Dutrow Wins King’s Bishop on Short Rest with Claimer

‘What is the statistical probability of winning two stakes races 3 days apart?’
‘Will the NYRA conduct an inquiry?’
‘Bill Mott, Michael Matz, or Graham Motion would never race a horse on two days rest.’

This is just a sampling of the ignorant, asinine comments from the unwashed masses after Rick Dutrow’s Willy Beamin won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga on Saturday, 3 days after winning the Albany Stakes with his $25k claimer.

Where to begin?

First off, the entire world has horses win big races on such short turnarounds – and it’s never met with the slightest hint of suspicion. Consider Coolmore’s So You Think, the NZ bred worldwide superstar: in 2011 he ran 3rd in the Melbourne Cup a mere 3 days after a victory at 10F and twice previously in his career Down Under won two big races within a week for conditioner Bart Cummings – considered perhaps the top horseman in Australian history. Cummings has won 12 Melbourne Cups in his career, most times those winners also won another big race in the same week leading up to The Race That Stops a Nation.

Even here in the US, Churchill Downs has a race called the Kentucky Derby Trial that is historically contested on the Tuesday before the Kentucky Derby. Today’s race fans probably wonder why it’s not called the Preakness Trial, but in the past it was a stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby as Assault finished off the board in that race 3 days before winning the Triple Crown in 1946. And after winning the Triple Crown was it off to the breeding shed? Hardly, as the Club Footed Comet then won the Dwyer Stakes 2 weeks after his Belmont triumph. That’s FOUR Grade 1 triumphs in 42 days with multiple 8F breezes in between for a chronically unsound horse.

Of course, Cummings, O’Brien, and other top international trainers also gallop their horses further than 1.25 miles a day, and partake of speedwork more frequently than a 4F burst twice monthly, and don’t race on drugs, etc. Here’s what one top Australian trainer tells me:

“I do interval training 7 or 8 days out from the race, with 3 reps at 32kph on a 4 degree incline on my treadmill. Each rep is 2min in duration with a 2min rest between. Then a hard 800m gallop out (breeze) on a Tuesday before a racing Saturday.”

Secondly, perhaps all the criticism is because of Dutrow’s disgusting record of medication violations. Can only he win 2 big races in a week because he is the Frog Juice King of the Eastern Seaboard? Add to the fact that Willy Beamin was a $25k claim five short months ago, and the red flags are certainly flying. It’s well documented that supertrainers like Doug O’Neill with Lava Man and Todd Pletcher with Caixa Eletronica have won millions in purses with these former claimers, but even well respected trainers flying under the radar at other circuits have had great successes on a much smaller scale:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/claimed-for-16k-and-sets-a-track-record-just-28-days-later/

Look, certainly Dutrow is no saint – but to accomplish what he did with Willy Beamin this past week is not unheard of in this game. I think the most appalling aspect of the Willy Beamin saga is that it’s front page news when an American racehorse wins 2 races in 4 days – yet that feat doesn’t even register as a story in other racing jurisdictions around the world, and it didn’t used to be a big deal here in the US, either.

P.S. Quote from Dutrow: “There’s no way I could tell you the how or why of it,” Dutrow said. “So far, what we’ve done works. It makes no sense for me to try to figure it out.” –

This wasn’t the first quick turnaround met with success for the gelding, as he also won the Mike Lee Stakes on four days rest. Here’s why it works with some horses Mr. Dutrow, the concept is known as supercompensation:

Simply put, when an exercise session (or race) stimulates the athlete just right, not too much or too little, he comes back stronger in a relatively short window of time. Typically, a horse must be 110% sound to take advantage of this bounce, and I’m sure Dutrow has miscalculated in the past – but no other trainer even gives it a try.

Remember, just winning a G1 in a fast time isn’t a sure sign of fitness, doing so AND coming out of the effort stronger is what true thoroughbred fitness is all about.

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About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on August 28, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Great piece Mr. Pressey! Agreed, however it’s worrisome that Willy Beamin raced on Lasix and bute in his past five starts.

    • I agree, it would be even easier to go back on short rest without the lasix effects. For instance, if you weigh your horses before and after every race you’ll notice 30lbs more fluid loss when racing on the diuretic. It may lighten you up and help you get a win, but it makes recovery more difficult.

      Maybe Dutrow has a scale (doubtful) and noticed a ‘less than expected’ weight loss after the last race, or a faster rate at gaining weight back, – and decided Willy was ready to roll.

