Haskin's Derby Trail: The Fear of Losing

The Derby trail is a perilous one, with all who travel on it exposed to its many obstacles and heartaches. It is where the strong are rewarded and the weak are gobbled up and spit out.

The trail is laid out to provide all travelers with numerous stopping off points along the way – each one being an opportunity to rev up the engines and continue moving forward in an effort to reach Churchill Downs in top condition and then peak on the first Saturday in May.

But there is no doubt something has changed over the years. The trail has been plagued by a disease that continues to spread each year and can derail even the most talented trainers and their steeds. It is called fear. Not fear as in one’s character, but the deep-rooted fear of losing.

What makes this malady so baffling is that the Derby trail is designed in good part to use defeat as a positive. In fact, only seven of the last 20 Derby winners won their previous start and only five of the 20 had won their previous two starts. So, 15 of the last 20 Derby winners suffered at least one defeat in their final two preps.

Look how much was learned as a result of Hansen’s defeat in the Holy Bull. Had the champ won that race and remained undefeated, do you think trainer Mike Maker would have tinkered so much with him, especially making two significant equipment changes? Now they have a horse who not only can rate, but rate off the pace.

Gut-wrenching final prep defeats no doubt helped toughen Super Saver, Street Sense, Funny Cide, Silver Charm, Grindstone, and Lil E. Tee, and prepared them for the battle ahead.

That brings us back to the present. The day before the Tampa Bay Derby, trainer Pat Byrne announced he would not run Take Charge Indy, who would have gone off as the favorite or second choice. Bryne told DRF, “We just decided we’re not going to go up to Tampa to come out of the 10 hole over a track he’s never been on before. We’ll just keep him here and shoot for the Florida Derby now. I guess it means we’ll be putting all our balls in one basket, having only one more Derby prep instead of two, but the Florida Derby is a $1 million race, so even if he finishes second or third we should have enough earnings to make the Derby.”

What Byrne is saying is that he doesn’t want to risk losing the Tampa Bay Derby because of the post. So, what if he did lose? Byrne had planned a three-prep schedule for a horse who is on the improve, but hasn’t run since Jan. 29. Altering a healthy, sound horse’s schedule when each race is so vital is tempting fate, as Byrne even alluded to. What if Take Charge Indy, who will be facing a top-class field in the Florida Derby, runs a good third, which would be excellent coming off a two-month layoff against the likes of Union Rags, Alpha, and possibly El Padrino? Then again, what if that’s not enough to get him in the Kentucky Derby field and he misses out by the amount he would have earned with a second or third in the Tampa Bay Derby? Not to mention the fact he would need a gut-check in the Florida Derby to be toughened and seasoned enough for the Kentucky Derby, with only two races under his belt this year. We only mention the earnings scenario as a matter of principle; he likely would have enough with a Florida Derby placing.

This is a horse who has picked up a check in every one of his starts, including a pair of grade Is and a grade III. Would breaking from post 10 have been that disastrous in a field with only two grade III winners where the morning line favorite had only run twice in his career and never in a stakes? Post 12 didn’t stop Hansen in the Gotham and look how much he got out of that race. Even in the worst case scenario that Take Charge Indy got caught incredibly wide on both turns and failed to pick up any money. Would he be in any different shape he is now heading into the Florida Derby other than having that all-important extra race in him?

Look, Byrne is a veteran, successful trainer of champions and multiple Breeders’ Cup winners, so we’re not saying what he’s doing is wrong; just perplexing. Take Charge Indy could very well be unaffected by this major last-minute schedule change and run his eyeballs out in the Florida Derby. But our old-fashioned brain just can’t grasp it. Again, from Byrne’s own comments, it all seems to boil down to nothing more than fear of losing.

Following I’ll Have Another’s resounding victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at the insane odds of 43-1 in his first start of the year, it was decided to skip the San Felipe Stakes and wait two months for the Santa Anita Derby, despite the colt having had only three career starts, which were broken up by a five-month layoff between 2 and 3. The reason given in this instance was the “bounce” factor. Racing has become a sport ruled by speed figures and numbers, and, we repeat what we’ve been saying: gone are the days of sending tough, battle-tested horses to the Derby.

Because I’ll Have Another ran an outstanding “4” Ragozin number in the Lewis, the feeling was that he would bounce in the San Felipe. Traditional thinking asks, “So what?” Here we go again with the fear of losing. After all, these are prep races and it’s OK to regress a bit off a big effort. It’s OK to lose. By skipping the San Felipe, will I’ll Have Another, coming off an eight-week layoff, again be razor sharp in the Santa Anita Derby, possibly run another monster race, and then be in danger of bouncing in the one race in which you don’t want your horse to bounce? Why not just get the bounce out of the way two starts before the Derby when it really matters little? Then you can use the Santa Anita Derby to move forward, while getting a third race into him for foundation, and in his case, experience.

In short, the goal is to peak on Derby Day, not the race before or two races before. Ask John Shirreffs if all those consecutive defeats with Giacomo bothered him. They only bothered those who made him 50-1 on Derby Day. There was only one day Shirreffs was interested in getting to the winner’s circle. If you run a freaky race on Feb. 4, as I’ll Have Another did, you still have two more potential starts to turn the engines down and then start them up again. I’ll Have Another’s connections chose not to go that route, and again we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

With that said, we really like I’ll Have Another – loved everything we saw in the Lewis and feel he’s a much better horse than people think, which is why he’s been ranked so high on the Derby Dozen. And his owner, Paul Reddam, is one of our favorite people in racing and one of the easiest guys to root for. The Robert Lewis was far from a fluke, despite the crazy odds, and I'll Have Another could very well wind up the leading California Derby contender. You just can’t help but be a little leery walking on eggshells, knowing there is no room for even the slightest error or setback and the danger of another knockout performance. Knocking out your sparring partner doesn’t help you when you get in the ring for the biggest fight of your life, especially not having fought much over the past couple of years.

These are just two examples of trainers taking the conservative route and minimizing their chances of defeat. We have not heard either trainer say anything about their horse’s constitution or soundness, so we can only assume both colts would be physically and mentally up to the task of competing in three preps, which was never considered an arduous schedule.

Again, we have nothing but respect for Byrne and O’Neill and are not implying what they are doing is wrong. That would be irresponsible from someone who has never trained a horse. We mention all this having watched races, especially the Kentucky Derby, for over 40 years. We don’t knock what they’re doing. We just don’t get it.

(We’ll gladly print any further comments from Byrne and O’Neill in our next column)


Leave a Comment:

Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, for making a very valid point. The fear that you write about is, I believe, at the heart of what people call losing the iron horse. It's not genetics - horses bought here and taken elsewhere do fine & many of the top sires also sire horses that do well in steeplechase, a very demanding sport. It's the fear of losing that causes trainers to not push too hard so that horses with race records of more than 4 or 5 a year are the exception. And it is fear that has owners dodging races because they don't want the loss on the horse's record, maybe for fear it would compromise the value at stud.

10 Mar 2012 3:20 PM

Steve: Hello. Are these trainers really afraid of losing or afraid of their respective horse getting injured? It seems a risk averse attitude is dominating trainers' plans on getting their horses to the Kentucky Derby. Once a horse has the requisite earnings, a trainer seems to get very cautious in planning prep races.

10 Mar 2012 3:54 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Brilliant, and on the money. I don't get it either and "perplexed" sums it up nicely. Love the point about all the winners that have lost in their final prep or two. Get the bounce out of the way !! I hope a very battle tested 3yo wins the Derby this year for the exclamation point !!!

10 Mar 2012 4:06 PM

Excellent!!!! Opportune!!! Mr. Haskin. Take Charge Indy in one of my favorites for the 2012 triple crown serie. After his ¨forfait¨ in the Tampa Bay Derby i wanted to believe that the decision responded to the fact the colt is fisically in his best moment and TCHI team prefered to go for something bigger, the Florida Derby... They just didn´t want to waste energies in a minor race. But you are right Mr. Haskin, in Tampa were waiting for him two grade III winners and only some good prospects, including the favorite, Spring Hill Farm, who at the moment of writing this lines was just that, an interesting prospect, nothing better than the colts who Take Charge Indy faced in de Breeders Cup. Yes, i was and i am really disappointed because TCHI is still one of my favorites for the Derby and i wanted to see him in action this Saturday. Is it fear? I don´t know. We´ll find out that in the Florida Derby, of course, if Byrne doesn´t decide to skip a deeper group. And finally, like you, i love to have an old fashioned brain as a horse racing lover.

10 Mar 2012 4:10 PM

The operative words are "battle hardened," and no truer words are spoken/written for young colts who sometimes need time to "get it."  Takes the fun out of racing in some ways. I never trained a horse either so who am I to say too, but I know this: the fear is palpable.

10 Mar 2012 4:43 PM
Steve Haskin

Joseph, more horses get hurt in workouts than races, not to mention gallops and doing something to themselves in their stall...from being too fresh. Racing certainly didnt cause Out of Bounds' injury. He's another who was put away for 2 months.

10 Mar 2012 4:55 PM

Its a very sad commentary on racing as it is today.  What happens after the Derby, maybe a race or two and off to stud.  Kind of hard to get a fan base that way, if anybody cares.

10 Mar 2012 5:40 PM
The Deacon

Well said, well written and exactly to the point Steve!!!

Many of the past Derby winners never won again, ala Super Saver and Mine That Bird. This tells me exactly what you said, all eggs in one basket. This is why I don't think we will have a Triple Crown winner any time soon. Owners and trainers want to win the Derby at all costs. This pretty much insures the breeding shed for them. Racing as we used to know is a thing of the past. Your words speak volumes but fall on deaf ears. Maybe they know they can't get 3 wins in 5 weeks so lets just point to the Derby, see what happens. We all know that there are so many bullets in the gun and firing at the right time is everything. Hope it changes someday but I am not hopeful.

10 Mar 2012 6:02 PM

You make very good points I will just ad something which might have something to do with this topic.One word money, these days there is a LOT more money at stake.I think they would rather take their chances in the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby because they like the risk/reward component of their decision.If either colt wins one of these races they triple or almost triple the amount they would have won winning the Tampa Bay Derby or the San Felipe also these are both grade one races that definitely will raise their stud fees(I dont think either are gelded)

10 Mar 2012 6:27 PM
Steve Haskin

Why would running in the San Felipe hinder a horse's chances in the SA Derby? It's a prep for the SA Derby and is meant to help a horse win it, not lose it.

10 Mar 2012 6:44 PM

Very good points Steve; particularly your insight in regards to how a defeat actually helped Hansen.

I personally think it's no great surprise we haven't seen a Triple Crown winner in so many years.  Either today's horses are more fragile than horses of the past, or trainers and owners are more tentative.  With the emphasis on speed in today's pedigrees, it may be the former; fast "early" horses suffer more injuries than those bred and geared more toward stamina.    Are the trainers and owners afraid to lose?  Maybe.  Are the horses "babied" in the effort to protect them?  Again, maybe.  But the lack of racing experience in many recent Derby winners is proved to have a negative affect on the modern horse's ability to perservere under the demands of the Triple Crown series.

10 Mar 2012 6:49 PM

Long time lurker who has been a racing fan since my childhood in the 1970's who registered just to agree with Steve's perlexity!

Ask most human athletes and they will tell you that you get a lot more out of competition - win or lose - than from any workout. And it used to be that horses got plenty of starts at age two to learn how to race, so that their trainers could learn how to best race them, and to get plenty of conditioning (bottom) for their three year old careers. If a colt or filly lost some maiden special weights or a condition or two while figuring things out, who cared as long as they made progress?

Nowadays most of these colts and fillies are so lightly raced before the Derby/Oaks that they are quite inexperienced and lacking the fitness and endurance to get distances they are bred to run.

Look at the pre-Derby records of the Triple Crown winners (as pulled from Equibase where possible- on line biographies where not) :

Sir Barton: 6 races as a two year old (winless) - no races before Derby at three- broke maiden in Derby - with the Preakness coming only four days after the Derby that year

Gallant Fox : 10 starts as a 2 year old (won nine); the dates are not real good in Equibase so I am not sure how many Derby preps he had but he ran at least twice before the Derby winning the Wood and the Preakness (run before the Derby in his year)

Omaha: as a two year old he had 9 starts with one win and four seconds; for Derby preps won an allowance and came in third in the Wood (again, the dates in Equibase are not good that far back, so he might have had additonal starts)

War Admiral: as a two year old ran six times (3-2-1 record) and as a three year old ran in the Chesapeake Stakes and an allowance before the Derby (won both)

Whirlaway: 16 starts as a 2 year old!! (went 7-2-4); as a three year old lost the Bluegrass and the Derby Trial coming into the Derby

Count Fleet: 15 starts as a 2 year old!! (went 10-4-1); 3 Derby preps (undefeated at 3)

Assault: had 9 starts as a 2 year old (went 2-2-1); 3 derby preps of which he won 2 and came in fourth in the Derby Trial

Citation: as a 2 year old 9 starts (went 8-1); 6 Derby preps (if I am counting them correctly) including a loss in the Chesapeake Trial

Secretariat: as a 2 year old 9 starts (went 7-1-0) and three prep races as a 3 year old (lost the Wood)

Seattle Slew: 3 races as 2 year old (won all); 3 Derby preps (won all)

Affirmed: 9 starts as a 2 year old (went 7-2); had 4 Derby preps (won all)

With a couple of exceptions (Sir Barton and the Slew) all of these colts got considerably more experience and conditioning than their modern day counterparts. And with the exception of the Slew, all of them lost races - and the world did not end!

I just do not understand the trainers these days. How can they possibly expect a colt or filly who has had only a handful of starts very carefully handpicked for easiness and spaced far apart to suddenly be able to run the three longest races most of them will ever experience in the space of a few weeks?

