Haskin's Preakness Report: Five Weeks in Spring

We recently wrote about the possibility of I’ll Have Another sweeping the Triple Crown. So what if we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After 34 years (and we’ve been there through all of them) we’re entitled to think or dream ahead.

So, does the son of Flower Alley have the ideal preparation and foundation for such a daunting task? Not if you go by history. But racing over the past several years has said the heck with history on numerous occasions. We have always maintained that the next Triple Crown winner will be a classy 2-year-old with a good foundation, preferably a horse who ran big in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), the only juvenile stakes to test a horse’s speed, stamina, and class. There is a reason why the last three Triple Crown winners all finished first or second in the Champagne.

Well, as it turned out, Champagne winner Union Rags lost all chance in the Derby and missed his opportunity to take the first leg of the Triple Crown, through no fault of his own.

So, with the Champagne angle gone, does I’ll Have Another have enough foundation under him to emerge victorious from the Derby and Preakness and still have enough in reserve to add the grueling Belmont Stakes, all in the span of five weeks? One thing every Triple Crown winner had in common was that they all had a series of races close together at some point in their career to prepare them for what they will have to encounter in the Triple Crown.

Noted racing author and historian Richard Sowers, with whom we’ve exchanged ideas with on numerous occasions over the years, supplied his usual comprehensive data on the subject of the Triple Crown.

Said Sowers, who has just completed the ultimate factual book on racing:

“Although Sir Barton won the Derby off an eight-month layoff and had only six starts before then, he ran four times in August of his 2-year-old campaign and again on September 14. And he ran in the Withers 10 days after the Preakness and 18 days before the Belmont.
    
“Although Gallant Fox ran only eight times before the Triple Crown, seven of those races were at 2, and his first four races were in a span of 34 days, and his next three races were in a span of 19 days.

“The last seven of Omaha's nine starts at 2 came in a span of 57 days. After a seven-month layoff, he ran only twice before the Derby. His first start back was 12 days before the Derby, and his second was five days later. And, with the Belmont four weeks after the Preakness, he also ran in the Withers, which was halfway between the Preakness and Belmont.

“While War Admiral didn't even run twice in the same month in his six races at 2, his first start at 3 was 24 days before the Derby, his second 10 days later, and the Preakness was a week after the Derby.

“Whirlaway ran 16 times as a 2-year-old. Nine races, his second through 10th starts, came in a span of 68 days. He then got 24 days off before he ran six more times in a span of 52 days. Whirlaway then ran twice in February, twice in March and three times in April before the Derby, then ran in an allowance at Belmont 10 days after the Preakness and 18 days before the Belmont.

“Count Fleet made his first six starts in a span of 52 days. He then got 20 days off before running twice in five days. He then got a month off before racing seven times in the next 57 days. He then took six months off, made his first start as a 3-year-old 18 days before the Derby and his second and final start before the Derby four days later.

“The first six starts of Assault's career came in a span of 64 days. After a month off, he ran twice in eight days. Assault then took six months off and made three starts at 3 before the Derby. His first start at 3 was 25 days before the Derby, his second was 11 days later and his third 10 days after that---and just four days before the Derby.

“Citation's schedule wasn't as compact as some, but he ran three times in 24 days in his fourth through sixth starts at a juvenile. After running nine times at 2, Citation got only three months off, then made his first four starts at 3 in a span of 27 days. He then got a little more than seven weeks off before making three starts in 16 days, with the last of those coming four days before the Derby.

“Secretariat's first three starts came in a span of 28 days. After running nine times at 2, he got four months off, then made his second start at 3 three weeks after his first, his next start two weeks later and his fourth start (Derby) two weeks after that.

“Seattle Slew ran only three times at 2, but those three starts were in a span of 27 days.

“Affirmed's nine starts at 2 were relatively spaced out, but he did race three times in a span of 24 days. After about four and a half months off, Affirmed made four starts in 40 days, then took 20 days off before the Derby.”

So, every Triple Crown winner was more than equipped to handle the three races in five weeks. They’d all done it before.
 
“Prior to Citation, the lack of winter racing forced a lot of the trainers who won the Triple Crown to run compacted schedules,” Sowers said. “But even since, they've all run some sort of compacted, busy schedule BEFORE the classics. I'm just convinced that, until SOME horse has the kind of foundation that enables him to get used to racing essentially an average of once a week for five or six weeks, obviously with layoffs, that there won't be another Triple Crown winner. We've seen 11 straight that won the Derby and Preakness fail in the Belmont, and I think insisting that horses be ‘fresh’ for the Derby makes sense for the Derby, but not for the Triple Crown. Without the foundation of running so often at least once before the classics, they're just not going to win a 1 1/4-mile race after a layoff, then come back two weeks later to win at 1 3/16 miles, then three weeks later at 1 1/2 miles.”

In regard to I’ll Have Another, he certainly was fresh going into the Derby and, like many Derby winners, has a good chance of continuing that roll, or adrenalin high, in the Preakness. But what about coming back in three weeks and going a mile and a half?

Unlike previous Triple Crown winners, top-class horses nowadays simply do not run with their races spaced that close together. So, the next Triple Crown winner likely will have to break new ground. I’ll Have Another did make his first three career starts within a two-month period, which doesn’t compare to the aforementioned horses, but still provided him with at least some kind of experience racing steadily at 2, as abbreviated as it was. At 3, by not running for two months following his first start back, he will have to undergo a dramatic change in his 3-year-old routine.

If you want to convince yourself he’s capable of doing it, then you have to think Smarty Jones, who nearly pulled it off with his speed and class. And that was with a pedigree not nearly as strong as I’ll Have Another’s, and the inability to settle in the Belmont with three jockeys out to get him beat. But what helped Smarty get as close as he did to winning the Belmont anyway was a four-race foundation at 3, all of them stakes wins, to go along with his tremendous talent. He also was tons the best 3-year-old that year, having demolished his opponents in the Preakness.

I’ll Have Another obviously still has to get by the Preakness, but if he does, at least one can get an idea how he stacks up with past Triple Crown winners. As we mentioned yesterday, he has the speed, the class, and the stamina, and he settles well, which will all help greatly.

Racing has changed dramatically in the way horses are trained and raced, and it’s going to take an exceptional horse to sweep the Triple Crown without having that group of races bunched together somewhere in his career. If I’ll Have Another can win the Preakness, save something in the tank, and then use his speed, class, and stamina to reach deep within himself and pull out that final eighth of the Belmont Stakes, just maybe he can actually pull it off.


Secretariat - Photo by Steve Haskin


Secretariat - Photo by Steve Haskin


Seattle Slew - Photo by Steve Haskin


Affirmed - Photo by Steve Haskin

88 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Giddyup

I totally agree with the analysis here and believe the importance of a strong foundation cannot be ignored if your goal is to score the triple. The reality is that thoroughbreds just aren't bred or trained to run 3 grueling route races in 5 weeks anymore. Asking them to do so is like asking a baseball starter to pitch both halves of a double header.

11 May 2012 8:10 PM
derblin

This article is fantastic, Steve, and I agree with everything you said.  I sure hope I'll Have Another can pull it off.  Are you listening, trainers, or do you just not care about winning the Triple Crown?

