Monthly Archives: April 2014

Your 2014 Derby Superfecta Box

kentucky-derby

6-way Superfecta Box:
(costs $36 for the $0.10 variety, or get a group together and split the $360/$1 version)

California Chrome.
I don’t like the lack of lengthy works, but daily gallops are a solid 2 miles and he is probably the most talented. He also somewhat makes up for this with 10 starts in the last 12 months. Plus I love the lack of pedigree, which is always overvalued in my opinion.

Wicked Strong.
Old school workouts by Jimmy Jerkens: long 7F works rotated with 3F blowouts in the days prior to post, likely the only entry to do so. Learned from his daddy, no doubt. If conditioned less aggressively, a possible bounce candidate off of the big Wood Memorial performance.

Samraat.
My favorite during the prep season due to several mile works down at Palm Meadows. However, seems to be a consistent Beyer 100 animal, which may lose this weekend to a freak performance but should still find a spot in the Top 4.

Hoppertunity.
I have to have a Baffert entry, so I take this one who has worked 3 times in 10 days, around a ship from SA to CD. Also worked in the slop this week. Does Baffert think he’s short? If so, Chitu has about the same shot in my opinion.

Medal Count.
Although his hand was forced by the need for Derby points, Romans ran him twice in a week at KEE in mid-April. I wholly expected a small 4F work at CD this week, but he went 6F – long for a Romans 3yo. The hunt for qualifying points over Polytrack may have led to this one being quite fit on Saturday, by mistake.

Ride on Curlin.
Lots of 7F works for this one, too. Just a $25k auction purchase and I again love the lack of market for this one. However, if you want to leave one out on this list, it would be him.

EDIT: 10:40 Derby morning. I’ve seen none of those long, strong gallops from California Chrome this week. Uh-oh, Sherman has taken the ‘bubble wrap’ approach: “I like to run a horse back (from his last race) seven or eight weeks later, but I had no choice. Now we got this race and I didn’t push him for that reason. To win, you got to have a fresh horse.”

What to do? He only has 3 starts this year, and now the foot has been taken off the gallop pedal, I toss him out of the winner’s circle. Cue the ‘bad trip’ excuses from the camp afterwards. Superfecta still? Possibly.

Long, Slow Works are Better than Races for this One

apr4f

That’s a HR/GPS chart from a 4F work in 48 flat yesterday at a major East Coast racetrack. Note the low jog HR in the first few minutes, around 100bpm. Speed peaked at 37.8mph and held steady at 37mph – precisely 12sec/furlongs. 2min after the work ends, after a decent gallop out, HR is 120bpm and 3min later is dropping under 100bpm. And this horse hasn’t raced in 2014 yet.

Now we go back to December and check out one of several 4F works for the same horse, between his 2 unsuccessful starts for a big-name trainer with several Grade 1 wins to his credit:

dec4f

This is 4F in 51. The jog HR is a very high 140bpm and the post breeze 2min recovery is 150pm. Terrible for a horse who has several works and a race under his belt. Unsurprisingly, to me at least, a week later he ran a well-beaten 7th. Amazingly, the trainer in question felt good about his chances! And this guy has won millions in purses over the past few decades.

So, why does this 3yo colt look great today after a miserable showing 4 months back? A major reason is he posted 2 slow 6F works with strong gallop outs before attempting the fast 4F move last week:

4/27 – 4F in 48
4/19 – 6F in 1:18
4/5 – 6F in 1:19

The old horseman’s adage, ‘One race is as good as two works’ only applies if the horse in question is reasonably fit for the task. Based on that first 4F HR/GPS chart, this one should have never been in the starting gate – as he was nowhere near ready, and even a respected horseman couldn’t see it with his own two eyes.

Now this young trainer with a different approach has him prepared to run well off a big layoff, and likely at huge odds to boot. Some owners and trainers allow me to blog about what they are doing in real time, but this team sees the HR/GPS as a competitive advantage, so I must protect their privacy.

But the take home lesson is good for all:

Don’t run a horse who recovers so poorly off a 4F work, it’s hopeless. He can’t win at 6F+, and he is at increased risk of injury. A better way is to slow him down in the mornings, stretch him out a few panels, then come back to the speed. And when you have the HR/GPS charts there is no guesswork – both owner and trainer (and myself) can go into the next race secure in the knowledge that he’s going to run well.