10 Mar 2012 6:51 PM

Just my opinion but something is amiss between horse & trainer if the horse bounces after a big race.  I think about Lucien Lauren continuing to tighten the screws on Secretariat between the Preakness & Belmont.   The triple crown schedule is a grind & most thought he should have backed off but his sense of the horse was that he thrived on the work.  I think, in part, Lucien also knew his horse had a foundation of 9 races at 2 yrs old & 12 total going into Kentucky.  On the flip side, if a horse has run big but has a thin foundation, are trainers adapting to what the horse is telling them in order to be at peak racing condion next race out?  Was the necessary rest & maintenance work given so that chances are optimum for moving forward?  I find it hard to believe a horse just bounces except for something not being right in race prep.

10 Mar 2012 7:21 PM

I'm with you Steve!  I agree with every word!  And I will add that I believe this is why we have not has a triple crown winner for so long and why I don't think we will until things change.  IMO a horse that runs every 2 months and works mostly 4-5 furlongs will not develop enough bottom to win 3 races in 5 weeks.

10 Mar 2012 7:26 PM

Sometimes these horses are nursing hurts that the trainer is hiding.  The trainer's know they have to back off to try to nurse the horse to the Derby.  The goal seems to be to make the starting gates, not necessarily to win the first Saturday in May.

10 Mar 2012 7:57 PM

I so agree with you, Steve.  And Duchess, you really hit the nail on the head.  Are they afraid of losing or afraid their horse will be injured?  Either way it shows a great lack of confidence in how these remarkable athletes are being trained.  I love the list of Triple Crown horses and their race histories.  How revealing!!  Both the trainer and the horse learn more from a real race than just works and breezing.  And as a by-product it's much more fun for racing fans to see these horses race than hear about how they worked.

10 Mar 2012 8:45 PM

Steve:  You hit the nail on the head! The sport has moved from having "trainers" like Woody Stephens, Elliot Burch, Hirsch Jacobs, Mack Miller, etc., to having "managers" who aren't conditioning their horses to be ready (and I believe in many cases, even with the higher profile trainers, don't truly understand how to) instead treating them like china dolls. This is not only to the detriment of the sport but of the equine athlete. I was in the harness racing business for many years before changing careers, and the motto of the many great horsemen I worked with was to work them and race them because it makes them better. The saying was "they might be sore, but they won't be short."  The trend of which you write is one of many symptoms of an industry illness that is in many ways the product of the mega stable where it is unlikely that the trainers who top the standings by starting 1000 plus horses a year even know their charges names, let alone run their hand down their legs every day!  Thanks for a great article and the wonderful insights you have given over the years.

10 Mar 2012 8:52 PM

steve - when you write an article like this wouldn't it be logical for you to have a horse on top in your derby dozen like Drill?  Instead of Union Rags which will only have 2 preps before the derby.  

And why then do you have I'll Have Another, Gemologist, Fed Biz, & Mark Valeski if you prefer a solid foundation for your derby horses?

Let's be honest, Take Charge Indy isn't a top class colt at this stage of his career.  We know there are article deadlines to meet, but be consistent.  What about the person who is being introduced to racing for the first time?  How confused are they left reading your derby dozen then this article?

10 Mar 2012 9:20 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Good stuff. I guess not too many trainers nowadays want to win the Triple Crown. They need to go for it and quit pussyfooting around. Can I say that on TV? If they can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. As long as they're healthy, run them !!!  "Oh he MIGHT bounce. He's tearing down the barn but he might bounce. He ate my straw hat for breakfast and wasn't even breathing after the workout but I'm scared he could bounce."

10 Mar 2012 9:22 PM
Karen in Texas

Good point, Steve! I have always appreciated Bob Baffert for trying to get a solid foundation into his colts. Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and more recently, Lookin At Lucky, all had tough campaigns without dodging adversity on the way to Churchill. I don't "get it" either, unless possibly some owners are playing a part in these recent trends.

10 Mar 2012 9:32 PM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

You, and we who read the B-H and other racing news are perplexed for very logical reasons outlined above.

I think every one who responded above had a finger on some of the trainers and owners irrational behavior.  Fear is usually a symptom of uncertainty.  If they - trainers/owners - are uncertain of their horses talents and/or soundness, the competition, the loss of stud fees, of advice from 'old timers' (who knew what they were doing based on experience)then they shouldn't be in the game and putting their horses lives at risk with wholly inadequate training.  If only Wall St. had been so risk averse! LOL!

Fear will never produce another TC winner, only guts and excellent training of a talented and battle tested beautiful equine will.

10 Mar 2012 10:12 PM

As a Tampa Bay resident I was disappointed not to see Indy run today, but based on the race results did there appear to be an inside bias? The 10 post may not have been a great position to start this race with the nine horse starting as the favorite but finishing just fourth.

10 Mar 2012 11:16 PM


This is a very good article especially emphasizing the need for toughness and seasoning going into the Kentucky Derby. Today we saw Bodemeister lose to Creative Cause while looking to be catching up on his seasoning for the Run for the Roses. Some trainers could take a leaf or two out of Bob Baffert's manual.

Regarding Take Charge Indy, I don't believe that this is a Derby horse. Yes he's shown ability but his races suggest that he is being forced to mature for the Derby.  So far he's been running like a bridesmaid, not being able to gut out a win when turning into the straight with every chance. This colt, if waited with could be a very good one in the Summer and Fall, seeing that he is a son of AP Indy, but these folks who own them wont learn from history. The AP Indys do NOT ripen in time for the Kentucky Derby compared with their counterparts from the Raise A Native and Northern Dancer lines.

I want to see I'll have Another run again to be convinced that he is something special and I agree that his connection passed up a good opportunity in the San Felipe to let him prep with a salty group. The Kentucky derby is merciless on the unseasoned ones.

It appears that those with the Juvenile foundation are being vindicated. The BCJ form is shining through.

11 Mar 2012 12:13 AM

I think Mike Harrington is on track with Creative Cause. This horse will have three peeps prior to the derby. He raced 5 times as a 2 year old. He might just the foundation necessary to make this grind. He also has raced at Churchill. Another grinder would be Prospective. 4 starts as a two year old and has 3 preps races as a three year old. He also has raced at Churchill. He might be a longshot to look at.

11 Mar 2012 12:58 AM


Adrenalin production has a sensitive feedback mechanism. If there is a tsunami of adrenalin in the bloodstream, the production shuts down for a while.

And the horse bounces.

11 Mar 2012 1:27 AM


To add to your list: when Northern Dancer set the stakes and track record in the Kentucky Derby, he was winning his 11th stakes race, just before his 3rd birthday on May 27th. (Also, many reports have it, before attaining 15 hands in height.)

Mind you, he was in his sire Nearctic's first crop and was out there so much to advertise his daddy. Too bad, really. His stud career suggests we might have seen something extraordinary had he gone on to run a distance on the turf after maturing. Most of his winning two-year-olds turned out to be stakes class, not precocious.

11 Mar 2012 1:36 AM

Not trying to undercut Steve's point but I have read that the main target in the Triple Crown series for Take Charge Indy is the Belmont Stakes, not the Kentucky Derby.

11 Mar 2012 5:11 AM
Steve Haskin

Yankeetrev, you missed the entire point. This was not about horses with 2 starts. They win the Derby as long as they get a very tough race at some point. The horses you mention on the list were scheduled all along for two starts. Take Charge Indy was scheduled to have 3. Ill Have another missed having 3 starts because of speed figures. And I never said these 2 horses cant win the Derby, only that I didnt understand how theyre going about it. If most of the best horses are going the 2-race route, I'd be stupid to ignore them. Its proven successful. Just stick to your original schedule and dont deviate from it only because youre afraid to lose a race.

11 Mar 2012 5:57 AM
Steve Haskin

Davids, trust me, everyone's main target is the Ky Derby if they can get there.

11 Mar 2012 6:40 AM


I share your frustration with a lot of the modern training techniques, particularly as it concerns horses on the Triple Crown trail.

I call it "letting the schedule dictate to the horse rather than letting the horse dictate the schedule".

Obviously, a trainer should keep some long range goals in the back of his/her mind, but shouldn't short-range objectives be defined by how the horse is doing?  Instead, like a baseball manager, some trainers play general percentages(avoid a "sheets" bounce/bring in a lefty in spot A) as if Horse A was like any other horse.  

The issue with the decision of the O' Neil barn to skip the San Felipe wasn't that they chose to skip the race, it's that they chose to skip it without giving enough time to see how I'll Have Another came out of the Lewis.  Maybe his training would have indicated he did need more time between starts, but I'll Have Another was never consulted.

Steve, I'm glad you mentioned Harty.  I haven't wanted to raise the issue of Harty's management of Out of Bounds because in the end it's not anyone's fault the horse was injured.

But make no mistake, I was dubious of Harty's decision to skip the Lewis from the beginning(see my comments in Jason's blog shortly after the Sham).  The problem I had with Harty's decision is that, again, the horse wasn't "consulted".  Harty decided to skip the Lewis coming immediately out of the Sham, his "ideal" schedule dictating what the horse would do.  Time wasn't given to allow Out of Bounds himself to signal what he was capable of doing.

What was particularly frustrating is that Out of Bounds came out of the Sham bouncing and full of energy.  Harty had a horse that made solid strides from his debut to his 2nd start(when he broke his maiden), and then took a giant step up winning the Sham.  A big, strapping colt, Out of Bounds was improving rapidly with racing, and was on a sharply inclined trajectory.  Then, he's put in the barn for 2 months.

Guys like Wayne Lukas and Baffert, historically successful Triple Crown trainers, have found with experience that some horses actually THRIVE with racing(Charismatic, Real Quiet, Silver Charm).  The way some trainers micro-manage these days leaves very little room to make such a realization(if it should be applicable to an individual horse).

As a note on Out of Bounds, Harty would have received criticism had he not skipped one of the preps out here.  Running in the Sham, Lewis, San Felipe AND Santa Anita Derby is a lot of racing.  So, it's very possible Out of Bounds would have needed to skip one of the races, so why not make it the one of the remaining 3 races with the smallest purse and that is best timing wise?  But let's say he did go in the Lewis and ran well again, and then came back in the San Felipe and regressed a bit.  With enough graded earnings already, Harty could have given the horse an extra week and gone to the Arkansas Derby or 2 extra weeks with the Lexington.  Yes, the schedule would have been altered, but it would have been the horse dictating it.

Steve, when did this baseball managerial style become so prevalent among thoroughbred trainers.  I know Frankel consulted the sheets and scheduled according to percentages.  He was widely successful, so I am in no way condemning such an approach.  Although it must be noted Frankel didn't do nearly as well in the Triple Crown.

11 Mar 2012 7:28 AM

I understand your point Steve. However, I do not believe that horses need to run in prep races in order to win a 10-furlong race. It all depends on the horse’s talent and the training he is put through.

Most of these horses would not see where Creative Cause went even if they had four preps. All Creative Cause needs is a good draw and the race is over. I hope he does not run in the Santa Anita Derby.

11 Mar 2012 7:43 AM

I still believe it is more about money.These owners are in a business of owning racehorses.The ones you mentioned in your article allready have a value much more than when they were maidens and unraced.A lot can happen in preparing and running in a race.The risk/reward is a lot greater running for 3 times the purse for a win than in the lesser stakes races.I think sometimes what is released to the public is the watered down version of their reasons for passing a race.IMO they would rather work towards a much higher reward than put in the same work for a lesser reward.I think it is human nature for the most part.The money involved is a lot more than it was even 20 years ago.Whether you like it or not this is a business 1st to the majority of owners.I think the favorable tax breaks that were left from previous reforms for horse ownership were lost in the 1986 tax law changes.

11 Mar 2012 7:55 AM


I have a feeling you are much more approving of the way Mike Harrington has handled Creative Cause.

Harrington certainly wasn't afraid of losing the San Vicente. And his approach to that race was validated with Creative Cause's win in the San Felipe.

Creative Cause cut a much sharper physical appearance in the paddock before the San Felipe than he had 3 weeks earlier.  Clearly, Harrington got what he wanted out of the San Vicente and the subsequent training.

And I don't think Creative Cause was "peaking" in the San Felipe.  The way he acted up in the stretch tells me Harrington hasn't fully tightened the screws yet.

Some may criticize Creative Cause for not blowing away Bodemeister through the lane.  And yes, Creative Cause failed to post a really fast final time.  But keep in mind he made up ground through a 24 and 1  fourth quarter and then ran the final sixteenth in 6.34.  He would have really been motoring had he finished up faster.  Yet, if he continues to get sharper and more professional, he should do just that.

And one just had to love Creative Cause's gallop out.  The Santa Anita feed doesn't do it justice.  What the feed shows is Creative Cause already about 10 lengths clear of anyone else into the clubhouse turn.  What it doesn't show is that the margin kept ballooning, reaching at least 20 lengths.  Creative Cause wasn't pulled up until midway(or a bit farther) down the backstretch, maybe a quarter of a mile or so beyond the other horses.

To top things off, Creative Cause displayed plenty of energy in the winners circle and then when he was led back down through the tunnel.  It was a near ideal prep, ideal because on top of getting much from the race, Creative Cause won the darn thing.

Creative Cause must now go to #1 out here in California and at least #3 nationally.  

11 Mar 2012 7:56 AM
Old Timer

You have a way with words, Mr. Haskin. Well put. I could not agree more. The real sad part is that the fans get cheated by not seeing these great horses out on the track. I sure miss the old days when the two year olds had a half dozen starts and then 3 or 4 preps before May 1.

Even Union Rags had an awfully long gap between the BC Juvenile and the FOY.

As far as the California horses, they seem to me to be a weak bunch this year, with the possible exception of Creative Cause.

11 Mar 2012 9:50 AM
Pedigree Ann

I knew Silver Charm was my Derby horse when I saw the way he fought back after he was passed by Free House in the Santa Anita Derby. He lost, but he fought.

I don't remember how many pre-Derby races War Emblem had, but he had the two wins at Sportsman's Park and had lost at least 2 at Fair Grounds before that, including a turf race.

Thunder Gulch, Charismatic, Real Quiet, Monarchos, Funny Cide, Giacomo, Unbridled, Go for Gin, etc. all won the Derby off of losses.