11 May 2012 8:11 PM
KY VET

WHY is it gonna take an exceptional horse to win the triple crown? There have been many exceptional horses since 78... Whats exceptional about running a 101 beyer? that is one of the slowest ever....the best horse ran too fast early...others had trouble. some hurt....if you think a horse that ran 45 and 2 going a mile and a quarter and just got beat. wasnt the best that day, you dont understand this game.....the preakness is the easiest leg...alot of the contenders skip race or miis from injury.........if ill have another wins triple crown, it doesnt have to mean he was exceptional........this weak crop just got weaker, with top contenders missing this preakness........101? ha!

11 May 2012 9:18 PM
iceman92

great analysis steve: maybe i"ll have another can simulate a race or two with those long hard gallops he's been putting in. throw in an occasional back rub and he might be able to pull off the triple crown.

11 May 2012 9:23 PM
skyfire

Steve, your pix are awesome!!  How old is Affirmed in that pic?  I saw him in Calif. at four.

It is amazing to have had three such horses in the '70s, and then, through bad luck, immaturity or improper preparation, no Triple Crown Winner.  We have had talented horses such as Cigar, Ghostzapper, etc. that couldn't get it done.  I think your point about   the importance of foundation is the key.

11 May 2012 9:25 PM
Baby Jane Towser

Steve, the photos are amazing - Thanks for sharing!!!! - Where were Slew and Affirmed when you took these pictures??

11 May 2012 10:32 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I agree. If I'll Have Another wins The Preakness, I think they should go ahead and ship him on over to Belmont Park and try to win The Triple Crown and add another Triple Crown winner photo to Steve Haskin's personal collection. I love that Affirmed photo. He is underrated and I'll Have Another probably will be too but he really does have it all. I don't care that others are skipping the Preakness to try to play spoiler and attempt to break our hearts. I'll Have Another is going to get it, but to cover my bases I'm going to also use a little reverse psychology for the racing Gods- There is no way he's going to win the Triple Crown. It's impossible !!!!! Now that is out of the way, line 'em up Cookietender. All through the nation people will be dancing in the streets, overdosing on cookies celebrating the first Triple Crown winner in a zillion years.

11 May 2012 10:34 PM
Intothebridle

Very compelling stats and well researched information. With the modern training practices, the next TC winner will most likely have to buck past trends and IHA may just have the goods. He keeps running better each time out and now may only need to maintain form to pull this off. G1 races are so difficult to win and the TC races are some of the tougest of all. There are so many excellent trainers and good horses that have never won a G1 and winning three straight in such a short timeframe continue to make, in my opinion, taking down the TC the most difficult task in all sports. IHA can pull this off but he'll need some luck since he doesn't tend to win in dominating fashion. If he can get past the Preakness it will be a terrific build-up to the Belmont with the seriously dangerous duo of freshened Union Rags and Dullahan awaiting. I hope IHA pulls it off and proves he belongs in the same breath as past TC winners by showing us something spectacular in either the Preakness or Belmont or both. Had Afleet Alex gotten a better trip in the Derby and won, his Preakness and Belmont would have been off the charts spectacular and rival Smarty Jones' popular run. I thought they were off the charts anyway but luck wasn't with him in the Derby even though he would have been a deserving TC champion. Smarty Jones was a very nice horse and would have been such a popular TC champion but he could not get the mile and half so I'm glad he fell short because I want the next TC champion to prove he can win it even if pressed by a Bailey/Eddington tactic. IHA has already proven he can overcome a bad reputation trainer, virtually unknown jockey and never before winning far outside post position 19 so I am beginning to feel this horse quite possibly has what it takes.

11 May 2012 10:55 PM
Irish Punter

The Steroid Era a few years has further diluted the muscle/mass to hoof index and is producing Colts that are not even making it to the Breeder's Cup anymore,never mind a fourth year.

There is just too much money in Breeding a high class Colt at $300,000 or so a pop---why would they risk injuries on the track for about the same money.Ironically,the milliom dollar  babies are not winning and a $11,000 yearling (I'll Have Another) could win The Triple Crown.

11 May 2012 10:59 PM
Irish Punter

Despite such a delightful Kentucky Derby Ownwer/trainer,jockey,

jockey's/Agent mix and storeyline Etc.

IMHOM Steve Haskin may have brought home the first Eclipse Award with his Derby Posts!

11 May 2012 11:07 PM
an ole railbird

you sell your point well, steve ole boy. i would like to add to your idea.we all know that oneals method of training is more in line with the training trends of days gone-by. when they galloped a lot, breezed enough to build a little wind & entered them. from that point forward ,most of the time, they ran them every time they could get a race for them . transportation was always a factor, & race meets were few & far between. when a trainer got to where there were races ,he entered his stock in very avaible race that was written. because it might the only race meet he can get to until next season. from these sititions were born the training methods of racing a horse fit. instead of the way its done now. which is using lots of "timed & strutsured works". even simulating certain situations. doug oneals training methods are tried &true. it remains to be seen if "ill have another " is the same kind of horse as "seattle slew", or "affirmed". personally, ithink there is a better chance of him winning the triple crown, since "smarty jones"made his noble attempt. but "i aint gonna bet the farm". have a gooden steve ole boy. "an ole railbird"

11 May 2012 11:14 PM
Steve Haskin

Skyfire, Affirmed is 4 in that photo

Baby Jane, Affirmed was taken on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga and Slew was at Belmont Park.

Spike, thanks very much.

11 May 2012 11:36 PM
Sharon

Personally, I don't think The Preakness is so easy especially for a colt having just endured The Derby. Nor does The Preakness favor closers.  Just because it is shorter does not make it easier to win.  IMO it is for the speed horse, wire to wire and closer just don't get a break.

11 May 2012 11:41 PM
captainsmistress

No Triple Crown Winner, No way in you know what! Too many of these owners and trainers only care about the KD anyway! Our best TC bets in the last 20 or 30 years did not even win the Derby! They won the Preakness and the Belmont, and fell victim to that evil 20 horse cavalcade! The Kentucky Derby! Curses! We would have had out TC Champion if it was not for that! Oh well, I am getting worked up. Sorry!

12 May 2012 12:36 AM
Irish Punter

IMHO

100 Beyer Speed Fig today = 109 BSF 6yrs ago.

Beyer S.F are Subjective and are sometimes adjusted up or down to fit a particular  narrative or scenario.In raw times The Fla Dby and Ark Dby were both run in 1:48 4/5 but Fla got BSF 95 and Ark. got BSF 1O8.I'll Have Another came home a full second faster (1:47 4/5) in the Santa Anita Derby and got a BSF 95 (?!?)And thus got a BSF 101 IN Kentiucky Derby.

BRIS S.F's. are computer driven and OBJECTIVE and thus IHA Got a BRIS 109 in the Kentucky Derby.Somehow 109 seems more suitable for a Triple Crown Winner than 101!

109 I can live with.

Steve, I am not being disrespectful with the "MA GOO"(nickname my last name is Mc Kee. however, I am going to get a more appropriate display name, Irish.

12 May 2012 1:22 AM
Irish Punter

Spike MA Goo has been retired to a Stud Career he richly deserves.

I shall be Posting for him,

Irish Punter.

In Britain a punter is a horse player.

P.S. My First act is to renew Spike's campaign for Mr Haskin to get an Eclipse Award for his Derby Posts.

12 May 2012 1:40 AM
Irish Punter

As regards raw figs I always compare final times to the track or course record times

and in the case of Triple Crown Races to Secretariat's time ( 1.59 2/5 for Derby)

That means IHA would have been beaten by 12 lengths which is actually not bad in the scheme of things!

