‘Rocket To The Sky’: Anatomy of an 82-1 Shot Hitting the Board
I would imagine a few times a day somewhere in the US a 50-1+ longshot comes home in either the 1-2-3 slot, but I just happen to be peripherally involved with an instance down at Evangeline in Lafayette, Louisiana this past Thursday, July 12th that readers may find interesting. (click to enlarge above)
The last ‘bomb’ I witnessed in person (where I possessed some inside knowledge) was back at Keeneland last October 28th when 61-1 shot Highlight romped home a winner by 6+ lengths in a Maiden Claiming contest.
My father, as part owner of Highlight, cashed his largest ticket ever in a 50+ year betting career, $3000, that day and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Highlight went on to run poorly at CD later that winter before another nice winning effort at Oaklawn in early January 2012 – today I got word that he’ll be back here at the track somewhere in the Midwest later this summer, so stay tuned.
As an aside, here is the same lucky blogger’s father with I’ll Have Another mere minutes after his 2012 Kentucky Derby win – some guys are just always in the right place at the right time!-
Back to Evangeline last week; let’s observe some of the similarities between the heroic efforts of Rocket to the Sky and Highlight.
First off, horses go to post at 50-1+ for many good reasons – as both Rocket (EVD) and Highlight (KEE) were making their first starts off nearly identical 10 month layoffs, where most every other horse in the field was in the midst of an active campaign. Both raced against large fields, 13 for Rocket and 10 for Highlight. While Rocket ran a valiant 2nd to a big favorite who he was fighting for the lead throughout, Highlight won going away over the bettor’s choice after a powerful closing move.
Let’s also look at the respective trainers records that the public perused while deciding on who to bet in these 2 races:
Trainer of Rocket To The Sky: 38 starts: 1 win, 2 places, 2 shows
Trainer of Highlight: 21 starts: 3 wins, 1 place, 5 shows
I don’t know a ton about Evangeline, but when at Keeneland you are entered against names like Greg Foley, Mike Maker, Helen Pitts, and Jeff Thornbury – 21 starts over 11 months doesn’t spur a ton of confidence. I suppose neither does a 3% winning percentage beg for action at any track, now that I see it and black and white.
And for the info you don’t get in the DRF-
I don’t have the published works in front of me for Highlight, but I recall they were few as he was mainly trained off-track in the rolling pastures of a private facility outside Lexington. I was often asked to come by and watch a typical gallop, but never made the trip – to my later dismay. But I have other clients who successfully condition in such a manner, and local rumor has it that recent Keeneland record-setter Wise Dan was prepped via this method by local conditioner Charlie Lopresti. Coming off a 5 month layoff he won the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) by 10+ lengths in a track record 1:46.63 over 9F this spring.
Many months ago I provided detailed HR/GPS charts on a world champion filly training over the undulating turf at Newmarket, and enumerated the advantages of this regimen over a typical flat track-trained US racer:
That was Highlight’s (and possibly Wise Dan’s) edge. But you must be an insider to know the score and cash the big tickets. Similarly, down in Louisiana last week – other than the connections, no one knew that Rocket To The Sky had been fed my STORM racing supplement since early May. More details here:
I’ve had success with Arabians, Harness horses, and many thoroughbreds at top tracks such as Woodbine and Monmouth, but this was my first real test at a smaller circuit with a $5k claimer coming off such a large break. Once again my congratulations go out to the connections, who saw fit to invest valuable time/money into a new way of doing things.
When I got that phone call this week telling me about the positive goings on down in Lafayette – well, let’s just say it made my day. Update: here is the PP showing yet another lifetime high Beyer on STORM (click to enlarge):
Update, August 3, 2012: Rocket made his next start on STORM a good one, running 2nd again at 9-1 – losing by 1.5 lengths again at EVD: