an adrenaline high, which is why the majority of Derby–Preakness winners run more impressively in the Preakness. If the Derby takes such a toll on a horse how come Funny Cide and Smarty Jones were able to come back in two weeks and win the Preakness by nine and 11 lengths, respectively? How could Afleet Alex have come back in two weeks after a hard race in the Derby to run one of the most amazing races in Triple Crown history? Where was Big Brown’s regression in the Preakness after his stunning Derby victory in only his fourth career start? After his gut-wrenching stretch battle in the Derby, how could Silver Charm have come back in two weeks and score another gut-wrenching victory? Why were Real Quiet and Charismatic able to come back in two weeks and improve off their Derby victories?

And we’re just talking about the so-called “fragile” horses of recent years. Did finishing 16th in the Derby prevent Louis Quatorze from equaling the stakes record in the Preakness? Did finishing 10th in the Derby as the favorite prevent Hansel from winning the Preakness by seven lengths?

Isn’t it time for trainers to stop worrying about coming back in two weeks, especially when they run their horses in the Derby off five- and six-week layoffs? In the 1940s and ‘50s, of the 20 Kentucky Derby winners, 12 of them ran four days before the Derby, and many of them worked a half-mile in between. The Blue Grass was nine days before the Derby and the Wood Memorial and Arkansas Derby were two weeks before the Derby.

We’re not criticizing trainers for voicing their concerns about coming back in two weeks. That is the conservative thinking that is ingrained in many of today’s trainers.

The bottom line is five trainers this year did indeed come back in two weeks, concerns or no concerns, with mainly successful results, and however reluctant they were to do it, they at least did and deserve credit for that. All we’re saying is that perhaps it is not as excruciating a task as one might think, as long as the horse comes out of the Derby in good shape. After all, the horses keep proving year after year they are more than up to it. And if they do get past the Preakness, then trainers can start concerning themselves with keeping them going in the Belmont. That will take more skill and horsemanship than getting them ready for the Preakness.

Pace perception

Sometimes there is more to pace than just the bare numbers. One of the main topics of conversation since the Derby was how slow the pace was, and how Shackleford set the slowest three-quarter fraction (1:13.40) since 1947. There is no disputing that time, as that is what the teletimer read.

But there are times when your eyes and brain contradict what the teletimer says. It has been widely acknowledged by several trainers that the Churchill Downs surface on Derby Day was very deep and cuppy as it dried out following more than a week of rain. They felt the surface, while obviously safer, wasn’t as tight as it used to be when we had several years of blistering fractions. Those were the days when they had deep and often-times cuppy surfaces in the days and weeks leading up to the Derby and then a rock-hard surface on Derby Day.

The point we’re trying to make is that from a visual standpoint, it did not look as if they were going in 1:13.40. Going that slow you would expect the majority of the field to be pretty well bunched up. Instead, the field was strung out nearly 20 lengths, hardly an indication of an extremely slow pace. That would mean the favorite, Dialed In, ran his three-quarters in almost 1:17. This is a horse whose average three-quarter split going into the Derby was 1:12.20. Did Dialed In really run 24 lengths slower than he’d ever run before, legitimately?

It’s true that the field as a whole came home very fast, but we still have our doubts that pace-setting Shackleford and his closest pursuers were merely loping along and not expending any energy. If they were, then the Derby was the oddest looking slow-pace scenario we can recall seeing. In short, the eyes contradicted the tote board.

As for the Preakness, the slow second and third fractions following a rapid opening quarter was said to be the main contributing factor to Animal Kingdom’s and Dialed In’s defeat. Although they went in :22.69, :46.87 and 1:12.01, let’s not forget that in the 1 1/16-mile William Donald Schaeffer Stakes (gr. III), solid older stakes horses like the pace-setting Colizeo went in :24.38, :48.83, and 1:13:19, and Colizeo was caught in the stretch by Apart. The bottom line here is, the three-quarter split, as slow as it may have been following such a fast opening quarter, still was a full second faster than older horses went going an eighth of a mile shorter.

Crop dusting

OK, so this is a mediocre crop of 3-year-olds, one of the slowest ever. What else is new? We hear that almost every year. One of those years we heard it was in 1987 after a stumbling Alysheba picked himself up and still ran down a weaving Bet Twice to win the Kentucky Derby in a sluggish 2:03 2/5, the slowest Derby in 13 years. Alysheba’s jockey, Chris McCarron, in defending his colt, put it best when he said, “He’s still just a kid.” When Alysheba breezed a half in :50 3/5 before the Preakness, the media all but threw him out for working so slowly. Now, most horses don’t even work between the Derby and Preakness.

Fast forward to the fall of 1987 and just about everyone is proclaiming that very same crop one of the greatest ever, with the likes of Alysheba, Bet Twice, Gulch, Java Gold, Lost Code, Gone West, Cryptoclearance, Afleet, and Polish Navy.

As a point of interest this year, we’re all aware that Animal Kingdom came home the second-fastest final quarter and half-mile in the history of the Derby, second only to Secretariat. Well, for good measure, he came his final three-sixteenths in the Preakness in about :18 3/5, again one of the fastest in the history of the race. And Shackleford’s :19 1/5 was one of the fastest closing fractions by a horse on the pace.

