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The Body of Work & Dullahan

I watched a replay of the Pacific Classic last evening. Dullahan, in my opinion a remarkably talented horse, had a nice pace set up and rallied home huge, earning a 111 Beyer.

Owner Jerry Crawford had this to say:
  • People are going to insist that this is a synthetic horse because he has won three Grade Is on synthetic. But there’s no one else in the country that has won three Grade Is on any surface and placed in graded stakes on the turf and finished third in the Kentucky Derby. “I would respectfully submit that the question with Dullahan is not what surface can he run on, but what surface can’t he run on?
I think that's a good quote.

Today careers are abbreviated and a horse cannot complete a body of work. If a horse fails at 10f once, he may be labelled distance challenged, and will never try it again, because he's off to stud four months later. If he wins a poly race in a Beyer slower than what he wins on dirt he can be labelled "not good on the fake stuff". It even happens to the best of them. Curlin, who I think everyone agreed was tailing off, lost on turf and that experiment was labelled a flop. Maybe he had a bad day, or maybe he is not very good on turf. Who knows with a data point of "one".

This labelling based on limited starts can befall even great horses, and a lot of the times it would be completely false. What if Frankel pulled a muscle before his last and never put on the 10.5f show that he did last week? He'd be labelled as a "brilliant miler." Zenyatta was constantly labeled as a poly specialist who didn't like the dirt much, because she only carded a 94 Beyer in the Apple Blossom. Thank goodness they tried the Classic at Churchill where she ran a good number in a gallant loss, proving she could excel on either surface against the best around.

Dullahan is a little different because a trend has developed. He surely looks better on turf and poly, however, his Derby was fine, and his Juvenile was not bad either. At the Belmont he seemed to struggle badly around the 3/4 pole, looking totally off his game. The surface was blamed by some, but how does a horse work like a flash on that same surface a week earlier and not like it? He may have been up too close in the Haskell as well, and that might have compromised him. Regardless, he may have been simply not up to the task in those two instances.

Fortunately, Dullahan, will not retire after this season, so he will complete a body of work. We may see him try dirt in the BC Classic and I hope he does. If he fails again, then so be it. But, in my opinion, pigeon-holing talented horses like that without letting them try and build a body of work shows them disrespect.


dana said…
Meant to post this sooner but...

"But, in my opinion, pigeon-holing talented horses like that without letting them try and build a body of work shows them disrespect."

I couldn't agree with you more, but I don't remember you singing that song about Zenyatta. In fact, I remember you disagreeing with those of us who did! :)
Pull the Pocket said…
Hi Dana,

? You have me flummoxed!

I am a huge Z fan. I never pigeon holed her; in fact just the opposite. I think she was much more versatile than anyone ever gave her credit for, like when she sat just off a decent pace and ran a nice number in the Lady's Secret.

There's my Z post and that pretty much sums it up.

Do you have me confused with someone else?

Anonymous said…
Very good blogpost on Zenyatta.

She is a good example pocket.

She completed a nice 'body of work' over three seasons. Today's horse racing society wants it done in one.... and then they get upset when horses retire with tendon injuries.


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