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:


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:


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?


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


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.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on May 19, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. If Mr. Commons wins it is because of a very good pedigree for the distance and he obviously has talent. Otherwise, Animal Kingdom is going to win for fun.

  2. Typical response from Alex: training means nothing, pedigree trumps all. Quite original thinking. Except that pedigree has been wrong more times than right in our recent history of Kentucky Derby winners.

    If you so dearly want AK to win for fun, then I hope you enjoy the following years when your Derby winner comes from 2 lifetime starts and no races at age 2 – only to retire at 3 after getting his black type and heading off to the breeding shed, because that is where all this is headed if Animal Kingdom and his ilk continue to be successful.

    Sound like fun?

  3. Then you clearly don’t know how to analyze pedigree.
    How many starts does Mr. Commons have?
    No pedigree does not trump all….just one factor of many that you ignore.
    Again, how many starts does he have?

  4. 4 starts, and that sucks for him – but three much longer than average works in 3 weeks. No one horse ticks all of my boxes, but he ticks a few more than the average entry. You go back far enough in any pedigree and someone in there stayed a route of ground.

    There are dozens of sites for your pedigree fix, you are in the wrong place if you are looking for a debate on that. I do ignore pedigree, as I have stated that many times, I am not a breeder and am not a handicapper – I deal with what you do with them with respect to conditioning when their feet hit the ground.

    Back to your original point: Should Commons win all hail Alex the great Pedigree Analyst – as his recent aggressive conditioning regimen means nothing.

    Come back here after Animal Kingdom flops this week, or later this summer, and explain to me how his pedigree anointed him the top 3 year old in America on the first Saturday in May – but was nowhere to be found just weeks later.

  5. at 2-1 odds, Animal Kingdom has a 66% percent chance of losing, so don’t act like you are going way out on a limb rooting against him. The odds are in your favor.

  6. Alex, for the Derby I picked Comma to the Top at 35-1 and he chipped an ankle coming in 19th, please don’t think I am going to beat my chest if AK turns in a clunker Saturday.

  7. Barry Roberts

    Dialed In, Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man My Picks for the Preakness . AT least a foreigner to laugh at when they all run down the track 🙂

  8. surely in the Belmont we’ll see the aggresive trainer prevail!!!!!

  9. Probably not going to see any ‘out of the box’ training regimens in this group, Aaron. To be fair, any of the workout patterns I term aggressive – aren’t really so, they just stand out a bit from the group.

    Proponents of the ‘less is more’ theory of conditioning must realize the winners these days are running times that would also win these races in the 1930’s – despite several decades of veterinary advances, breeding excellence, and helpful raceday drugs.

    And it’s not just this group of 3yo – I avg winning times of each classic at each class over each decade – and there is no measurable improvement.

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