How about if we wait for these kids to grow up before putting the stamp of disapproval on them?

****

Our condolences to Shackleford’s co-owner and co-breeder Mike Lauffer who celebrated his colt’s Preakness victory on Saturday knowing he’d be attending the funeral of his future son-in-law on Monday. His daughter’s fiancé had died unexpectedly in his sleep several days earlier at the age of 25.

****

It looks as if five horses from the Derby who skipped the Preakness will come back in the Belmont Stakes, where they will square off with the three hearty souls – Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, and Mucho Macho Man -- who dared to compete in all three races. They are Nehro (second), Master of Hounds (fifth), Santiva (sixth), Brilliant Speed (seventh), and Stay Thirsty (12th). Look for Nehro and Master of Hounds to take heavy action at the windows.

****

Going a bit off topic, is there any chance that in the year of the Royal Wedding, Carlton House is not going to give The Queen her first ever English Derby victory? Good luck betting against that one. If you want to see the wildest celebration ever at Epsom make sure you tune in to the Derby telecast this year.

46 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Racingfan

THANK YOU for another insightful article!!!  I have been saying the SAME things about today's horses.  I have found no evidence after a lot of historical reading (although no scientific studies  LOL)that they are oh so fragile...they are just being treated as if they are.  I have a bunch of old Blood Horse magazines going back to 1952 and an anniversary recap edition that goes from 1916 to 1940, and all through those magazines are many many many accounts of injured horses. (Funny also to read that way back then there were complaints of breeders breeding for speed only and not stamina)  While I do NOT agree with over racing which was common back then (like when Native Dancer raced 4 times in August 1952 as a two year old), it would sure be nice if there was a happy medium out there...  And also THANK YOU for saying it is too soon to judge this crop of 3 year olds as mediocre!!  Your fellow blogger Jason is quick to stamp them all as not worth much (but he also doesn't think Zenyatta is great....?), but I agree we need to see how things play out.  Just because there have been many different winners of the preps to me only means we have a more evenly matched group than usual.

25 May 2011 9:42 PM
mz

Picking the off-topic instead of the main point (sorry Steve):

Considering that one simply must wear a hat to the Darby, and considering that Beatrice seems to have already sold her beige octopus/fallopian-tubes/lyre-bird thingie for big bucks on the 'net -- albeit for charity -- I am looking forward to what the younger members of the Queen's family will perch on their heads on Saturday.  This is especially important since Carlton House looks like a good'un and they must be ready to pose in the winning photos but not scare the horses.

This,to me, will be almost as much fun as the race itself.

(I know, shallow.  I don't care.)

25 May 2011 9:44 PM
Paula Higgins

ITA Steve that running them back to back from the Derby to the Preakness isn't that much of an issue. But the third leg of the Triple Crown is the kicker. Smarty Jones is the closest we have come in quite a long time to win all three, which shows you what a great horse he was. Usually, the third race is up for grabs. The first two are doable. I think Animal Kingdom's run in the Preakness was a really good effort and showed that he really is the real deal.

25 May 2011 10:13 PM
TC

Thanks for giving me the confidence to bet my pick Derby pick Shackleford once again in the Preakness. He ran an enduring race in the Derby, more so than any other horse in the race. Then, he prompted a rapid early pace in the Preakness only to have Animal Kingdom bearing down on him in the stretch, he saw him this time and responded gamely. What a racehorse this is, better than most people think. Now he's headed to the Belmont where he'll be overlooked once again. Animal Kingdom and Nehro will vie for favoritism but I'm not about to count Shackleford out, he's as game as they come. He reminds me of Hard Spun or Proud Tower Too, in the way he looks to be passed but he just won't be denied.

This crop will be more thoroughly understood when they start facing older horses in the fall. I think that division is lacking too, without Paddy O' Prado I couldn't tell you who will win Horse of the Year. Goldikova may give the Classic a try when she comes in to win her annual Breeders' Cup race this year.

25 May 2011 10:47 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Steve, great wrap-up article on the two races.  Interesting points you make about the horses' abilities in contrast to the conservative training approaches.  It does seem the horses can do a grueling TC route, yet they are "lightly raced" going into it with weak foundatons.  I don't get it, it's a little frightening, they can run back in a two week time frame but haven't been trained for it and isn't this going to one day come back to bite them (trainers)?  I agree about momentum and the horses being better on a continual cycle of it.  

As for the Belmont, it's great we have 3 possibly entered that will have run in all 3 TC races.  Animal Kingdom could emerge a star out of the Belmont and would put him in the ranks of Smarty, Alex, and Big Brown, etc. with winning two legs of the TC.  As for Smarty, I guess there is hope yet for his shuttling, if Candy Stripes could shuttle to Argentina to create Leroidesanimaux, who in turn made Animal Kingdom, then something good could come of Smarty and the Senoritas yet in Uruguay.  

MMM's farrier must be tearing his hair out by now!  It's great that Master of Hounds is coming back but why did they not leave him in the United States, boy at age 3, MOH is becoming quite the frequent flyer and consumate little world traveler!!!  Good for him and best of luck to all the Belmont contenders.  I am so thrilled and excited to be going to see them.