Sir Barton became a Triple Crown winner only retrospectively - in his day, the Kentucky Derby was not the premier American Classic; the Belmont was. And at 2, he may have deliberately been kept a maiden while getting race experience to get a weight break in the Futurity, the richest race (by far, over all races for 3yos and older horses) on the calendar. It was a common strategy at the time. Sir Barton ran second in the Futurity, so had ranked highly among the crop at season's end.

Steve, et. al., need I remind you of Charlie Whittingham's determination to never take a colt to the Kentucky Derby unless he was convinced it could win? Just being in the gate ought not be the goal; winning or at least contending should be. Too many trainers shy away from informing the owners (or even admitting to themselves) that their (often expensive) darling can't get 10f in a wheelbarrow. Generally, a third to a half of the gate doesn't belong in the race to begin with these days.

11 Mar 2012 10:40 AM
Forbidden Apple

The KY Derby should not be the main focus of horse racing promotion and attracting new fans. The owners are in it to win a few stakes races and then retire to the breeding shed for the almighty dollar. With every passing year the top horses are racing less and less. That is why I love grass racing and geldings. Maybe it is time to eliminate the 2 year old graded earnings from counting towards the KY Derby earnings list. This would force trainers to actually race horses. Horse training has become more about managing injuries between races than actually racing a horse for the fans to watch. To me it makes more sense to send a horse out for a race even if he might lose. What ever happened to giving your horse a race to sharpen his/her fitness level?

11 Mar 2012 10:45 AM

Most trainers today want to win the Kentucky Derby.  Period. End of sentence.  A Triple Crown is not on their agenda.  They know their horses today are too fragile and too short.  We've bred generations of sprinters for too long.  When a horse gives their all, they end up on the sidelines for the next 10 months ala Big Drama.

To be fair, I thought the connections of Take Charge Indy did not fear losing.  Tampa Bay is a notoriously deep and tiring track.  Running from gate 10 just might have taken too much out of their horse.  I think they want to keep him fit for May, not drain all he has before May.  But that means they're thinking Derby, not Triple Crown.  

Battle-tested and battle-hardened are concepts best reserved for the 40's and 70's.  Avoidance seems to be the concept used today.  When every trainer says the best training for a horse is an actual race, then turn around and do the opposite, what are we to make of today's trainers who do not practice what they preach?  Last year, only the trainer of Rapid Redux followed that simple precept, and an allowance horse outshone the G1 champions.

Only a Triple Crown winner will vault horse racing back to the national headlines.  It's been so long, do people even remember that there are still horses racing today?

11 Mar 2012 11:06 AM
Doc Holladay

Brilliant Article! No more be said, other than O'Neil, Byrne and all Kentucky Derby trainers/owners should

read your article!  

11 Mar 2012 11:14 AM

I read your  blog last night and hae been trying ever since to collect my thoughts for a comment or two.As usual, your writing is superlative. Mine most likely, will not be.

It is not so simple as running these horses to prepare them for the biggest test these youngsters will face. It never has been.

Let's start with the biggest problem- the breeders. The money to be made in the breeding shed is staggering. It doesn't matter if the Big Boy has bone that resembles lava rock, hoofs so thin they look like skin flakes, filled hocks, narrow chest and well, I could go one and on. If Big Boy is able to win just one Big race, he will be touted as the answer to all of your mares deficiencies. The resulting foal will carry all of the above, but he might have one deciding factor. Speed!!

Speed=Greed! I could go on and on about the paper-mache babies going though the sales, the two year old contests and finally, the Derby. Thankfully, for all of you, I won't.

Are trainers afraid to run these hot house flowers? You bet! They know in their heart of hearts (if they still have one after a few years in this game) that they have to make these races count because these contenders won't last. Just look at how many have already fallen by the wayside.

Am I presenting problems without an answer, you say? Hardly! There is an answer but as long as Big Boy can get $100,000 a pop it will never happen.  

11 Mar 2012 11:51 AM


A Triple Crown winner would only provide temporary relief for the sport as a whole.

Just as it was for Smarty, Big Brown, and the others, the 3 week lead in to the Belmont would be nice, maybe the race is previewed on Sportscenter, maybe the winning connections appear on a late night talk show.

Then, if the horse wins the Belmont for the Triple, it gets the cover of SI, the connections will do the sports talk and broader media talk show circuit.  The accomplishment is celebrated for a few weeks, and then the world keeps on going.

The problem with the belief that one horse can save the sport is that one horse won't be in the starting gate the next Thursday for race 2 at Hollywood, or that Friday at Belmont, or that weekend at Calder, or at Emerald Downs.

That much is fairly straight forward.  Of course, we all know that 99.99999% of races will be run without that Triple Crown winner.  But what about all the business that will be done when that Triple Crown winner runs the rest of its career?

Well, we need to remind ourselves that we are dealing with the horses and connections that Steve and others are lamenting here.  How many times do you think a Triple Crown winner would be able to run the rest of the year?  Given the fragility of the thoroughbred now and the way they are prepared, we shouldn't expect much.  And then even if the horse is willing to give more, will the connections really pull the trigger three or four more times?  Two times?  Would you really be shocked if a month after the Belmont the horse is found to have some mysterious minor problem that forces retirement, particularly if it has a superstar pedigree?

Imagine if Secretariat was running today for one of the more current owners and trainers. Listen, some still have some problems with Secretariat not being brought back to run at 4.  But if he were running now, do you think he would have finished his 3 year old season running in the Arlington race, the Whitney, Marlboro Cup, Woodward, Man O' War, and Canadian Intl?  Especially if the horse sweeps the Triple winning the Belmont by 31, is there more than a 10% chance we ever see that horse run again?

How about what Slew did?  Imagine an undefeated Triple Crown winner nearly dying; any chance at all the connections put all the energy and patience to bring the horse back for a 4 year old season?  Unlikely.

And no way a new Triple Crown winner would do what Affirmed did.  With Affirmed we had a 2 year old champion that goes through 3 brutal races to win a Triple Crown that is part of a larger 10 race series with another legitmately great horse.  Not only does Affirmed finish off the year by running in the Travers and then taking on the previous year's Triple Crown winner, he comes back at 4.  And not only does he come back at 4, he goes on a truly transcontinental campaign, winning the Big Cap and Hollywood Gold out West and the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup back East.  No way a horse of today is even given the chance to do that in the extremely unlikely event he's actually good enough to do it.

The only way we get a real campaign out of a Triple Crown winner is if it's a gelding or female, or the connections are the purest of sportsmen.

11 Mar 2012 12:09 PM
Forgotten Fan

This is one symptom of the problem with horse racing.  No one seems to care about the fan.  The meets are run primarily for the owners and trainers.  Steven Crist makes a reasonable suggestion for changing the breakage that would be revenue neutral and great for the bettor, and it’s met with silence everywhere but New York ($2.30, $2.50 etc. payouts and even dollars above a certain level).  Horses are retired to the breeding shed as soon as they accomplish something significant instead of keeping them racing for the enjoyment of the fans and risking injury.

What is the biggest trend in sports in the last 30 years?  Fantasy sports.  Now that we have some games that ardent fans can play which leads to fans that really follow the prep races and are very knowledgeable about the horses lining up at the starting gate in the Derby, it seems like fewer and fewer horses are actually running in the preps.  Now, I don’t expect Byrne and O’Neill to manage their horses to maximize my Road to The Roses stables, but it is frustrating that so many trainers seem like they are afraid to race their racehorses.

There was a trainer a few years ago that expressed an opinion that I suspect many in the sport share:  that bettors are just a bunch of degenerates and it is stupid to bet the races.  Horse racing will continue to be a dying sport until the industry realizes that they can’t survive without fans.

(I also registered just to post here.)

11 Mar 2012 12:29 PM

You really hit the nail on the head here, Mr. Haskin. Thoroughbreds are not the same as they were years ago, and neither are their trainers or the training methods.

I remember back to Afleet Alex a few years ago. This colt required and thrived on frequent, hard works. People couldn't believe it. Everyone thought the horse was being worked far too much. Well, when you look at how he recovered from a near fall during the Preakness and how he went on to win the race it just goes to show that strength isn't achieved by standing in a stall. Breeders need to stop breeding unsound horses. Stallions with known unsoundness qualities are bred over and over again. Like makes like oftentimes. Drugs should be eliminated and the trainers who cheat using them should be permanently barred from training. Horses aren't made from glass but far too many trainers treat them like they are. You don't see human athletes preparing for events by sitting in recliners. Being afraid to run and lose is foolish. Great article, Mr. Haskin.

11 Mar 2012 1:40 PM
Forbidden Apple


Speaking of mares that loved to race, we all have to appreciate the work of Zenyatta and Goldikova. As far as expectations and horse racing, I remember a horse a few years ago named Expect Nothing. And a horse that was coming of from his best race ever and then quickly retired, I think of Point Given. Although I was thinking that his tendon injury might have been known even before the Travers. So retirement was already on their agenda.

Forgotten Fan,

Why was Mineshaft retired? Or Lookin At Lucky? Even last year the early retirement of Trappe Shot was a mystery to me. He was a classy horse with no Grade I wins and the owners certainly do not need the money. So why retire him? I'm with you, it has become increasingly difficult to follow any horse for more than 2 years. Trainers like Pletcher get them ready quickly as 2 year olds and then they peak at 3 before an early retirement. On the other hand I understand that the owners take all of the risk as far as the money is concerned. While the jockeys and horses take all of the risk on the track. The trainers and agents always get paid, with minimal risk. A series of races for older horses and bigger purses are a must. Right now in NY they are running $75k maiden races and they still can't get larger fields. So I don't know what will really work. And when will the sport of horse racing hire a commissioner? Maybe never, I just don't see a plan that can be executed for bringing different racing venues together.

11 Mar 2012 1:55 PM
Arts and Letters

Fear leads to the Dark Side.

The rest of the world doesn't seem to be afraid to run their horses.  Look at Black Caviar.  No one in Australia blinked an eye when she came back after a week off to win again.  And was going to run a week later, but they thought she should have a bit of a rest.  Granted, she's older, but still...  

I've been a fan of North American flat racing since Genuine Risk's Derby, but lately, I've been finding the British flat and jumping races so much more fun to watch.  Especially the jumping - we get to see the same horses for 4-5 years.  Time to build up a fandom -- and the owners and trainers aren't afraid to let them lose.  

Of course, I'll keep watching the US triple crown races, but I refuse to root for any horse (or even to care very much).  Based on the last decade or so, we know that half the contenders that we start to get excited about will be injured on the way to the races, and whoever wins those races will likely not be seen much after that, whether from fear or injury -- yes, I know this year is an exception, with all of them coming back at 4, but I expect it's an anomaly due to the economy.  

So, let's talk about Big Buck's, Long Run and Kauto Star instead! :)

11 Mar 2012 2:01 PM

Hi everyone!  My name is Chuck Sandford and my wife Maribeth and I are the proud owners of Take Charge Indy.  Steve's think article has caused many of you to voice opinions and take action!  Great!  Horse racing has always been a second guessing sport and all opinions are welcomed!  My trainer Patrick Byrne followed my instructions and scratched Take Charge Indy from the Tampa Bay Derby.  This decision was made by me after discussing it with Patrick.  Patrick has a major say in any decision I may make.  But I take full responsibity for the final decision. I feel bad for the the great people at Tampa Bay Down's, that I disappointed them with my decision! I have enjoy reading Steve's artices on the top three year olds leading up to the Derby. I agree with him on his top selections.  In regard to his opinion I loved that he wrote it before the race.  To me that is a real opinion, not these guys that write article's after the race and try to make themselves sound smart.  We can all do that.  I have only been racing my horses for the last two years.  The press we have received I have found to be fair.  Why did I scratch Indy!  Everything we do with Indy I hope is in his best interest.  New track traveling four hours and drawing the 10 hole on a track he has never been over, was one reason.  Alot of the bloggers have talked about his pedigess it is very special in the world of horse racing!  AP Indy won Belmont and his mother was undefeated at a mile and a quarter.  My colt is a big colt almost 17 hands and still maturing and developing.  I only have one of this ability in my barn at the present.  When you start talking about the Baffert's and Pletcher's of the world.  They have more bullets in there gun than we do!  Some of you very astutely mention A.P.Indy's are slow developer's.  He is still growing and maturing.  He is not three yet born March 27th.  Steve made a commetn all owner's want to go to the Kentucky Derby.  Not quite true 99.9% it is not a goal for me.  If he proves to me he can run and win the Kentuck Derby he will be their. To the casual fan it takes $50000 to enter and run in the Derby.  150,000 people show up for the Derby and the owners are asked to put up half of the purse.  Unbelieveable!  My horse is breed to be in the Belmont and god willing that's where you will find him later in year.  We certainly didn't expect some of the feedback we are getting.  The second reason we changed to the Florida Derby I know my colt can handle a mile and a eight! Last reason is a much smaller field probably 6 or 7 horses and did I mention Grade 1 and a $1,000,000.  This guy is a major sire propect with a little running luck.  He has run against more of Steve's top prospect's than anyone else!  Last point that last race was not a fluke for you believer's he is very live in the Florida Derby.  I expect him to improve his Beyer from the allowance race. All we need is a fast track for the Derby he loves the dirt. Isn't horse racing great.  100% of my and Patrick's efforts are looking after

Indy's best interest.  We are fine with any comments!  Bring it on! Hope you enjoyed my thoughts.

11 Mar 2012 2:03 PM

Gun Bow: One horse can absorb the energy of a nation...just look what Zenyatta has done for this sport....national media coverage that's probably going to follow her foal through to the 1215 Ky Derby.  One horse is all it takes.

I thought Dr. Hansen was nuts when he wanted to dye Hansen's tail and mane....until I found the reason.  Little children are contacting him, drawing pictures of Hansen as "my little pony". Little children love that white horse, and they are the ones who draw pictures with colored manes and tales.  Hansen is gathering fans.  Isn't that what we want?  A horse that can soar on our imagination.  Yes, it can by done by a single horse.

