Monthly Archives: May 2011

These 3yo Aren’t a Bad Group, Just Another Slow One

Do we time this year’s Derby and Preakness with a stopwatch, or an hourglass?

In 2010, the combined winning times of the American Triple Crown classics equaled 391.6 seconds, which would have not been competitive in any of the past 5 decades, on average.

Meanwhile, in England the combined 2010 winning times of their triple crown series equaled 430.8 seconds, nearly 7 seconds faster than just the previous decade’s average times.

Those two trends are seemingly continuing as we arrive in early 2011.

Is this merely a blip, or a continuing trend of American horses slowing down while the Brits, at least, get faster? To the raw numbers, where you can draw your own conclusions:

*Times were rounded to the nearest tenth of a second, and averaged over an entire decade in order to control for weather and surface variations. There were no published times for the St. Leger until 1950. (Going through 50+ years of numbers for 6 different races became a blur – until stumbling upon Secretariat’s 144 second Belmont triumph, unbelievable and most likely never to be equaled on either continent, mercy.)

*Green figures are improvements over the previous numbers, red figures are instances were times did not improve. Black figures represent a number that is unchanged.

Since the 1950’s, American cumulative Triple Crown winning times have improved 2.9 seconds while the British equivalent has improved 8.4 seconds.  Please note that the English classics as a group are 13% further than the American versions, which would account for a few tenths of a second in this finding. When that factor is backed out, English horses still have improved at a 263% greater rate over the past 60 years.

Don’t look to the next decade to reverse that trend, if anything it has increased significantly in the first complete year of racing on both continents in 2010, and 2011 thus far is not turning out for the better.

We all know the styles and surfaces differ between the two countries, I just did not expect the Euro turf runners to improve so much more given their deliberate race strategies and the occasional very wet and slow courses. More than a few times the St. Leger was 20 seconds slower than normal, yet I still counted these outliers – or the difference in US vs Euro trends would have been more pronounced.

I’m not going to regurgitate my admittedly biased reasoning as to why this is happening. My angle is the conditioning angle, or lack thereof. You can re-read more of these types of thoughts here from myself and others: https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/triple-crown-times-have-not-improved-in-70-years-why/

Many quotes in that above link originate from the Eclipse Award winning article entitled “Do We Need a Sturdier Racehorse?” by Mr. Bill Finley of the Thoroughbred Daily News, which I was honored to be quoted within.

Curiously, it is only American thoroughbreds that are slowing down in this country, as our standardbreds are doing just fine as indicated in this earlier post: https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/what-can-thoroughbred-trainers-learn-from-standardbred-conditioners/

I am well aware of all the objections to this overall concept, so let’s tackle the main argument put forth by the handicappers camp: that tracks are systematically being slowed down by the ground crews in order to protect faster horses. Butch Lehr at Churchill disagrees:

At least one well informed source begs to differ, the track superintendent at Churchill Downs, who has been employed there for 38 years, says that the Churchill strip is no different than it was when he started. 

“As far as making tracks deeper now as compared to 20 years ago, I don’t necessarily believe that, If anything, it’s the opposite. I’ve been here a long time and, at Churchill, we haven’t done anything to change the track.”

Over the next few months and years we will witness in public the argument that our raceday drug allowances are either good or bad for the breed. It’s well known that all European countries don’t permit such medications – but they race on turf through a first half in :52 or slower while our stars go through a dirt half in :46 quite often. You simply cannot compare the two scenarios with respect to the forces that they exert on the equine skeleton and soft tissues of the lungs.

That being said, I still submit that our raceday drugs are not helping our horses perform to their optimal level. OK, let’s forget Great Britain – what about another European country, like France? Turf courses and no drugs, but are their horses faster now than in 1950? Yes:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/more-speedwork-plus-less-drugs-equals-faster-horses/

So when you read back to my previous posts where I attempted to handicap the Derby and Preakness, and failed miserably, keep in mind I only have a very few instances to choose from where a trainer practices more than the ‘4F breeze every 7 days’ routine.  The odds are very much stacked against me. This method of conditioning in 2010 gave us a Triple Crown season in which no colt was able to start in all 3 races, so here’s hoping Animal Kingdom and Shakleford make it to NY next month.