25 May 2011 11:25 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mezmorizing article with some really good points. I too get sick of hearing about mediocre 3yos when the year isn't half done. We really can only judge their talent at year's end or even years later. There is a lot of talent this year, some have had injury and illness problems, some are underrated that are doing great. And it is so true about times and fractions. You can't always compare them to past years with the different variables involved, primarily track condition. At first I was reluctant to bet Shackleford again until I read about the tiring and cuppy track condition in The Derby, then I felt that he would be a good bet on the less tiring Preakness track as long as he was doing well physically- and he was raring to go again. Shackleford had 3 preps at 9f prior to The Derby and is still going strong. When they are strong and healthy some of this babying they are doing especially prior to The Derby is detrimental and some of them are coming into The Derby not physically well conditioned  enough, struggle in the race and some are burned out for life. There has even been talk at times that The Preakness should be three weeks after The Derby. "Just the facts maam" from this article as Joe Friday would say should put to rest any worries that two weeks is too quick. It seems quick since we have become accustomed to underraced healthy horses but the facts prove otherwise. I think we have a fantastic Belmont shaping up and I am excited about it. If you think you need a Triple Crown on the line to get excited about it then regroup and have fun. The Belmont is always a fantastic race and test of courage, endurance and determination. I wonder what the breakdown is of Derby horses winning it, and new shooters winning it. Hopefully Steve will tell us. Good luck to these great 3yo warriors in The Belmont.

25 May 2011 11:33 PM
JerseyBoy

Excellent recap Steve.

Time is important in US dirt races. However, to me the only time that matters is the final time. If horses run slowly early, they finish fast.

The best recent example of this is the Dante Stakes which Carlton House won last time out in very slow time. Watching the finish, one would have thought it was a quarter-horse race. They cantered through the first 6 furlongs.

It was similar to this year's Ky Derby won by Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom will turn out to be a superior horse who is unsuited to US courses. He belongs in Europe.

Trainers who are concerned about a slow early pace should employ pace-makers where possible. We are sure to find at least one at Epsom. I will be watching because I bet on English racing. I love those long stretches and long races especially when a pace-maker is employed.

26 May 2011 7:52 AM
Deltalady

Nothing's better than waking up with a cup of coffee and a Steve Haskin column! We can always count on you to give us some perspective.  This is one I will read again, as you have given us a lot to think about.  Have a great day, Steve!

26 May 2011 8:29 AM
Fran Loszynski

I must be missing something Steve, but fans that are saying it was a weak crop this year, the run of Shackleford in the Derby was awesome, he was out front all the way, that took stamina. Then to prove his run was real, won the Preakness. I hope he has that stamina for the Belmont because Nehro will be on his heels. I have to say for the Philly fans, two years in a row Afleet Alex and Smarty Jones have had a son in the Derby and now Preakness together. That alone is awesome. So a weak year, wait till the Belmon when we have Shackleford, Nehro, Animal Kingdom, and Mucho Man in a row! Master of Hounds just may surprise us all too. We had so many great horses in the Derby we had to scratch our heads who to pick. My opinion this was one of the toughest K. Derbys to pick a racehorse.

26 May 2011 8:31 AM
Slew

I've been disagreeing with everyone for months.  I happen to think we have some really great 3 year olds, which is why it's been so difficult to pick a standout.  Everyone was riding Uncle Mo after the BC...but he was 2 then.  And doesn't Mucho Macho Man need a new farrier by now?  Losing a shoe once is an accident...but twice?  He appears to be grabbing them coming out of the gate.  Surely there's a way to compensate for his youthful exuberance.

I tried to have an earnest conversation with Shackleford about his PR...since he gets so little respect.

A Paddock Conversation on May 22, 2011.

Shack: What’s your problem?  I

      did everything you asked.

Slew:  No, you didn't!  You didn't

      bite anyone, you didn't

      kick anyone, and you didn't

      rear up like I said.

Shack: I got all sweated up and

      bucked a few times.  Wasn’t

      that enough?

Slew:  To be honest…no.  You

      weren’t mean.  No one was

      afraid of you.  

Shack:  But I like when people

       like me…I don’t want to

       bite them.

Slew:   It’s your face, Shack.  

       You look like a

       Clydesdale.  Everyone

       loves the Clydes.

Shack:  Until it comes to a Super

       Bowl commercial that  

       hasn’t been offered to me

       yet.

Slew:  Never mind the Super Bowl

      …there’s a Breeders’ Cup out

      there waiting for you.

      What you really need is for

      the other horses to feel

      threatened just by your

      presence.   How about

      rearing up at the Belmont?

Shack: I haven’t done that since I

      was two…and I fell over and

      bruised my bum.  I don’t

      feel like doing it again.  

      I like people.  I am not  

      Seattle Slew!

Slew:  Oh you got that right!  No

      one’s afraid of you; they

      underestimate you.  You

      don’t scare anyone.  You’re

      just too likeable.

Shack: What if I just run my races

      my way, and keep on winning?

Slew:  That’ll do!

26 May 2011 8:47 AM
jeanne wolverton

Shackleford showed TRUE GRIT in the Preakness.  Hope he will be racing somewhere close by St Louis.

Already have my BC tickets, but I hope I don't have to wait till then.

\

26 May 2011 8:56 AM
Zen's Auntie

Excellent and insightful once again Steve.  