Now we aren’t out of the woods just yet, many horses can go a good 4F but the wheels come off during an extra furlong at speed. But if this same horse goes 5F next week and has similar recovery numbers, I’d bet the house on him when he next attempts to break his maiden. Regardless, he’s now prepared to improve off a race or two, which was definitively not the case last year.

EDIT: May 25, 2014: He ran 2nd, beaten a half length after trouble in the stretch, to a Pletcher/Repole $250k purchase. Race taken off turf and down to a 4 horse field, yet ours still went to post at 14-1. Even Hall of Fame trainers eyeballs plus decades of experience lack in accuracy compared to a HR/GPS chart when estimating equine fitness/ability. That is a fact.

PS. Kentucky Derby horses?
That kind of graded stakes ability is displayed by doing 6F+ works in 12’s with a similar, or better, recovery. Even though many posted works this week are of the 4-5F variety – nearly all include reasonably aggressive gallop outs of 1-2F. I’d give my right arm to know the HR behavior as they wind down on the CD backstretch. Half of the field likely has no business being in this race and the HR numbers would identify that bunch.

On the gallop side?
If California Chrome is galloping 2 miles every morning in 4:00-4:20 total time with a HR under 185bpm – he may just be unbeatable on Saturday as most others cap daily exercise at 1-1.25 miles.

The Sun Shines Bright on My Old Kentucky Home

IMG_1912
In honor of the Kentucky Derby, here is a pic from my entryway that captures the essence of the song CD plays just before the post parade on Derby day. Coincidentally, the song was composed in the precise year my new house was built, 1852, by Stephen Foster, not 2 miles away from where I now sit.

Read an amazing story about a $500 bargain who won the Kentucky Derby in the DRF, Old Rosebud:

http://www.drf.com/news/story-old-rosebud-american-tragedy

In that piece was a quote from legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons that caught my attention:

“It’s what you can’t see that matters most.”

He probably wasn’t thinking about physiologic structures inside the horse when he said that, but he was on the right track.

I try to simplify it greatly. Let’s assume that one factor dictates equine athletic performance. It’s not true but helps for this example. That factor will be mitochondrial density. As you know, mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the muscle cells. Genetics sets the blueprint as to what is the maximum value in a horse, but training dictates how much of that potential will be realized. Proper conditioning develops more mitochondria, which in our simplified example, wins more races. We could do the same thing with another physiological variable: capillary beds – you are born with a certain amount, genetics dictates your ceiling, but only training/racing can increase the number of capillaries developed between arteries and veins, leading to improved oxygen metabolism….and racing performance.

Both of these are observable physiological structures within the horse. Both of them are positively influenced by proper conditioning. Neither of them are observable to the naked eye. It’s quite likely that whomever wins the Kentucky Derby in 2 weeks’ time will have the most of each.

photo (30)

Interval Training a Winner at Aqueduct Today

lightweight

‘Bad steps late, eased.’

‘Through after half.’

‘Tracked inside, tired.’

Not exactly the comments you wish to see in the DRF following your last 3 races. But that was the line for Light Weight, until today. She failed to even record a Beyer figure in 2 of those starts, but beat a 2-5 favorite today going 5.5F in her first start off a 120+ day layoff with an apprentice who was 0-28 so far in 2014.

Video here:

http://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/videos/race-replay/AQD/2014/20140417/1/pan/

I have the best job in the world. I love this game. I get to meet and work with a great guy like trainer Eddie Barker, sell him a HR/GPS unit and some STORM, talk to him over the phone repeatedly, then watch him win 6 races in his first 16 starts this year. Makes getting up at 3am in the morning for 20+ years worth it – for him, not my lazy ass here in Kentucky.

You remember Mr. Barker. He won twice in 8 days last month with a mare who had gone 1 for her first 23:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/coast-to-coast-laserman-owns-southern-california-and-my-donna-jean-exposes-the-bounce-b-s-at-aqueduct/

Once again all congrats belong to the connections as Light Weight has gone mostly nowhere in her 8 career starts around the NY circuit. Like many maidens, she has some issues, and it’s tough to consistently train her long and hold her together. And kudos to apprentice rider Katie Davis, she piloted this filly through the morning workouts I am going to describe next and was richly rewarded this afternoon. The win should have paid more than $10, but that’s my only complaint today.

Enter interval training, Thoroedge- style.

Light Weight is speedy, always has been – even from the gate when getting thumped in her first few starts. Then she spits the bit after a half. Finished. But a little risky to work her 5F plus, what do you do?

