More Jockey Club, ‘Old School’ Wood Memorial, and Darley Arabian Awards
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
-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:
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:
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!-