I would like to hear more about Mucho Macho Mans hoof issues and what is working (or not working) the ancient adage is NO FOOT NO HORSE and it rings as true today as it did 1000 years ago.

I had heard he lost a show again but cannot dig out much for details - was he back off the glue ons?  are they building the hoof wall with polymeres?  I would LOVE to hear the inside info on all of this hoof issue.  How did he get cut up - off kilter shoe smacking him?  

This isnt the first time hoof problems have cost good colts best performances in big races.  

As horseman, We all have to deal with hooves and I am really interested in the background on his struggle to keep shoes on.

Can you point me in the direction of the dirt on these shoes??

26 May 2011 9:11 AM
Smoking Baby

I read so often what a pig Dialed In was because he was only able to beat longshot Shackleford by a head down in Florida.  Two races later running down Shackleford is looking more and more like a pretty decent accomplishment.  Horses (good ones and not so good ones alike) fall by the wayside every year.  And yes...every year we hear what a bad bunch it is.  And every year with the exception of Big Brown's year in my opinion they prove themselves better than "we" thought.  1987 was a perfect example Steve.  Thanks for that.  For the record, I actually still believe to this day that Java Gold was the best racehorse of that group.

26 May 2011 10:21 AM
Abigail Anderson

Hi Steve. I really found your analysis here thought-provoking and interesting -- and sensible! And I do agree with your argument. Perhaps it's really not that the thoroughbred today is more "fragile" than s/he was in the past. But my spin is that there is such a strong influence exerted by the breeding industry that people start apologizing for these babies -- and as you pointed out, they are babies -- almost automatically in order to not ruin their potential at stud. To me, that's part of what's become the vogue for the high profile trainers, namely race them lightly & then retire them, whether a colt or a filly. I do wonder, as well, about the seemingly indiscriminate breeding of almost everybody who comes off the track having attained even the smallest notoriety, Steve. Surely not All these sires are going to produce sturdy colts who will improve the breed?

26 May 2011 10:55 AM
Rachel NH

And don't forget Curlin improving so much after his Derby that he fought back after being headed by SS in the stretch and won, equaling the track record in only his fifth lifetime start!

26 May 2011 11:59 AM
Pedigree Ann

Yes, Abigail, it is the breeding 'tail' that is wagging the dog these days. Santiva's trainer even said it; he needed to win a G1 (the Blue Grass) to enhance his value as a stallion, rather than prepare in a dirt race like the Illnois Derby.

There is also this odd obsession with unbeaten status over the last few years. If you value that above all else, including fitness, you look for easier races that your horse is almost guaranteed to win (looking at you, Uncle Mo). If not for high-status and high purse events like the Derby and BC, such horses might never meet the best of its division.

Also, the perceived 'fagility' can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: don't race them enough to harden the bones and muscles and they frequently DO become more injury- prone. Especially if they are by Unbridled's Song.  

26 May 2011 12:38 PM
TerriV

Every word out of your mouth is just commonsense!!  I've believed for a long time that this is a quality, well-matched group of 3 year olds.  They are improving with every race and becoming more focused and determined with every step they take.  They are a great group to watch - these are exciting races.  Nothing is wrong with that!!  Of course a Triple Crown winner would be fantastic - I do believe someday it'll happen but until then why run down these beautiful horses?  I hope to watch them all run safe and sound all summer into an amazing Breeders Cup.

Really the trainers and owners who run their horses in all three Triple Crown races - thank you!

26 May 2011 2:17 PM
sniper1

Having posted the winner of the Preakness--not as a boast-- the main reason I liked him was he might have needed the Derby for fitness not to mention I thought he ran well in KY and was "good enough" to win. I have a long standing disagreement with another on a different blog about the importance of racing as opposed to works. As a gambler there is no other bet I like than a horse wheeling back after a short rest.

As to the bad crop of 3 yr olds--let it sort itself out in November.

You are talking to one that doesn't like 2 yr olds breezing in 10 and change early in the season (that also means they were training hard well before the sale date) to sell well---how many if not "trained" to win early would be sounder and better able to go longer distances?

I very much respect a trainer like Ward that can key up 2 yr olds brilliantly---but that is his bread and butter and you don't see the prices on them when sold in the high six figures. It is what it is-a 50K purse in April is the same 50K in Nov.

My other thought about racing is best exampled by Saratoga Red this year--if he could have gotten in the Derby or Preakness he would have been there---WHY? I certainly wouldn't knock Lucas for his talent in training nor is he alone---IF given time to develop who to say in Oct he wouldn't at the top. Kelso, Tiznow are two examples of late bloomers that were given time yet top 3 yr olds.

I maybe in the past but I think racing a horse into shape and giving them an easy one a way to go but is frowned upon now in the game today. Maybe we could look at the other racing game --harness--where a horse off a couple months no matter how good the horse is, is usually a throw out. Winning every race of the career is almost unheard of---AND NOBODY CARES. They sometimes race 50 times a year--mind you at a slower speed without 120 lbs on their back but they also run on gravel on sorts and might train 3 miles race day. Try running and training on a hard surface as a human---all the time--- and visit your doctor when you are my age.

Horses no matter what breed and humans as well can't do it either without ouch factors. A doctor usually will tell you to back off training, maybe rest--in this days racing it is inject here- there- and everywhere.