Simple, work her 6F, but split it in half with PLENTY of rest. The last two works at AQU were only recorded as 3F, but she did that twice. Sandwiched in between was a nice relaxing 20min break down the chute on the backside. Complete recovery. And let me tell you, the 2nd 3F on each of those days she was SMOKING.

Earlier this week, trainer Barker noted she seemed to have ‘woken up’. Bad weather forced her to jog one morning, and she was ready to explode. She obviously likes to go fast in the mornings. So let her, but allow for a rest interval to eliminate the possibility of a fatigue-induced injury.

Now most people familiar with human-style interval training are dealing with incomplete recovery periods. As little as 10-20 seconds between repetitions on the track, on the bike, or in the pool. No problem with that, humans can get fitter battling intense fatigue. But lower end horses can get hurt in such a scenario.

In my work with young athletes over the years, I concentrated on developing speed and power, mainly displayed via increased vertical leap and/or 40m sprint time. To train in this manner, complete rest is required between repetitions. This is not conditioning, it is nervous system training. You must train faster to race faster. If you constantly train in a tired state, you will not develop optimum speed and power.

If some trainer tells you interval training stinks, he didn’t do it my way.

Back to Light Weight, a name she had certainly earned over her career prior to this afternoon at Aqueduct. She gets tired in that 4th furlong, so stop her just short. Now she gets a total of 6F speedwork on April 10th, making a 5.5F effort one week later well within her wheelhouse for the first time in her life.

Can something go wrong doing this?
Yep.
Is the rider going to have sore arms?
Yep.
Does it take 3x as long as other breezes?
Yep.
Are other trainers going to criticize?
Yep.
Is it worth it?
Sure was today.

Horses sprint interval style in nature all the damn time. Hundreds of times a month. Go fast, get tired, stop. Go fast, get tired, stop. Running when tired with a rider urging you on sucks, and not all will thrive under this method – so change it up and emulate the natural instincts of the breed.

East coast based owners should consider sending Ed Barker some horses. He only has a small string right now, and can give personal attention to each. Diet, shoeing, conditioning, etc. he is doing all the right things by the horse.

The Modern Road to the Kentucky Derby is a Farce

waradmiralandconway

As we sit here for 3 *%$#@^* weeks with absolutely no Derby prep action it’s useful to remember what used to be:

WAR ADMIRAL’S ROAD TO THE 1937 TRIPLE CROWN

4/14/37 – 6F win in Calvert
??? – 8.5F win in Chesapeake Stakes
5/4/37 – breezes 10F over sloppy CD track in 2:08
5/8/37 – wins Kentucky Derby in 2:03.2, 2nd fastest ever at the time
5/11/37 – breezes 9F in 1:56.4
5/15/37 – wins Preakness Stakes in 1:58.4
*works 3 times over BEL strip, 12f  each*
6/5/37 – wins Belmont Stakes in record time of 2:28.6

NOTES:

-The 1937 Kentucky Derby was his 3rd start in 24 days, yet trainer George Conway thought he may be ‘short’ as he’d never raced more than 8.5 furlongs up until this point.

-He worked the full race distance 4 days before each of the jewels of the Triple Crown.

-War Admiral breezed 4 times between the Derby and Belmont wins, over a period of 28 days. Back then, there was 1 week between the Derby and Preakness, yet he still worked 9F 3 days after his Derby win.

-EVERYONE worked and raced like this back then, this was no aberration.
See Assault and Max Hirsch:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/i-blame-trainers-for-lack-of-triple-crown-winners/

Detailed training logs in that post for the 1947 Triple Crown winner, aka The Club Footed Comet.

Right about now is where the breeding crowd exclaims: ‘we don’t breed for stamina’ as the sole reason behind the deterioration of the American thoroughbred. Horseshit. Even professional geneticists ascribe racing performance to heredity just 30% of the time at best, with the remaining 70% due to environment: conditioning, nutrition, behavioral training, etc.

A major component of ‘environment’ is the frequency of racing and training. Check out Dale Romans’ stats over the past 5 years:

romansrest

As the days between starts grow from 6-10 on up to 46-90, both winning percentage (3rd column) and in the money percentage (4th column) get progressively worse. Yet he insists on running the greatest number of horses off 31-45 days rest. Go figure.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a race earlier in the week at CD named the Derby Trial doesn’t even have qualifying points status towards the 2014 Kentucky Derby! Maybe it should be restricted to 2yo and we can call it the First Derby Prep – 370 days out from the 2015 race. Don’t laugh, that is where we are headed.