Sure, the scorecard now is 2-0 in favor of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of conditioning in this Triple Crown season – but Animal Kingdom and Shakleford are still turning out performances inferior to those over the past 5 decades of American racing.

Despite improved veterinary care and breeding the ‘best to the best’ over 1 million times, we still have no better equine athletes in 2011 than in 1950, but other countries apparently do not have this problem.

What Prevails Saturday: ‘Freshness’ or Aggressive Conditioning?

Freshness certainly won out at CD, and once again the vast majority of Preakness entries follow that fashionable (lack of) conditioning protocol. But there are a few notable exceptions, especially one from the barn of the venerable John Sheriffs that warrants a closer look. How do you build a horse like the sculpture of Da Vinci above? Is he made of clay, or made of iron?

Astrology – Typical Assmussen (4F work 5 days out for Preakness and Jerome), a strong 6F on May 9th, much better at 3 than at 2 – nothing special here though, pass. Cripes, my $10k claimers get conditioned in this same exact manner.

Norman Asbjornson – 3 separate 1 mile works in the last 3 months, who is trainer Chris Grove? Good for him, trying an old school approach, although I don’t like his last work being 8 days out. Also wary that after his 4th in the Wood he didn’t have another published work for 4 weeks? Then a mile? Confusing, but is the norm in the PPs for him. Surely worth the value you will get at post time.

King Congie – synthetic/turf specialist, no thank you.

Flashpoint – That big effort in the Hutcheson was followed by the FL Derby bounce, typical for a speedster undertrained for stamina. Surely an early leader to get passed down the lane by many. I liked him more under Dutrow, who breezed him THE DAY BEFORE his lifetime best effort:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/the-curious-case-of-richard-dutrow-conditioning-genius-or-drug-cheat/

Shackleford – our first Derby entrant, has done nothing at speed in May other than his very nice Derby effort. Let’s not forget his early ‘speed’ in the Derby was the slowest in 70 years and he still couldn’t carry it home. Nope.

Sway Away – While the others hammer repeated 4-5F works, Mr. Bonde sends this one 6F. Unfortunately looks like his peak was 2 months ago. Not here.

Midnight Interlude – Another Derby entry, but one who breezed 9 days after a disappointing run at CD. Like we have seen before: nice race at SA followed by a no excuses bounce in Kentucky. Without a breeze before the Preakness I would have labeled him an also-ran, yet I am surprised Mr. Baffert sent him out in the slop for 3 fast panels. Hmmm.

Dance City – Pletcher style training which I have criticized ad nauseum, but a very talented animal physically for sure. Someone who’s training I don’t like always runs well, could be this one.

Mucho Macho Man – One of my picks before the Derby, worked this week in the slop for a half, and has shown consistent efforts for his entire 3yo campaign. Imagine: no bounces with a few 7F works in his history, what a coincidence. I have to tab him my pick again as he most closely resembles the training of the glory days. Although I am rightfully concerned his trainer is only 3 for 56 this year.

Dialed In – Mr. Zito I believe is a quite aggressive galloper for the workouts that don’t make the DRF list, but I just can’t agree with the lack of volume of speedwork in this one, but please note he doesn’t bounce like the others, yet. I believe he too has peaked and it simply not good enough, but will certainly rally to get close.

Animal Kingdom – ‘Fresh’ as a daisy with only the KyDerby accounting for his only fast (12sec) furlongs in the past 21 days. I am a terrible handicapper, plain and simple. It’s the same reason I pick Louisville every year in March Madness to get to the Final Four, and why I pick Kentucky to lose early. Damn emotions. I don’t want this one to menace whatsoever, here’s why:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/why-i-want-animal-kingdom-to-fail-in-the-preakness/

Isn’t He Perfect – Holy cow look at all those races, 6 this year – all at least a mile as well. Holy cow, where is the breeze info? Offtrack? I can’t pass any judgment on this one, too little data – but he seems to be a horse incapable of the speed figures needed to win at this level.