  2. Hi Bill,

    Just to throw a spanner in the works, do you think the two factor training theory would work well with horses. See attached article.
    One-Factor vs. Two-Factor Training Theory

    I’ve often wondered what the “optimum” race-season training schedule should be. Does it consist of only one HARD workout per week in preparation for a race on the weekend? Does it consist of two HARD workouts per week? And, if it does consist of two HARD workouts per week, should those HARD workouts be back-to-back..i.e. Tues and Wed, or should they be separated by a day or two…i.e. Mon and Wednesday with Thursday being a rest day and Friday being a race-prep workout day? Or, how about three HARD workouts per week? I won’t even go into which workouts would be best..ha. And, that is just a micro-cycle training schedule we’re talking about. What about a macro-cycle training schedule? Should we be going HARD every week for three weeks and then use the fourth week as a rest/recovery week in preparation for an “A” event race?

    Just like everything else in the Ex-Fiz (Exercise Physiology) world, I’m sure the answer is: it depends. It depends on who the athlete is, it depends on his/her current fitness level, it depends on when the “A” event race is, it depends on the athletes travel schedule, it depends on the athletes motivational level, etc.

    So, I did a little “training” research on the internet and discovered what some Ex-Fiz’s call the “one and two factor theories of training”. The “one-factor” theory is the one I grew up with in High School and College Sports. It is based on the premise that you load/workout then recover completely then you load/workout then recover completely repeating the pattern. The key here is recovering completely before you begin your next loading or workout. And, the loading is progressive loading. That is, each week you increase the load so your body learns to adapt and gets stronger. Granted, in High School and College Sports we practiced EVERY day and really didn’t get a chance to recover completely. At least I know I didn’t..by Friday I was beat. Even when we weren’t practicing we were in the Weight Room lifting M-W-F. Again, load/workout and recover completely and repeat. It’s what the Supercompensation model is all about (see my prior blogs on Supercompensation).
    The “two-factor” theory of training is a little bit different than the “one-factor” theory. In the “two-factor theory” you train HARD for the first 3 weeks, 3x per week (usually 3 days in a row), so that you never really are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week you train only once or twice the entire week at a lower intensity and low volume. Supposedly, after the 4th week of recovery training (low intensity/low volume) your fitness level will jump higher than if you trained (steadily/consistently) according to the “one-factor” theory. Notice I said, “supposedly”? Because I’m sure the “two-factor” theory doesn’t work best for every athlete. Personally, I believe it only works best for elite athletes that can maintain the strict 4-block training schedule of 3 weeks ON 1 week OFF. For me, someone that lives out of a suitcase for business, the two-factor training theory wouldn’t work. Because I can never tell from week-to-week where I’ll be on travel. Could be the West Coast, could be in Wash DC or Southern MD or any other place where I might not be able to bring my bike for training. And, if you think riding a trainer in the Winter is bad, try riding a Spin Bike in the Summer (when it’s nice out) in a hotel or local gym..bleh.

    Regardless of which theory of training you prefer or adhere to, the critical part in each theory is rest/recovery. For the “one-factor” theory you MUST be fully recovered BEFORE your next workout. For the “two-factor” theory you MUST rest/recover the 4th week of your training block with only one or two relatively low intensity/low volume workouts. If you don’t rest/recover properly you WILL overtrain. And, if you overtrain..it could hurt you MUCH worse than if you didn’t train at all.

  3. If anybody figures out (before I do) optimal speed work frequency for a race horse, please let me know. My experience would be that Ivers might have got it right at every 4 days, and that the 4th day is indeed the day of supercompensation. Interesting Dutrow had the guts to try this, since he’s up against it. The horse racing gods might be unkind should that have resulted in a breakdown.

    • Here’s how I address the how often speedwork/supercompensation conundrum: First off the most important aspect is getting the training stimulus correct – if its too much or too little, the supercompensation window narrows or is eliminated. With speedwork, I measure HR recovery during the gallop out past the wire. 2min past it needs to be around 130bpm in order for supercompensation to result: 150bpm+ is indicative of too fast/too far and 110bpm or lower is a maintenance move. If you breeze 4F/:50 and get HR recovery of 131bpm – perfect.

      Recovery HR approximates oxygen debt incurred during fast exercise and the body’s ability to ‘pay it back’. The quicker the HR recovers; the more appropriate the exercise demand.