I will now light myself on fire.

More on Synthetics, Medal Count, Historic Farm for Sale

beating-a-dead-horse-animated-gif
Sorry to beat a dead horse PETA, but this garbage about KEE changing back to dirt as a greedy move against the horse’s best interests is assinine. Two sets of stats:

dirtsynthturf
Courtesy of database maven Derek Simon at TwinSpires.com; we see over a very large sample size that pacing strategies are essentially identical when comparing synthetic surfaces to turf. Similarly, according to the Jockey Club in 2013 the fatalities are also nearly the same per 1,000 starts:

1.38 on Turf
1.22 on Synthetic

So for all you bleeding hearts, if you are so concerned about your horse’s skeletal well-being that you consider KEE’s move back to dirt just another instance of corporate greed – run your horses on turf. Simple. What is so natural about a horse running over crushed tires covered in plastic?

Now I rarely first point to greed when looking at someone’s actions, but Dale Romans exhibited a prime example of it over the past week at KEE. In a vain attempt to gain enough Derby points to make the starting gate, he ran Medal Count twice in 8 days – placing 2nd in the headline Bluegrass Stakes prep.

Romans enters several hundred races a year, and now he decides a horse can run back so soon? I undoubtedly agree most can, and should – but not for this blatantly selfish reason.

Thanks to the comment below, I had database virtuoso Derek Simon at TwinSpires analyze Mr. Romans’ starts from 2008-2013 here:

romansrest

First column is starts, second column in winners, third column is winning percentage, fourth column is in the money percentage and final column is ROI per $2. Romans goes back on 10 days rest or less just 1% of the time in nearly 5,000 starts. Would be interesting to know the reasons behind the 1 time he went back in less than 5 days off, a winner paying $9.00. Anyone slick enough to look that up? (Not you, Derek)

Trainers in the audience please help me out: why would you see these stats and notice superior percentages when you go back in 21 days or sooner, yet continue to make the majority of your starts with 31+ days of rest?

Here’s a quick Derby tip from Mr. Simon: Horses that recorded an ESR of +1 or greater in their final Derby prep are just 2-of-107 (-81% ROI) since 1992. Perhaps you can throw out 20% of the field already. (see http://www.simonspeedrations.com for more info)

Ok, fun stuff:

farm
The farm north of Louisville where Jack Van Berg trained the immortal Alysheba is on the market, sporting a recently-reduced price tag under $2 million:

http://www.joehaydenrealtor.com/louisville-mls/8600-w-hwy-42-goshen-ky-40026/10510501_spid/?searchid=1500077&detoffset=10&sortby=m.Price%20DESC

New Polar Equine RC3 HR/GPS just $359 and Much Improved

rc3equine

Oftentimes a new product is released and the reaction is ‘ho-hum’; but not this time at Thoroedge. Pictured above is the whole shooting match: the newest Polar Equine RC3 HR/GPS is just a watch and a strap – no GPS armband, no software to load, and no IR stick for download. Fantastic! And….a much easier online interface from which to share data with advisors/owners/trainers.

Perhaps best of all, with no separate GPS piece, the retail price is down under $400ea.

My second favorite enhancement deals with analyzing the data. Previously it could be a pain to load via the IR interface, plus it required both the IR/USB accessory, the small driver disk for that, and the software loaded from a CD. Now, all online:

pptonline
I believe there is also an App for both Apple and Android, but I haven’t tried that yet. One potential stumbling block is that I often need to download several separate sessions for several horses ridden by one rider. Not sure how that will turn out, but there is likely a work-around as before.

In the past for a user halfway around the world to share this data with me in Kentucky, the process involved several cumbersome steps – nearly impossible to explain over the phone, often with a language barrier. Now simply create the http://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com profile, upload your data, and email me the log-in information. There is probably a better way to share as the site is set up for both coaches and athletes, but I haven’t yet gotten in that deep.

EDIT: So far, so good. Multiple files from several horses on one watch over one morning downloaded absolutely flawlessly. Let’s hope the electrodes perform as well over the next few months and in inclement weather. Screenshot of taking my dogs for a short walk/jog (click to enlarge):

ptrainer

A ‘Bloody’ Wood Memorial, plus California Chrome at SA

blood1
Two drops of blood – one on the right that is full of oxygen and one on the left that is de-oxygenated. Which kind do you want coursing through your horse coming down the stretch of the Wood Memorial?