Concealed Identity – Frequent little speed works fairly close to races, but again nothing longer than 5F, but he obviously enjoys a home field advantage. Needs to be near the front apparently, but his group is too fast for him.

Mr. Commons – Finally we come to the aforementioned Mr. Shirreffs’ entry. We like this trainer, he feeds 7x a day you know?

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/zenyattas-secret/

He also used on Zenyatta one of my favorite devices to warm up a horse:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/equissage/

Now he breezes this colt repeatedly at 7F, albeit on the all weather surface at Hollywood, 3 times in the last 4 weeks – with a strong gallop out undoubtedly. Note he also came back with a 4F bullet work just 12 days after the SA Derby. Other trainers would have sat on this one, but John then put 2 consecutive 7F works a week apart on the table. Good for him. ThoroEdge likey at the M/L of 20-1.

Put me down for Mucho Macho Man, Mr. Commons, and Norman Asbjornson for a healthy payday. Here’s to a safe trip for all.

Why I Want Animal Kingdom to Fail in the Preakness

Above is the young Derby winner as a new foal in Paris, KY at Denali Stud. I hate to root against an adorable foal who grew into a colt possessing less than fashionable breeding these days and enjoying a well-respected trainer, but I will do so on Saturday, and for good reason.

The sport is called horse racing, not horse breeding, or horse selling, or horse training. I want to see action on the track with all of the big names fighting it out against each other.

It’s well documented that Animal Kingdom overcame a few Derby ‘rules’ at CD last weekend: he had 6 weeks off from his last prep at Turfway and he was the first to win over dirt without a prior race over the surface.

Similarly, he is very lightly raced with just 4 starts and his connections are so proud of the fact that he is ‘the freshest horse to ever attempt a Triple Crown campaign’. I hate to break the news to them: but a ‘fresh’ horse by their definition has NEVER won a Triple Crown (see below).

I hate this trend, it sucks for all of us fans of competition. Sure it worked out well for Animal Kingdom, but how did these other lightly raced colts fare last Saturday?

Also with 4 lifetime starts: Dialed In and Midnight Interlude. Up the track both of them.

How about those who ran their first race on dirt?
Brilliant Speed, Derby Kitten, Twinspired, Master of Hounds. Hounds ran a respectable 5th, but I’m not sure the others even got a call.

On being fresh heading to the Preakness and Belmont?

“Recent” Triple Crown winners and lifetime starts prior to Derby:

Affirmed:
12 starts
Seattle Slew: 6 starts, but routinely breezed miles in training between the classics, meanwhile Animal Kingdom has only jogged in his first week at Fair Hill after the Derby.
Secretariat: 12 starts
Citation: 14 starts
Assault: 11 starts
Read more about Assault’s training here: https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/i-blame-trainers-for-lack-of-triple-crown-winners/

With the average starts per year for an American thoroughbred dropping from 12 to 6, and the average starts per career of a Derby starter following the same rate of decline – Animal Kingdom winning another leg of the TC will further exacerbate that trend.

This is a textbook case of the exception being used to invalidate the rule, or the tail wagging the dog, er… horse. 50+ colts who previously raced only on synthetics attempted to win the Derby and none succeeded prior to Animal Kingdom – yet now it will be more commonplace as it’s newly classified as a ‘myth’ rather than a ‘rule’.

Here’s hoping Animal Kingdom bounces like a basketball at PIM after his effort at CD – surely Flashpoint will set a quicker pace than 1:14 for him to close into? I believe that Derby was the slowest paced in nearly 70 years, wow.

Never has a colt so lightly raced won the 3 TC races in 5 weeks, yet if A.K succeeds, it too will remain the new norm, to the detriment of racing fans everywhere.