Maybe he has a shot at The Triple Crown after all,

He certainly has a compelling Storeyline-----------Owner/Trainer/ Jockey/Jockey's Agent and that $11,000 yearling Blue Collar/Working Class Hero thing going for him and it would be a shot in the arm for horse racing.

12 May 2012 1:51 AM
trackjack

Thanks for the article Steve and all the stats and information on the Triple Crown winners.

I'll second Irish Punter's shout out for an Eclipse Award for Steve's Derby Posts.  As I read the article and got to the end and saw the first photo, I stared at it and thought Wow!, I'll Have Another sure is looking more and more like Secretariat.  One more roll on my mouse revealed "Secretariat".  Either I'm tired or it was an omen.  Thanks for the Pictures Steve.

Dr. Drunkinbum:

Great advice.  We were at the 2004 Belmont on the rail at the 1/16 pole, cheering on Smarty, my ears are still ringing, when Birdstone finally caught him right in front of us and the wall of noise went to dead silence.

We're going back this year and I'm taking your advice, Dr. D: There is no way I'll Have Another will win the Triple Crown. It's impossible!!!!!

Steve, can you find out what Paul Reddam's favorite cookie is?

12 May 2012 2:04 AM
ksweatman9

Too many folks have a number game they play when it comes to rating how capable a horse is. That's rubbish. Zenyatta was too slow, just ran against weak females. What a crock. Beyers don't mean all that much. Bodemeister is awesome, he's fast, but his speed didn't win him the roses, did it? How do you judge a great horse? They win races. Mr. KY Vet, every year the word "weak crop" gets thrown out there, every year. 2012 has a very talented crop of 3 year olds. I doubt IHA will win all 3 legs of the triple crown, but it would be terrific if he did. If he does, it won't be because he ran against a weak field or because this horse or that horse was injured or skipped a race. It would be because I'll Have Another proved he was an exceptional horse.

12 May 2012 2:32 AM
Davids

Steve, interesting deductions.The photographs bring back another era and treasured childhood memories. Seattle Slew was my favourite along with Dr. Fager. I am guessing that your second photograph of Secretariet is the one you have written about previously, Secretariet staring straight at you as you took the photo with his regal indifference/contempt.

On a different tack, in Australia, they mange to race their horses often a week apart or in their Spring Carnivals sometimes only days apart. By the way, these races in the Spring are for large purses many much higher in prize money than say the Wood Memorial, as an example.

If you look at the pedigrees of these Australian horses, they are basically US bloodlines via the shuttle stallion programs. My querry

12 May 2012 4:39 AM
Davids

...my pet just pushed the submit button...

My query is how can 'US bred' horses run so frequently and without any race day medication in Australia but not in the USA? It seems an oxymoron. It's not that long ago that the NYRA prevented 'medicating' runners for the Belmont Stakes.

12 May 2012 4:55 AM
Kantharos

Here is why IHA wins the crown:

- Fresh horse

- Lucky in Derby (who wouldn't want to get away with winning the Derby on a 101 Beyer?!)

- Peaking after the Derby (Preakness is 3rd start off a layoff)

- Should remain in peak form for Belmont

- Bred to go long in the Belmont

12 May 2012 7:44 AM
Pedigree Ann

Davids, for the reasons you mention, I find Australian racing more compelling and their horses more worthy of praise.

I grew up with the 2-3 week spacing for races back in the 1960s and 70s. The best mares stepped out of their division to run with the big boys. A top horse might lose now and again, but a loss, usually under top handicap weight, which didn't diminish their standing, horses being only mortal.

What I find inconceivable (yes, that is an allusion to a movie) is that so many modern trainers have abandoned the hard-won knowledge of former generations of their peers to follow the advice of some guy with a computer. Oh, no, you can't run him now or he'll bounce; he needs many weeks of rest. My numbers say so. Exercise physiologists be damned; all they have is physical evidence - I have all you need, a single number that says everything about a horse's performance. A betting tool has suddenly become a training tool, to the detriment of the horses and the sport.

12 May 2012 8:54 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Union rags lost the Derby because he drew inside and didnt have the speed to extricate himself from there.I think horseracing in the US in 2012 is a lot different then when the last TC winner completed the feat.The notion of racing foundation as a 2yo will slowly be forgotten as we get deeper into the 21st century.Once again I will restate this Big Brown beat the racing foundation angle by EIGHT DAYS his first and ONLY race as a 2YO was on December 23.

12 May 2012 9:14 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

BTW since the TC is a series why should colts that didnt run in any previous leg of the Triple Crown be allowed to run in the third leg.It is not a series it is a series of races.Last year Ruler on Ice did the honors.

12 May 2012 9:39 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

IF the TC was a series in which colts that didnt race in either leg would not be allowed to come in on the last race,how many TC winners would we of had in those 34 years.

12 May 2012 9:42 AM
Pedigree Ann

“After the race he was fine,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We sent him to WinStar as planned to give him a week off and then prepare for the Belmont (gr. I). But then he came up lame in his left front and diagnostics revealed a foot bruise. He’s making good progress and is 50% better today than he was yesterday."

No indication here that he was injured in the race. Didn't come up lame until after he went to the farm, could have stepped on something out in the paddock. Even with a horse who ought to be able to stay, the Pletcher preparation let him down.

12 May 2012 9:45 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

As far as Beyer Speed figures how can you make an accurate figure using a track varient when the races before and after the race in question are not run on the complete track surface of the race in which the figure is calculated.IMO the Arkansas Derby figure was a lot more accurate than the Florida Derby simply because there was a race at EXACTLY the same distance a half hour before that one.Track varient is very subjective and is prone to human error.

12 May 2012 9:58 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

I think the Beyer calculations were over compensating for track varient for the 2012 KD and the winner ran a figure between 105-110.

12 May 2012 10:17 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, that picture of Secretariat from the infield at Pimlico taken just before his last to first move around the clubhouse turn at Old Hilltop is one of the greatest photos I've ever seen. He's looking right at you. How did you get his attention? Or was he just so aware of his surroundings, he knew someone wanted his best profile for history?

12 May 2012 10:18 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

trackjack

  I thought the photo looked like I'll Have Another also until I saw the caption. Yep, impossible, just like the song, he'll follow that star whose photo confused us. Just kidding Racing Gods, no way he'll get it, but he does have the pedigree. The Belmont doesn't concern me with the horse. The ride a horse is given in The Belmont is the factor. Stay off of the talk show circuit after the Preakness Mario, and get plenty of Belmont rides in, and study old Belmont Stakes races. Good luck to I'll Have Another, Mario, Doug, Dennis, Paul and all of the connections.

12 May 2012 10:58 AM
Steve Haskin

Steve From St. Louis, actually what happened is that he was looking straight ahead and I took his picture. I was the only person on that side of him. When I took the photo, he reacted to the clicking of the shutter and turned and looked right at me. I then quickly took this photo, which has always been one of my favorites.

12 May 2012 11:27 AM
mybooandme03

IHA is my pick for the preakness but for the belmont i'll be putting my money on union rags he was easily covering the best ground in the later stage of the derby.he can get the distance. i'll take anybets for that race.

12 May 2012 12:53 PM
Mister Frisky

The late great Laz Barrera might have said something like this.IHA he be good horse,but he no Affirmed.

12 May 2012 12:56 PM
Wrensflight

I hope I'll be eating cookies with you, Dr D. Having been a racing fan since the 50's, I can't agree more regarding current breeding and training practices. I also believe that a 20-horse field for the Derby is ludicrous. Regarding Beyer figures, horse can do many things, but they can't read. And Steve, thanks for that photo of Secretariat. It's truly outstanding.