      Going to the frequency question: If Nunamaker found that bones go through this stress/fatigue/recover/supercompensate every 5 days, and bones are the slowest physiological system to adapt – our speedwork intervals best be at 4-5 days maximum. Any longer and you lose the cumulative effects.

      Again, HR recovery will vary for each individual and more athletic horses will acclimate to increasing exercise loads easier.

  4. I think the optimal speedwork frequency may differ from each individual: but that 4 days will fit most. I agree, with all the heat on Dutrow, some deserved/some not, this was a gutsy call.

  5. My concern for this feat here in the U.S. as opposed to what is done routinely elsewhere in the world has to do with the fact that WB was no doubt on lasix. As I think you have explained in the past, Bill, it takes an equine athlete quite a number of days to renormalize his system from the effects of the drug. Leaching out important minerals and nutrients I have read can have deleterious effects on the horse’s bone health. I have a fear when horses in the U.S. run races so close together, they become more susceptible to injury. Am I wrong in this concern?

    • You are correct Maree. It’s also easier to come back off short rest in a turf race in AU with a first quarter in :26sec vs a dirt opening fraction of :24. We are never comparing apples to apples, unfortunately.

  6. Bill,

    I love it! Thanks for the inclusion in your latest blog entry. Did I mention my horse, SweetVirginiaBreze raced 4th on a Saturday and won the following Thursday? People said I was stupid, but I had the advantage of the HRM to watch her leading up to the race. They took entries on the Saturday, I was in. They said, “I was in today” and couldn’t enter unless I was planning to run both races. “Of course I am”, I said. She was in the ”top ten horses of the meet” until they let a drug positive slide to a winner of one of our 3rd place finishes that would have put us 2nd. That bumped her down the list. She ran every week until a weather cancellation lost us 3 weeks because the race either didn’t fill next time or just wasn’t available.

    My 2 year old is starting Monday (I’m With Conan”). All his works were not published. He was on a 4 day work schedule. He had a few 3/4 in 1:12 that were published as 4 and 5f work since we were working him from the 1/2 pole and out past the wire. We didn’t want anyone to know what we really do, right? lol Some of those works were reported to the clocker that the rider was “run off with”. Again, we don’t want people to know what we really do…. He gallops a 2:30 to 3 min mile on non work days as well, with 2 minute licks in between most of those works. If he is as good as I think he is, then he should win under wraps. I wanted to start him for more money in PA, where he is registered, but there is a 2YO cup race and Fort Erie and you need to have at least one start here to be eligible and I figured why not his first race here and if he loses then go for bigger money a the maiden level at Woodbine or Presque Isle.

    If he does well, don’t mention his success in connection with the training regimen I wrote down. I’d rather it stay secret for now. Too many people have been watching me these days, asking about the heart monitors and how I do things. I don’t need people getting smart in this business. Especially people who compete with me. It’s sad though because as you say time after time, proper conditioning actually prevents breakdowns and we would have much sounder horses racing. Irresponsible breeding is another problem in the U.S.A., but what can you do? Everybody thinks they have the next Native Dancer stallion. Something has to be done to regulate breeders as well, but one step at a time.

    On another note….. I found that TENS unit electrodes work well too for HR electrodes, but obviously to have to rig your own wires up for that. I’m using those for now. Not as reliable at the Polar pads, when they are new, but enough to get me the data I need.

    Chris Crocker

    • Chris, please contact me on my email adress: hermans[at]gmail[dot]com, I’m trying to get a group of likeminded people together to work in an online study group, in which we share data, studies, books, articles, practical findings and any other things that may benefit the conditioning of our horses. Of course, only if you are interested to do this. I already have about five trainers all around the world. It will probably form in some sort of private website, in which you can share and learn.

      Any others, that are interested can contact me too, experience or previous performance doesn’t really matter but an open, scientific and rational mind certainly does!

      • So sorry I didn’t get your message. I have too many threads on too many sites and sometimes I get lost in it all. Hope all is going well with your project. I have recently lost a lot of HR data on an old computer that crashed, but it’s possible to recover, just have not gotten around to it. My organization skills are very poor when it comes to computer files.

  7. Iwould be helpful to know Chris Crocker’s training schematics and how his horse will do!!! Sounds like at least one other that is doing a fair amt. of work with their horse.

  1. Pingback: Would You Ban Lance Armstrong if He Was A Trainer? « ThoroEdge Equine Performance

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