Back? · 126 days ago

Hello? Is this thing on?… _ … Testing, testing… _[MYEEEEEP, MWOOOOP, FNEEEERRR…] GAH! Turn it down, down, down!

Just checked in… to see what condition… my condition was in… _[SKWOOORRR-EEECCKKHH…] … Sorry about that….

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Is Left Coast Racing back? Don’t know, but I am feeling the itch to write again – about racing, of course, and perhaps occasionally… other stuff.

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Damn, I wish I could write like Steve Haskin. Even if his most recent piece in BloodHorse is a bit “Get off my lawn!” — and I’m not as enamoured of Dr. Fager as he is — it’s a great look back at the glory days of horse racing. The guy can write rings around most anybody else in the biz.

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If I can actually follow through and get back to writing on a regular basis, I’ll also revive the Stayer’s Watch series. There are those who deride the “marathon” races, calling them pointless, boring, and/or elitist. To those I say, in the immortal words of Jean Shepherd, “Excelsior! You fathead…”.

What do you think? [5]

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The disappearance of "classic" horses for Classic races · 512 days ago

Two racing-related articles caught my eye last week, and the issues they raise deserve attention and response. They caught my interest because they address, if only tangentially, one of my own great concerns: the de-emphasizing of stamina in North American Thoroughbred breeding and racing.

I’ve cited ESPN’s Bill Finley in the past. He always struck me as one of the better turf writers around – a very clever fellow. Everybody sometimes has a bad day, however, and in my opinion Finley had one just prior to the Breeders’ Cup.

In his October 31 article "Marathon, Juvenile Sprint must go", he declared that the poor quality of horses entered in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and Juvenile Sprint cheapened the entire two-day event. “They might as well rename the Breeders’ Cup Marathon the Breeders’ Cup For Horses Not Good Enough To Run in a Real Breeders’ Cup Race”, he wrote. “These horses aren’t in here because they are great marathoners but because they are second- and third-string horses that are in over their heads when they go up against true Grade 1 competition”. For that reason, in Finley’s opinion, the BC Marathon needs to be scrapped

I won’t try to argue that the horses entered in the Marathon were paragons of Thoroughbred ability. None of them are in the top echelon of our Unofficial Champion Stayers standings — the leading dirt-track stayer so far this year, Redeemed, wasn’t even entered. The winner, Calidoscopio, was a 9-year-old South American horse who hardly anybody had even heard of.

Well, what would anybody expect of a race that gets so little respect from the Breeders’ Cup organization? The Marathon was only accorded graded status in 2010; the purse is a relatively measly $500,000, compared to the $1-$5 million purses for almost all the other Breeders’ Cup races; and it has been bumped all around the BC schedule since it was first run in 2008.

To attract better horses for the Marathon, stop treating it like an unwanted step-child. Boost the purse to $1 million — the minimum purse level for any “real” Breeders’ Cup race. Place it in the race schedule where it is likely to have an impact on public perception — don’t leave it where it was this year, immediately after the Juvenile Sprint that Finley rightly called “the worst Breeders’ Cup race ever run — by a mile”. If owners and breeders see that the Breeders’ Cup organization takes the Marathon seriously, then they will take it seriously, too.

Meanwhile, a good pal and fellow racing fan pointed out this Brisnet article. The writer, Dick Powell, focusses on the Lasix issue in North American racing. Powell argues that Lasix has little to do with the decline in durability and stamina of North American racehorses — a claim that in my opinion is debatable, but that’s another argument for another day. However, he brings to his readers’ attention that 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird was recently sold to Japanese interests.

Why was Summer Bird — a proven winner at America’s “classic” distance of 1 1/4 miles, as well as the 1 1/2-mile Belmont — sold? Because his foals weren’t attracting the bids at auctions that foals from more precocious and supposedly speedier stallions were getting. Japanese breeders, however, still recognize the importance of breeding for stamina as well as speed, so they snapped him up when they had the chance. In Powell’s words, “further proof that stallions that excel at longer distance are not embraced by the same industry that [now] laments the lack of stamina and soundness in the American Thoroughbred…”.

As I just noted, the North American standard for Thoroughbred talent — the “classic” distance — is 1 1/4 miles. To win at that distance a racehorse must have a balance of both speed and stamina. Is that balance reflected in the racing schedules of North American racetracks? No, it is not.

The vast majority of races scheduled across the continent are sprints, races less than a mile in distance. Very few races are now run at 1 1/2 miles or longer. The rest are in the middle-distance range of one mile to 1 1/4 miles. Even that proportion is steadily declining — most “big” races today are in fact 1-mile or 1 1/8 mile events. So it is not surprising that modern breeders and trainers tend to focus on speed. Why breed animals that are at their best at long distances when there are so few long-distance races? Why train horses to maximize their staying ability when there are so few opportunities to earn purse money at such distances?

This imbalance extends to the Breeders’ Cup itself. Of the 15 races run at Santa Anita earlier this month, eight were a mile or less, where the focus is almost exclusively on speed. Only two races, the Marathon and the Turf, could be considered long-distance contests, where horses’ stamina could be put to the test.

And only one Breeders’ Cup race showcased that special balance of speed and stamina needed to win at 1 1/4 miles: the Breeders’ Cup Classic itself.

You want more classic horses? Run more classic races, and stop ignoring the stamina side of the “classic” equation.

What do you think? [4]

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Stayers' Watch: Long Island Handicap · 513 days ago

Starformer held off Mystical Star in a stretch duel to win by a neck in the Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct on 10 November. Aigue Marine rallied late to take third place by a nose. Final time on a soft turf course: 2:33.13.