Knowing the game/business a little bit I can defend the vets/owners and trainers because if you were to have a horse with a top trainer you are paying $100 plus a day with other expenses adding up as well---Hard to wait for results when paying so much on the owner. Results need to justified by the trainer for his fees, and the vet is doing what he is told.

Talking and making my views too wordy. I still love the game.

26 May 2011 2:38 PM
SACK THE SECRATARY

I think Nehro is the most talented colt in the tc series,that is still running.Not too many will agree after we have already seen the Kderby and Preakness winner.The trip these horses get,which includes when the jockey will have to ask the horse to pick-it up is a lot more important than what is accepted as losing to a horse that was dominant over the field.AK seems to be the best lets see how he does the rest of the year.Shack is a good horse who ran his last race in the garden spot behind a sole front-runner.He deserved to win the Preakness,but AK has run two good TC races in a row.I would like to see Nehro give his best and time his move better in the Belmont.

26 May 2011 5:17 PM
Aluminaut

Abigail,

Love your historical commentary in general but....The trainers are not the ones retiring horses early. They have nothing to gain unless they're gifted a share.  It's better for them if the horse is racing and winning money.

The economy has hit hard and it's difficult to place stallions who haven't made a solid name for themselves. Many return to the track.  Just a few years ago it was fashionable to breed to a new stallion.  No downside at the sales on this unproven commodity.  Now most owners want to breed to a stallion who will sire a runner in case their horse RNAs.

All in all the poor economy has a positive effect on racing although it doesn't seem so now.  Racetracks are still standing instead of being devoured by the real estate boom prior.  Mares at the low end are left empty and it's a buyer's market at the sales.  People are going to start breeding better horses.  It's all a blessing in disguise.

Steve H. Great point about racing in 2 weeks.  If a horse is healthy, this can happen more often.  I think if raceday meds are abolished, horses don't need all the recovery time???  Who knows, I remember worrying about Alysheba running in the Belmont without Lasix.

26 May 2011 6:15 PM
Alex'sBigFan

MZ,

(Sorry, you men out there will be really bored to tears with this post).

Glad you like hats MZ!  The one perched on my head for the Belmont was created by Polly of Couture Hats in Lexington, KY.  It is a taupy shiny large straw picture hat, with dipping brim, and taupe, gold, and creamy florals and feathers.  Last year she did a replica of a hat Marlene Dietrich had on in a movie where she was at Ascot, the hat is awesome, all white, large, with flowing organza all over the brim, with white florals and feathers.  It was a big hit at Belmont Park last year.

Zenyatta Lovers,

Going rogue and way off topic but

I found something interesting.  I was searching some Moroccan music and accidentally came upon the song by Sting, "Desert Rose" which features Cheb Mami, an Algerian singer with Sting.  The song was produced in 1999 by A&M Records, which is Jerry Moss, Zenyatta's owner.  The lyrics are basically about searching for a love as Sting drives through the desert but the words ring almost prophetic

of what was to come with Zenyatta, who was foaled in 2004.

"Those dreams are tied to

A horse that will never tire.

And in the flames

Her shadows play in the shape

of a man's desire.

And as she turns

This way she moves

In the logic of all my dreams."

It was as if Jerry Moss' dream came true!  Call me a hopeless romantic but I found this to be intriguing and wanted to share it with Zenyatta's fans.

26 May 2011 7:02 PM
mz

Alex'sBigFan: I am sorry I will not be there to see the creation.  I will just have to hope that you end up somewhere in the telecast -- maybe singing "The Sidewalks of New York" and not that gawdawful whatevertheheck thing they chose last year.

Put a couple of bucks on Master of Hounds for me -- and an AK / MOH exacta box, OK?  Although I love Shackleford, I am uncertain whether the beautiful Clydesdale can make it 1 1/2 miles in front of the other two.

(Maybe not such a bad crop after all; I agree with Steve about this)

26 May 2011 9:54 PM
Fran Loszynski

I just have one more thought on the races this year that I have to get off my chest. I love seeing the love Nick Zito has for Dialed In, watching him wipe him down, he loves this horse so much and Nick-Dialed In is a champ just like you. You are one of my all time favorite trainers you even purchased last year an Afleet Alex colt to make me love you more. I secretly wish Dialed In wins the Breeder's Cup for you a most coveted award for the end of a season. I can tell Dialed In loves you too. God Bless take care and Go Dialed In for Nick Zito.

27 May 2011 7:44 AM
Slew

I'm going off point here (sort of).  It was claimed that AK had the 2nd fastest closing time in the KY Derby to only Secretariat, (at 23 seconds flat) at 23 4/5ths.  It seems to me that Sham was closing on Secretariat in 23 3/5ths, the same time that Whirlaway closed the Derby..23 3/5ths.  So perhaps that's the time when split seconds count;  when someone chooses to split hairs.  Otherwise,  I, personally was thrilled just to see these colts run.  They are truly magnificent creatures who, when unequaled, do become legends.  And shame on those who aren't going to Belmont simply because there's no TC on the line.  It's really such an awesome test of stamina and courage that we should never become so lax in our appreciation that we falter in supporting a sport we all love.

27 May 2011 9:24 AM
Danny UK

I said it before and I'll say it again, Master of Hounds has been waiting for this distance all his life. I seriously expect him to destroy this Belmont field, on route to the St Ledger.