12 May 2012 1:14 PM
GoldenBroom

Is Bodie going in the Preakness? If so it's his...then Dullahan is going to be ready in the Belmont. I'm rooting for a triple crown winner but I'm afraid we may have another 3 way split again :(

12 May 2012 2:05 PM
Old Timer

Steve, Super analysis! It makes me wonder if one of these years a trainer may bring a horse in and win the Crown using the old school methods. Why not? When was the last time a two year old champ had 9 races more/less at two and then ran three or four preps prior to the Derby?

I could see Baffert among a few  others being someone who could pull it off.

As for this year I see the biggest road blocks as either Bode in the Preakness or Rags at Belmont (your Champagne winner).

12 May 2012 2:06 PM
Wrensflight

Sorry, meant "horses" can do many things, not "horse."

12 May 2012 2:07 PM
SoCalRacer

The Triple Crown Mania is here once again.. For some of you who think "I'll Have Another winning the Triple Crown well thats everybody wants, after all it's been a long time that we don't have a Triple Crown winner. but for betting point of view "I'll Have Another is the horse to stay away with.. first of all the fraction on KY Derby was set too fast by Bodemeister a typical front runner horse who almost win it,he just was out gas and beat by I'll Have Another a long shot won again.. keep in mind that the Favorite on the Kentucky Derby is Union Rags and lost his chance of winning the first leg of the Triple Crown still compare to I'll Have Another Union Rags is the Class.. Bodemeister the only fault of him his too fast and did not start until 3yr old. So down to the chase is I'll Have Another the winner of Triple Crown your answer is NO.. this a quote from Blood Horse "O'Neill is accused of "milkshaking," the illegal practice of giving a horse a blend of bicarbonate of soda, sugar, and electrolytes."  as you see I don't trust trainer with a violation on boosting horse ability to win a race even though I'll Have Another is clean during the KY Derby.. so for the Industry sake the Triple should be won by a good Horse with a good Trainer(no violation)and good Jockey.. now that's A Triple Crown worth waiting..

12 May 2012 2:09 PM
Wendy.lou

I believe the last horse to win the Triple Crown (Affirmed) won the Santa Anita Derby, but not the Champagne. I'll Have Another seems to improve with each race, much like Secretariat did, no he didn't match Big Red's winning speed, but the day that happens will we all be stunned into jaw dropping AWE! I think Mike Smith misjudged his lead, because if you watch Bodie again, you can see him trying to get another gear. He is one awesome competitor for sure. My first comment after the race, was wow, we might be seeing another Alydar/Affirmed situation. And on a side note, 2 of the last 3 Triple crown winners were RED horses, maybe that is a fact to considered, then again, maybe not, it is horse racing after all! But it sure would be nice to see another "Crown"!

12 May 2012 2:35 PM
predict

Using the information you have provided, Steve, we shouldn't expect a Triple Crown winner. I also think there were too many good horses within 5 lengths of IHA at the finish of the Derby to expect he has a good chance of achieving that goal. A little better trip by some and he may not have even won the Derby. I think he has a fair chance, and hope he is good enough, but I am not expecting it this year.

Chief Picawinna-

I like your number assessment, you should go into the race number business, you could call them Picawinnas, I love it already.

12 May 2012 2:48 PM
Bigtex

I can remember Lucien Lauren saying how much SECRETARIAT thrived on work.  "The more you give him, the more he wants."

The last thing these horses want is to be stuck in a stall.  IHA is obviously excited when he knows he's going to the track.  Perhaps, his desire to go to work and O'NEILL'S method of giving him long works will pay off against these other "pussy footers."

It's not just physical preparation to race frequently or work often, it's psychological prep, mental toughness development these equine stars need to have what it takes to rise above the rigors of the TC season.

It comes back to the trainer knowing his horse but I forget, and I shouldn't, that the owners have the investment to protect which I presume is the biggest factor contributing to such a long period since AFFIRMED.  It's interesting to watch THE LUMBER GUY since every time you look up he's entered in a race lately.  

Regarding Beyers, I've watched the blimp view of the race many times, and I felt that I saw several different gears from I'LL HAVE ANOTHER to do what he needed to get position, to do what he needed going into the stretch, to excelerate to the lead, and then maintain a lead through the wire.

Just my own uneducated opinion I assure you.

12 May 2012 3:10 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Wrensflight

  I will certainly be eating three homemade chocolate chip cookies and then probably have another and another. There is no limit to how many I could eat guilt free if we get a Triple Crown winner. I think a 16 horse field for The Derby would be fine but it's not going to happen. I don't like the twenty horse field either and most certainly the one post should be eliminated. The one post was fine in the days of smaller fields but nowadays especially with also eliigibles, a 20 horse field is pretty much guaranteed. The problem is that in a 16 horse field, a strong, improving contender will be left out and someone will be in based solely on 2yo winnings that isn't doing well or really prepared to win. It's a tricky situation. The Derby is a major event and all of the connections want in even if the horse doesn't. Our last Triple Crown winner didn't even get his just praise with many people still saying Alydar was better. I loved Affirmed and Steve Cauthen so I was really happy. I'm really starting to love I'll Have Another and the the whole story with the connections. I did have I'll Have Another in my top two in September based solely on pedigree when I was looking for a two year old capable of winning the Triple Crown based solely on pedigree. Then I had him number one on my Derby list for five weeks straight until Bodemeister ran his monster Ark. Derby so I've been a big fan of I'll Have Another for a long time in Derby time. I've rambled on long enough, it's time to go eat some cookies and start gettting in shape for the post Belmont celebration. I figure if I start eating about six cookies a day I should be able to eat a dozen or more when the real celebrating starts. I think I'll keep about six dozen in the freezer in case the crowd celebrating in the street overflows into the house.

12 May 2012 4:19 PM
Storm Catwoman

Steve,

Great article as usual but have you considered publishing a book of your photos? They are really wonderful and capture the essence of whatever time and place you took them.

12 May 2012 4:53 PM
Freetex

What a great read, Steve.  

The photos are fantastic.  I think your shot of Secretariat is magnificent.  

I've read amazing stories about each of these horses and have come to love them.  In fact, I see Affirmed and Alydar nose to nose in a spectacular piece sitting on my coffee table.  It takes up most of the table and worth every penny.

Thank you so much for the priceless photos.

12 May 2012 5:10 PM
Davids

As we are discussing the possibility of a Triple Crown winner for 2012, here are some interesting statistics. The first Kentucky Derby where furosemide was allowed was in 1986, where 5 of the 16 starters were ‘prescribed’ the medication. The NYRA, in September 1, 1995, accepted the use of furosemide, so, from 1996 the Triple Crown became furosemide friendly. Here are the figures for horses that needed furosemide to run:

1987 - 2 of 17, 1988 - 6 of 17, 1989 - 6 of 16, 1990 - 4 of 15, 1991 - 8 of 16, 1992 - 6 of 18, 1993 - 8 of 19, 1994 - 10 of 14, 1995 - 9 of 19, 1996 - 14 of 19, 1997 - 10 of 13, 1998 - 13 of 15, 1999 - ALL horses, and from 1999 through 2012 all Kentucky Derby starters have run on furosemide, with the exception of Lion Heart, Don't Get Mad, and Spanish Chestnut.

