Simply put, the best horse won the Woodward.Horse of the Year Contenders
The half was slower than I expected because Fernando Jara — oh, how his stock has fallen — gave Mambo Meister a positively dreadful ride, going four-wide into the clubhouse turn instead of pushing “Mambo” out of the gate, which allowed Javier Castellano, aboard Rule, to put the brakes on going into the first turn.
As a result, Havre de Grace was in her comfort zone, running just two lengths behind a moderate-to-slow pace. In fact, the zero early speed ration (ESR) that Havre de Grace earned in the Woodward matched her three-race average. She then recorded a -4 late speed ration (LSR) in the run to the wire (a bit slower than her recent efforts, but very good nonetheless).
The final time was also quite fast (109 Brisnet speed figure) which, likewise, was typical “Gracie.” She was one of only two horses in the field (Flat Out was the other) to have met the Brisnet par for the race — something she accomplished three times prior to Saturday’s feature.
In other words, by using tools like speed figures and pace figures, one could make a judgement about Havre de Grace’s ability, a judgement that was completely divorced from non-quantifiable factors like class, strength of field or eyewitness accounts (ask DNA experts how “reliable” eyewitness testimony is in certain instances).
And that, my friends, is why horses like Havre de Grace, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are/were great in my book — not because they beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so; not because they didn’t lose; not because they have x-number of G1 victories.
Speaking of greatness, I think now might be a good time to look at some of the top contenders for Horse of the Year honors, starting with the aforementioned Havre de Grace:
Comments: She became only the second female to win the historic Woodward Stakes in her latest outing and she earned her usual stellar figures in doing so (109 BSF, -4 LSR). I still want to see her face a quicker pace, but she has proven she is among the year’s best thoroughbreds — male or female.
Comments: What makes this guy so good is his ability to stalk and pounce off a quick pace, which he aptly demonstrated in the Met Mile; shades of Ghostzapper.
Comments: Obviously, Cape Blanco will probably be competing for top turf honors and he looks like kind of a plodder to me — but he’s a good plodder.
Comments: The filly some have called “Little Zenyatta” definitely appears to have that one’s potent late kick, as her outstanding LSRs attest to. To win racing’s top honor, though, she will either need to beat Havre de Grace again or face the boys.
Comments: This guy pretty much has to be on the list based on his last two starts, but I think he still has a ways to go before he can be considered a realistic challenger for the Horse of the Year award.
Hoosier Hooey Revisited
Two weeks ago, I reported on the spectacular — too spectacular, in my opinion — debut of Alumni, a juvenile son of First Samurai who broke his maiden by six lengths while tying a track record at Hoosier Park on Aug. 4.
It wasn't the margin of victory or even the final time — 0:56-4/5 for five furlongs — that gave me pause (well, it was partly the time), the biggest issue I had was with the final furlong. For if the Hoosier clock is to be believed, Alumni is a super horse that ran his last eighth of a mile in 10-2/5 seconds!
Yet, according Indiana state steward Stan Bowker, who was contacted by Scott Dick of Horse Racing Nation, nothing was amiss with the Hoosier Park timer on the day in question.
“Our races are electronically timed by Teleview Racing Patrol and we are alerted if there are any issues with the timer,” Bowker told Dick. “We were not contacted of any problems or complaints with our timer during the races Thursday, Aug. 4. Compared to the other times that evening, the race turned in by Alumni was fast, but he is the type of horse that can turn in a performance like that, and he equaled a time that had been previously established at that distance over our racing surface.”
True, Mr. Bowker, but the last time a horse covered five panels that fast at Hoosier, the half was clocked in :45-3/5 — ironically, the same half-mile split that my analysis suggests Alumni recorded in his big win.
What does all this mean? Well, not a lot in terms of Alumni’s future — he is a very talented two-year-old with a ton of potential. But he is still a horse… not the rocket-powered machine that Hoosier Park officials apparently believe he is.
Derek's Weekend Wagers
Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics
Races (Selections): 48 (51)
(This year's published selections through 09/08/11.)
Note: Play is restricted to any horse(s) that meet my fair odds requirements (when listed). Multiple qualifying contenders will be bet separately, however, multiple bets will be adjusted to equal a single wager and the payoffs averaged. For example a winning WIN/PLACE wager paying $6.20 on top and $4.30 underneath would count as a single bet paying $5.25 (the average of $6.20 and $4.30).