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Time Counts on the Track, Too

"Time only matters in jail" is a familiar statement, often heard in the sport of horse racing.

In many ways this statement is a statement of fact. The fastest horse does not always win; the teletimer can flatter some horses based on trip, pace, and energy distribution and track bias. The condition of the track - the reason for the success of speed figures that include variant - is another huge factor.

But, as with some horse racing laws, I think this one is overused, and far too simple.

Time matters on the track, because the horse stopping the teletimer the fastest, wins the race.

Whether you look at average speed figures, last out Timeform, Beyer or Bris figures, or the raw times on a harness page, there is a strong correlation between them, and horses winning. That's a statement of fact.

If you don't use time, I frankly don't know what in the heck you're using to handicap. 

This past weekend in the Gerrity Pace, Wiggle it Jiggle It got the job done, while being parked through a 26.3 and change quarter, wide, and grabbing the lead in a 54.4 half.

After the race people were very excited. "That was a perhaps his best effort. Look at his trip!"

In this corner I will unequivocally submit it wasn't his best race. In fact, it wasn't even close. I think it was one of his worst races. Why? Time.

The Gerrity had internal fractions of 26.3, 28.1, 29.0 and 27.1, for a final time of 151.0.

1:51, for this class, is not remotely fast.

Bolt the Duer cruised the oval in 149. PH Supercam went 150.1 in 2015, and Dancin Yankee the year before went in 148.4.

Wiggle it struggled to clear in 54.4 and was not even remotely on the bit. He then cruised to a 29 flat third quarter - more apt for a 5 claimer at Saratoga, not one of the fastest horses on the planet - before firing home in a mediocre 27.1, with the aid of a polar slow middle half. This is the horse who fired home in 26, first over, at Flammy in May.

The horse in the pocket was dead flat off cover in his last, and the second best horse in the race was choked down, unable to find room, getting second place late. The rest were up against it, because they were nowhere near as fast as him.

This wasn't WIJI's Jug where he really was amazing, being tortured and still winning in internal splits of 27, 27.1, 27 before somehow winning in 49.3. This was a blah effort. It was a horse who did not bring even his B game. He won on intimidation and guts.

Looking at how a horse races, while looking at the final time, is, in my view, something that's overlooked, especially in harness racing. We had a whole year or so with the Captaintreacherous "best horse ever" narrative, while he was on his hands and knees to beat 49 a good deal of the time, against suspect stock. No, he could not go faster; he was going all he could. Look at the clock.

The key to great horses in harness racing, is, and always will be the teletimer. The horses who win off terrible trips in fast times - like for example, Always B Miki's 147 after being tortured in the Franklin while staving off two excellent, fast horses - are rare, and pass the true tests of  greatness.

Wiggle it JiggleIt is a great horse, in my view, and he has race after race after race as examples to show us that. But he wasn't a great fast horse on Saturday evening. He had an off night and the clock told you so.



Comments

JLB said…
While I have great respect for your contributions to race analysis and macro and micro issues in harness racing, I am not sure I can agree with your opinion on this one. I have not viewed the videos of the previous 3 Gerrity editions, but I suspect the winners enjoyed far easier trips. Admittedly WIJI got a breather in the third quarter. But to be 3-wide in a vicious first eighth, have to be pulled back entering the backstretch, then forced to vie for the lead, finally JUST clearing at the half, shows a toughness and ability that, to me, translates into a sub-1:50 mile, and one of his best efforts. Burke's horse, by contrast, had a far easier trip to the lead (admittedly under a heavy whip), and could not hold second.
Pull the Pocket said…
We will agree to disagree Joe.

My point is more -- Matt was trying to let WIJI clear, but could easily have parked him if he wanted to (he probably should have since they weren't going fast). WIJI could not clear easily like we'd expect him to.

To me that showed he was flat, because there is no way a horse like that should have trouble ever clearing in a 28.1 with a driver grabbing leather. That's the evidence I am using that he was not at his usual best.

Like many, many other horses week to week in harness racing, I suspect he will bounce right back, be able to fire to a lead in a 54.4 on a half with ease, and win under a stranglehold against weak fields like that very soon.

PTP