One of the ironies, and with the advantage of hindsight, is that one of the reasons in the NYRA accepting the use of furosemide for the Belmont Stakes was that not allowing the use of furosemide was possibly preventing racing from having a Triple Crown winner. Needless to say, furosemide has failed to create a Triple Crown winner…

12 May 2012 6:59 PM
Rinzler

I'm still all-in with Went the Day Well.

And that is an awesome pic of Affirmed at 4. He filled out really nice!

12 May 2012 8:23 PM
Paula Higgins

IHA was one of my three picks for the Derby but I do not see him winning the Triple Crown for exctly the reason stated in your article Steve. The third leg always does them in because they aren't used to races so close together. It would be great if he proves me wrong. I always felt Smarty Jones was pretty much a Triple Crown winner. He lost by such a small amt. that it was almost negligible. He was an amazing horse. I also like the idea of if you don't race in the Derby, you don't race in the Preakness or Belmont. Maybe that's devaluing the Triple Crown, but it might level the playing field a little more.

13 May 2012 2:01 AM
speedrouser1

ky vet is following self interested theory of Beyer concerning bode in the derby.Bode's early fractions on that Saturday at Churchill were not fast. Two track records fell on Friday and Saturday. butch had the track souped up. Bode's were relatively slow. Groupie Doll was 9 lengths ahead of bode after 6fl. Visually, Bode looked like Riva Ridge,( 1:11 and change) but could not hold on because of his distance limitations on his mother's side or his foundation limitations.

13 May 2012 9:05 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Predict ty for the compliment but theres too many figure makers already in the market.BTW fellow bloggers we have all watched many derbies what DO YOU THINK ILL HAVE ANOTHER BEYERED? Is it possible beyer has a political agenda and as such is creeping into his adjustments of the figures which is where the subjectiveity resides.I know he was biased aginst the AW tracks because he didnt have a data base for historical reference.Is this his way of stating his displeasure of breeding and drug use in the sport in 2012?

13 May 2012 9:50 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Paula Higgins I think of a series as having the same opponents. Allowing colts to jump in on the last leg of such a physically taxing group of races is allowing the new shooters a competetive advantage.I dont think they will even consider this idea.The trainers would definitely vote against it they know they will be running against a tired animal if one wins the first two legs and tries to sweep the triple crown and to them that is like getting a 5-10 pound weight allowance.That brings me to another idea if you come in on the last leg of the series without running in either of the first two you will carry 5 pounds more 3 pounds more if it is a filly.Unfortuneately it will never even be considered.I do not think Ill Have Another will win the TC and I am willing to bet on it at odds of course because that is how we bet with odds and Im not changing my mind.

13 May 2012 9:59 AM
Old Timer

Many have commented on the Beyer Speed Figures. Personally I think that they are useless. I continue to use the DRF 3 year speed figures and track variants for my handicapping. Need more proof? Look at the Peter Pan yesterday at Belmont. Master Rick finishes next to last after being bet down to 4 to 1. His BSF at Oaklawn was a 99 and was a joke. He basically just ran a fast race on a lightning fast track.

I admit that Mr. Beyer is taking on a formidable task. Trying to quantify so many variables in one figure just seems to me to lend itself to errors and to some degree of subjectivity.

Just my humble opinion.

13 May 2012 10:58 AM
Coldfacts

Mr. Haskin,

“Well, as it turned out, Champagne winner Union Rags lost all chance in the Derby and missed his opportunity to take the first leg of the Triple Crown, through no fault of his own.”

Union Rags has lost three of his last four races. In every losing effort excuses have been provided. None of the excuses have faulted the colt’s ability.  Misfortune and human error have been the main factors. For those passionate about him, he remains undefeated in the ability department. The numerous posts I have read about UR’s problems in races leads me to believe that his supporters are all affected by a bad case of a passion gone wild. He overcame numerous problems to record a decisive victory in the Champagne Stakes. His impressive record as a 2YO landed him in the Uncle Mo spin zone and its associated insanity. Although he was defeated by Hansen in the BCJ, his fans wanted him to be voted as Eclipse Champion 2YO. After his impressive 3YO debut he was being labeled as the next TC winner. Obviously the lessons regarding Uncle Mo were meaningless. Union Rags based on his pedigree and running style never impressed many as being capable of being effective at 9F and over. His 17 hands frame and powerful energy sapping strides makes him vulnerable to those that skip over the ground with energy efficient strides.

Exceptional horses do not required repeated excuses to be advanced on their  behalfs as they find ways to win in spite of adversities. The colt has turned out to be not as good as initially assessed.

13 May 2012 3:08 PM
Malcolm Lawrie

Smarty Jones's trainer and jockey lost the Belmont. After the Preakness, the trainer needed a "break".The horse was at Parx, which was his home base and never worked over the main track, as he got there the day before. The jockey never rode that week at Belmont and then moved way too early, because he did not ride there. Everyone knows Belmont is not like any other track in this country, except Smarty Jones's trainer and jockey. Well we all need a "break".

13 May 2012 3:11 PM
freecharm

Great photos, Steve!

Would you happen to know how many of the Triple Crown winners had had a race over the track before they won the Belmont? And, of the ten who have won the Derby and Preakness since Affirmed, then gone on to lose the Belmont, how many of them had never traversed Big Sandy?

Finally - when is it time to stop being Cubs fans and start thinking about revamping the Triple Crown series to better reflect some of racing's realities? To wit:

When Chas. Hatton coined the term "Triple Crown" in 1930, there was no big-time racing in California, now there is. (I know it's tough for you folks back East to buy in to that, but it's true!)

It seems that, since 1984, the advent of the Breeders' Cup, there has been a lot more turf racing as a percent of all races (much, I believe to the delight of us all).

So that, the new TC might start with the Santa Anita Derby at 9f and still four weeks before the Kentucy Derby on the first Sat. in May at 10f and, five weeks later, still Test of the Champion but at 11 f, on the grass! Or something like that.

Thanks for the pulpit.

13 May 2012 3:11 PM
Coldfacts

IHA

In one of your earlier blogs assessing the distance pedigree of the 3YO class of 2012, I posted the profiles of the broodmares that had produced the11 Triple Crown winners. I posted to profiles of those broodmares because passion was running wild with news of the conception of Zenyatta and RA. None of those broodmares were high profile G1 winners. Needleless to state, I was taken to task and accused of tailoring colt facts to justify yet another conclusion. Was I tailoring cold facts? No! Am I cynical? Yes. Your #1 ranked colt Creative Cause who was produced from high profile G1 winner did nothing to dispel my cynicism as he did not hit the board.  Take Charge Indy was another produced from high profile G1 winner who did not hit the board as well.

I’ll Have Another was produced from a mare that won her first and only start. She therefore was not subjected to the litany of race day medication over an extended period. Her profile compares favorably to the majority of TC winning broodmares. Well bred, lightly raced and low profile. In 2010 we were given a memorable dose of the influence of Kris S. Blame who was sired by Arch a son of Kris S defeated Zenyatta whose dam was sires by Kris S. Both Blame and Zenyatta were products of Mr. Prospector /Kris S crosses. I’ll Have Another’s dam was sired by Arch and his sire is from the Mr. Prospector sire line. I’ll Have Another therefore has a proven pedigree.

