Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Point of Interest

A question below:

Would love to hear your take on Borel and Mine That Bird. I see a torrent of criticism aimed at his too-early, too-soon move. But long-time harness fans know that it is rare to find a heavy favorite in a big race that DOESN'T make an early move. I have heard the best drivers speak of these situations in which the thing they do not want to have happen is to lose a race having too much ground to make up at the end, and so their moves for the lead are almost always completed by or just after the half-way mark of the mile. Mine That Bird was spent - the pacesetter came back and edged him for the place spot - and was a tired horse. The Triple Crown road is a gruelling one on young horses, and T-breds cannot bounce back week after week like their harness cousins can. If this wasn't the case, then we would not have the number of unlikely longshots that have won the Belmont in recent years.
Cheers. Jim


Jim, riders/drivers get far too much credit when a horse wins, and take far too much blame when a horse loses. When Borel made his move and Bird was hanging like a chandelier I said to my gambling friend "boy is he going to get toasted for this", as it was clear he was not going to win. It made me think of Ron Pierce on Art Official in the Meadowlands Pace last year. He has done that move plenty of times and came 9th by 11, and was called a goat. When he won with Art Official, he was a genius. I do not feel sorry for riders and drivers either way, but it is the state of the game. People like to humanize their wins and losses and it is easier to blame or praise someone who speaks, rather than something who whinny's.

My 2 cents.

5 comments:

Pacingguy said...

It's called racing luck, plain and simple. Regardless of what anyone says, Mine That Bird was the best horse in this triple crown. The fact is he was competetive in all three races and showed his 50-1 win in the Derby was not luck. Who else finished in the money in all three starts? As you already alluded, Calvin made a move and it didn't work out. But you know what? He may have moved later and we may have found someone else winning.

I do wish sportwriters who have no knowledge about horseracing would just pass on these events. The local paper by us had a writer, who deemed himself an expert, opine that Calvin lost the race because he did the talk show circuit instead of riding at Belmont during the week. The man obviously is a jackass.

As anyone who follows racing knows, a t-bred racing surface can change day to day, even race to race depending on factors such as the amount of rain that falls, how much water is added, and how deep they harrow the track and so forth. Ride a few races on Friday will not necessarily do anything for you on Saturday. A mount on an earlier race on Saturday? With no race going the Belmont distance, I am not sure how much it would have helped as I am sure he could figure out the bias by watching the races and talking to his fellow jockeys.

The runners have as many problems as the trotters; racing in California and elsewhere is on the ropes. By doing the talk show circuit, Calvin was doing the sport a great favor, taking advantage of the opportunity to get publicity for the sport.

Anyone with knowledge of the sport should be thanking Calvin for what he did Belmont week rather than taking him to task for 'racing luck' that did not pan out.

IanLozada said...

The big difference between t-bred and harness racing is that thoroughbred races are carded for a myriad of distances on tracks that are not as standardized.

Borel was riding a very unfamiliar track (7 lifetime starts before the Belmont Stakes), that is considerably larger than any other track in North America. He was riding at a distance he has very little experience with, in a race that has now been won 7 of its last 8 runnings by local riders.

The only way I can put it in harness terms is if a driver had always driven on half mile ovals, and had never tried the larger track at the Meadowlands before. If he comes out of the pocket at the point in the turn that he's used to making his move, he's going to find that he's got too much ground in front of him.

Compound all this by throwing in the fact that Borel was in New York for the entire week and yet he did not ride a single race at Belmont in that time. That's just arrogant to say, "It's just another race track, just turn left."

Borel's a very good race rider, and in Kentucky, you'll have a hard time beating him, but it's not an accident that Calvin has won nearly all of his big races in either Louisiana, Arkansas or Kentucky. He has to still prove that he can win regularly when riding big horses when they ship.

IanLozada said...

The previous commenter had some mistakes. First off, there was a race the Belmont distance the day before, the Brooklyn Handicap. Even if it was ridden under a different track condition, riding in it would give you some feel for the scope of how much bigger this track is. I grew up on NYRA racing, and out of town jock after out of town jock has gotten killed at the Big Sandy by making the move at the 3/8ths pole that they'd normally make at the 1/4 pole.

Second, Calvin was completely wrong about the bias. He told the interviewer that the rail was dead on Belmont Day, when it was anything but. Again, if he had ridden earlier in the card, he'd have known that.

Third, why would any of the other jocks give Calvin information about how the track was playing?

Look, it's not just local sportswriters who are giving Calvin blame for this ride. Go read The Bloodhorse, Steven Crist's blog on DRF, and the words "premature" and "overconfident" keep coming up. Even Kent Desormeaux, who's been in Calvin's position when he was still a SoCal jock on Real Quiet and now rides at NYRA tracks, called Calvin's comments about his ride "naive."

Oh, and the news talk show circuit's in the morning. Belmont first post is 1PM.

If you're going to take a vacation, do it the second week of June, not the first.

Joey Belmont said...

Sorry but it is more than racing luck. Borel only had only 7 lifetime mounts at Belmont. Belmont has a clear advantage for those who ride there everyday. It is very diffacult for a horse with the running style of MTB to win by starting his run wide in the turn.

Non NY jockeys get fooled at Belmont all the time because 99.9% of dirt races are one turn. So they think they can make wide runs around the long sweeping turn. Borel feel victim to inexperience.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Calvin. No thanks ESPN.
Monday between 4-5 PM my wife and I go to our favorite place for ribs. I'm looking at one of their big screen TVs and low and behold they are doing racing coverage at ESPN. The field breaks from the gate and BAM! It's Barbaro. Then come the broken down horses, slaughter houses and markets in Asia with various cuts of horsemeat. The sound wasn't on so could someone maybe fill me in what was said? Wasn't a plus for the sport.
RG