Carlton House looks head and shoulders above all the British colts, and his odds have been shrinking for some time now. I expect him to win the Epsom Derby, however, a stablemate of Master of Hounds named Recital has been impressive in all his races in Ireland, and it's very hard to draw form-lines between the two. If any horse beats Carlton House it will be this one.

Can't stress enough how much better Master of Hounds will be over this extended trip. He could easily make mincemeat of the rest. Seriously.

One last thought- It's been a long, long time since a decent American horse contested the Arc de Triomphe. Could Animal Kingdom go that route with his turf pedigree?

I'd really love to see it.

Cheers for reading

27 May 2011 9:40 AM
Smoking Baby

 I think Shackleford benefited in the Preakness when Flashpoint caved as early as he did.  As Flashpoint tired Shackleford was able to slow down and take a breather before taking the lead which paid big dividends later in the race.  Speaking of which, I do love how he dug in at the eighth pole with determination.  Something just occurred to me this morning.  If you look back at pictures of Master Derby (winner of the 1975 Preakness) you will see that Shackleford bears a strking resemblance to him.  Just my opinion though...I could be tripping.

27 May 2011 10:16 AM
Abigail Anderson

Aluminaut: Thanks for your compliment about THE VAULT and what I'm trying to do there. And your analysis of the industry was pretty much what I was getting at, in a less polished way! I do know that trainers are not the decision-makers on when a horse retires per se but, as a fan, it seems clear that many are obliged to tow the line in terms of the owners' agendas. I do wonder, however, what the long-term effect of lightly-raced thoroughbreds who retire so young on the quality of the breed, although I know that everything about horse racing remains deliciously unpredictable in the sense that even moderate performers can be good stallions. But as is true for many dog breeds where breeding has been indiscriminate, could we not end up with inferior individuals because we're relying on stallions that may carry nothing to sing about in their genes? I keep thinking that when all the AP Indys are long-gone, will we be looking at an indifferent stallion pool, or individual's like Unbridled Song who are noted for certain poor characteristics?

27 May 2011 10:17 AM
KenfromRI

Steve,

thanks for all the info in this article. You backed up the points you made very solidly. I surely does seem that every year for quite a while at this point in the racing year we are badmouthing the current crop of 3 year olds. AK and Shack as well as MMM and others such as Astrology and Nehro may prove to be quite formidable horses when all the ashes have settled at year end.

27 May 2011 10:43 AM
Linda in Texas

Alex'sBigFan - I will be looking for your chapeau as i watch the pre race entertainment. If you see a T.V. cameraman, sidle up and pull on your ear lobe as Carol Burnett used to do when signing off her T.V. programs. Then we will know it is you!

Fran- You are so right, Nick Zito truly adores Dialed In. And it is a beautiful thing to observe. I like Dialed In also, his dirt covered stern image as he came flying in behind Animal Kingdom behind Mr. Shackleford first to the wire in The Preakness was inspiring. He doesn't quit and that is admirable.

Steve - the most mind penetrating statement in your article to me, at least, is:

"How about if we wait for these

kids to grow up before putting the stamp of disapproval on them?"

So true. Purchased at a sale at the young age of 2, sent off to training and their bones have not even solidified, their cartilage is still forming. They are still gaining in height. And before they

reach 3 they are already either doomed, disgarded or considered race worthy. I like the 3 and 4 year olds, those are the years they begin to come into their own.

Thanks Steve, i always reread your articles because i sometimes read them so fast that i go back to make sure i haven't missed something and usually in my haste i have.

And Mucho Macho Man, i thought i was reading about The Kentucky Derby again when i read buried in one article, that MMM lost another shoe and was cut up in The Preakness? What is that

about? The Emperor has no shoes?

Does he have issues with his hooves or what seems to be the the answer, the problem is evident.

Wish i could say in fewer words what i try and project, but i think my admiration for this topic is just in my bones and i could talk horses, racing and all that goes with it all day long.  

27 May 2011 11:01 AM
mz

Groovy, Smoking Baby!  He does look like I remember Master Derby looked!

27 May 2011 12:19 PM
Oldie

Abigail, I think Aluminaut makes an excellent point in attributing an overall improvement in the breed to the recession's influence on how a breeder's money is spent as well as which horses and mares are actually used in a breeding program.  I agree with your opinion that many horses, males in particular, are retired from racing far too soon, and are used at stud with little proof of the traits they may or may not be able to pass down.  As in dogs, since you are familiar with canine breeding programs, certain traits can be bred for to the exclusion of others, resulting in a physically or mentally inferior breed.  Since the Thoroughbred's main purpose is to run fast and hopefully try to beat all competitors to the finish line, and since the recession has generated greater interest on the part of owners to create higher value in breeding programs, I am hopeful we find the breed improved, and only hope the physical traits are not improved at the expense of mental stability, which can separate a talented failure from a superstar.

27 May 2011 1:47 PM
Linda in Texas

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Week end Steve. And thanks to all who have or had relatives who served their country, our country.

Sometimes i forget why the banks are closed and why my friends get a day off. This particular day/ 'holiday' is hard to forget though and it never should be.

Be safe everyone and spend a day at the races if you have a track nearby. Racing is a sport the entire family can enjoy.