Well, we got it pretty close to right in New York over the weekend with the only horse in the field sporting an appropriate pre-race blowout (3F/:37 on April 3rd) storming home the winner over a game Samraat and a surprisingly game (to me) Social Inclusion.

I can’t help but wonder if Samraat would have had an extra bit of kick had he been let loose to finish his last gallop of the week down the lane with a similar 2-3F burst of speed.  Long-time blog readers will recall my hypothesis: the equine spleen is unique in that it holds extra blood to facilitate the ‘fight or flight’ response. When not needed, as in walking the shedrow, that blood stays in the spleen and gets old, sticky, and misshapen – all which lessens the ability of the red blood cells to transport oxygen.

Only Wicked Strong contracted that spleen in the last few days according to the official worktab; emptying it of blood – and REFILLING it with fresh blood over the next few hours, giving him a ‘healthier’ splenic reserve of oxygen carrying RBCs down the AQU backstretch on SAT afternoon, especially compared to his competition. Just my $0.02, but here’s a supporting quote from a long-time standardbred training client:

“Twenty five years ago I required all my horses to score down after the post parade at a 15 second 1/8 mile. Every horse that did this performed 85 to 90 percent better. Some, maybe the same, but none worse. Perhaps some horses didn’t dump their spleens so sometimes I asked my drivers to score down twice to make sure.”

Granted, Trainer X was talking about the post-parade, but the concept remains the same. Hell, I would fall out of my chair with glee should a thoroughbred do the same in a post parade.

As to Social Inclusion, I again bring up the ‘official’ worktab:

3/29 – 4F in 46.80
3/26 – 3F in 35.42
3/22 – 4F in 49.34

Certainly Thoroedge approves of works spaced so closely together in a sound horse on the Derby trail. But, what are we seeing here? Are these typical works where he jogs back to the 5F pole, turns and lopes into a traditional breeze? Or are we merely seeing the clockers catch the end of an aggressive open gallop where the previous several furlongs look like this: 17-16-15-15-breeze?

If it’s the former, no wonder he was short. If it’s the latter, we may not have heard the last of him. Here’s hoping he makes the Derby field merely so that these breezes will be observable to me over several cold mornings on the CD backside. Those open gallops end up giving you 1 mile in 1:50 or less – same style ‘works’ put in by I’ll Have Another a few years back under Doug O’Neill. Look for me – I’ll be the only clown clocking ‘off’ day gallops!

What a turnaround. So many years the long workers and blown-out horses come from Baffert and his crew of me-toos out West, but this year’s version of the Santa Anita Derby disappoints one who lives and dies by workout structures. All entries posted cookie cutter 4-5F works spaced 6-7+ days apart, unlike the Wood runners. Even California Chrome:

3/29 – 4F in 46.40
3/22 – 4F in 47.40

But yet again, as in the case with Social Inclusion, we may be not getting the whole picture from the clockers, as trainer Art Sherman was quoted:

“We jog California Chrome clean past the five-eighths pole, turn him around and gallop once completely around and then again, so he gets about two miles a day, galloping. The farther he goes, the better he likes it.”

If those gallop miles are going in 2:30+ pace I’m not convinced they are valuable to an athlete of this caliber – too easy. But if they are approaching 2:05 to the mile – well, that’s a different story. I was against this horse until seeing the post race interview with Mr. Sherman, and now I am a fan – what a gift for this old horseman after a lifetime of early mornings and also-ran horses. Plus, he’s bucking the trend towards lightly raced horses, starting 7 times at age 2. The Derby will be his 11th lifetime start, undoubtedly giving him the most bottom, and experience.

Let’s hope he follows the advice of Doug O’Neill:

O’Neill offered these words for Sherman: “Bring a good horse, which he has in California Chrome. The couple times we’ve been blessed to experience the Derby, it was about having a horse you have a lot of confidence in, and I know Art’s got a lot of confidence in California Chrome.”

By ‘confidence’ O’Neill means to train as hard, or harder, after you’ve made the Derby starting gate as you did earning the trip. Don’t get scared, get cautious, and take your foot off the gas pedal. He did that with his first few Derby runners and was disappointed; but he let loose with I’ll Have Another and was richly rewarded.