A lot comes down to $$$ paid for a high caliber horse.  Secretariat saved the farm.  But Slew cost $17,500. They weren't afraid to risk him.  They might have been less likely to risk him if they paid $3 million.  But it's not really horse racing unless you take the risk....and so few are willing to do that.

By the way Gun Bow...did you happen to get a good photo of Lava Man last week?  He looked tremendous.

11 Mar 2012 2:29 PM

i agree with both JAJ and gunbow.

like JAJ, i'm less trusting of reasons given by trainers for what they do.

deciding to bubblewrap a winner before the derby or abruptly changie his racing schedule so that the he will have a longer lay off to me are always signs the horse has soundness issues.  i know that it is possible they do not, but when that red flag is raised, they have to prove to me that i'm wrong. i do not give them the benefit of the doubt.

like GunBow, i agree that the horses that will save racing will almost certainly have to be geldings or mares--UNLESS the economy stays bad, forcing horses that can still race to keep racing (this is why we have so many of last years TC horses still on the track this year), or unless the horse is owned by a racing fan, like kendall hansen, who has said several times that he'll keep hansen on the track for as long as he is sound and still wants to run. and i believe him--he loves racing the same way most of us who post here do--which is not the same way that most of the other owners love it.

only a true fan would even contemplate running a horse of hansen's claiber in the sprial over the wood or the florida derby, just so that hansen's fans there could see him race.  most owners wouldn't even give fans the opportunity to see a horse of hansen's claiber on schooling a cold, windy friday night like dr. hansen did. and even if you disagreed with it, only a true fan would think of doing something like coloring his horses tail, because he gets fan mail from young children who draw pictures of hansen covered in rainbows.

many of the new wave of owners view their horses the same way that wall street views mortgages and corporations view quarterly profits--as short term, get rich quick schemes. gone are the days of the owner-breeders, who while they did race primarily to breed, took pride in proving that they could breed the best and took every opportunity to prove that on the track.

i disagree with GunBow however in the value of triple crown winner--i was at gulfstream for the donn this year, and there were so many people there just to see shackleford in the flesh. the general public got to know this horse through the triple crown.  

if a horse that was more often the bridesmaid then the bride could attract so many casual fans, a triple crown winner's accraction would be incalculable.  

the problem with fillies is that the don't race on the days when the general public is watching--which is why z's uber-fame is so remarkable.

and the problem with geldings is that they often are the horses with less than stellar pedigrees, and so have less chance from the get go to achieve the necessary fame. john henry's are rare.

11 Mar 2012 2:32 PM

Maybe one horse we can really enjoy that the connections don't seem to be ruled by fear, and, the horse is becoming truly great, MUCHO MACHO MAN.  I think he & ANIMAL KINGDOM, hopefully more, are on a BC Classic collision course.  

I agree, also, with the Baffert comments, which is, he's not afraid to lose and sees purpose in it.  Also, GUNBOW, I agree with you that "consulting the horse" would be nice before rushing to judgement on next steps.

11 Mar 2012 2:41 PM

I so agree with Steve..the young horses benefit from a hard fought battle..they learn to look another in the eye and race!How would Creative Cause have looked without the seasoning he is getting from each race?I submit he would not be ready for the Derby..just from a conditioning prospective they do need to race..works are not the same they do not get that battle ready mindset from training.Thank you for the words..as always on point!

11 Mar 2012 2:42 PM
Mister Frisky

Bryne doesn't like the 10 hole at Tampa.What is he gonna do come derby time if he gets the 20 hole scratch?This is another AP Indy big pedigree horse that will not be a factor.Union Rags,all,all,all.

11 Mar 2012 3:11 PM
Donut Jimmy

I believe GunBow has a particularly salient point. Many trainers these days condition by the book: jog, gallop, gallop, gallop, gallop, work, walk. Repeat. Every horse, every day, week, year. Very little horsemanship is required, and fortunately, or unfortunately, it works to a large extent with a lot of horses. How can you possibly reliably predict the best next race for a horse before it returns to the finish line from this one.

Horsemanship, on the other hand requires a lot more. You need to learn each horse. What they need, what they like, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Everyone knew Hansen's Derby chances would be compromised if he continued to be a headstrong speed demon. His early loss this year gave his connections the time and incentive to do something about the problem. The result is seemingly a complete transformation.

Losing a race can tell you so much about what problems in a horse's program maybe deficient. It is far better to figure this out in March than May if you are serious about the Derby. Many current conditioners seem to spend far to much time with their fingers crossed going into the Derby, just hoping their horse happens to have the right tools.

Listen to the horse, know his good and bad points, and plan accordingly.

I understand that the press pushes, and in post-victory interviews they want details, but the old standby of, "We will have to see how he comes out of this race, and then we will decide what to do next." is actually much more of a horseman's answer.

11 Mar 2012 3:19 PM

Lets help the trainers/owners recover from the 'fear of losing' a prep race to the Kentucky Derby.

Abolish the present 'graded money earnings' system that determines which horses get into the Kentucky Derby. Instead, we have a points system that counts only races won as three year olds. Scaling down from grade 1 to non graded if necessary.

By this method 'they' can't dodge the bullet 'they' will have to face the 'fear of losing' to obtain the holy grail of getting into the Kentucky Derby.

You simply make the points scale competitive so that there is no 'easy way' of getting into the Kentucky Derby. The present method is too biased toward precocious 2 year olds or horses that win big prize money at, arguably, obscure races. A win/win solution for everyone. Will it happen...

11 Mar 2012 3:36 PM

I hated to see Take Charge Indy miss the T.B. Derby also. But if you would notice his workouts before were not consistent with his past; in fact he went from 1/24 to 2/26 for his first, after working weekly before that period.

Could be there was or is a problem.

11 Mar 2012 3:41 PM
Steve Haskin

Hi Chuck, I'm sending this as an e-mail and also as a response on the blog comments. To address your last comment first, I certainly did enjoy your comments and thank you for stating your views. As an (gulp!) oldtimer (well, relative oldtimer), I can appreciate all ideas, strategies, and decisions, but also look at racing a bit differently than younger owners and trainers who are newcomers to the sport and especially the Derby trail. I'm not saying one is more right than the other, just different.

To address your comment about the Derby being 99.9% not the goal for Indy, you followed that up by saying, "If he proves to me he can run and win the Kentucky Derby he will be there." I hate to tell you this, but that means the Derby is the goal. It may not be the main goal, but it is the goal...at least for now until he proves one way or the other that he's up to the task. Almost every trainer and owner I know always say the same thing -- If he proves, if he takes us there, he'll tell us if...It all means the same thing -- the goal is the Derby unless he runs horribly.

With that said, assuming he runs well enough in the Florida Derby and has sufficient earnings he will be Derby bound. That brings us back to skipping the Tampa Derby and the point of the column. There is an excellent chance he would then need the Tampa Derby to give him more foundation and seasoning and get him battle-tested. If he plods home in third in the Florida Derby behind Union Rags, will he get enough out of that race to be ready for the Kentucky Derby? Maybe he will, but history says he's going to need a gut-wrencher (like Barbaro got, and Super Saver, and Grindstone and the others I mentioned)

One of the reasons I wrote the column was as I mentioned my inability to comprehend the move, and the only reason I gave it so much space is because I really like your horse and see a great deal of potential there, and didnt want to see him suffer the same fate as most of last year's Derby starters and many from the previous Derbys. The majority of the top Derby starters last year never even made it to the Belmont because they were too lightly raced to stand up to the rigors of making it to and running in the Derby. I would hate to see that happen to Indy with the Belmont such an appealing long-range goal.

If your real goal is the Belmont, the Derby is not merely a stopping off point to prepare for it. You either have to be committed to get there and win it or dont try it at all.

Again, this is all my opinion, and the bottom line is that I wish you the best of luck with him. You have a very talented horse (I loved his last race) and hope you meet all the goals you have set with him. I'd love to talk to you and your wife at some point and write something about the two of you. It is obvious the passion is there and that is so important. And you did get Pat back in the spotlight :).

All the best


11 Mar 2012 3:44 PM


Thank you for a very timely article and I couldn't agree with you more. However... I think you have merely brushed the surface of the problems with the thoroughbred "industry" and it IS an industry.

It has become an industry of "those who can't, breed." I think this is where the problem lies and where the solution can be found.

As a former breeder of champion Arabian horses, I would NEVER have bred my prized mare to a knock kneed, over at the knee, parrot mouth, fine boned, upright shouldered, long backed, short necked stallion. Yet thoroughbred mare owners rush to do just that and pay dearly for the priviledge.

Breeding several hundred mares a year to a famous stallion with poor confirmation yields several hundred expensive poorly conformed foals. A few of them might be fast, but how long will they stand up to the rigors of racing?

Then you have those amazing advertising campaigns...  brother of, son of, uncle of, neighbor of Kentucky Derby winner "so and so"... yeah, we know you can't afford him, so come to me, I'm a lot cheaper, just don't look at my legs...

If you want a stronger house, start with a stronger foundation... otherwise its all just a house of cards.

Trainers might also try a little cross training on their 2 and 3 year olds between races, as opposed to straight time off. I've never heard of dressage being bad for a horse. Its like low impact strength and balance training that will teach them to use their brain.

Just my opinion...

11 Mar 2012 3:45 PM


I agree that one horse can have an effect.  No question Zenyatta has brought publicity and new fans to the sport.

The question is HOW MUCH this effect can be.  My opinion is that one horse can really only affect the sport as a whole along the margins.  It's not whether one horse can have an effect, it's the size of the effect; my point is that one horse alone cannot have enough of an effect to SAVE the sport, or really even come close.

For all the good Zenyatta did, is the sport really in that much better of a position?  Did Zenyatta create such a ripple that tracks across the continent are witnessing an increase in business/profits?  Did Zenyatta open the eyes of the major television networks to the need to broadcast racing nationally, on a weekly or even monthly basis?  Is racing the lead on Sportscenter regularly, or on the cover of newspapers or even sports sections?

In June of 2009, while I was still living in Michigan, I went to Pinnacle Racecourse in part to watch simulcasts of Zenyatta in the Vanity and Rachel in the Mother Goose.  It was a glorious day for thoroughbred racing, as Zenyatta extended her streak to 10 and Rachel won yet another gr.1 by 20.  Fast forward 2 years and Pinnacle is closed, with dim prospects to reopen any time soon.  Neither Zenyatta, nor Rachel, nor all the spirited banter among their fans was able to save thoroughbred racing in Michigan.

A single horse can make a difference, but it can't fix what are system-wide problems.

11 Mar 2012 4:38 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

This story and all of the comments have been very interesting.  From a fan perspective, and a racing fan is what I am, I like to get behind a horse through a series of preps.  I like to follow their progression, win or lose.  We all want another Secretariat.  We all want another Triple Crown winner.  I think you are so right about a horse needing a strong foundation to advance through the three tough races of the Triple Crown.  That's also a great way to establish a strong media and fan following.  Remember Smarty on the cover of Sports Illustrated?  It's hard to get attention and interest when the horses race so few times.

11 Mar 2012 5:38 PM

Earlier I posted my perspective on Steve's article.  Now I would like to add a few comments.

First, a comment on the result of the San Felipe.  Creative Cause looked very good; particularly in the gallop out. Bodemeister ran very well considering his inexperience and Midnight Transfer also ran a credible race for his first two-turn effort.

Second, thank you Chuck Sanford for explaining the rational behind Take Charge Indy's change in race schedule.  Like Steve, I do not necessarily feel the reasons stated will help the horse and owner meet the objectives stated, but it's good of him to take the time to provide information to racing fans.

Finally; Davids, I don't agree with some of your views expressed on this blog, but you have a very valid suggestion regarding determining which 20 horses should be in the gate the first Sat. in May.  I don't feel earnings as a 2-yr. old should be considered, except possibly for G1 wins at a distance of ground, and then only to break "ties".  If only 3-yr. old earnings were considered, we would see horses competing in a reasonable number of sophomore prep races.  Reasonable for the horse, that is, to gain sufficient "bottom" and experience for the TC grind.  Then and only then will we see a TC winner.   And frankly, as others have pointed out, even that is "iffy" because of the big carrot held out by the breeding farms to get the true standout horse off the track and committed to his next career before losing luster due to a loss.

11 Mar 2012 6:20 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Great post from Chuck Sanford. What a special treat to get that much insight and honesty from an owner. Thanks Chuck and best of luck to you and Maribeth. Take Charge Indy is obviously a talented colt and AP Indy's do tend to develop later so getting to the later stage with a healthy horse is key. The Derby isn't everything but let's hope you get there. Maybe you'll win the Florida Derby in a duel down the stretch and he'll have all he needs for The Derby and beyond. He doesn't even need to win The Florida Derby to win The Derby as history has shown but he'll need a good showing and to get something out of it. The best interest of the horse is always the number one priority for me. One thing that horse racing lacks is enough openness about decisions. It is impossible to say what the right decision is at this point. It's all personal opinions and conjecture. I applaud your decision because of the reasoning behind it eventhough I like to see more seasoning. Sometimes too much spice in a dish can ruin dinner.

11 Mar 2012 6:41 PM
The Deacon

Mr. Sanford:  I was going to respond to your blog but Steve hit it right on the head with his response. I believe horses need to be battle tested to see how good they are, to see how they stack up to their competition. The Derby will be a 20 horse field, not the 7 horse field as you say the Florida Derby will be. What you're saying also is you think your horse has a much better chance at winning the Florida Derby then the Kentucky Derby. Many of the same horses will run in both races but there is a huge difference between a 7 horse field and a 20 horse field. Right now in my mind after seeing Creative Cause yesterday, the Derby is coming down to the "Big 3", Union Rags, Hansen and Creative Cause. Seems like a replay of the Breeders Cup Juvenile.

Obviously the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita will determine how those 3 separate themselves from the rest.

I think horses are bred to run fewer races, speed  and endurance being the main reasons. The days of running 9 or 10 times as a 2 year old and then running 6 Derby preps are long gone........The trend is a very lightly raced Derby horse who is fresh and has only 1 or 2 preps.......