There have been 10 opportunities to complete the Triple Crown since Affirmed. The RAN sire line has flirted five out of the 10 times. Alysheba, Real Quiet, War Emblem, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones failed in their Triple Crown quest. The RAN sire line via Mr. Prospector has dominated the Triple Crown series over the last 34 years. The Preakness leg of the series has been won by RAN sire line horses 13 times and eight of the last 12 renewals. In the other four renewals that were not won by RAN line horses, the dams of three of the winners were sire by RAN sire line stallion i.e., Shackleford, Rachel Alexandra and Bernardini.

Is I’ll Have Another therefore equipped to win the Preakness and then become the 12th TC winner?  With the record of achievements of the RAN/Mr. Prospector and Kris S/Hail To Reason sire and broodmare lines the answer has to be yes. However, the colt made only two starts in the 90 day preceding his Derby effort. The two weeks turn around seems outside his routine. I think he is very vulnerable.

13 May 2012 3:12 PM
Coldfacts

“After the race he was fine,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We sent him to WinStar as planned to give him a week off and then prepare for the Belmont (gr. I). But then he came up lame in his left front and diagnostics revealed a foot bruise. He’s making good progress and is 50% better today than he was yesterday."

The above extract from Pedigree Ann (12 May 2012 9:45 AM) post has validated what I highlighted in just about every post I made about Gemologist. I saw the colt for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. What immediately captured my attention was what I subsequently described as a flopping front left. I posted that the colt appeared to have serious issues in this area and his long term soundness was in question. I was not surprised that subsequent to the KJCS he went off the radar. When he returned to the races at Gulfstream Park his action was no different in spite of his impressive victory. After his Wood Victory I advised my sparring partner Ranagulzion that the 10F of the Derby would not be kind to a colt his size with s defective running style.  

Subsequent to the Derby it was discovered that he was lame on his flopping front left? Why I am not surprised?  Did Mr. Pletcher not see what was blatantly obvious? This colt will be retired shortly and that will be a wise decision. Based on his sized he is unlikely to say sound.

13 May 2012 3:15 PM
slewcrew7778

Well it's Sunday! Baffert & Zayat were supposed to give the Preakness green lght for Bode yesterday.

Any word??

13 May 2012 3:21 PM
Paula Higgins

Chief Picawinna, we agree totally. But you are right, it will never happen. As for Beyers, I think they tell people who really follow the sport, what they already know. After the way Andy Beyer kept trashing Zenyatta for running on synthetics, he is not one of my favorite people. Yes, I do think he is biased. Even after her compelling 2010 BCC, he gave her some respect but qualified it by saying he knew she wouldn't win on dirt and that just proved it.

13 May 2012 3:41 PM
Mary

I think that Michael Matz is making a huge mistake by not running Union Rags in the Preakness.

The horse has really only run 1/2 mile combined in his last two starts. MM is being too careful with this exceptional horse.  I thought that he had more confidence in the Rags, but I guess he does not.

I cannot see him winning the Belmont, without running in the Preakness.  He needs another race before the Belmont.  

Union Rags is a big strong colt; and with his outstanding pedigree on the tail side, soundness will never be an issue.  I said this last year, NO SOUNDNESS PROBLEMS EVER. Too bad that the trainer cannot see this.      

13 May 2012 3:46 PM
Cassandra.Says

I've got a buck that says the horses that finished last in the Triple Crown races showed exactly the same pattern.

That's how good, bad and indifferent horses raced in those days. It's how racing secretaries wrote the schedules.

There is no physical componenent of running that is at a high level because of training a year ago. Racing fitness is abnormal; all systems return to the norm if given the slightest chance. Bone loses density, tendons slacken, muscles shrink, blood counts drop.

13 May 2012 5:18 PM
Rachel NH

Irish Punter, you nailed it with your Beyer equation: "100 Beyer Speed Fig today = 109 BSF 6yrs ago."

Mr. Beyer just hates this horse, it is so obvious.

13 May 2012 5:58 PM
Mister Frisky

If IHA can get it done more power too him.He still won't be mentioned in the same context as the great Affirmed.Alydar would be several lengths better than all these TC contenders since Sunday Silence.Affirmed beat Alydar 7 out of 10.Actually it was 8 of 10 but Affirmed was taken down once.Affirmed your legacy will not be forgotten.

13 May 2012 6:29 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Beyer Speed Figures should go the way of Slinky, and Streaking. They had their glory but who wants them now? Beyer Speed Figures have been going downhill for years. Like politicians, lawyers and doctors, you can't trust them. 101 for I'll Have Another is ridiculous as are many other BSF I've seen over the last five years or so. Personally, I use Brisnet, the combination of Brisnet pace and speed figures. Another thing that bugs me is all of the horses losing that are getting more credit than the winner. "He went too fast early, he encountered traffic, he ran farther, the dog ate half of his shoes and we didn't notice until the race was over but he was much the best."  "He would have won if, blah, blah, blah" is getting so that it is better than winning. And how many races did we have to hear that with Union Rags? I'm at the "put up or shut up" stage with all of the excuses for the "He shoulda won" connections and writers. The highly touted loser is much more likely to get more credit than the deserving winner. I know that there are legitimate excuses and sometimes the best horse doesn't win but it's gone overboard. Some of the excuses, especially for trips that aren't that bad are very weak. Really good and great horses don't need a perfect trip everytime. The only trip that really counts anyway is a safe trip.

13 May 2012 8:15 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, that is a gorgeous photo of Affirmed,using O'Neill's comment about how his trainee I'll Have Another looked on the track yesterday, Affirmed "looks just like a shiny new copper penny for sure."

Like a kid, i look at the pictures first, now i will go back and read what you wrote. Now that will be my Mother's Day Dessert. And Happy Mother's Day to everyone.

Linda

13 May 2012 8:58 PM
Greg R

"Davids" asks how US-bred horses can run so frequently and without race-day medication in Australia, but not in the US.  

In Australia, they are running only on the grass.  Isn't that part of the answer?  Dirt races are somewhat more grueling, usually, and take a little more out of a horse, so repeating them at shorter intervals is not as feasible.

Steve H. - What about the horses that these Triple Crown winners were defeating?  Were they also running rapid-fire race schedules?  Seems rather likely.  If nearly all the 3-yr-olds had the experience of competing in races that were close together, that aspect of the TC winners' foundation wouldn't carry so much sigificance.  

If nearly all NBA players are very tall, then height doesn't explain the standout performance of the superstar player.  

The picture of Seattle Slew makes him look like a very wiry individual.  Did he give that impression in person?

13 May 2012 11:59 PM
sysonby

81 yrs ago, Twenty Grand won his Derby in the same time as IHA...71 yrs ago Whirlaway was faster...Middleground and Hill Gail were faster 62 and 60 yrs ago....Decidedly was decidedly faster 50 yrs ago...Northern Dancer was even faster 48 yrs ago...Affirmed was faster 34 yrs ago and of course Secretariat was a lot faster 39 yrs ago....All of this occured on tracks that were less manicured and slower than today...And they did it without computerized breeding selections and without modern meds and designer drugs....Improvement of the breed ?   Sez who ?

14 May 2012 12:01 AM
Davids

Greg R, you may not have attended the Spring Carnival racing in Melbourne, Australia. Often, the grass tracks have been described as "running on cement" due to the usual dry season there.

Moreover, may I invert your question and ask: "Why do the US bred grass horses in the USA need to run with race-day medication when US bred horses don't need to when running in Australia, Europe et al?