Derby Win Strikes Vote for European Style Conditioning

Out of my 3 Derby picks, 2 exited the race injured. Do I get some kind of award for being the worst handicapper? I really only handicap once or twice a year, and we are all the better for it when I sit on the sidelines. Back to work.

Animal Kingdom is the champ and overcame my long held bias against pure synthetic horses racing on dirt for the first time. There are a few caveats here. Kingdom was raised down in Williston, FL by Randy Bradshaw at Adena Springs South and had multiple early speed works over dirt. Secondly, while many others were tip-toeing through 4F and 5F works at CD on Derby week, Graham Motion saw fit to send Animal Kingdom 6F in preparation for his first race over the strip. Readers may comment: “So what, what is an extra 12-24 seconds?” It can be huge. Derby quality horses better easily breeze a half mile from a rolling start, and do it well. Adding that extra quarter mile on the end allows the horse to experience a very small bit of fatigue in attempting to navigate an unfamiliar surface without losing neuromuscular coordination – which can greatly add to his ability to persevere in the afternoon. It is often said that a good horse can run over anything, and AK sure showed that on Saturday.

Contrast this protocol with that of other trainers of synthetic/turf only horses:

Brilliant Speed: 5F and finished 7th
Derby Kitten: 4F and finished 13th
Twinspired: 5F and finished 17th
Master of Hounds: 0F and finished 5th

Also I would be remiss not to mention Toby’s Corner, who was also sent 6F at Fair Hill over the dirt – and was found to be lame afterwards. A typical 4F move may have not uncovered that problem, which could have spelled disaster on Derby Day. Comma to the Top was only jogged his 3 days over the CD surface, for example.

This morning Animal Kingdom boarded a van here at Keeneland and is off to Fair Hill in Maryland for his Preakness prep – will he be stall bound as he would trackside, or will Mr. Motion turn him out for some paddock exercise as his European roots call for?

Ah, the buzzwords of the week: European style conditioning.

What does that mean exactly? First we need to understand the European trainer, in this case we’ll examine Graham Motion.

Trainer Graham Motion grew up less than 5 miles from where this workout took place at Newmarket, England earlier this Spring for another trainer (click to enlarge):

For the uninitiated, this graph represents the heart rate and gallop speed relationship over 2 big turf hills in England. This is interval training, folks. Focus is not on speed obviously as the fastest this horse gets up to is a 15sec/furlong pace – but he does it twice with a 14min rest period in the middle – not sure you can accomplish that when you have 30 horses to work at CD on any given morning before 10am. More info here on why I believe this is a superior method for attaining racehorse stamina:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/frankel-vs-uncle-mo-when-2yo-precociousness-is-done-right/

Mr. Motion began his career in France working at a stud farm, where became enamored with the training aspect and even met his future wife, who worked for a French trainer. This blog has addressed the French method of training before – giving it much credit to the ever faster race times recorded in the Arc de Triomphe:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/more-speedwork-plus-less-drugs-equals-faster-horses/

So, we have a trainer raised in Newmarket and we see what type of conditioning takes place there. He marries a girl who works under a French trainer, and we have some insight into how they condition in that country where raceday drugs are banned. Drugs, buzzword number two. Guess which US-based trainers have made thousands of starts and NEVER had a single medication violation? None other than 2011 Derby champion conditioner Graham Motion and fellow Euro Christophe Clement. Could just be a coincidence, right? (click to enlarge chart)

On to the training facility enjoyed by Mr. Motion and a few other lucky trainers – Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. Spread out over 300 acres of rolling countryside, Fair Hill currently has 17 privately owned barns (you can’t just rent stalls there), a 7F Tapeta oval, a 1 mile dirt track, and miles of undulating turf gallops similar to those found at Newmarket, England. Additionally, there is world class veterinary care onsite and a hyperbaric chamber. Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. John Fisher DVM got this place rolling through a rough start. Readers of this blog will recognize Dr. Fisher as the guy behind the development of the optimal 2yo training program, along with Dr. Nunamaker of New Bolton fame (my most popular blog post of all time with thousands of hits):