Thoroedge Clients Dominate Arabian Darleys, plus some Tom Ivers

sobig

I can count the number of US-based customers of Thoroedge on 2 hands, yet we were well represented at the recent Darley Arabian Awards in Hollywood, CA. Above is the undisputed star of the show:

So Big Is Better (Burning Sand x WW Mirror IMage by ZT Ali Babba) the winner of 25 firsts in 54 starts and the the winner of the 2013 Santa Anita President’s Cup Breeders’ Cup, commandeered Older Horse (born, 2004)  and the coveted Horse of the Year Award. He is now retired to stud.

He is owned by Mark Powell, and trained by brother Scott Powell – quite an interesting dynamic! First brother Mark receives the award for Best Owner:

marpowell
Naturally, brother Scott follows accepting the trophy for Best Trainer:

scottpowell

Scott is a devotee of the late Tom Ivers, which is a great coincidence as blog reader John from Ireland recently found a complete online presentation of an Ivers’ work entitled: ‘Optimized Nutrition for the Athletic Horse’-

http://horseprerace.com/blog/horse-supplements-2/feeding-the-performance-horse/#

Much more on this in the future as a blog commenter from Ireland named Colm has done some remarkable work into glycogen loading and thoroughbred performance. Scott, myself, and countless others owe Mr. Ivers a debt of gratitude for his pioneering work in the field of applied equine exercise physiology.

Scott amazingly also trained top older mare, Ms Dixie, as well as top older filly Mahra T. If you haven’t already seen the video and read the story behind So Big is Better’s recent Breeder’s Cup win then here you go again:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/so-big-is-better-storms-to-arabian-breeders-cup-win/

Whenever I encounter setbacks working in this sport, I re-watch the above video as it never fails to bring me out of the doldrums, and I have the Brothers Powell and So Big is Better to thank for that never-ending gift. Thanks fellas.

More Jockey Club, ‘Old School’ Wood Memorial, and Darley Arabian Awards

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Sorry for the grab bag of topics today, and the only briefest of sparkling commentary, but things are kind of hectic around here these days with the Kentucky Derby fast approaching.

The Jockey Club released their updated injury statistics here:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0WapAsys2LiT0hPNjBfakNWZE0/edit

Essentially the injury rate has remained stagnant for the past 5 years, currently standing at the following numbers of fatalities per 1,000 starters:

ALL – 1.91
TURF – 1.63
DIRT – 2.08
SYNTHETIC – 1.22

Figures are also broken down by distance and by age of horse. Interesting indeed but I have a couple of points to make.

1. Why not compare these figures to the rest of the world?

Are those figures out of the EU, AU, Dubai, and HKJC not available – or not so pretty for the US to examine? I wager the latter, although I am having trouble accessing current data, the good ‘ol standby Wikipedia has some info gathered a few decades ago:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racehorse_injuries

The Jockey Club seems to have a fanatical focus on surface type with respect to catastrophic injuries. There is one MAJOR problem with that I will address next, but first I thought it would be useful to eliminate surface from the equation and look at simply turf fatality rates:

Country                Fatal Injury Rate               Fatal Injuries     Starts
AU                          0.44                                        316                         719,695
USA                       1.74                                        134                         77,003

As I suspected, ugly comparison best kept off the front pages of the DRF and the Paulick Report. Plus the Aussie turfers are faster than ours to boot. I wrote more about this years ago:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/its-not-the-surface-stupid-us-turf-runners-300-more-likely-to-breakdown/

Simply put, the Aussies condition their horses more appropriately and don’t rely on raceday medications to get runners to the starting gate. The US is not likely to give up the syringe on raceday anytime soon, as Lasix aficionado/trainer Dale Romans was recently elected to the board of the HBPA – who only seem to care about the ‘horsemen’ rather than the horses. Perhaps we should unionize the horses, too?

2. No improvement in 5 years despite all the efforts?

That’s because the solution is in the conditioning and in the legal drug use, not the surface.

3. Controlling for surface is essential when comparing injury rates from one country to another because a key factor in injuries is race tactics.

US races on dirt are run with positive splits, meaning the first fractions of a race are faster than the last. Conversely, turf and synthetic races are generally run with negative splits – where horses storm home faster than they leave the gate.

