The Decline of Horsemanship

repeatersbydecade

Everyone is looking for something, actually one of two things. Either you are looking for opportunities, or you are looking for excuses. That’s it. No matter your worldview or your political leanings, you fall into one of these camps. Those looking for excuses have it easy; you can find what you are looking for in mere seconds and go on about your life with no further investigation.

One can look at the above chart and exclaim: “It’s the breeders fault, we are breeding for early performance.” Or “It’s a numbers game, there are so many more foals/starters these days that it’s nearly impossible to have the same horse be voted the best 2 years in a row.” Or “Sometimes horses just don’t develop at age 3, having spent themselves at age 2.”

Or one can search for opportunity in this data, realizing that of the 3 ‘repeaters’ in the past 22 years – 2 came from the barn of Bob Baffert and the other from Richard Mandella (Beholder, Lookin at Lucky, and Silverbulletday). Those west coast-based trainers drill them longer and faster, similar to what went on with ALL trainers pre-1980 in this country.

Here’s another way to represent the data:

repeatersaltview

This tweak allows us to lessen the impact of decade to decade variations and also permits me to count the most recent repeater in the current decade not represented on the earlier chart: Beholder, who by coincidence worked last week in a blazing 3F/34.8, her second posted work of 2014.

Therefore, we averaged over 6 repeaters per decade in the first group, exactly 5 in the second group, just over 5 in the third, and a woeful 1.2 per decade between 1980-2013.  Yet, another disturbing downward trend for the sport.

So, horsemanship. Anyone can look into a feed bucket, anyone can learn over many years to feel heat in legs, read the condition book, manage employees, etc. But conditioning a 3yo horse to the top of his/her class after a hugely successful 2yo season? That skill seems to have left us, at least from the records of our trainers east of the Mississippi.

Why? My admittedly biased opinion looks at the decade of the 1980’s as the turning point, where the ability of a top 2yo to hold that form over to age 3 seemingly stopped in its tracks. Two things became prevalent at roughly the same time, and they both start with the letter L – Lasix and Lukas.

Lasix has been done to death….here and elsewhere. So has my position on D. Wayne Lukas, but here’s a bit more detail.

As of this writing, Mr. Lukas has had 27,636 starters in his illustrious career with one repeater on our list; the filly Open Mind in 1988-1989 and she lost her last 5 races, 2 of them at age 3. Lukas disciple Todd Pletcher is 0 for 15,251 and counting despite having some flat-out amazing precocious 2yo stars such as Shanghai Bobby, Uncle Mo and Eskendereya most recently. On the flip side Baffert and Mandella have each accomplished the ‘repeater’ feat with each having 11,000+ career starts, respectively.

And just who the hell is James Rowe? 8 repeaters on our list, 4 of each sex, all between 1907-1921. Astounding any way you look at it. More detail on this fellow follows the data below.

THE FULL LIST OF 2YO HORSE OF THE YEAR WINNERS ABLE TO REPEAT THE FEAT AT AGE 3:

MALES, YEAR, NAME, TRAINER, # OF LIFETIME STARTS WHEN AVAILABLE

2010

Lookin at Lucky Bob Baffert

13

1979

Spectacular Bid Bud Delp

30

1978

Affirmed Laz Barrera

29

1977

Seattle Slew Billy Turner

17

1973

Secretariat Lucien Lauren

21

1966

Buckpasser Eddie Neloy

31

1956

Needles Hugh Fontaine

21

1955

Nashua James Fitzsimmons

30

1953

Native Dancer William Winfrey

22

1950

Hill Prince Casey Hayes

30

1948

Citation Ben Jones

45

1943

Count Fleet Don Cameron

21

1942

Alsab Sarge Swenke

51

1941

Whirlaway Ben Jones

60

1940

Bimelech William Hurley

15

1934

Cavalcade Robert Smith

22

1928

Reigh Count Bert Mitchell

27

1920

Man O’ War Louis Feustel

21

1910

Sweep James Rowe

13

1908

Colin James Rowe

15

1906

Burgomaster John Rogers

1905

Sysonby James Rowe

15

1898

Hamburg William Lakeland

21

1896

Requital James Rowe

1894

Domino William Lakeland

25

1891

Potomac Hardy Campbell

1888

Emperor of Norfolk Robert Thomas

29

 

FEMALES, YEAR, NAME, TRAINER, # OF LIFETIME STARTS WHEN AVAILABLE

2013

Beholder Richard Mandella            12

1999

Silverbulletday Bob Baffert

23

1990

Go For Wand William Badgett Jr.

13

1989

Open Mind D. Wayne Lukas

19

1975

Ruffian Frank Whiteley, Jr.            11

1969

Gallant Bloom William J. Hirsch

22

1964

Tosmah Joseph Mergler

39

1962

Cicada Casey Hayes

42

1961

Bowl of Flowers Elliott Burch

16

1958

Idun Sherill Ward

30

1956

Doubledogdare Moody Jolley

25

1945

Busher George Odom

21

1944

Twilight Tear Ben Jones

24

1934

Mata Hari Clyde Van Dusen

16

1932

Top Flight Thomas Healey

16

1930

Alcibiades Walter Taylor

23

1921

Prudery James Rowe

1915

Regret James Rowe

11

1910

Ocean Bound French Brooks

1909

Maskette James Rowe

1908

Stamina A. Jack Joyner

1907

Court Dress James Rowe

1905

Artful John Rogers

8

1905

Tanya John Rogers

12

1903

Eugenia Burch Jim McLaughlin

1902

Blue Girl John Rogers

12

1897

Cleophus Hardy Campbell

1895

The Butterflies John Hyland

1892

Yorkville Belle Matthew Allen

1891

La Tosca John Huggins

1888

Los Angeles Robert Campbell

 

More on Mr. James Rowe , the undisputed king of my repeater list from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Rowe,_Sr.

The high points:
He won the Belmont twice as a jockey and eight times as a trainer, holy cow.

In 1879, Rowe joined the Dwyer Brothers Stable. On May 17, 1881, with the future Hall of Fame horse Hindoo, he became the youngest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby. Hindoo won eighteen straight races that year.

Rowe was the leading money winner in horse racing in 1908, 1913, and 1915, the year the Whitney stables’ Regret became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby. Regret was named 1915’s Horse of the Year. She was later elected to the Racing Hall of Fame. Rowe had four second-place finishes with horses in the Preakness Stakes and won it with Broomspun in 1921.

One of those Belmont victories came in 1908 with a horse named Colin, who went unbeaten during his fifteen-race career. Rowe considered Colin to be the greatest horse he had ever trained. He once said that for his epitaph, he wanted only these words: “He trained Colin.”

roweandregret

Mr. Lowe with Regret, filly of the year in 1914-15 and the first female winner of the Kentucky Derby.

 

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About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on March 10, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Bill–after reading Woody Stephens book i”d decided for myslef that the father of soft training might have been Woody Stephens. Then followed the Stephens’ East Coast copy cats, whereas out west maybe there was more copy catting of Charlie Whittingham. then came the QH keep ’em in the barn types such as Lukas although Lukas training involves a lot more slow gallops than most do (or, did–unknown what Lukas does now). just my take after reading several of their books, including Ross Staaden’s.

  2. would be interesting to follow how this developed trainer to trainer. important history.

    • I agree RR. I keep trying to find if there is any source of lifetime PPs for a horse that gives at least the final dozen or so workouts of his career. Any ideas? TimeformUS maybe?

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