27 May 2011 2:36 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Linda in Texas & MZ, Karen in Texas, Katherine, Dr. D out in CA, Slew, Fran, and many others,

Thanks and I'll give you that ear sign if near a camera at the Belmont.  I know I will carry all of you guys with me that day in heart for sure, I know how much you all love these great animals.

You will all be with me in spirit.

Pedigree Ann,

Thanks for that history on High Hat, wow, that was great and I appreciate it.

Forbidden Apple, RedandBlackSilks,

Coldfacts,

Where are you guys, miss your posts!  C'mon back with Belmont stuff!

Everyone have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday.  

27 May 2011 6:48 PM
Cris

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Growing up watching some great claimers, most of the good trainers raced their horses every ten to fourteen days, and some every three weeks, depending on the horse. The difference is they did not work as often. They jogged or if they were working up to a big race they drilled. Horses can do this if they are handled by someone who knows what they are doing and does not train by needle.

The Belmont can be won without waiting forever to get there. Conquistador Cielo won the Belmont five days after setting the track record for a mile in the Metropolitan. The horse was going away and won by a dozen lengths or more.

In the movie, they go over the training for Secretariat, who was drilled going into the Belmont. Everyone thought he was crazy, but the trainer knew he was fit, he just wanted him sharp. Horses don't need to win every race, older trainers would use a race to work them towards another race. Why work if you can run and pick up a check? Pays better than a morning work and a horse gets more out of it.

I like MMM and want his success from any effort he puts forth, but running a two year old so hard when the body is telling you to stop him makes for a next effort I will watch while saying my prayers. I love this sport, but hate the risks that a triple crown purse causes normally sensible people to take on animals they spend their life with and love.

How great could a two year old Mucho Macho Man be in the late summer events if he could just quit training a little while. A Breeder's Cup win would look good. Saratoga's races are impressive on paper too. Let those feet grow out, check the diet what goes in grows out the feet.

Lets all take some time to spend  this weekend with our families and put flowers on our relatives graves, they gave so much for us. A few minutes is not too much to spend.

28 May 2011 5:56 AM
Coldfacts

Danny UK,

Master of Hounds was my Derby horse. I was not pleased at all with the pace judgment of Mr. Gomez that led to him being given too much to do. It is the first time in the last 11 years that The Raise A Native sire line did not make the board in either the Derby or Preakness. I expect the sire line to come back with a vengeance in the Belmont. I too believe MOH is ideally bred for 12F. I committed to him early and keyed him on top in all my Derby bets. I was prepared like a true captain to go down with my ship. I hope Mr. Obrien uses one of the British Jockey’s as Mr. Gomez has a strained relationship with the winners circle in TC races.

Steve,

I know you have in the past blessed us with some intriguing stories. I do believe the one associated with Master OF Hounds merits being told. Not all stories should be about winners. There can be some that about those that have created unthinkable history. MOH ran his last 2YO race on Nov. 6th 2010. Four and half months later he was shipped from Ireland thousands of miles to Dubai to make is seasonal debut at the grueling distance of 9.5F on a synthetic track. (New surface). He lost by the narrowest of margins. He was returned to Ireland and 5-6 weeks later he was shipped thousands of miles to the USA to contest the country’s premier 3YO race on a dirt track. (New Surface). He finished a creditable 5th. I think I can safely state that no other horse in history has ever taken this journey. What journey?  He contested two derbies on two different continents while being trained on a third continent. This horse was bred in the US and was only given race day medication when he contested the USA Derby. He must be as tough as nails. His sire and dam raced in Europe where the usage of race day medication is not allowed. He could certainly be used as an example to finally eliminate race day medication from US racing.

28 May 2011 11:00 AM
zarvona

 It's a 'weak field' now, that being that we lost 10-15 reasonable top contenders to injury! ...or did we forget about those left behind!???!

28 May 2011 11:37 AM
Karen in Texas

Yes, everyone have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend! My husband and I usually visit the national cemetery near Dallas where his father (a Korean War vet) is buried. Lots of flowers and flags to be seen!

It looks as though Bob Baffert will have several horses running at Lone Star Park this weekend, including Game On Dude, the high-weight for the Lone Star Handicap. I'm going to try to make it out there to watch...

Alex'sBigFan---Definitely do the ear thing for us--glad Linda suggested it! Thanks, can't wait to see your original designer creation!

28 May 2011 12:19 PM
The Deacon

Bravo Steve, I just rose from my chair to give you a standing ovation. Truer words never spoken.

A thoughtful, well written blog that hopefully could change the way trainers and owners think and prepare their horses, and perhaps change horse racing back to the glory days.............we gotta start someone. This is my opinion only but I think horse racing needs a commissioner, a governing body. All other sports have that..........Happy Memorial Day to all.  

28 May 2011 4:48 PM
Linda in Texas

Correcting myself before someone does, Mucho Macho Man lost his first shoe in The Louisiana Derby not the Kentucky Derby. I am now reading that since he also lost his shoe in The Preakness, Kathy Ritvo has employed a new 'shoemaker' for Mucho Macho Man. The new ones will be synthetic glue on's by Curtis Burns who will be his new blacksmith. Now that makes me feel better as far as the shoes go. I wish him well if he does or does not run in The Belmont. I just want him happy and healthy if that is any business of mine. I mean no disrespect to his owners and trainer. He has a lot of racing ahead of his 3rd Birthday.