11 Mar 2012 7:21 PM

Loved the response from the owner of Take Charge Indy.  Who's to say we wouldn't do the same in his position.  I love this horse as I'm a huge AP Indy fan.  Indy might be worth more now then if he lost his next 4 races although I doubt that would happen.  But like everyone is speculating and the owner admitted it, it's all about the breeding shed.   And I do mean Take Charge Indy.

11 Mar 2012 8:07 PM

   Least we forget that at 3, these horses are all but budding young teenagers. Remembering back, weren't we all physically stronger in our late teens and early twenties? Go look at any College Basketball game and then go sit through a High School game afterwards, see the difference in size and maturity alone??

   To me, the simple solution would be to revamp the whole program and run the Kty. Derby and the Belmont when these horses are 4 year olds!!

   And, I would additionally campaign, whether that radical a change be adopted or not, that whomever gets to play God in such decisions, that the time between the current runs of Kty. Derby the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont be vastly broadened.

   Now lets say, if we kept the Preakness still as a 3 year old event, and however ran the Kty. Derby and Belmont as 4 year olds, I think that that could be a  solution in handling the problems in both scenarios. Also, I think in that following such a plan that we might weed out more weak pretenders who win enough in won early oddball high pursed prep races entered when many are still 2 year olds,--where other horses aren't really even ready to even see a race track yet,--which appears to knock other seemingly more worthy future more slowly developing bred animals out of a potential gate slot,--as the system in place currently does appear to do.--As substitutes to the current Kty. Derby and Belmont runs as 3 year olds, they could be substituted with say Gr. I   1 1/8 or 1 3/16 races that the winner would get an "automatic bid" to the Derby from outside of earnings.

   The current short 2 year and 3 year old seasons and the multi fluctuations in graded earnings from track to track and event to Graded event where even at the same so called 'grade' the purses vastly vary, makes the current system also weak, where the trainers and owners have to become geniuses just to juggle and find some seemingly worthwhile schedule from, no less arrange flight schedules around, etc. The change would give them all another year of preps and would allow the betters many  more opportunities to see there eventual betting interests instead of the now becoming popular only 2 races before the dance per animal becoming some norm. And then lets see then if such changes were made if the very quality of the race, the Kty. Derby, wouldn't itself be improved by such changes.

   Yeah, I know, radical. Just a  thought.

11 Mar 2012 8:23 PM

I almost wrote in my last blog, about;you don't know what part the owner plays in this decision, and sure enough it was the owner that pulled the plug.

You don't think Byrne is going to say: ".I wanted to run him, but the owner didn't want it!"

No Way Jose!

11 Mar 2012 8:44 PM

I am reminded of the famous quote ," we have nothing to fear, but fear itself". President Obama had it right and it can be applied to many things, especially horse racing. What we have today in horse racing is the result of fear! Enough said.

11 Mar 2012 9:20 PM
Pedigree Ann

Personally, I don't see the love given Take Charge Indy. In every race since his maiden win at 6f, he has made a move to a contending or leading position, and then faded in the last 8th (or earlier). Has he been the victim of a premature move by the jock 4 times in a row? Or is he just not that much horse going a mile or more?

11 Mar 2012 9:50 PM

Chuck Sanford's comments remind me that owners and trainers do not manage a horse to please me or the majority of fans, or to do what's best for the industry as a whole.  They manage horses in the way they believe to be most beneficial to themselves and their horses(usually the two are connected and reflected in money), and that's their perogative.  We may disagree what philosophy or strategy will actually work and pay dividends, but the key point is the decision maker acts in a rational manner using incomplete information to maximize profit.

Another factor to consider is the possibility an owner or trainer could manage their horse conservatively because of personal attachment to the horse.  I could totally understand if for some owners and trainers certain horses become like family, or at least pets.  And since a horse's life could be endangered by running, I can understand those owners and trainers hesistant to run their horses under less than optimal circumstances.

Personally, fear over losing my horse's health or worse yet its life(rather than fear of losing a race) is why I do not envision myself becoming involved in the sport as an owner.  However, if I ever did decide to become an owner, I would only do so if I was able to let go of these emotions and commit myself to the philosophy of allowing my racehorse to actually race.

It's cliche, but it's definitely a lot easier for me to write comments on this blog about what should be done with Horse X than to be the one having to weigh financial concerns, long-range objectives, short-term goals, race dynamics, weather, track profile, and the horse's health.  With this stated, though, that does not mean that the decisions of trainers and owners should go unquestioned.    Steve's article and comments, as well as the response of ChuckSanford, are vital to fans like myself because they encourage greater transparency in regards to the decision making process.

11 Mar 2012 9:55 PM
Stellar Jayne

Mr. Sanford,

Thank you for your response and openness.  I appreciated it very much.  I was unaware that Take Charge Indy was a late March foal, 17 hands and still growing. Those statements explain a lot to me.  Therefore, I am very happy to read that those factors are seriously considered in the selection of when to race him and the distance that is best suited while he is still growing.  Mucho Macho Man faced the same challenges last year and he was a mid-June colt. I felt they were taking a great risk with him.  But they did give him a long break to rest up.  And here he is in 2012 doing terrifically, he is all heart and so beautiful.  John Sheriffs faced the same issue with Zenyatta's size.  He took his time to give her every opportunity to mature and develop.  Look at who she is and what she accomplished on the track and now as a mare.  She has legions of fans around the world.  Just take a look at her blog at Zenyatta.com.

The whole Zenyatta team from owners, trainer, grooms, exercise riders were visions of patience and honesty with her fans and still are.

I suppose it can be said that each case is different when the colt or filly is huge in size and foaled later than the average.  It helps the fan base understand why things are being decided a certain way by an owner/trainer when there is a candid explanation as to why such an such a decision has been made about a particularly talented horse.  Yes, it is your business - you don't owe us an explanation, but it is respect for the thousands of fans for that particular athlete - in this case Take Charge Indy.  Wouldn't it be nice if he was the popular male counterpart to Zenyatta?

Good luck with Take Charge Indy, just keep his physical well being your Number 1 Priority.  He is special to me because he carries Secretariat's genes.

11 Mar 2012 11:21 PM

where is my comment? at least i spelled the owners name right...lol

11 Mar 2012 11:37 PM

My take on fear.  I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would go, the way it all would end.  Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I would have missed the dance.  This reminds me of Michael Matz amd Barbaro, looking back at the dance that they shared.  I hope he dances again with Union Rags.

11 Mar 2012 11:58 PM
Mister Frisky

GunBow,Great post.Last month while working as an extra on the HBO show Luck I spent all day picking the mind of a trainer.Though I had a few horses twenty years ago I didn't get to ask these questions since I was part of a syndicate and they dealt with the micro part of the business.As an avid animal lover nothing disturbs me more than seeing any animal in distress.But after a days worth of education and insight I have changed my mind in regards to horse racing.They are warriors that were bred purely for sport.As long as they receive the daily care and pampering they so richly deserve I can live with the down side of the game.

12 Mar 2012 12:00 AM

Great job once again Mr. Haskins.

We only know so much when it comes to these 3 year olds on the Derby trail? We read all we can get our hands on, we can look at PP's and published workouts and just assume that every horse running is suppose to be in this spot for a reason and is ready to run, but when you can have a trainer publicly lay out a schd. for certain horse and the gambler knows about it and then they do a 180 and change plans such as the trainer of Take Charge Indy has, then it should be taken notice and looked at as nothing more then a total negative. There is something more to this story, besides a bad post and the Tampa track. Lets just look back to last year and Uncle Mo to see that when trainers make excuses and dont race where their laid out schd. has been determined that most likely its more then what they are willing to say at the present time. I would be very suprised to see Take Charge Indy in the FL Derby much less the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. In my eyes as a handicapper and a gambler he is a complete throwout where ever he shows up next. Last year as soon as I heard Mo was not going to Tampa and skipping it for a overnight Stakes I knew something else was going on that they were not going to let the avg. joe like myself know about. Gemologist as well all I have heard is REBEL, REBEL, REBEL the last few weeks only to now see its an Allow. event at Gulfstream the day before. I now look at Gemologist (who I once liked to be a contender) as just another outsider looking in who will prob. not even make the KY Derby. I could be totally wrong about this, but to me the news Friday night about Saturday's TBD was nothing more to me the a huge RED FLAG that says something is wrong with Take Charge Indy.

12 Mar 2012 1:43 AM
Forbidden Apple

In the end, most owners want to win Grade I races so that they can make more money in the breeding shed as quickly as possible. Mr. Sandford even stated that Take Charge Indy is a major sire prospect. I see nothing wrong with wanting to make money, I just wish these horses had longer racing careers before they jumped into the breeding business.

Super Saver wins the KY Derby and then nothing after that race. He was quickly rushed off to stud and now stands for $20,000. I thought it was funny that they listed him being booked to 145 mares last year in the stallion registry. That is a selling point? I guess they had to mention that, since his list of on track accomplishments was quite sparse.

12 Mar 2012 2:15 AM


Your article has again started discussions over the offspring of AP Indy. Some have simply repeated the tale spun by others that his descendants are late developers without asking the obvious question- if they are late developers, how come so many of them become Classic prospects in the Spring?. How come we have on the list of prospects for the Derby- Hansen, El Padrino and Alpha?. ( Algorithms is injured).

They are all descendants of AP Indy.

For those who are interested in this matter, I have attached a method by which a horse’s Aptitudinal Type can be measured.  Some will be surprised by the results for AP Indy and his descendants.



12 Mar 2012 8:18 AM

Just because Hansen didn't have the lead doesn't mean he was willing to rate.  His jockey's feet were on the dashboard for the first 6 furlongs and he was just a length off the lead.  Not exactly relaxed nor off the pace.  He also crawled with his last furlong nearly 14 seconds.  Doesn't inspire hope for a horse expected to run 2.5 furlongs longer in just 3 months.  

Glad though that many see this as impressive, because it means the odds on the winner will be longer.

12 Mar 2012 9:41 AM

Predict, I too am reminded of the famous quote,

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.  

This was the first inaugural address March 4, 1933 of Franklin D. Roosevelt, where he laid out plans for the New Deal. I don’t see the connection between horse racing and the New Deal.


12 Mar 2012 10:15 AM
El Kabong

Great Article Steve.

And I am perplexed at the absence of Exothermic without so much as a word. His presence in the Palm would have been terrific. Dullahan, who ran second, looked outstanding. It was obvious Howe Great would steal that race with JV in the saddle, but it was Dullahan who confirmed my hunch  in a loss that this horse is a serious derby contender. Can't wait to see the Bluegrass, which may now include the likes of Fed Biz. He may get enough earnings in the Sunland  to train up to the Derby, but I hope he doesn't. The Bluegrass or the Ark Derby would make sense and give him what he needs, including a loss. I hope Baffert agrees with your concept here. Very timely article. Thanks.

12 Mar 2012 11:11 AM
Don from PA/DE

Last nite I received a entry notice for "Gemologist" race#3 at Gulfstream..$80,000 allowance this Friday and he breezed this mornin, Steve, do you know of this? At first a bit stunned, but thinking bout it, may be a great idea, why run in that huge "rebel rumble" now? See how he does and maybe run in another Grade race in next few weeks, great prep? Have u heard? Don

12 Mar 2012 11:59 AM
Karen in Texas

El Kabong---Within a day of my posting that Fed Biz was shown to be going to the Sunland Derby, the HRN site changed his next start to the Wood Memorial. (It is showing that as I post this.)

12 Mar 2012 12:41 PM
Karen in Texas
12 Mar 2012 12:46 PM

Hi Steve, enjoyed your article. Your comment on the derby dozen Feb. 20th regarding Empire Way

Some believe he’s closing the gap on stablemate Creative Cause, but he still has a lot to prove. Harrington says he feels there is a lot of improvement still to come. He doesn’t want to risk Creative Cause costing him much-needed graded earnings, so he’ll split them up, sending one to the Rebel and one to the San Felipe.

Wondering why Harrington decided not to split the two up. After the San Felipe, Harrington was interviewed I found his comment interesting regarding Empire Way, he referred to him as the other horse, not knowing what to make of him, perhaps he didn't like dirt in his face.  I must admit, I expected a better showing. HRTV didn't have much to say either.

Steve, your thoughts on Empire Way going forward.

Kind Regards,


12 Mar 2012 12:55 PM
Indiana Johnny

Nice article Steve, I enjoy reading your comments on the Derby horses. I'm a big fan of TCI, been watching him awhile, I like the local connections, and really hated to see him miss the Tampa race. I guess we'll see how it all pans out in the long run. Its just a different training game than years ago, if we want to accept it or not. Very few races anymore, hardly any foundation, and about all horses being given drugs.I'm sure the debate will continue for a long time what effect this has had on no triple crown winners for so many years, or if its just the big bucks is in breeding.

12 Mar 2012 1:13 PM

FED BIZ off Derby Trail (suppose to run at Sunland Park after missing the San Felipe)... Once again just another example when something goes wrong and there are plans in the works that have to be change, most likely there is something more going on that we are not told right away. This is just another example of why Take Charge Indy is in the same boat and we the public just do not know about it as of yet. Your dealing with young horses being pointed to run the race of their life and when you hit a bump its not something you can recover from so fast as if you were in the 7th race at Aqu. on a Thursday. ALWAYS take notice when a horse is not running where they were first schd. to, it is a sign that something is wrong, and sometimes that something is enough to say lets back off and look for big races down the road this colt isn't ready for the most demanding race of his life the first Saturday in May.

12 Mar 2012 1:34 PM
Dave R.

This would stop if ONLY 3YR OLD  GRADED STAKES EARNINGS WERE USED to determine who the eligibility for the KY Derby.  The owner/trainers with best horses would have to actually run their horses as 3yr olds to get graded stakes earnings rather than sitting on 2yr old earnings and keeping their horses in the barn.  This leads to poorly conditioned GOOD horses running in KY Derby and many well conditioned LESS GOOD horses winning derby preps and filling the gate on derby day.