14 May 2012 2:24 AM
Coldfacts

Playfriskyforme

“If IHA can gets it done more power to him. He still won't be mentioned in the same context as the great Affirmed”

our hypothetical statement above has captured my attention. My immediate question is - Why? Wouldn’t he have won the same three races?  Base on your comments, if IHA win the TC there should be an asterisk placed beside his name. Are suggesting that Triple Crown winners should be categorized?  Are there lesser and greater TC winners? If this is your conviction then the categories would be far too numerous and would serve very little purpose. Secretariat would be considered the greatest of all the TC winners by virtue of his recording setting victories.  However, that would be one parameter to measure greatness? Seattle Slew remains the only horse to complete the TC undefeated.  Sir Barton the first TC winner is the only TC winner who completed the TC without previously winning a race. Yes! He won the Derby as a maiden. In fact his Derby like that of Regret was his first start as a 3YO.

There is likely to be something unique about each of the 11 TC winners. However, the equalizer is the fact that they all won this elusive title against the odds and competition they faced. Many great thoroughbreds have failed in their guest for TC glory. It is a testament to the difficulty of the feat.

NB: The majority of supporters of these blogs consider Mine That Bird’s Derby victory to be a fluke. In fact, in many quarters it is abominable to mention him in the same context as great Derby winners. Those who harbor these sentiments have failed to recognize the pin sized gelding achievement. His victory was achieved by the widest margin in the last 50 years. He rider employed the mercy rule or it would have been wider. He was brave enough to fly though the narrowest of gaps that saw his rider’s left booth scraping the paint of the rails. Very few Derby winning rider had time to look back and perform antics enroute to victory. His Derby victory is the greatest that I have ever seen. It left one hundred thousand plus dumbstrucked and bewildered. In spite of the impact of his victory I am probably the only one that is brave enough to state that his Derby victory was greater than even that of the immortal Secretariat. Context!

14 May 2012 8:33 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

I think running on grass even if it is rock hard still provides more cushion and less shock to the joints and thin legs of racehorses.They tried AW in this country with varied results so in the US it is always going to be dirt and the breeders need to breed horses whose joints can withstand the continuous pounding of training and running over hard dirt tracks.They are breeding a lot of colts that can work fast so they can be sold at high prices but they cant withstand much training and running without monthly breaks between races.

14 May 2012 8:46 AM
JayGo

Right on, Steve.

Next Triple Crown winner, even if it's IHA, will get there by default not by sheer talent as in the past for the reasons stated in the article.  These horses are not bred to win the Triple Crown, that is obvious.  And why should they nowadays when there are plenty of high purse races on the calandar and the big bucks are in breeding? IHA will be a favorite in the Preakness, rightfully so, and may win the race but look at the competition.  Many would-be odds-on competitors are skipping the race.  And the same thing could happen in the Belmont, perhaps worse if other contenders pull off to improve there chances in the summer stakes.  This is how you will get a TC winner nowadays.

I question why the TC retains the luster it once had.  Certainly people in the racing community, like Steve, understand it is antiquated in today's racing world.  Maybe the network with the broadcasting rights should add $5 million to the purses, make it a prime time event and market like hell to the public at large.  Maybe Kim Kardashian should award the trophy?

Horse racing today is a vehicle for legal internet gambling.  The "sport," at least in the US, is dead as a horseshoe.  Baffert in Meydan with horses and health issues says it all.

14 May 2012 8:58 AM
Nyfalcon

Okay, here's the thing I am getting at the derby curse! Mine that bird, super saver, animal kingdoms all DW all wonderfully horses , but could not repeat the trick of winning after they won the derby?why well bad racing luck maybe  but what ever the case it's fact . Right now im hopefully that I'll have another will have a nother big win!  He's fit  and has all the momentive to keep this going although I would give him a zinger on Thursday just to wind him up a bit a quick jaunt down the stretch just to be sure. He sure looks good to me and I can't  help but think of seattle slew when I see him tacked up and that gives me hope!!  Break that derby curse we don't need another one of them .

14 May 2012 11:07 AM
Coldfacts

JayGo

“These horses are not bred to win the Triple Crown, that is obvious.”

A lot of folks would disagree with your statement above. The Triple Crown is comprised of three races in five weeks covering 31.5 furlongs where each contestant is required carry either 121lbs or 126lbs. It was not structured to be an easy task for those that venture to attempt it. Many horses bred in the US have excellent stamina and speed influences on both sire and dam side. Thoroughbred breeding and racing has one common denominator and that is glorious uncertainties. A foal based on its pedigree and confirmation that is expected to be a claimer could turn out to be the next TC winner. Conversely one that is big and robust and regarded as an ultimate equine machine might be unable to get out of its own way. There are lots of things affecting the breeding industry but do try to breed for TC excellence. However, in spite of the industry’s best efforts, exceptional horses will remain a rear commodity as Mother Nature cannot be influenced.

I do not know the extent of your knowledge about TC winners. However, I encourage you to read the story of the first TC winner Sir Barton. Below are some extracts from his bio:

Sir Barton was bred in Kentucky by John E. Madden and Vivian A. Gooch at Hamburg Place Farm near Lexington. Madden raced him in his two-year-old season. He was entered in six races, winning none. Madden sold the horse in 1918 for $10,000 to a Canadian businessman.

At three, he made his season debut as a maiden in the Kentucky Derby. He was supposed to be the rabbit for his highly regarded stable mate, a horse named Billy Kelly.  However, it was Sir Barton who led the field of 12 horses from start to finish, winning the race by five lengths

Triple Crown winner Assault is worth reading as well.

14 May 2012 11:14 AM
slee

For those of us old enough to remember at least part of the TC "drought" between Citation and Secretariat, and how Secretariat was described all over as a "wonder horse" when he won the TC, we may also remember that a short 5 years later, the world seemed to have changed.

Anybody else remember?  After Secretariat in 1973 and Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978, suddenly there were conversations all over the media about how thoroughbreds had gotten TOO good, TOO fast, TOO tough, and the TC was, suddenly "TOO easy"!  Seriously.

It does take a wonderful horse with tremendous talent and, let's face it, more than a little bit of luck to win the TC.  Riva Ridge, for example, really should have had a TC in 1972.  As somebody wrote at the time -- if it hadn't rained fit to scare Noah that day at Old Hilltop, he would have won the Preakness.

The statement about the horses needing more work, if not more racing, rings the truest to me.  How can you expect a world class athlete to stand (or lie down) 22-23 hours a day and then compete?  Why not walk and jog them 5-10 miles a day to keep the joints moving and stretch ligaments/tendons and improve circulation and develop "bottom"?  I know, time, money, staff......

And, Steve, thanks for the pictures.  I'd forgotten Affirmed wore those weird orange wraps when he worked, at least up at the Spa.  But once he started to move, you never saw the wraps!

14 May 2012 12:10 PM
Rusty Weisner

Coldfacts:

...and he ran well in the Preakness, a race less kind to a horse with his running style.

One of the things his performance in that race also confirmed for me:  the winner doesn't "bounce" off the Derby.  The only ones to do poorly out of the Derby in the past dozen years have been Monarchos and Super Saver.

14 May 2012 12:16 PM
Rusty Weisner

Game on.  

If IHA wants the Triple Crown he'll have to beat the best.  We could see a memorable duel in the stretch.

14 May 2012 12:16 PM
Rusty Weisner

Better still, Hansen won't run.  I think Hansen would have set it up better for IHA, but now I'm going to bet Bodemeister.

14 May 2012 12:33 PM
Rusty Weisner

JayGo:

I suspect Bodemeister will be the favorite in the Preakness.

