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