• A Tale of Two Horses

    POSTED Jul 26, 2012
    In sports, when a team or individual triumphs in dubious fashion it is known as “winning ugly.”

    This past Saturday, Royal Delta and Acclamation could relate.

    Although both are considered strong candidates for Horse of the Year Honors — at least by some — neither impressed me last weekend.

    Let’s start with Acclamation.

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    After cruising to an easy victory in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap in his six-year-old debut at Hollywood Park, last year’s top older male made it seven-for-his-last-seven with a front-running score in the Eddie Read at Del Mar.

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    And therein lies the problem: Acclamation has won seven straight races (five of them versus Grade I company) on or near the lead… yet, he’s hardly had to break a sweat in the early stages to do it.

    Over the past year, the son of Unusual Heat has recorded a string of ridiculously soft early speed rations (see key below), including a +7 in the 2012 Eddie Read, a +4 in the 2012 Whittingham and +4 in the 2011 C. L. Hirsch. Worse, he’s beaten a total of just 42 horses in his last ten starts and there is evidence to suggest that, if pressed for more speed early, Acclamation will fold like Adam Scott in the British Open.

    When he’s recorded a +1 ESR or lower (faster), the Donald Warren trainee is one-for-four — the one being last year’s Pacific Classic on Del Mar’s all-weather surface, which typically produces slightly better ESRs than turf.

    With speedsters like Bodemeister, Game On Dude, Paynter and a number of others waiting in the wings, Acclamation is surely going to have to show more early foot to compete for another Eclipse Award this year.

    Early speed — or, specifically, the lack thereof — is also at the heart of Royal Delta’s problem.

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    In my last column I noted that the daughter of Empire Maker “needs to prove she can rally from further off the pace than she’s accustomed to or show that she can duplicate the strong (-4) LSR that she earned last time after exerting herself more in the early stages.”

    In the Delaware Handicap, she did neither.

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    Instead, Royal Delta demonstrated once again that she’s vulnerable in races featuring a strong pace, as she barely held of Tiz Miz Sue by a neck.

    William Mott’s stable star has now won just two of her last five races (this includes Saturday’s Delaware Handicap) featuring a -5 ESR pace or less; she’s four-for-five in races featuring a slower pace.

    Again, I refer to Bodemeister, Game On Dude, Paynter, et al.

    Royal Delta is talented, but she’s going to need to improve greatly to keep the string of female Horse of the Year winners alive. At this point, I’m betting against it.

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