There needs to be a change.  Either don't count the 2yr old earnings at all or count them at  50% or less. Just my opinion.

12 Mar 2012 1:39 PM

Jersey Boy,

You are beating your head agaist a brick wall my friend. The on-the-track evidence and record of Triple Crown races clearly demonstrate that the AP Indys are late developers. Even if you were to cite a couple of exceptions such as Pulpit, Rags To Riches and Bernardini, those are only exceptions when contextualized with the large number of AP Indy offsprings competing against their age-group each year for almost two decades.

The case in point, Take Charge Indy has a dosage index (DI) of 0.66 which classifies him as a RDL (Router, Dirt, Late bloomer) according to your URL posting. Give it up Bro. Those colts that are forced, even though showing talent early, usually end up injuring themselves because their bones and joints are mature enough to take the stress of the Triple Crown campaign. Just refer to last year and you'll see that Stay Thisty, To Honor and Serve and Wilburn came to hand in the Summer/Fall campaign.

Keep on doing what you're doing and you'll have a headache.

12 Mar 2012 2:07 PM
Rachel NH

I have been waiting for TCI to mature into the greatr ace horse I know he is. ♥

I'm old-school, too, I believe racing reaps benefits and skills that workouts can never duplicate...of course, if all of them don't race many races, then someone will, of course, still win, so then it will look like their approach was succesful...;-)

Lasix recovery time makes peaking more precarious, and fewer races so there's enough recovery time is necessary.

I do believe the main reason races are cherry-picked for intact colts is the breeding shed...which is too bad...even Secretariat lost his race before the Derby.

12 Mar 2012 2:20 PM

Jersey Boy,

Correction: I meant Centre of distribution (CI) 0.66 NOT Dosage Index (DI) for Take Charge Indy.

The connections know their horse and have agreed with my point of view. You are the one trying to spin tales here. I wish that Hansen, El Padrino and Alpha turn out to be exceptions but wouldn't be as surprised as I would be disappointed, if any of them went the way of Algorithms, Consortium, Stephanoatsee, Casual Trick etc. Keep your fingers crossed instead of playing know-it-all about this matter.  

12 Mar 2012 2:23 PM
El Kabong

Don from PA/DE

It's true. Gemologist set for Friday allowance at Gulfstream. Something about not being able to get him a plane ride back from Ark to Florida, so he's staying in Florida. Not a bad idea. Blow out the dust in a small field instead of a stampede were injuries are more likely.

12 Mar 2012 2:47 PM
The Deacon

Ugh!! Animal Kingdom, out of Dubai World Cup race.......another potential star goes down. When will it ever end..........

12 Mar 2012 2:52 PM

Slew:  I did get to photograph Lava Man as he ponied the O'Neill Derby contender to the track.  I was star-struck.  If I didn't know better I would swear, as he danced back to the gap, he smiled at me.  He loves his new job!

Very interesting discussion here.  I understand both Steve's "seasoned" point of view as well as that of the owner of TC Indy, who wants to be cautious with his investment.  

Bob Baffert commented a couple of times recently that no seasoned-but-slow horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby, his meaning being that speed and talent supersede seasoning.  Did he have Bodemeister in mind with this comment?  He has stopped on Sky Kingdom, and now on Fed Biz.  I'm thinking he believes in this unseasoned guy that Trevor Denman calls "Bode (one-syllable) - meister".  Hey, an unseasoned Curlin ran third to two incredible colts in the '07 Derby... and from the 2-hole no less.  So, as Steve said it can be done, but -- I have to agree -- it is not ideal.  

I believe there is more to racing than the three-year-old season, and appreciate and enjoy the older runners much more than the green ones.  There is something to be said for not shooting your wad early on, but rather, looking to the future.    

12 Mar 2012 3:23 PM

Dave R,

That 3YO Graded Stakes only ship has sailed. The 2YOs of last season are confirming their class. There's more to come from the likes of Trinniberg, Currency Swap and I'll Have Another, all graduates of the 2011 Hopeful Stakes, recently downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2, because of idiocy IMO.

12 Mar 2012 3:24 PM

"Racing has become a sport ruled by speed figures and numbers, and, we repeat what we’ve been saying: gone are the days of sending tough, battle-tested horses to the Derby"

Couldn't agree more!!...the ridiculous hype and nonsense being given today to these horses based on speed figs is ridiculous and definitely deceiving ...Frankel, Uncle Mo, Black Caviar to name the hyped headliners.

Frankel's timeform ridiculous HYPED rating suggest that this top miler is somehow as good or better than Sea The Stars or other past european greats. Greats that have won top quality races from a mile to 2 miles. Greats that have won the Guineas, Epsom, Derby, KG6 to the Arc. Somehow that hype timeform rating at a mile is suppose to translate to running 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs. A dishonest comparison to say the least.

Headlines like "Mo dazzled at the Kelso with 118" somehow qualifies him as one of the favorite for the 10 furlong BC Classic.

or Rachel's 116 Haskells meant she was a quality 10 furlong horse.

These high speed figs and the following hype given to these horses at shorter distances is a disgrace.

Frankel will never be a Shergar.

Rachel will never be a Ruffian.

Black Caviar will never be a Phar Lap.

But the marketing machine will pump the hype to the naive fans. Fans who are very dissapointed to see their favorite lose a race and quite not figure out how a "great horse" with a beyer of 2,000,000 at 6 or 8 furlongs couldn't win a race at 10 furlongs..

12 Mar 2012 4:06 PM
Karen in Texas

Okay, now I see Fed Biz is off the Trail. This journey of attrition continues.

12 Mar 2012 4:14 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Dave R.

  Your thought process is right on the money but I'm not certain of how the logistics or percentages would work. A prime example is Homeboykris in the 2010 Derby in which he placed 16th after hogging up a space in The Derby that should have gone to a more deserving horse. His Graded earnings were based on a first in the 2009 Champagne as a 2yo. As a 3yo he was 5th in the Holy Bull on 1-23, then was 2nd in an allowance at GP on 2-27-10. Then had no more races until the Kentucky Derby on 5-1-10. Quite a layoff after the allowance placing. Weakly prepared for The Derby but they insisted on running him based on his 2yo earnings.

12 Mar 2012 4:34 PM

As a PROFESSIONAL handicapper i felt it was the weakest grade 2 race ive ever seen....the result was an 88 beyer! that is less than an alw par! You pass up a grade 2 black type? Your horse couldve regressed and won...although i dont really like your horse. I really think your horse peaked already.....of course, not hitting the board in the fl. derby is my prediction.....you must have alot of money, so you must know some thing about somethin.......but its not this sport.........free grade 2 black type ........down the drain........unreal!

12 Mar 2012 5:35 PM

Btw . I have 150 at 17 to one on creative cause....along with 200 on el padrino 12 to 1........50 on news pending at 45 to one.....yes i bet 400 to win 2200 to 2550. i think its looking good......

12 Mar 2012 5:38 PM
Pedigree Ann


Frankel and Black Caviar are not 'overhyped' because of speed ratings. Each is the best in the world in their specialties, he as a turf miler and she as a turf sprinter, on the basis of their Timeform figures. Timeform rates not on speed, but on class of the race and the competition and strength and domination of the win. Timeform figures do not project what a horse will do, only what they have done. Frankel has slammed top class milers from all over Europe. Black Caviar has destroyed top class sprinters in Australia, which has been producing many  world-class sprinters of late.

No one is saying just because Frankel is a great miler that he  is somehow better than a classic-distance champion. His rating is only as a miler, comparing him to milers of the past.  

I, too, prefer the 'all-rounder' which used to be the American specialty - horses who were champions at 2, classic winners at 3, and top handicappers at 4, like Affirmed or Buckpasser. But I can appreciate a great specialist as well, like Ta Wee or Xtra Heat. Or even Cambiocorsa (unbeaten on the Santa Anita 6.5f hill course) and *Paraje (won 3 runnings of the 2 1/4 mile season-closing Display Handicap at Aqueduct, before the Inner). And of course, the greatest Grand National specialist of all time, Red Rum (3 wins and two seconds in 5 tries).

12 Mar 2012 6:02 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

I see you still believe that Setsuko would've won the Derby in 2010, had Homeboykris not deny him a place in the starting gates (LOL). Give it up man ...let it goo.

Which horse do you think is being denied a spot this year because of 2YO graded earnings?

12 Mar 2012 6:07 PM


Everyone can read that information and reach a conclusion. I reached mine a long time ago. I do not judge horses by their performance in a single race. That is your ball of wax.

12 Mar 2012 6:38 PM
Scott's Cause

In a couple months, early in the morning some 2-year is going to peal off a 34+    three furlong work.  And the the quest will begin.  Old time trainers might think "I got a live bullet for next year's Derby"  Today a  trainer seems to think "How many bullets can I use and have ONE left"

12 Mar 2012 7:16 PM

Well you were pretty fair the first time around so I thought I would get brave and try you racing fanatics again!  Top three colts to beat in the Kentucky Derby in my estimation are El Pradino, Union Rags, and Creative Cause  I own the only colt to run against all three.  Last year we proved we were competitive with the best.  But a notch below!  I am very enthusiastic after Indy's first race the fastest 1 mile and 1/16th at Gulfstream Park at the time.                               Pedigree Ann  -  When I do what is best for Indy I have done what's best for racing.  Hopefully he will be around and racing till 4.  The issue we have is paying for his insurance the more valuable he becomes the insurance premiums are outragious.  In the allowance race we found ourself on the lead when a longshot stopped. El Pradino was in a long drive to catch him.  He's a monster we beat everything else in the field by 12.  That was at least a grade 2 field in that race.  What is Indy's best running style!  We love that he has early speed to get position.  Indy seems to like to have someone to run at.    Here's a nugget for the blog Indy will work this weekend.  

12 Mar 2012 7:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  You don't get it and you'll never get it. You're a rabblerouser who doesn't get the facts straight.`I never said that Setsuko would win the Derby. I said that he deserved to be in there off of his place in the SA Derby. You look for spots to atrack from, hoping that people's memories will fail them. How would I know who is being denied at this early stage for this year's Derby? Just like last time- I will respond this time and be done. I will not go back and forth over nonsense. Move on to easier prey.

12 Mar 2012 8:33 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Chuck Sanford

  You have spunk, and class. What else if there to be fanatic about but racing? The greatest sport, bar none. Is there a greater thrill than your horse gobbling up ground to overtake the leader and win? Z don't think so. Take Charge Indy has an excellent grass pedigree but that doesn't mean he can't win The Derby. El Padrino is the man so far but I also think thst I'll Have Another could be too. Good luck Chuck, and thanks for showing up.

12 Mar 2012 9:02 PM

Chuck...What was best for the horse, was to get a grade 2 AND a race that wouldnt take anything out of him. Your horse ran the best race of his life against padrino. That is exactly why he will go off form. I mean you run against way better in an alw race for peanuts.....and pass a 350000 weak grade 2 that was about 10 lengths slower. Now, after you run out of the money.......youll pass the derby,preakness, and go to the belmont......

12 Mar 2012 9:34 PM
El Kabong

Karen in TX,

:( :( :(

I'm dying ovah here.

12 Mar 2012 9:58 PM

Pedigree Ann, you must have missed what my point was. It is not like when timeform put up this nonsense provisional of 143 for Frankel that it qualified that rating to a miler.

Or when the media hypes the number, it was suppose to be for a miler. That is not how the hype is working

Here is one example of the nonsense coming out of the media:


"Frankel is now the fourth highest-rated Flat horse in the Timeform's history following his win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Sir Henry Cecil's unbeaten colt was on a mark of 142 going into the QIPCO-sponsored showpiece but has provisionally been put up a pound to 143 by the Halifax-based firm.

Only Sea Bird (145) and Brigadier Gerard (144) and Tudor Minstrel (144) have ever been rated higher.

Timeform's 140+ rated horses:

145 Sea Bird II

144 Brigadier Gerard, Tudor Minstrel

143 Frankel

142 Abernant, Ribot, Windy City

141 Mill Reef

140 Dancing Brave, Dubai Millennium, Sea The Stars, Shergar, Vaguely Noble."


Now I do not care is Frankel wins 200 more mile races, he will never be in the same league as some of these horses that won from 8 to 16 furlongs..

Where exactly in this news that the rating was for a mile. When the article mentioned the greats in the same article as Frankel, what exactly would most people believe?

Yes, that Frankel belongs with these greats...THAT IS TOTAL NONSENSE...

Frankel haven't even won at a quality 10 furlong race and he would never win against any of these greats at 12 furlongs.

Get my point? and it is so unfair to mention Shergar with Frankel.

12 Mar 2012 10:18 PM


 You couldn't be more right about owning a racehorse.  I could afford to own a racehorse on a small level but the fear of a horse hurting himself or worse would kill it for me.  I've followed horse racing since Secretariat and have seen way to many breakdowns as everone has.  I always pick my TC hopefuls based on any horse related to Secretariat and have already lost Algorithms, Stephenoatsee, Consortium, Out of Bounds, Fed Biz and the bad races of Battle Hardened, Casual Trick, Junebug Red, Maan, Reckless Jerry, Shared Property, and the word that Thunder Moccisin would be kept off the Derby trail and saved for shorter distances for the remainder of the year.  And just for the record of Grade 1 winning, or Grade 11 or Grade 111 races.  How about Malibu Moon.  This son of AP Indy is constantly in the top 10 lately or even top 20. His Record?  Two races at 2.  One maiden special win and a 2nd.  He stands for $70,000.  Seems he didn't have to do anything on the track to be what he is.  Hmmmmmm!

12 Mar 2012 10:52 PM

I always thought by doing right by the horse you are suppose to pick spots where they can win??