14 May 2012 12:35 PM
Rusty Weisner

I actually like the 20-horse field in the Derby.  It's unique as a betting race, at least here in the U.S.

As for the Triple Crown, it's doable.  In my short time enjoying this sport, since 2001, I've seen two TC-caliber horses fall short because of racing luck in the Derby, while others have put up a fight in the Belmont despite being limited by their pedigrees.  I've seen a few horses come close already.  It may take a few more years for circumstances to align, but it will be worth the wait.      

The horses I've seen that lost the Belmont with the TC on the line tended to be headstrong, not tired or dull.  Funny Cide had a :57 workout the week of the Belmont and was very rank in the slop.  Smarty Jones was also pulling against restraint.  War Emblem stumbled badly out of the gate but flashed his speed to briefly gain the lead on the turn.  I think their pedigrees did them in more than the grueling campaign.

14 May 2012 12:50 PM
Jennifer irelan

Steve- thanks for those pics.  Dont know if i have ever seen the first one, and since he is my favorite horse im surprised but i have a QH Daughter of Tinners way that i could superimpose her body over that picture and it would be identical.  She is an unbelievable athlete just like her granddaddy.  Never tired of pics of him!

14 May 2012 1:43 PM
Grande Fan

It seems to be our nature as humans to analyze statistics, numeric formulas, training patterns, etc. We want to be "the one" who knew it all along. The frustration of having 34 years of talented and capable horses unable to grasp the holy grail of the TC keeps our pencils and calculators in constant motion. Take a breath and step back to remember - if we can get out of their way and give them the opportunity - the horse will take us there. Good luck to IHA and a safe trip to all.

14 May 2012 4:13 PM
Greg R

Why should anyone anticipate that horses will, once again, be bred for ten furlongs when they so seldom run ten furlongs?  The most common distance for day in, day out American racing is six furlongs.  That's the rub.  By far the best-known race among the general public is ten furlongs, and the most prestigious race within the racing industry (BC Classic) is also ten furlongs.  Yet race tracks typically write very few races at such a distance and certainly not for claming and allowance-level dirt runners.

Isn't this a bit schizo?  Many (most?) thoroughbreds will never run beyond 1 1/6 miles.  That is the root of the problem, if you expect the breeding industry to focus on producing ten furlong types for our classic races.

If purses for longer races were more common on an average day of racing, horsemen would tend to prepare more horses for those races, there would be more demand by owners for route horses, breeders would cater to the demand and we'd have a larger pool of candidates for endurance tests.  The larger the pool of stamina, the better the routers that will rise to the top.

Maybe long races wouldn't fill so easily at first, but if they go off with short fields, that just leaves easy pickings for the trainers who are willing to enter and others would soon learn to get in on the opportunity.  

So if you're griping about the state of American racing and breeding and you're pining for the marathon steeds of yore, maybe you should be looking toward the racing secretaries.

14 May 2012 4:51 PM
Greg R

Davids, you miscontrued my point.  I wasn't saying dirt racing was harder on the feet ; I was saying that it is harder on the horse, ie., more taxing at the same distance of ground.

Extremely firm courses, whether grass or dirt, can make for sore feet and ankles, but they are not more difficult for the horse to get over in terms of effort or energy expended.  On the contrary, the deeper the dirt course, the tougher it is for most horses to plow through, even if it is cushier and more forgiving.  On the other hand, your cement-like turf courses in Australia (your description) may sting the feet of some horses, but they can skip over it with less expenditure of effort, since the energy recovery phase of each stride is more efficient.  If this helps, there is less "push-off" effort required.  

14 May 2012 5:11 PM
Coldfacts

Rusty Weisner

“The only ones to do poorly out of the Derby in the past dozen years have been Monarchos and Super Saver.”

It’s ironic that both were sired by Marias Mon and both had tough final preps and Derbies. In the case of Monorchos he closed to win after wicked fractions similar to those recorded by my Bodermeister. I excluded IHA after the medical procedure was undertaken. Will said procedure be necessary preceding the Preakness? Your guess is as good as mine.  

Now that Bodemeister is heading to Pimlico, will half of a furlong make a difference between the Derby winner and runner up? What do the cold facts reflect?

In the last 50 years the Preakness has been won by the Derby winner 18 times and twice by the Derby runner up. Is it reasonable to conclude from historic data the reduced distance does not favor Bodemeister but overwhelmingly favor IHA?  I have not gather data on the number of Derby runner ups that subsequently entered the Preakness, consequently a proper determination cannot be made of the success rate of Derby runner ups. Without this pertinent bit of data I would still conclude that history favors an IHA victory. The last Derby runner up to win the Preakness was Summer Squall in 1990. Before Summer Squall the record books would have to be turned back to 1960 went Bally Ache went one better in the Preakness.

14 May 2012 6:26 PM
ksweatman9

I thought from the beginning that Hansen would've done well had he skipped the Derby and went to the Preakness a fresh horse. That not being the case, I'm happy his connections are thinking of his welfare and letting him rest a bit before pointing him to a race more suited to his style. I'm confident that they will find the gorgeous colt's comfort zone and he will do just fine. What I hate is, now 3 of my very favorite ponies will probably be sharing the same field, Jackson Bend, Caleb's Posse and Hansen. Love them all, so what do I wish for, a 3 way tie? I think Hansen can rate and go a bit more than a mile. They'll just have to work with him, they have time. He was terrific in the Gotham, he can do it, but it's smart to cut his distance and let Hansen tell us what's best for him. I applaud the doctor for doing the right thing. Got to throw this comment in. MINE THAT BIRD was not a fluke in the Derby. His Derby win was more impressive than any other of recent memory, including the most recent. Then Bird came back for a 2nd in the Preakness and 3rd in the Belmont. All flukes? Sure. The folks who insist that Mine that Bird just didn't happen are the same people who had a negative opinion of Zenyatta when she was dominating the track. Yes, there are folks like that. What did Super Saver do other than win the roses? Big Brown didn't even really "finish" the Belmont, his run was so bad, he was pulled up. Why is it always open season on MINE THAT BIRD? He had more excuses for coming up short after the triple crown races than most horses do. Yes Bird, you still have fans.

14 May 2012 6:43 PM
Davids

Greg R, I appreciated your point and agree with what you wrote. However, what I was attempting to further impress was how 'US bloodlines' seem to manage to run without the use of furosemide outside the USA.

By the way, I am not a maven on Australian horse racing, members of my family live there so I have a reasonable knowledge on the racing scene there.

15 May 2012 3:12 AM
Bill in Atlanta

Steve,

Thank you for continuing to take the HIGH ROAD and the POSITIVE side of not just the chase for the TC, but just horse racing in general. As you have said so many times, this entire thing is supposed to be fun!  Whether a fan likes or dislikes IHA, how refreshing is it for the entire IHA crew (owner, trainer, jockey, team) to look at their great fortune and hard work.....as HAVING A GREAT TIME!  For the naysayers like KY VET and others that respond here with "this weak group of 3 yr olds" and "there are no exceptional horses.....", they need to get a life and try to enjoy the great animals and people that make up our sport.

I was at Churchill Downs last week with 163,000 of my best friends and it was a great time!  I'm on my way to Pimlico now. Hope to see you there to watch these magnificent horse and jockeys!

Bill in Atlanta

16 May 2012 1:40 PM
deb

I agree, Mine that Bird was a super racehorse and respect should be given.

Loved your photo picks. Memories!

16 May 2012 2:04 PM

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