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/the-ideal-2-year-old-training-program/

Being away from the hustle and bustle of a typical American track allows you much more freedom, and the horses seem to thrive as well. Now you can turn out your horses in training if you wish, instead of cooping them up in stalls. You can take advantage of uphill gallops which also permit the implementation of interval training methodology. You can gallop more than the traditional 1.5-2 miles over a very friendly Tapeta surface as developed by former Fair Hill resident Sir Michael Dickinson. Barry Irwin of Team Valor moved all his horses here last year and has already reaped some big benefits. Animal Kingdom has yet to visit these friendly confines – should be interesting to see if the next month in this environment can fuel our first Triple Crown success in nearly 4 decades.

The benchmark industry trade magazine, North American Trainer, 2011 Triple Crown edition, hit my desk Monday a.m with pieces on both Mr. Motion and Fair Hill Training Center in MD.

If you have not yet subscribed, you can do so here – and also see a preview of many issues from both sides of the pond:

http://www.trainermagazine.com/america/current-issue

How prescient! Congrats Giles and crew.

Comma to the Top of my Derby Selections

What makes me think in his 14th career start that this gelding will win the Kentucky Derby?

I look back to the prep before the prep (video above), or in this case the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, won in convincing fashion by Premier Pegasus. Comma was on the front end of blazing fractions in :21, :44, and 1:08 – veered out badly in the stretch and came in 4th, as the other two pacesetters were each 30+ lengths behind. This race was the undoing of PrePeg, yet Comma came out of the race stronger and fitter for the Santa Anita Derby, a race another favorite would miss, Jaycito, after being grounded courtesy of the Santa Anita Speedway.

In that SA Derby, Comma again found himself on the lead through and was able to rate at a much slower pace, yet was caught in the stretch to finish second by a neck. Prior to the effort, trainer Peter Miller had made it known this was Comma to the Top’s version of the KY Derby, he was even summarily removed from all future pools.

However, after the race Comma was in such good shape that Miller almost immediately put him back on the Derby trail:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/the-morning-after-comma-to-the-top-vs-tobys-corner/

That 9F in 1:48 only made Comma stronger, yet across the country in the Wood Memorial, Toby’s Corner ran the same time on dirt, same Beyer, and came out weaker – further evidenced by him withdrawing from the race this week after lameness post breeze at Fair Hill in Maryland.

Loyal readers know that I have been on the Comma to the Top trail since early spring:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/uncle-mo-comma-to-the-top-and-the-great-wall-of-china-what/

I simply feel his 10 races and numerous long works at age 2 have led to him maximizing his chances via superior conditioning. At age 2 a thoroughbred’s bones and soft tissues are at a very crucial stage of development. The more appropriate exercise you can give them, and allow them to recover from, the more suited they become to racing at age 3 and beyond. Interestingly enough, Mine that Bird followed a similar regimen: many starts on synthetic at age 2 at Woodbine, followed by an early move to the dirt at Sunland early in his 3yo year. Even given the rail skimming trip by Borel, MTB went on to in the money finishes in the Preakness and Belmont to absolutely everyone’s surprise.

Some part of me thinks this is the future for US racing: training on the polytrack, breezing and racing on the dirt in an effort to capture the classics. Think about it, most horses gallop 10 days for every 1 breeze – making the gallops over synthetics can alleviate much of the wear and tear on bones in the long run.

If Comma had remained on non-dirt tracks, I would group him in with the other also-rans from the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Sprial Stakes at Turfway, and Master of Hounds from the UAE Derby which was ran on Tapeta. Excelling on two disparate surfaces is rare these days, as is the ability to withstand the pounding that Santa Anita’s new dirt has handed out to other Derby wannabes – Comma aced both tests.