Seeing the owner of Take Charge Indy making cases for the rest of the field he beat at GP is Grade 2 quailty, is a joke! The only reason that race would make you think its G2 quality is because  of the racehorse that ran by you like you were nailed to a floor on a speed bias track with you being on the lead. When it comes down to it your horse can compete at the N1X Allowance level and has never won on a dirt track simple as that. Owners need to stop trying to handicap and train horses and do what they are suppose to do and that is pay the bills. I am sick of seeing owners that think they know more about horseracing as a sport (Repole, Starlight Stable, Irwin and others) then horse trainers as well as true racing fans that attend the sport on a weekly basis and look forward to events like the KY Derby and BC more so then March Madness, the Super Bowl and World Series combine. Chuck Sanford is another owner you can mark down as someone who thinks because he is a Owner and has a little bit of money he must know more then others. I know this wont get published on this blog but it needs to as a true horse racing fan the last thing I want to hear is some Owner telling trainers where they want there horse to run. Look I know you want to run where the big horses are running so you can brag to your country club members, and make your wife happy cause she gets to go and buy a new dress and hat for the Derby but maybe you need to listen to your trainer and pick spots where you have a shot to win cause the way it looks to me your horse is not close to Grade 1 ability at this point. So if you can't beat El Padrino lose on the lead on a speed bias track when you have it your own way what makes you think you have a prayer in the FL Derby? I know why because its the big race with the big boys and thats where you think your horse belongs, well look again cause he is no where close to that level at this point. But dont worry I am thinking you can still make it to Churchill Downs on May 5th, there is always a couple of 1x allowances going a 1 turn mile on the card. You could of been a graded winner on the dirt but instead choose to run in a spot where you have no chance to win, nice handicaping and doing whats best by the horse... you know run him where he cant win in the FL Derby!!

12 Mar 2012 11:50 PM

OK  Chuck...  GOOD LUCK!!

 Hope the move was the right one.

 NOW go win the Fla. Derby!!!, grab all the fans from the Southeast, forgetting the countrywide fans lost, and we'll see ya'll at the big Dance and the Belmont too!!

 Tip to think over. Should you win the Fla. & Kty. Derbys, skip the Preakness and keep your horse fresh, and go to the Belmont as planned. Just a suggestion one I would like to have the option to follow, although I am not your trainer or your conscious.

13 Mar 2012 2:42 AM
The Deacon

Mr. Sandford: good luck with your horse but he isn't beating the top 3.......maybe next year when he has had more seasoning and developes some.......just my opinion though.  I think the top 4 or 5 are gonna make this a Derby for the ages, I'm hoping anyway.......

13 Mar 2012 3:18 AM

For all the Blooggers, if the AP Indy's are not ready; then keep them on the shelf until they are Good to Go.

Steve, is simply stating that by Not running in these preps the foundation of these horses will not hold up in the Derby and much less for The Triple Crown!!!

Chuck S, best of luck w TCHI, as a horse owner wish I had one as good as yours!!!

13 Mar 2012 3:34 AM
Matthew W

That was a monster perfofmance by I'll Have Another--and the workout on Big Cap Day, ponied by Lava Man, was a thing of beauty! They are taking the "safer" route.. On the other hand, Creative Cause kinda ran one-paced in his 7fur comeback--so he came back rather quickly, by today's standards, (not Johnny Campo/Jim French standards!), He ran lights out in the San Felipe, wandering around the stretch ala Sunday Silence in the Kentucky Derby--if he ever switches leads in proper syntex, watch out, his style of running, with that even stride, screams of stamina! He ran down Bodemiester, who had slowed down the tempo down the backstretch, he's Baffert's top gun as of now, and that could change! But Mike Harrington has got to be feeling pretty fine about now--may he catch a good case of Derby Fever! So far, it's been a good meeting at The Great Race Place--little too fast--the horse of the meet, you coulda bought for 20K three months ago--she has become the second coming of Xtra Heat, has Izzy Rules! She even looks like her when she corners, down low and small--and fast! As of right now, (and it's early), I like her in the Breeders Cup--in the sprint--the open dirt 6fur sprint--on top! WAY on top!

13 Mar 2012 4:08 AM

I like Candy:  You are a sweetheart!  I would love to see that photo of Lava Man.  Can you post it S. Haskin's FB so I can steal it.  Love that horse!  He actually looked fit to run himself.

Mr. Sanford: I so appreciate you posting your opinion.  It helps to sort out some iffy subjects.  

1./ If you didn't want to risk the travel to Tampa Bay, why is it not a problem then to ship to Kentucky, Maryland, and New York?  You just can't have it both ways.  He either travels well or he doesn't.

2./ When you're paying top dollar for an excellent trainer, and you yourself have so little experience, why are you usurping the decision making power of your trainer on where the colt should run?

Slew, of course, is my favorite, so AP Indy and Bernardini rank on top of my list for sires.  I hadn't realized TCI was so large, but he certainly is one of the handsomest colts on the Derby trail.  In the FOY, I still preferred TCI the best, thought he ran the best, and have high hopes for him.  

Ranagul: Give it up.  You always knock AP Indy.  It seems to me Stay Thirsty ran in all 3 legs of the TC, finishing 2nd in the Belmont....so not too shabby.  It's just a matter of time before one takes the Derby.

Gun Bow: I always appreciate your insights and opinions.  Only on one point do we not mesh...and that is the value of a Triple Crown winner.  So far it's been casinos that have turned racing profitable. I still think one horse can do it...I've seen it happen in 1948, 1973, and 1977.  Not so much in 1978...people became too matter-of-fact about it.  But after 34 drought-stricken years...it's time.

(And somewhere deep in my subconscious, I still feel that if Hansen can pull it off, Slew will smile.  Never took to white horses, but this one has captured my fancy.) Right Dr D.?

13 Mar 2012 7:57 AM
Pedigree Ann


My first job in the industry was in 1974, as a summer editorial assistant at the CTBA. One of my major tasks was proofreading copy for the magazine, The Thoroughbred of California, which was being edited by Barry Irwin. He went on from that job to write for the Racing Form, working the backstretch for the stories behind the stories. Barry has been closely involved in racing longer than many on this board have been alive. And make no mistake: he is very bright and observant. He worked his way up to his current prominence with his keen eye for a good, undervalued horse. Not at all in the same category as Repole, who was successful in some other business, made a pile of money, and then started to buy horses.

13 Mar 2012 9:04 AM
Forbidden Apple

Matthew W,

It's about time that someone other than me has taken notice of Izzy Rules. The video for the Las Flores is not working on this website. I asked Jason if he could get it fixed, but he never posted my comment. Bonde has two other sprint monsters in his barn, Sway Away and Frumious.

What I don't get aboout Sandford's comments is that he new Tampa was a new surface and that they would have to ship when he entered his horse. So he scratched because of the 10 post? Owning horses for 2 years is not much experience at all. I don't see his horse getting anywhere near Alpha and Union Rags. His best chance is if Alpha and El Padrino do not enter the race. Then he could suck up second behind Union Rags and still earn $300k.

13 Mar 2012 9:33 AM

Pedigree Ann,

As an editorial assistant, I am quite surprise that you haven't notice the prevalent comparison of these sprinters and milers to the great "all rounder" in the media.

Today we are basically breeding long sprinters. These are fast milers that can get to 9 furlongs.

The cookie cutter 9 furlong horses is our norm today.

I might not be a pedigree expert but have seen the great horses go the classic distance or longer. A superor miler getting 9 furlongs is not a stretch but the 9 furlongs horse we have been breeding today trying to get another furlong is another story. You see the Quality Road, Uncle Mo, Rachel Alexandra and others just walk when they get to around 9 furlongs.

But the media somehow keep hyping their high beyer figures at shorter distances. Totally absurb.

Mr. Haskins is so correct when pointing out how these speed figs are skewing reality and have changed the behavior of trainers and owners alike.

As a matter of fact, I consider them a big contributor to the kind of INFERIOR milers we have been breeding today.

True the Aussies are breeding for sprinters but is 6 furlongs really sprinting. If I want to watch sprinters, I go watch quarterhorses.

I have no idea why the sprinters are milers are the talk today. Personally I consider them inferior to the Phar Laps, Foregos, Ribot etc etc.

I guess if you market and hype it enough, people will believe it.

Rap is considered music too.

13 Mar 2012 12:01 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Is that how you prove your point? Call your challenger a "rabblerouser" when he/she exposes the fallacy in your argument? Not very classy my friend.

I dare you to show where the Graded Stakes Earnings system has failed even once, since its inceotion.  Just give ONE example.

13 Mar 2012 1:00 PM
Age of Reason

In a word: "Fascinating"! Very intriguing article by Mr. Haskin, and though the blog comments have branched out into other areas, these discussions also have been no less thought-provoking. My only comment is this: Steve said several years ago, in his book "Horse Racing's Holy Grail: The Epic Quest for the Triple Crown", essentially to stay away from horses (at least as Derby prospects) whose owners were calling the shots--as opposed to the trainer. I don't know of a single Derby winner who came from a barn in which the one man who knew the horse better than anyone else (namely, the trainer), was not in control; the owners were just along for the ride more or less. It's for this reason that Mr. Sanford's statement that "[Take Charge Indy's trainer] Mr. Byrne FOLLOWED MY INSTRUCTIONS and scratched Take Charge Indy from the Tampa Bay Derby" makes me nervous. I appreciate his opening up to us 'fanatics' with friendly openness and honesty; however, I would also hope that Mr. Sanford can also see where many of us are coming from in our points, as well.

13 Mar 2012 1:12 PM

Kristen thank you for all your kind words.  I am very laid back and do not have an A personality.  When I first met Patrick Byrne I said I want to be friends and have fun.  Patrick is one of my dearest friends and always gives it to me straight!  My decisions about horse racing are always open to criticism.  I don't take my self to serious and the second guessing of my decisions goes with the territory.  It was not good news to hear El Pradino is being added for the Florida Derby this will be the biggest prep race of the year leading up to the Derby! Talked to Patrick today god willing we are committed to the Florida Derby.  We think were really live and our colt runs big fresh.  We look forward to the mile and a eighth.  In one of my other blogs I wrote having to put up money to run.  I wrote a check today for $15,000 committing us to run.  Everyone opinion is down, let's followup after the race and see if I'm as bad an owner as you think I am. I expect the Beyer out this race to be over 100!  Alot of you are gamblers and I do admit to being a lousy handicapper after 40 years.  Hope to blog again after the Florida Derby.  I'm all your's!

13 Mar 2012 1:17 PM


I don't intend to knock AP Indy. I just try to put some honest perspective on his progeny's prospects as Kentucky Derby candidates because of years of hype that his offspring are the best for the Triple Crown when there is no evidence to bear this out. In fact all the evidence suggest that they are late bloomers that come to hand after the Derby, in the Summer and Fall.

13 Mar 2012 2:06 PM

Great article Mr Haskins. I am finally going to KentuckyDerby  this year, just to watch Union Rags race ,70years old a got a great ticket, very special pony,in very good hands,on my agenda is a wish list and one of the list is hopeful;ly i can run into you and have you autogaph my program. okay now on to article on losing, Mr Sanford states a number of reasons why they have gone this route of treating a potentially nice pony, Worried about field at Tampa? god that was a very weak field, worried about Pletcher having to many bullets, why are you going in FlaDerby against him? Bad post? Not interested in Kentucky derby, was a very strange statement. I realize your pony maybe not good enough, but it is like not going to junior prom you miss it and don,t get another chance, with this pony. I don,t understand all the fuss about just a horse, he ain,t beaten nobody yet, Grade 2 last start give me a break,I guess when money is no object common sense gets thrown out the window

13 Mar 2012 2:11 PM

"Just like last time- I will respond this time and be done. I will not go back and forth over nonsense. Move on to easier prey" (Dr Drunkinbum).

Dont be a coward, put those gloves on and come out and rumble with the "rabblerouser"(LOL).

Last time you said you were done with the subject but resurrected it and expect to get away with a weak argument. Well, I wont let you. If you are putting certain opinions out there you should be prepared to defend it logically, NOT call your challenger dericive names like rabblerouser (only real rabblerousers use those tactics and I'm persuaded better things of you).

13 Mar 2012 2:17 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  My apologies. That was far too harsh. I have enjoyed quite a few of your posts.

13 Mar 2012 3:02 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

You're a jolly good fellow ...had me in doubt for a moment. Apology accepted.

13 Mar 2012 4:30 PM

Ty Mr ChuckSandford for your insight about your colt Take Charge Indy specifically about his breeding and size almost 17 hands.He is bred to win the Belmont and the Tampa track is probably a lot narrower than big sandy.This helps clarify somewhat my exacta possibilities for the Florida Derby.

13 Mar 2012 6:21 PM

Way to go ChuckSandford you wrote the check for $15,000 for a million dollar race that might have 8 starters.Lets see 60% 1st 20% 2nd 10% 3rd and payoffs for 4th and 5th.You are a good gambler or should I say businessman no shipping charges to run in Tampa in a full field for top prize of $210,000 2nd $70,000 hey I think if you run 3rd in the millioner you make more than 2nd in Tampa.Good Luck in the FLDerby and the Belmont.

13 Mar 2012 6:55 PM

Ranagul: you said "I dare you to show where the Graded Stakes Earnings system has failed even once, since its inceotion.  Just give ONE example."

Although addressed to DR D...let me answer...ROCK HARD TEN....all because of a DQ.

And let me ask...did a sprinter like Uncle Mo really deserve a gate.  Just because he had the hype and the $$ doesn't mean he could ever get 10f...which he didn't...and scratched.

As to AP Indy...He made it to the Derby but was scratched that morning due to a quarter crack.  Bernardini was precocious as his progeny seem to be.  But whether or not you realize it, you do knock AP Indy frequently, and it's undeserved.  (and don't forget, Super Saver's dam was by AP Indy so Indy has a Derby win).

As far as top rated colts...I see Mr Prospector, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat...cross-bred all over the chart.  More recent sires...Unbridled, Storm Cat,  Scat Daddy (1 Sunday Silence) and AP Indy. And then there's Indy sons, Bernardini, Pulpit, Malibu Moon.  Indy is also the dam sire to Delta Princess, dam to Empire Way and Royal Delta.