Champion Stayers’ Award standings — update:

No changes in the standings.

Remaining distance races for 2012 include Calder’s W.L. McKnight and La Prevoyante Handicaps, Woodbine’s Valedictory Stakes, and the Hollywood Turf Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

What do you think?

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Stayers' Watch: Breeders' Cup Turf and Marathon · 526 days ago

Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT)

Point of Entry clinched the unofficial champion stayer’s title with his performance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf this past Saturday. However, to use a sports cliché, he backed into the title when he finished a hard-charging second to Little Mike over the Santa Anita turf course. The loss also cost Point of Entry, who had won four straight stakes races prior to the Breeders’ Cup, any consideration for Horse of the Year honours – that title will almost certainly go to either Little Mike or Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Wise Dan.

Stalking a vary quick early pace set by Turbo Compressor, Little Mike moved to the front coming around the final turn. Meanwhile Point of Entry, sent off as the 2-1 favourite, was at one point in ninth position in the field of 12 horses. He came on strongly in the late stages, but fell a half-length short. Last year’s winer St. Nicholas Abbey finished third. Final time for 1 1/2 miles on the firm and fast course was 2:22.83 — unofficially tying the course and world record of 2:22.80 set by Hawkster in 1989 when races weren’t timed to the hundredth-of-a-second.

Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. IIT)

Calidoscopio made history when he won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon on Friday. Not only was he the first South-American trained Breeders’ Cup winner — at nine years old, he was also the oldest horse to ever win a Breeders’ Cup race.

The Argentine horse was last, more 20 lengths back of the leaders, for much of the first half of the Marathon. Setting a modest pace was Commander — owned by Vancouver’s Glen Todd and ridden by Kentucky Derby jockey and local hero Mario Gutierrez — together with Jaycito. Atigun took the lead after a mile as Calidoscopio began his move from far back. After passing horses coming around the final turn he ran down Atigun with less than a furlong to go, then drew off easily to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Grassy also rallied to catch Atigun for second place. Time for 1 3/4 miles on Santa Anita’s fast dirt track: 2:57.25.

Champion Stayers’ Award standings – update:

  1. Point of Entry — 32
  2. Bourbon Bay — 12
  3. Al Khali — 12
  4. Union Rags — 10
  5. Little Mike — 10
  6. Joshua Tree — 10
  7. Wigmore Hall — 10
  8. Redeemed — 10
  9. Dhaamer — 10
  10. Ioya Bigtime — 10
  11. Simmard — 10

What do you think? [1]

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2012 Unofficial Champion Stayer's Award -- current standings · 532 days ago

In 2008, Left Coast Racing inaugurated the Unofficial Champion Stayers’ Award, to fill a void in the year-end series of North American racing awards and give due recognition to the distance specialists who best represent the qualities of stamina and durability in the Thoroughbred. The unofficial title of Champion Stayer is awarded to the horse whose performances in North America at distances of 1 1/2 miles and beyond, on dirt, turf, and synthetic surfaces, are deemed to be superior to its rivals.

The winner of the Champion Stayers’ Award is determined using a points system, similar to that used by the Breeders’ Cup for its divisional standings:

  GI GII GIII/ Ungr.
1st 10 6 4
2nd 6 4 2
3rd 4 2 1

Note that ungraded stakes are included and given the same value as Grade IIIs. This permits consideration of ungraded races which are included in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series, and so logically deserve consideration for the purposes of the Champion Stayers’ award. They are given the same point value as GIII races for two reasons. First, for simplicity’s sake, this allows the existing Breeders’ Cup points system to be easily adapted without adjustment. Secondly, as Breeders’ Cup prep races they tend to attract higher-class horses than ungraded stakes normally would, and so merit extra consideration. This policy has been maintained, even though some of these new races have since been granted graded-stakes status.

Current standings (as of 31 October 2012):


Point of Entry — 26 points
1st: Elkhorn Stakes, Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes

Bourbon Bay — 12 points
1st: San Luis Rey Stakes, San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap

Al Khali — 12 points
2nd: Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes, Northern Dancer Turf Stakes

Union Rags — 10 points
1st: Belmont Stakes

Joshua Tree — 10 points
1st: Pattison Canadian International Stakes

Wigmore Hall — 10 points
1st: Northern Dancer Turf Stakes

Redeemed — 10 points
1st: Brooklyn Handicap, Greenwood Cup

Dhaamer — 10 points
1st: Round Table Stakes, Sunset Handicap; 2nd: Tokyo City Cup

Ioya Bigtime — 10 points
1st: Stars and Stripes Stakes, Kentucky Cup Turf; 2nd: Sycamore Stakes

Simmard — 10 points
1st: Louisville Handicap; 2nd: Singspiel Stakes; 3rd: Pan American Stakes, Elkhorn Stakes

With his victories listed above, along with a win in the “pseudo-marathon” (1 3/8 miles) Man O’ War Stakes, Point of Entry has so far been the dominant stayer in North America. Of the other contenders, Bourbon Bay ran poorly in the John Henry Turf Championship last month after a long layoff, and is not entered in this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, while Al Khali has been given the rest of the year off. So a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf by Point of Entry — for which he is one of the favourites — or even an in-the-money finish, would lock up the Unofficial Champion Stayers’ Award for the year.

With wins in the Brooklyn Handicap and Greenwood Cup, Redeemed is the leading dirt-track stayer so far in 2012. Finally, after winning the Bewitched and Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes, Upperline (8 points) is the leading female stayer.

What do you think? [1]

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