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.