So maybe you need to back up a little when trying to catalogue ALL AP Indy's as late bloomers.  Some are, quite a few more aren't.

And sooner or later, a Rock Hard Ten is going to challenge a Derby field...but I'm still waiting.

13 Mar 2012 8:01 PM


So to pick up a very minor award and $100K is alot better then winning a prep race on the Derby Trail?? I mean winning a race on the dirt going two turns to me sounds like a whole better then running 4th by 15 and then deciding to head to KY to run your horse in the biggest race of his life because he can just get in the gate with earnings and will be 50-1. Horseracing is not just about money, its about dreams of a lifetime. To have a colt of the quailty to make the Derby field to most is a once in a lifetime experiance and running 4th by 15 in the FL Derby and not even close does nothing to make you rest easy when you pull in to Louisville and want to run your colt the in the hardest race to win in the horses lifetime. Doing right by the horse is to put the horse in races where he can win simple as that. This horse is nothing more the a maiden winner and he tried Grade 1 races and was soundly beaten in the past, there is nothing wrong with the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby as a wonderful steping stone to see if indeed the horse you own is without a doubt the horse your hoping he is, and that is a Ky Derby contender. If he runs in the FL Derby he will have two preps going into the Derby and no wins as a 3 year old, and only a Maiden win to speak of not to mention not even on a dirt track. How many of those types of horses win the Ky Derby? Which is the goal and the dream of everyone simple as that! Bottom line the Grade 3 TBD was the next stop on the trainers plan to get the horse ready for KY it would been a great race to see if your colt can win on dirt around two turns (both he has never done) and then you could of ran in the ARK Derby, Wood, or Bluegrass as a set up race for the Derby all which are top races to prove once again you belong. Unless Take Charge Indy wins or runs a close second the FL Derby it does absolutly nothing to prove this colt belongs with the likes of Union Rags, Creative Cause, Hansen or ElPadino. Who all look 5 lengths better then anything Take Charge Indy has run to date. So I guess he is a good businessman if you look at it your way, but owners do not buy horses to make money, they do it to chase dreams and hope one day they can win the Ky Derby...

13 Mar 2012 9:29 PM

Wow Pedigree Ann I was 2 years old when you got your first job! lol Thanks for the bio, on white shoes Barry Irwin. It is noted next time I decide to rant about big mouth know it all owners, ;-) thanks

13 Mar 2012 9:34 PM

Dave R and others:  I don't see how excluding 2 year old earnings will change the 3 year old picture.  Then the lightly raced 3 year olds will just get in with a lot less earnings.  The only thing that would stop that would be to set a minimum earning figure that would have to be met to enter.  THEN the horses would have to race.....

13 Mar 2012 9:39 PM

In todays society everyone likes and craves perfection.In horse racing its no different.If you win you are worshiped.And if  you lose your a has been.All the greats have losses.Man O War,Citation,Dr Fager,Secretariat,Seattle Slew,Zenyatta,Rachel have all lost.But their still great.Trainers stop handling these horses like fragile eggs!!

13 Mar 2012 10:23 PM

Coming into the ring is HIPnumber 41...out of TAKE CHARGE INDY...who was second in an alw race. and once ran in the fl.drby(unplaced)..............when it should have been GRADE 2 winning sire!    YOU did the horse wrong sir!

14 Mar 2012 1:34 AM

Interesting article Mr. Haskin.  It seems as though the comments have digressed from the original topic of how horses are being scratched from races for fear of losing.  As Mr. Sandford has pointed out, (and say what you will, how often do owners actually show up and defend or give insight into moves made) Take Charge Indy was obviously not scratched because they feared to lose.  The fact that they have officially plunked down $15k to enter into the Florida Derby where he will most likely be at least 8-1 shows that they are not afraid to lose with the colt.

That being said, a direct response to the user furlongs, based on my very quick scan of PP's this morning, how do you believe Take Charge Indy does not belong in this race? I am by no means saying he will win this race, but he definitely belongs.  He lost by two lengths to El Padrino in the allowance on an off track with a first time rider.  I personally think Borel sent him too soon and wasted the big move he has.  On that off track, the fractions were identical to the FOY's on a fast track.  Again, not saying he is going to win, but I don't think it will be five lengths between the winner and Take Charge Indy.

14 Mar 2012 9:59 AM

Furlongs very good post.When you become an owner of a colt on the Derby trail you will get to make those decisions.I think the owner of Take Charge Indy has done very well for himself so far without input from yourself or KY Vet, that base their opinions on past performances.I think the connections of Take Charge Indy base their choices on more practical data input, such as seeing the colt on a daily basis and knowing or realizing the colts capabilities, and their plans for him.BTW owning a Belmont Stakes winner as a sire is certainly not so bad as in comparison to a Kentucky Derby winner at least to those actually in the business of owning racehorses.Sure any casual fan will ask one that owns racehorses in the US "have you ever won the Kentucky Derby"?,but any owner or trainer will not downgrade a winner of the Belmont in comparison to a KDerby winner as a horseplayer would.

14 Mar 2012 10:41 AM

Furlongs one other point going into the Risen Star if you look at the past performances El Padrino was an easy winner.What actually happened is he barely won over Mark Valesky and the stewards could have taken him down.While past performances are a useful tool, they are far from an absolute science.

14 Mar 2012 10:49 AM


The Rock Hard Ten situation was exhausted a couple years ago. RHT had no shot against Smarty Jones. Go back and revisit his performances in the Preakness and Belmont of that year. He only developed into a very good horse as a 4YO. You have cited a very weak example. Try again if you wish.

14 Mar 2012 3:02 PM

Ranagul: Point was not that RH10 would win, but he deserved to be in the gate moreso than at least 6 others who qualified.  He was floated wide in the Preakness, and still held on for 2nd.  He managed 5th in the Belmont. AND he set an example as to why a trainer shouldn't wait too long to start their 3 year old season.

And you asked for only ONE example...and you got it.  If it's not to your liking...tough for you.

14 Mar 2012 7:13 PM


Yeah breeders today are dying to breed horses that can run 1 1/2 while stagging home in the Belmont Stakes. Maybe you should take a look at what people are breeding to now a days! NOTHING and I mean NOTHING compares to winning the Ky Derby. Now I am sure your Chuck's right hand man helping him out on these blogs since I never seen your name before this topic (what I would call a yes man), but the ONLY horse owner in the world that would even say they would rather win the Belmont over the Derby is an owner that has a horse that just won the Derby and Preakness and is going for greatness as a Triple Crown winner in the starting gate at the Belmont Stakes. That would be the only reason! Jack Van Berg said it best "anyone that says they dont care if they win the Ky Derby, is a plain liar". It is and has been every person that has ever owned a racehorse the dream of a lifetime. Now as for El Padrino and the field he beat... Do you have any idea the difficulty of shipping into Fairgrounds racetrack and winning? The horse he beat (who Larry Jones thinks highly of btw, and trust me he is a way better judge of horse flesh the Chuck Sanford will ever be) looks to have some quaility to him, plus the advantage of having a race over the track and been stabled there. So if you thought it was going to be a cake walk for El Padrino in the Risen Star then maybe you are the one that needs to have a handicapping class or two. Cause in no way did I think El Padrino was going to roll over that field, after all he only beat TAKE CHARGE INDY last time, and that is not saying much! Good luck at the windows everyone...

14 Mar 2012 9:19 PM

KY VET- Nice post wonder what that hip number will go for?? Well we know if Pletcher or Bafferts man is bidding it will sell for $540,000! Anyone else $23,800.

14 Mar 2012 9:22 PM

Furlongs I dont know Chuck but I bet he knows his colt a lot more than what you see as past performances.I am sure he would love to win the Kentucky Derby,just like others who run in the Derby eventhough their colt dosent belong in the race,giving us a field of 20 every year now(which I like)What is a past performance it is what they have accomplished in the past,so you keep studying whats on paper and let the horseowners make their own decisions.

15 Mar 2012 8:30 AM

Chief this is the last post I am going to have on this issue. It really isnt worth the argument to be honest. My point is and always has been the owners should own and let trainers train... As a fan/handicapper there is nothing more vital then knowing where a horse is suppose to run only to see his course being altered. Sometimes it works out for a horses owner/trainer but for the most part all it does it raise red flags to a gambler. Now that being said I would tell you this applies to the KY Derby trail more so then any other time because in most times the horse does not have a dead on target he/she must meet such as the first Saturday in May. This is why some trainers have always done better then others at winning and or getting into the Ky Derby. But when the goal is a race or races such as the Triple Crown there is only so much time to prepare them for the chance of a lifetime. The PP's tell me nothing more then what the horse has accomplished so far which in this case is a Maiden win on a synthetic track around one turn. PERIOD. Sometimes just because its yours makes you think you have something more special then you really do, and in this case so far this applies to Mr. Sanford. This horse has not shown in the afternoon racing he belongs in the FL Derby field. Simple as that. So what do you have when you run 3rd or 4th in a seven horse field and the others behind you are less accomplished then yourself? Where do you go from there? Doing what is best for the horse is putting him in field where he can complete for the win. Not putting him in where you can write a $15K check and fade to 4th to collect $100K... I now see where the Ill. Derby is another option still for Indy. Even though the FL Derby still remains as most likely the next race. Let hope if he does not run in the FL Derby, that Indy gets a good post and people don't think its a hard track to ship to cause at this rate we may never get to see TCI run again!! Good luck at the windows everyone.

15 Mar 2012 1:26 PM

Furlongs in the Tampa Derby he was the horse to beat on paper,I dont disagree with that but there might have been other issues with the colt where they wanted to give him more time that ONLY the ownership and the backstretch workers that work with Take Charge Indy knew about.IMO it was more about the colts well being than the fear of losing,but who knows for sure neither of us do,and the horse cant talk so Chuck only KNOWS so much himself.

15 Mar 2012 5:55 PM

Furlongs: Folks not interested in breeding with a Belmont winner?  Just who has been the highest paid sire in the last 19 years?  A Belmont winner who never ran in the Kentucky Derby...A P Indy.

15 Mar 2012 8:32 PM

Chief, If you read my first post on this blog you will see that was my first assessment what was going on with the horse... Which is why I said to me he is a total throwout for the win no matter where he runs. So looks like I came to that conclusion way before you had to mention it on here. I see your finally catching on. There is always more to the story when you see a set of plans change when your on the Derby trail!

15 Mar 2012 9:28 PM

Furlongs My point is that just because the colt was best on paper as in past performances, one cannot assume that the win was locked up,and that they were stupid for passing on the race.There is a lot more going on behind the scenes that the public including us uninformed bloggers will never know.We as horseplayers have our point of view from what we know,which is just a small part of what happens in the day to day life of equine athletes.

16 Mar 2012 1:44 AM


Yeah a Belmont winner from what 1992?? Not to mention the pre-derby program fav. as well as that years bc classic winner. I mean lets not forget AP Indy was considered special way before he won his belmont stakes. For the most part I would say when you look at who is popular in todays breeding sheld its not a horse that was able to win a 1 1/2 race the first weekend in June. That is my point when... so I dont want someone to act as if  "well we wanted to win the Belmont over the Derby cause it does so much for the horse in the breeding shed business" I mean come on!!

16 Mar 2012 6:50 AM

Slew, he wanted to make a point of why TCI owners wanted and pointed to win the belmont vs the derby and then made a comment about well maybe for breeding reasons. All I know for every reason you can give such as AP Indy  popular sire I can give you 10 such as Indian Charlie as popular sire) Bottom line is breeding popularity is focused on win early, win often and those races are no where near 1 1/2 distance... Most horses never race at a 1 1/2 ever once the Belmont is long over with... that is American racing.

16 Mar 2012 7:00 AM

Furlomgs I didnt know we had a moderator on this blog,and you misunderstood my post about having a Belmont winner over a Derby winner.If the horse is not ready for the Derby why run him just to have a Derby starter.Since you have used a mentioned a trainer in one of your posts,I will reciprocate,what do you think Charlie Whitingham would say about running a horse in the derby eventhough he does not belong,eventhough he got into the gate because he won the Tampa Bay Derby and the $210,000 of graded earnings.You can keep replying as much as you want eventhough you dont recall my screenname I having been making winning derby wagers since the tri was Sea Hero Prarie Bayou and Wild Gale I didnt look up the year.

16 Mar 2012 2:01 PM

"Winning isn't the best thing; it's the only thing!" is mantra of growing significance in so many fields - and one I feel would be better forgotten. Sometimes, as you pointed out, losing accomplishes more important things than winning and (ask Carl Nafzger) sets the stage for the big win you're actually aiming for. I wonder how much of this idea is behind so many short fields, yet I've seen some winners who, "Didn't have a prayer in there!" Only one wins. The rest learn ...

17 Mar 2012 4:31 PM

I have read all the posts, good points for the most part and all valid as "opinions" for "opinions" are just what they are when it comes to the decisions made for Take Charge Indy.

One post I have to reply to for I can't let the picture he paints of Chuck and Maribeth Sandford stand.

Furlongs (March 12, 11:50 post): You could not be more wrong about these owners. The fact is, Chuck has had a love for horse racing and been what you call a true race fan for 40 years. Do not discount his knowledge of the industry, disagree with him all you want, but it would be a mistake to "mark him down as someone who thinks because he is a Owner and has a little bit of money he must know more then others.

Hopefully your knowledge in horses is better than your judgement of people for you could not be more wrong when you make statements like: "as a true horse racing fan the last thing I want to hear is some Owner telling trainers where they want there horse to run. Look I know you want to run where the big horses are running so you can brag to your country club members, and make your wife happy cause she gets to go and buy a new dress"

Chuck and Maribeth Sandford are hard working, down to earth, good people that do not have country club members to brag to. Chuck does not make decisions based on Maribeth buying a new hat and dress. It is based on years and years of actively following the industry and attending weekly events and looking forward to their family vacations at the Kentucky Derby. I could go on and on but basically, you have no idea of how wrong your personal comments were.

18 Mar 2012 3:14 PM

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