Monday, May 23, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: BeS/Preakness Wrap-up

--Brian DiDonato

Both Royal Delta and Shackleford were deserving winners of the Black-eyed Susan and Preakness respectively, and it was another satisfying weekend of racing where trips did not dramatically affect outcomes. Of the two, though, Royal Delta certainly had more in her favor. With just five horses contesting the Black-eyed Susan after stretching-out sprinter Coax Liberty was scratched, it seemed like Hot Summer would have everything her own way on the front end. The riders of Wyomia and Buster's Ready did not let Hot Summer get away, however, and chased her through fractions that yielded an early pace that was five Moss Pace Figure Points above par--they weren't absolutely flying, but they were going a decent clip. Royal Delta and pilot Jose Lezcano watched the pace develop while perched wide and in the clear, and made a quick, decisive and daring move to squeeze through on the inside of Wyomia and draw clear, proving best under admittedly advantageous circumstances. The 100 Beyer Speed Figure Royal Delta earned for her victory was five points higher than what Plum Pretty received for her Oaks win, and the Bill Mott trainee will be very dangerous in the 3-year-old filly series in New York this summer.

Royal Delta                              (c) Wendy Wooley/EquiSport
Buster's Ready ran a big and somewhat surprising race, and she appears to be blossoming into a pretty decent horse. Three-wide while attending the pace, she dug in to prove a clear second best. She made a big jump from an 81 Beyer top to 96, but she had previously kept some decent company in New York and has clearly come a long way since breaking her maiden for a $50K tag in an Aqueduct off-the-turfer. Hot Summer ran just one Beyer point slower than she did when winning the Comely, but I'm still not sold on her wanting to go this far. A turn back to the one-mile Acorn in three weeks would be a positive move if she's doing well. Love Theway Youare was too far back early to ever make an impact--her best performance came last time at  Hollywood, and she seems like a horse who benefitted from the dynamics of racing on a synthetic surface. It's hard to blame the pace for Wyomia's last-place finish because her fellow pacesetters did not collapse like she did, and it's more likely that her dressed-up synthetic and Tampa Bay form just didn't transfer to a more traditional dirt surface. She'll prove best on grass if given the opportunity.

Shackleford Holds off Animal Kingdom
(c) Wendy Wooley/EquiSport
Even though I gave Shackleford a chance in my preview and used him on top in some bets, I was a bit surprised to see such a nice effort out of him. He ran about the same race he did in the Derby, but a 1/16th of a mile less and a surface that seemed to be playing fairer than Churchill did (dead rail) made the difference. The pace was neutral (as it was in Kentucky despite what many believe)--they went five Moss Pace Figure points above par in the first half-mile, but slowed it down to go four points below par at the next call. The 1-2-3-4 finishers were 2nd, 13th, 4th and 14th early, which is a very good indication that the pace was fair for all. The 104 Beyer Figure Shackleford earned is low historically, but it's the highest number earned by a 3-year-old in a route this year. He's clearly a talented horse with a bright future, but I would play against him going any farther than he went on Saturday. Speed horses can do well in the Belmont, but he'll be struggling late while a number of slower, but stouter runners will be doing their best running.

Animal Kingdom ran pretty much the exact same race he did in the Derby, and earned the same 103 Beyer. It was a nice effort and validated his 20-1 upset performance, but it also proved that he isn't a super horse or worthy of a Triple Crown. He's a solid and versatile runner in a very poor crop who has probably achieved more than he should have on the wrong surface because he has a talent edge on his competition. I don't like his chances in the Belmont relative to what his odds figure to be, but I don't see why he shouldn't go if he's doing well. That race is certainly right up his alley distance wise.

Astrology ran a better race than I was expecting, but he could not have had an easier trip. He saved all the ground while drafting behind the frontrunners, and while he earned a 101 Beyer Figure--a new top for him--he also proved that he's a cut below the best of his generation. If he was anywhere close to the top two in ability, he would have won with that set-up. He won't go on to the Belmont and looks to be pointing for the Haskell and/or Travers and, without knowing who he will be facing in those spots, I plan on taking a somewhat negative view on him. Once again, Dialed In came with too little, too late. He paired his 97 Beyer top, but was never a danger to win. Perhaps he was just looked better because he facing much weaker competition in the Holy Bull, but I still don't think he has reproduced anything close to that effort since he's been stretched out in distance. Shackleford's win and Dialed In's two disappointments also dispel the misinformed notion that Gulfstream was speed-favoring on Florida Derby day. As a bettor, I hope Dialed In returns for the Belmont, where misnomers about more ground being better for closers will drive down his odds despite his obvious distance limitations. As a fan, I wish the Met Mile wasn't so soon, because Dialed In is made for a race like that.

My two value keys--Dance City and Sway Away--were two of the most poorly behaved Preakness contestants in the post parade. Dance City refused to go in the gate, reminiscent of fellow Evans homebred Quality Road before the 2009 BC Classic, and made a mild four-wide move on the turn before flattening. Maybe he doesn't want to go this far or wants to be closer to the pace. I hope he'll eventually try turf, as he's bred to prefer that surface. Sway Away was extremely washed out before the race and looked very sluggish as soon as he left the gate. He just wasn't himself, and I don't think anything can be gleaned from his non-effort. It's still entirely possible that he's a one-turn horse, but there was nothing from Saturday to sway opinions one way or the other--he just ran a complete clunker.

While the 3-year-old action cools off for the next few weeks, Monday's Met Mile is looking like it will be another deep and contentious renewal. Check back here later in the week for a preview.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, just discovered your site.

Hi, just rediscovery my eyesight (short blackout after the tragedy of Astrology politely saying "after you" in the Preakness Stretch, to AK...)

I'd be concerned about tossing in "Red Bank" in with the site title. Red Ink...Banks...washed-out horses winning triple crown races...ho boy. Not good.

Best of luck with this artistically beautiful creation!

Not Anonymous (not if I can help it), but it is the easiest way to sign off,

Don Reed