Just watched a super Race 10 at Churchill, The Louisville Grade III with the only female against the males. Looked like a 3 way finish but 5 year old Keertana got her nose in there first, just like a woman, don't ya'll think that is poetic justice! And the first time a female has won it! Yee ha! :) Exciting race.

Karen in Texas - it is 5:06 cst as i post this, it is 104 in my little town and headed to 109 and 97 in Dallas. That is hot and a wind to match in both places and has to be tough on the horses. But if i were at Lone Star i would like Game on Dude to win. Love the Dudes, that is a Texas Thang' which you would understand.  

Be safe. And Thanks Steve

28 May 2011 6:13 PM
Ranagulzion

Coldfacts,

Master of Hounds will not finish in front of Santiva in the Belmont Stakes.  He finished heads on with the latter in the Kentucky Derby but is likely to be at a disadvantage in the Belmont due to his globe-trotting across Europe, Dubai and North America.  I think that he'd have a better shot at winning the Epsom Derby.

28 May 2011 8:29 PM
sceptre

Pedigree Ann- didn't realize you had a veterinary degree. Contrary to your remarks, racing them less often makes them less injury prone. You're likely misinterpreting the concept of re-modeling.

Coldfacts-if Master Of Hounds is such a poster boy for not requiring race day meds, how come he received them for the Derby?

29 May 2011 11:56 AM
Ruffian

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Don't forget the proper way to fly your flag today is to have it half staff from midnight till noon time.  Then it can be raised all the way.  

30 May 2011 1:45 AM
Coldfacts

RANAGULZION,

You clearly did not see the trip MOH had in the derby. If you can access to a video with an overhead view you will see how many times his rider had to change directions. How can you compare MOH and Santivo. MOH colt was the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; was beaten by a World Class filly in the UAE Derby; had one race in 6 months and still finished ahead of 14 colts in the derby after his trips from across the pond and quarantine. It is exceedingly clear Santivo does not belong in the same race with MOH.

Sceptre,

Why I am not surprised that you have posed such a question. Master of MOH was only given Lasix so as not to be at a disadvantage to the US based horses who would be contesting the Derby on the performance enhancer. As far as I am concerned he did not need as it was administered when he was the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and he did not make the board. MOH is a US bred horse that has made 8 starts to date in four different country i.e., Ireland, England, Dubai and the USA. With all his globetrotting, there have been no reported cases of bleeding. One of the chief reasons advance for the use of Laxis is to prevent bleeding. Of the four countries in which he has started, USA is the only one in which race day medication is allowed.

With proposed elimination of race day medication in the US in the next five years; MOH represents an example of a tough US bred globetrotting horse that required no race day medication Ireland, England and Dubai. His campaign is historic and demanding and for those who are either opposed to or have reservations about to the elimination of RM for US racing, he represents a fine example..

30 May 2011 11:47 AM
KY VET

HASKIN.....I WILL BET A HORSE OF 1 WEEK...ITS STILL A HORRIBLE IDEA! YOU ARE SAYING WHAT? THAT A HORSE CAN WIN OFF 2 WEEKS? DUH! AGAIN, YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT....POINT IS..ITS BAD FOR THE HORSE! SURE A HORSE CAN RUN GOOD AFTER 2 WEEKS....BUT ITS THE COMBINED EFFECT THAT TAKES ITS TOLL LATER!!! JUST LOOK AT YOUR EXAMPLES!!MOST OF THOSE HORSES GOT HURT RIGHT? CHARISMATIC BROKE DOWN/BIG BROWN FLOPPED/BARBARO ALL OF THOSE HORSES DIDNT LAST.....CAN ANYOMN

30 May 2011 7:29 PM
sceptre

Coldfacts-

Who said that MOH ran in the Derby only with Lasix? Oh, it's the same guy who maintained that a Mr. P/Raise A Native-line son must win the Derby...Where are your "coldfacts" to support that MOH ran only on lasix? For that matter, no repatriated overseas runner is a "fine example" of drug-free racing; not MOH, nor any of the others. Do you really believe that MOH REQUIRES race-days meds any less than any of the others? Get real.

30 May 2011 10:06 PM
Linda in Texas

ky vet - i challenge your disrespect of our great moderator and writer of this blog. Period.

You respond in such a blasphemous way toward anyone who makes a statement contrary to yours. I dare say Mr. Haskin has been around more horses, trainers, tracks and articles in the know than you will ever be. Seems you always project your way of thinking and there is nothing wrong with doing that, we all do it, but there is a way to do it without belittling folks especially when you are posting at Mr. Haskin's discretion.

I direct your attention to Keertana, a 5 year old mare. Check out her racing schedule for the past 2 or more years. Sure she got 3 months off in the dead of winter, but she was right back at it. You cannot predict the proclivity of any horse to break down because he/she races twice in a month. Sure and granted, some have inherited that trait. But those who haven't can run all day long. And then there is always a chance of mis-steps with those who haven't inherited traits to break down. This sport is one of immense chances and we all just hope they all turn out positively.

I say, expect a horse to run. Set the bar high and they will attain it eventually. Set the bar low and that is what you will get.

31 May 2011 11:04 AM

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