Sunday August 26, 2012
*** The Willy Beamin victory for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has been a source of consternation controversy, and conversation. Dutrow wins races, and one must assume, given the scrutiny he is under over his current sustained legal battle and impending 10-year suspension, that he is racing clean. His meet record through Sunday is 41 starts with 5 winners (12%) and 23/41 in-the-money (56%), but is telling when examined in the context of his win percentage over the prior six Spa meets: 2006 (21%), 2007 (25%), 2008 (23%), 2009 (20%), 2010 (19%), 2011 (18%). Note the steadily declining win percentages, with the current meeting his lowest in seven years.
Statistics are predictors, not determiners, and the irony lies in the fact that trainers don’t study their stats; they just train and do. That said, Rick Dutrow, Jr. wins races. For that reason, he has, and continues to have, owners. I’ve always believed a trainer’s most important task is to determine a horse’s best distances, surface, class level and tracks…then get the horse to those spots as race-fit as possible as often as possible. Dutrow does just that. With the information explosion, handicappers and owners have become much more aware of trainer stats as a sign of trainer ability and intent, and to a large degree, less concerned about the horse. How good is a trainer in this particular spot, making this particular move? How successful has the trainer been with this move, with this horse, on this circuit or track? Dutrow has some compelling stats, one supporting the fact that his horses are capable of repeating big efforts on short rest. The question with Willy Beamin: was the Albany Handicap an effort or merely a public workout? Willy Beamin was ambitiously spotted in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, and Dutrow generally spots horses not only where they can compete, but where they can win without delivering a top or career best effort. Dutrow’s stats said Willy Beamin would be a contender. However, smoke, smoke from the firestorm of controversy surrounding him while being accorded the full due process to which he is entitled, engulfs every horse he enters that must be handicapped. And he wins races. I don’t fault any one for betting or using this horse. I have picked and bet a few of his runners this meet. But, I was not prepared to bet Willy Beamin, a NYbred $25k claimer, in a Grade 1 stake against several proven Graded stakes competitors, back on only three days rest, statistics be damned. Here’s trainer Nick Zito after the King’s Bishop: “I don’t know why I always have to be in the middle of something,” said Zito. “Yesterday, I finished second in the King’s Bishop, and [Dutrow] runs the horse back in three days. I don’t know. Here’s the odds. They tell you, ‘OK, Nick, you’re going to beat Currency Swap, Doctor Chit, Trinniberg, etc., etc., but you’re going to lose.’ I would say, ‘How much do you want to bet?’ We lost. That’s racing. That’s what makes it so incredible. Things you see every day that you don’t see in any other sport.” And that’s why, smoke or not, we are engaged in this game.
***The Racing Fan Advisory Council will hold a fan forum Thursday August 20, 2012 at the Saratoga Race Course in the Carousel immediately following the last race of the day. DRF;s David Grenig will host and moderate a panel comprised of Chairman Patrick Connors from Albany law School, Michael Amo fromThorofan, Allan Carter from the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and Kelly Young from the New York Farm Bureau. If you have ever called in to Trackfacts “Live” or sent an e-mail with an issue or concern about racing in NY, you ought to find a way to be in attendance and be heard. I’ll be there; stop by and say hello.
*** Jockey John Velazquez is riding extremely well since returning from his injury. Who knows how tight the race for leading jockey might have been had he began the meet in top shape? That by no means is intended to take anything away from the numbers Ramon Dominguez has put up this meet.
I did not like the favorites here but failed to pick the correct no-favorites. Classic Fashion and The Sliver Machine vie, Who is Lady chases but Speedy’sGal (7-1) emerges as best in a bad field.
Big maiden win for Al Stall, Jr.’s Sign (10-1), who rated, moved and drew far, far, far away form Pletcher debut runners Honor Bright (10-1) and Marcellina d’Oro.
White Sangria (9-2) set the pace but favored Thescreenisred is easily best under Ramon Dominguez. Linda Rice firster Talmadge Hill proved best of the rest.
Fiddler’s Afleet rallies outside and passes weakened speedsters. Favored Sailmate finishes well but too late. Pacesetter Johannesburg Smile last for 3rd. Be Bullish stalks outside but comes up empty under Dominguez.
Ramon Dominguez guides favored Mr.Cowboy to the wire as tons the best of these for trainer H. James Bond. Forget the rest.
Heidi’s Holiday rallies from off the pace after a three-way pace battle. Long shot Stellerite (30-1) sucks up for 2nd. Roddy Valente’s Stone Broke, a May foal, delivers a good debut effort and will win soon.
Wide open tote board with three evenly bet co-choices Half Lucky (5-2), Mr. E. Philip (3-1), and War Hitch (3-1). Half Lucky is more than half empty; the others run 1-2.
Class dropper Screenplay (2-1) put away Ronin Dax to win off as tons best; Recharged (32-1) rallied boldly under Maylan Studart for the place. Sr. Henry has trouble at the start and altered course in the late running.
I like Bombaguia at the price last time but thought this a tougher group. Wrong. He sits a perfect trip, rolls by fading pacesetter Followmyfootsteps and holds off the favorite.
Pletcher gets another double-digit winner in Love and Pride. Blinkers came off, she rated kindly, was hooked and passed by the very good Royal Delta (4-5) but came again under another Hall of Fame ride by John Velazquez. This winner led to a $76k Pick-6 carryover.
Missed this one. Second starter Disco Rico (6-1) showed speed on debut going 7 furlongs, broke well clearing the field and was gone on the cutback to this 5 ½ furlong turf dash.
Luck…and may they all come home safe.