Someone please help me understand – no one would ever take a horse who had been on turf his whole life, and put him in the Derby on dirt with not even a work over the surface, yet several big names each year these days do the same coming off synthetics?

Anyway…So we’ll likely see Comma to the Top or near the lead going into the first turn on the First Saturday in May. Boy I sure wish The Factor was still around for him to stalk, perhaps Shackelford will fill the bill?

I wish Comma would get a 3-4F blowout over the CD strip, but I don’t think that is in the cards due to shipping in fairly late.

Let’s be honest, pedigree or not, none of these 3yo WANT 10 furlongs next week. The Derby is commonly won by a horse finishing that last quarter split in :26 and change. Comma will get an honest chance to do so – as he won’t have to fight any traffic due to his front running style.

As you can undoubtedly tell, I am not a handicapper. I also believe I am the only one predicting a Comma to the Top win – as the dozen or more experts I have seen fail to have him even in their Top Tens – which means I’ll likely get in the neighborhood of 35-1 come post time.

Give me Mucho Macho Man and ArchArchArch to fill out exotics. MMM has been trained aggressively (7F in the slop) over the dirt by trainer Kathy Ritvo and Archx3 has breezed twice in 4 days at Churchill Downs, which is unheard of in this day and age.

Most importantly, I wish a safe trip for all.

P.S. Looks like portions of this piece, along with some other commentary, will run in the Friday issue of the New York Times, print edition. Exciting! – Look for more in that paper from ThoroEdge over the TC season hopefully.

Toby’s Corner off the Trail: Didn’t We See this Coming?

After the Wood Memorial, trainer Graham Motion said that Toby’s Corner came out of the Wood a bit tired – “he’s been laying down all morning.”

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/the-morning-after-comma-to-the-top-vs-tobys-corner/

Let’s see, Toby ran a fast 9F for the first time in his young life just 3 weeks ago, and needed a spatula to scrape himself off his stall floor the next morning, just like a fried egg.

The traditional horseman says: “Oh he’s a smart colt, he knows he needs his rest.”

That’s crap. I say: “That 9F effort took so much out of him he can’t possibly be ready for an optimal 10F effort just 21 days later.”

Simply running  a winning 9F in 1:48 is not fitness; doing it and coming out of the effort stronger is the true meaning of fitness. Are you really fit for the task if the next morning you cannot get out of bed?

Both an overweight 40 year old soccer mom and Lou Ferrigno can lift a car off of their kid if necessary due to adrenaline – but one will be hard pressed to do it again in 3 weeks.

Despite breezing 6F at Fair Hill this week to universal praise, Toby is now on his way to the New Bolton Center instead of Churchill Downs, I wish the best of luck to his connections, but I, for one, cannot say I am shocked this morning at the news.

Frankel vs. Uncle Mo: When 2yo Precociousness is Done Right

“A good horse needs a lot of training. Not only can they take it, they want it, and you’re not doing them any favors if you don’t give them the chance to develop their ability.”
-Billy Turner, trainer of Triple Crown Champion Seattle Slew

Juddmonte Farms’ superstar 2yo champion Frankel, trained by Henry Cecil, won the English 2,000 Guineas today in impressive fashion, something Uncle Mo will attempt to duplicate in Kentucky next week as the reining Breeders Cup Juvenile champion. Frankel remains undefeated after leading wire to wire in the 1 mile European classic: after building a comfortable 15 length lead he put himself into idle and coasted home a 6 length winner on the uphill turf course finish. That got me thinking I should delve deeper into the conditioning regimens between the two countries, as I have always known there to be significant ideological differences in how trainers condition their young charges.

To that end, I recently received my first heart rate/gallop speed chart from Newmarket last week (not from Frankel) – and it perfectly illustrates the vast differences in speed work versus what I see in America every day. Let’s investigate. Click image to enlarge.