For example:

10F 2014 Dubai World cup:           25.78/49.94/1:14.15/1:38.01/2:01.61
10F 2013 Kentucky Derby:            22.57/45.33/1:09.80/1:36.16/2:02.89

Looking at surface type and ignoring race fractions when discussing injuries is INSANE. Orb won the Derby rubber legging it home in 51.02 for the final half mile while Dubai winner African Story came home in just 47.18  after going out in a leisurely 49.94.

Try it yourself: sprint all out for 100m alongside a friend who cruises at 95% effort over the same interval. You may build a lead, but you will spit the bit around 150m as lactic acid fries your muscles (and your brain) while your buddy catches up and likely passes you before the wire. He will also have a smaller chance of injury and recover more quickly due to the physiologically friendlier ‘negative split’ strategy.

Now of course Keeneland goes back to dirt from Polytrack and the injury rates will also rise, and I am braced for legions of comments about how barbaric the change to dirt is on horses’ health. Nonsense. The pacing of dirt races is the primary culprit. But I prefer the US style, rather than the one dimensional ‘sit and sprint’ found in Dubai and other circuits worldwide.

—-2014 Wood Memorial—-

Yes! Finally a Derby prep where the horses are somewhat appropriately conditioned for the effort. Check out all the mile workers going to post this weekend at AQU:

-WICKED STRONG: 7F in 1:27 at PM on 3/26 (I’ll count the gallop out on this one because I love the Jerkens clan. Plus he just added a 3F blowout 3 days before posttime.

-NOBLE MOON: 1m in 1:45 at BEL on 3/29
(more on Gyarmati: https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/who-is-leah-gyarmati/)

-KRISTO: no 8F works but several at 6F in SA for John Sadler

-SAMRAAT: 1m each of the last 2 weeks at PM answering the question posed here:
https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/samraat-and-richard-violette-jr/

-EFFINEX: 1m in 1:42 at AQU on 3/15, who is trainer David Smith? Anyone?

Would be nice to box the first four on this last and cash a giant ticket while the supertrainers finish up the track.

We also have Social Inclusion who occasionally posts shorter works spaced just a few days apart. Interesting, but with no longer posted works I would suspect this freak has already ‘freaked’ at GP and will slide back to his mortal self – especially due to the fact his last huge effort also carries a ‘first time Lasix’ asterisk.

Long works before a long race doesn’t seem to happen much these days. Handicapper and pace expert Derek Simon recently ran a statistical analysis on how the final work longer than 6F before a route race affects performance:

LastWOdistances

OBIV Key

Simply put, statistically speaking over a large dataset, those who work 6F or greater in the final breeze before a race over 8F run well considering their odds at post time. Much, much moreso than the legions of 4F workers put forth by Mott, Pletcher, and the like.

So if long works help horses win long races, it really hits home how much of an advantage Samraat has given himself over the past several months:

28Mar Pmm 1mf ft 1:44 B 1/1
22Mar Pmm 1mf ft 1:45 B 1/1
15Mar Pmm 4f ft :50© B 55/67
22Feb Pmm 1mf ft 1:45 B 1/1
15Feb Pmm 4f ft :49¨ B 41/84
24Jan Pmm 1mf ft 1:46ª B 1/1
17Jan Pmm 1mf ft 1:41« B 1/2
09Jan Pmm 4f ft :48 B 2/22
31Dec’13 Pmm 4f ft :50 B 37/52
11Dec’13 Aqu  7f ft 1:33 B 1/1
06Nov’13 Aqu 1mf ft 1:47 B 1/1 ×
12Oct’13 Aqu 5f ft 1:01ª B 1/7

For those keeping score at home (like me) that is 6 full mile workouts. Each time at PMM or AQU he is the only one going that far, except on one day where another Violette trainee does the same. When he makes the starting gate at the Derby this conditioning is going to give him a large fitness advantage. I don’t expect any Social Inclusion-like freakshow efforts, but rather a consistently solid effort and minimal chance of injury. The way it is supposed to be.

Lastly, but not leastly, Thoroedge favorite and Breeder’s Cup Arabian winner So Big is Better is up for the Darley Awards in Hollywood this weekend – gunning to become the Arabian Horse of the Year! Best wishes and a great time to relive one of my favorite racing moments from last season:

https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/so-big-is-better-storms-to-arabian-breeders-cup-win/

Best of luck to the connections!

EDIT: Wicked Strong and Samraat ran 1-2 and Thoroedge clients trainer Scott Powell, owner Mark Powell, and Breeders Cup champ So Big is Better swept the Darley Awards!-