Larry Best's comments about pulling the brilliant Instagrand
out of training, his thoughts on the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, and
admitting his decision overruled trainer Jerry Hollendorfer have created quite
This is a lot more complex than people might think. First
off, Best spends a lot of money at the sales, and obviously is free to do what
he feels is best, stating that he goes by his gut, something that has gotten
him to where he is now.
As an old schooler, I have always been a firm believer in
building a racing foundation in a 2-year-old, not so much to win the Kentucky
Derby, but to enhance his chances of prolonging his career after the Kentucky
Derby and Triple Crown. That is when the foundation is necessary to enable a
horse to withstand the rigors of the Derby trail and Triple Crown and move forward off it.
In an era when we have lightly raced horses winning the
Derby, and, now, even the Triple Crown, it is natural for owners and trainers
to want to have a lightly raced horse on the Derby trail, believing it would
help prevent a horse from burning out too early and saving something for the
first Saturday in May. Many obviously believe a 2-year-old foundation is detriment to a
With that thinking, it seems more than a coincidence that
seven of the past 10 Kentucky Derby winners never won a race after the Triple
Crown, and five of those seven never won a race after the Derby. As mentioned
in my previous column, in the 1970s alone, Kentucky Derby winners Riva Ridge,
Secretariat, Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid all
won at least one sprint stakes as a 2-year-old.
With that said, I have also seen rare occasions when you
have a horse come along that is, as the old saying goes, "Too fast to last."
Even the all-time greats usually progressed at 2, getting better with each
start, even if they won first time out. Many did not. But once in a while you
came across a horse so fast and so brilliant he took everyone's breath away,
winning by the length of the stretch in fast time. If he followed that by
moving up in class and once again blowing the doors off his opponents, then you
had better start pondering his future and figuring out how to slow down this
I have seen a number of these "Too fast to last" youngsters,
such as Graustark, Hoist the Flag, Raise A Native, and Danzig. All came out
like gangbusters, running a hole in the wind, and all broke down either as
2-year-olds or before the Derby. Ironically, all became top-class sires. Those horses, however, were not subjected to the 2-year-old sales as Instagrand was. Many of those 2-year-olds who work blistering times often need time to develop, mature, and control their speed if they want to have an extended career.
It is extremely rare to see a horse like Instagrand, who won
his debut by 10 lengths in a blazing :56 flat for five furlongs. He then moved
up in class in the grade 2 Best Pal Stakes and won that by 10 1/4 lengths under
a hand ride in 1:10 1/5, coming home his last quarter in a scintillating
Being by Into Mischief, there are no guarantees he is even a
Derby horse. But if you're going to try to harness some of that speed, you sure
don't want him to continue running races like that. A horse that precocious and
that fast, and by that sire, is not what you look for in a Derby horse. Best is
not even that interested in the Derby at this point, but if Instagrand does make it to Churchill
Downs, he has no desire to continue through the Triple Crown, preferring
instead to point long-range toward the Travers and hopefully a 4-year-old
Best said he is going by his gut, but the bottom line is
that all horses are different and meant to do different things and take
different paths. And from what we have seen so far from Instagrand, I don't see
how anyone can criticize his decision, which at this point seems to be what is
best for the horse, as much of a cliché as that may be.
Best spent $1.2 million to obtain the colt as a 2-year-old, so you can only imagine how fast he worked, especially considering he was
purchased as a yearling for only $190,000. That is quite a pinhook. The last
thing Best wants with an investment this large, or any investment, is to have a horse who is "Too
fast to last."