• Morning Musings

    POSTED Jul 31, 2014
    A Perfect Storm

    On Aug. 1, 1922, a seven-year-old gelding by the name of Exterminator finished last, beaten 10 ¼ lengths by Grey Lag, in the Saratoga Handicap. Grey Lag was the 3-5 favorite that day, while Exterminator was 5-1 in the betting.

    For Grey Lag, the win atoned for an earlier head loss to Exterminator in the Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct, where the chestnut colt was once again the 3-5 public choice. In fact, in 1922, Grey Lag was favored in every race he ran. After winning nine of 13 starts and being named Horse of the Year in 1921, the four-year-old son of Star Shoot was victorious in five of six trips to post in 1922.

    However, it was Exterminator, a horse that lost six of 17 races — three by double-digit margins — who was voted top older horse that year. Because, in 1922, winning mattered; losing was just a step on the path to success.

    Fast forward to 2014 when 17 starts would be viewed as a gut-wrenching campaign and losing even a single race is considered a badge of shame.

    When Untapable, a magnificent three-year-old filly, who drew comparisons to Rachel Alexandra by longtime turf writer Jennie Rees, finished a well-beaten fifth in the Haskell Invitational last Sunday one would have thought that Zippy Chippy had raced in her stead judging by the reaction on social media.

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    I witnessed Untapable called “a fraud,” “overrated” and “counterfeit.” Untapable’s jockey, Rosie Napravnik, who, earlier this year, was being touted as one of the best female jockeys ever, received even more abuse. According to the social media crowd, it’s a wonder Napravnik can even dress herself, much less ride a horse.   

    Yet, lost in all the hyperbole, is the fact that the Haskell was one race… one stumble… one fall in an otherwise stellar campaign for a filly that may not be Rachel Alexandra (which is like saying that a great basketball player is not Michael Jordan), but is still pretty darn good.

    What’s more, as I stated on my podcast two weeks before the race, Monmouth Park is not exactly a neutral playing field. In 2013, 42 percent of all dirt sprints and 31 percent of all dirt routes were won in wire-to-wire fashion at the New Jersey track. At 1 1/16 miles or greater, 39 percent of the winners led from flag fall to finish.

    With Bayern as the controlling speed — Social Inclusion’s best-ever early speed ration (ESR) wasn’t as good as Bayern’s -6 figure in the Woody Stephens — the result was hardly unpredictable.

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    Medicinal Grass for Social Inclusion?

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    So I had a thought: With Social Inclusion now in the care of Chad Brown, why not try the son of Pioneerof the Nile on the grass?

    First of all, Brown is an outstanding turf trainer, having won 25.2 percent of his 1,390 starts on the lawn since 2008. Better still, he shows a positive ROI (albeit a slight one) with horses making their turf debuts.

    Secondly, although Social Inclusion’s mama (Saint Bernadette) never raced on the green stuff, nor foaled a turf winner, his papa (Pioneerof the Nile) broke his maiden on the grass and, in fact, never won on the dirt (his four other wins came on synthetic surfaces). What’s more, Pioneerof the Nile’s progeny have won eight (of 61) turf races and earned an average Brisnet speed figure of 72.6 — three points higher than their average BSF on dirt (69.6).

    Lastly, Social Inclusion’s running style makes me think he could a Sidney’s Candy type. On the dirt, Sidney’s Candy had only moderate early foot; but on the turf, he was a front-running dynamo and it propelled him to two graded wins and a course record in his turf debut, the La Jolla Handicap.

    Say it Ain’t So Allen

    For the first time in over 65 years, H. Allen Jerkens, the legendary trainer who beat Secretariat twice, is not at Saratoga for that track’s 40-day meet. Instead, the 85-year-old trainer is in Hallandale, Florida, preparing a small stable of horses to race at Gulfstream Park.

    Unlike Mark Sanchez, Jerkens is greatly missed.

    “His not being here just feels wrong,” former jockey and current NYRA racing analyst Richard Migliore told timesunion.com.

    In a related news story, the temperature in Hell reached a record low yesterday and flying swine were spotted over parts of the northeast.
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