Legend:

Y-axis is heart rate in red, pace in min/mile in blue
X-axis is elapsed time
On the left/Euro chart, the dark red shading is elevation change
(Names and dates have been blacked out due to confidentiality agreements)

Variable EURO USA
 
Total distance 4.9 miles 2.6 miles
Speedwork:
Distance 4F x 2 intervals 4F
Ground Uphill turf Flat dirt
Time 1:08, 1:02 0:52

What we have above are 2 maintenance workouts for elite stakes level horses, approximately a week before a big race in their respective campaigns.

Because of the unique configuration of Newmarket, it takes this one a 30 minute walk to even reach the training grounds, quite a bit different than the typical American proximity to the training surface. The American style half mile breeze in :52 is easy to identify. I’ll concede the American way will build better 6F sprinters on dirt, but I think it leaves optimal stamina development lacking for the classics.

Using any definition, the Euros practice interval training.

Study the chart and notice how this filly gallops up 2 separate hills during her workout: with the second one being quite a bit steeper than the first. She gets a 14 minute break from exercise while descending the first hill in preparation for the second climb. Therefore, the European filly gets 1 mile of maximal heart rate workout, twice that of the American. She also gets that intensity at a much slower (safer) pace due to the severe incline of the grounds.

Due to the turf and the severe incline, speeds are kept down – but heart rates are still near maximum. Don’t figure that I favor Master of Hounds this weekend, he may be all class on Tapeta, but no amount of conditioning will overcome the surface issue he will face at CD.

Aside from the brilliant Billy Turner who used to jog Seattle Slew for 30 minutes before even attempting to gallop him, and who worked Slew 2 separate miles in 1:37 the week prior to the Belmont, which other trainers in recent history have succeeded in transferring 2yo precociousness to the early 3yo classics?

The only American trainer to accomplish this feat in my recent memory is Carl Nafzger, and readers of this blog know how I feel about him:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/nafzgers-secret-with-unbridled/

Taking a page from the Billy Turner/Seattle Slew playbook, Mr. Nafzger breezed Unbridled 4F the day before every big race and was likely similarly aggressive with Street Sense in 2006.

On the Euro side, recent successes have been Mastercraftsman (IRE), New Approach (IRE), and George Washington. These 3 were trained by Aidan O’Brien of Coolmore fame and his mentor, Irish trainer Jim Bolger. I can’t speak to Mr. Bolger, but O’Brien is very much in tune to the latest technology and undoubtedly both utilize similar conditioning works as the interval training chart above-

HR/GPS use with Coolmore at Ballydoyle

“It is not just visual monitoring at Ballydoyle, there is also the scientific approach. Heart monitors are fitted to every horse and a GPS armband is on every rider. Data is logged, ready for examination.”

You see, when you know precisely how your horse responds to exercise – it is easier to push the envelope a bit with regards to intensity. The result is an athlete less prone to injury and more likely to hold his 2yo form into his 3yo campaign. Even top US trainers are still handcuffed by training at trackside facilities around the country, all on the flat. Therefore, in order to stress a horse to maximum HR, fast speeds must be employed.

Back to Uncle Mo. We know how Todd Pletcher operates; extremely conservative racing schedules and similarly conservative speed work. Weekly 4F works are the norm for his 2yo talent, although it is interesting to note the two 5F moves by Uncle Mo this week at Churchill. For the most part, all other US based trainers follow suit. Lately our 2yo champs have not fared so well at 3 under such conservative management: Midshipman, War Pass, and Stevie Wonderboy come to mind. To be fair, Looking at Lucky had a great year last season – now off to the breeding shed.

Seems to me that US trainers prefer their champions to be born that way, not made in the mornings on the training circuit.

Uncle Mo: Is he the next Seattle Slew or War Pass?
I made my case back in February:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/uncle-mo-why-winning-the-bc-juvenile-is-a-bad-thing/

The final answer to that question should become much more apparent this weekend. I know many in the media had anointed him the Next Great One prior to his Wood effort, but the current US model of relying on natural born talent over aggressive conditioning still has me writing him off at this point in time.