Thursday, August 4, 2011

Taking Frankel Down a Notch

Handicapping racing is a wonderful mind exercise, and many times (which often offers us value) people see different things, or there are external factors at play that we have to analyze. One of the things thoroughbred racing adds for a mind-stretch is the need, with different distances, to really dig deep into pace, and internal fractions, and judge a horse on how he finishes and who he beats.

Frankel's win at Goodwood last week was sparkling to the eye. Yes he got a slow first half, but he relaxed and then sprinted home nicely as a good horse should. But, we had to dig deeper: Is there something to put this horse over the top in that race? The solidifying factor was Canford Cliffs, the second place finisher who is an awesome horse himself - Frankel dropped him like a cheap internet connection. Wow!

But today we learned, as is often the case in racing, Canford Cliffs was the outlier, not Frankel. He was retired due to a leg injury sustained in the running. When we saw him bear out, we might have thought he was simply a beaten horse, but look again.

Does this take some shine off Frankel's win? Certainly for me it does. Derek Simon had a wonderful look at the fractions and what he did on Twinspires, and I discounted a lot of it, because of the fractions (his internal furlong times in the second half are difficult for a racehorse to do, with finish), yes, but mostly because who Frankel beat. Now it seems the horse he left in the dust, who we were all so impressed with, was not at his best.

Notes: Speaking of 'who he beat', this weekends Nat Ray Trot at the Meadowlands on Hambo Day features two wonderful trotters - Arch Madness and San Pail. Arch Madness was clearly not at his best in his last two tilts, one of them where San Pail dropped him like Frankel did Canford Cliffs. I wonder if this weekend will be different. Arch Madness has 150 in him, and I think, off a pocket, San Pail would give him a run at that speed. If the weather is good and both horses are at their best, can we see the 150 barrier taken a run at?

DK's The View on Standardbred Canada is "in defence of the open draw". No kidding I agree with that. Our stakes finals have been coronations, not races.

Casual fans, in my opinion, pay far too little attention on how a horse races, or finishes; they simply look at the result (see Frankel above). In a fantastic look at how a trainer works on a top horse, take a look at Hambo favorite Man of Many Missions. He has, like a lot of horses - thoroughbred or standardbred - 'tweaks', and those tweaks throw him off measurably. The next time the horse we bet loses, take a look at how he raced and don't blame the jock, or the driver first, or say "that horse stinks!"; it could be something as simple as a tweak in his ankle. It happens 50 times a day. They are not machines, no matter how much with modern vet work we'd like them to be, and one little thing can take them out of their game that gets them beat by a football field.

12 comments:

Tinky said...

While I agree completely that horses tend to be over-hyped these days, I don't see that as being the case with Frankel. It was obvious at the time that Canford Cliffs didn't run to his best, and that he was injured adds little to the story of the race.

At the same time, it is inconceivable to me that any horse could have threatened Frankel on the day. A horse with that kind of ability, allowed to control a crawling half-mile pace? Neither CC nor Goldikova would have been able to live with his searing final half – even at their best.

Now, it is true that Frankel has yet to be tested under serious pressure, and that the playing field would be more level in a race featuring a realistic pace. I hope to see such conditions in his next start, but would be surprised to see a different result.

Pull the Pocket said...

Tinky,

The only thing I add, with regards to the news this morning, is that with CC's injury, it nips in the bud (for me), the "Frankel tore his heart out" angle. If he drifted b/c he was a beaten animal by a hugely superior athlete, it makes a difference to me when judging him.

I completely agree w/ you though. He has an amazing button, and if they can harness that and he continues to be able to settle, we might be in for some mind-boggling performances. I personally think as he seasons, he can get even better.

My 2 cents.

PTP

Anonymous said...

Hey PTP,

"Tweaks", as you call them, can even be noticed in the post parade. My pick one night was Village Janus, but a slight "bobbing of the head" seemed to throw her right out of contention in the race - She was the favorite. Because I followed her quite a bit, and new her racing style, this "bobbing glitch" just didn't seem to jive with me. Now I'm not the greatest handicapper in the world, but I do delve deeper than just the odds board - You have to.

As the betting public, the one thing we are not prive to is what happens after the race; when they ship back home. Are they sore? Did they swell? Are they off their feed? These are all variables that will certainly affect their next time out. We have to be satisfied that the trainer is entering the horse in their next race in tip-top form. Sometimes this doesn't happen.

You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard people say, "Bad drive"...but in all reality, it was the horse that was racing sub-par.

Standardbredgal

sid fernando said...

Dean,

If Canford Cliffs had hurt his near for (left front pastern) during the running of the race, he would not have drifted left---regardless of what his trainer, R Hannon says. A horse will favor the leg that is NOT hurt, just as you or I would if we sprained an ankle or stepped in cat puke---we'd hop on the other ankle.

More likely, by drifting left, "punch drunk" (my words) from chasing Frankel, a bone bruise or tendon strain was detected the next day.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi Sid,

By convention you are right on. But when a horse is hurting they will do odd things like run with and run away from pain (and I have the head scratching vet bills to prove it.)

Regardless (and I do not want to put words in your mouth), it seems you think this might be a ruse. If so, and they are not telling the truth on this, why wouldn't the connections tell us it was the proper leg (for the conventional thinking), knowing that everyone would accept it more easily, rather than make it the "wrong" leg?

sid fernando said...

When a horse is tired, they also will drift one way or the other.

I don't believe it's a ruse at all; I think a scan showed "a shadow," and that was released into the media to create what it did: That Canford Cliffs was hurt, and by implication---as you wrote--why he lost.

As I said in my first comment, I believe that "bruise" or whatever came about because he was tired and drifted left, putting pressure on the left leg (and the pastern).

I've also read he's perfectly sound, by the way, and that the scan suggested he'd get hurt if he was continued with.

It doesn't hurt the farm to have this out there, because once this story ages, what we'll have in our consciousness is that CC got hurt in the Sussex.

Pull the Pocket said...

That's certainly a plausible theory Sid.

If you are correct, Frankel deserves the accolades, because he ripped the heart out of a talented horse.

PTP

Scott Ferguson said...

Frankel blew him away with his turn of foot. Hannon has said the injury is relatively minor, it just may develop into something bigger so why risk it? Big Canford Cliffs form, but Frankel blew him away fair and square - as he ought to have with that weight advantage.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hey Scott,

Nice to hear from you again.

What kind of buzz has this horse generated over there with bettors, beyond what we read on the interwebs? Has the mainstream media been onto him?

PTP

Tinky said...

For the record, Canford Cliffs drifted in the betting through each of the last few days leading up to the race. This was due, in part, to rumors emanating from the Hannon yard that the colt was not 100%.

Richard Hannon Jr. confirmed this when interviewed after the race, though I suppose that one could be be cynical enough to imagine that it was a ready-made excuse.

Anonymous said...

I dont think the race went fast enuff for a good horse like CC to buckle. (w/o somehting hurting him)

Anonymous said...

You can't just take CC and Frankel's performances in isolation. If one assumes that Rio De La Plata ran to the same form as in the Queen Anne (and there is no reason not to as he is a super consistent horse), then CC ran 2.5L below his QA form. However, he was beaten by 5L in this race. Obviously it would have been closer if he had run to his best but it is unlikely he could have found 5L.