Executiveprivilege returns

I think Executiveprivilege is the best two-year-old flly in America, but when we taped this week's edition of That Handicapping Show, I picked against her in the Hollywood Starlet (G1) for two reasons: her odds will be low (less than even money probably) and I don't know where this filly's head is at.

Executiveprivilege sustained her first loss in six tries when she drifted out badly in the stretch run of the Breeders' Cup and failed to run down Beholder (who ran a fast race and had the benefit of a strong inside speed bias).

In an effort to get Executiveprivilege's mind focused on things like forward motion and winning races, Bob Baffert will outfit her with blinkers on Saturday and has changed riders from Rafael Bejarano, who roder her in all six career starts, to Mike Smith.

Horses as good as Executiveprivilege usually don't need blinkers. This is a high-level filly that runs with a magnificent presence and focus. However, she tipped off the Breeders' Cup defeat in her final two workouts before the Cup. In one workout, Executiveprivilege failed to gat by her workmate (the talented colt Super Ninety Nine). In the other she outworked a much lesser horse in relatively slow time. They received mostly bad reviews from the California clockers.

When I want to figure out what is going on inside a horse's head, I consult Kerry Thomas, my boss at the Thomas Herding Technique, and an expert on equine communication. When Kerry watched the works, he said he didn't think there was anything wrong with Executiveprivilege physically, but he said something interesting.

"She is increasingly making her own decisions," Kerry said. "She is not listening to the rider."

That scenario played out in the Juevnile Fillies as Executiveprivilege drifted outward, against the urging of Bejarano, who had a terrible Breeders' Cup weekend. The switch to Mike Smith is a big wildcard, as he can give you a Hall of Fame ride one race and a puzzling one the next.

As for the blinkers, Kerry is anti in most cases. He believes they are a band-aid that attempts to cover up the underlying issue by limiting a horse's senses, instead of addressing it through training.

I have seen blinkers improve horses too many times to condemn them unequivically, but I have to admit the more I learn about herd dynamics and the horse's mind, the more I realize blinkers are over-used here in the U.S.

Executiveprivilege has worked four times since the Breeders' Cup. I haven't seen any of those works, but hopefully we will see her best this weekend. Then the debate over champion two-year-old filly can begin. I would love to see her train on at three.


As for betting, I really had to scour the nation to find my Locksmith Smart Plays this weekend. Many of my plays are based on talent evaluations of young horses, so I play a lot of maidens and NW1's. December is not a pretty time for those races.

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