More on Synthetics, Medal Count, Historic Farm for Sale

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:

Courtesy of database maven Derek Simon at; 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:


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 for more info)

Ok, fun stuff:

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:


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


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:

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 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):


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.

Thoroedge Clients Dominate Arabian Darleys, plus some Tom Ivers


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:

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


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’-

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:

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


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

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.

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:

-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!-

Coast to Coast: Laserman Owns Southern California and My Donna Jean Exposes the Bounce B.S. at Aqueduct


Well, I had expected to be away from the blog for a bit but 2 of my favorite fellows in the racing game recently had some great accomplishments that cannot go unnoticed.

First off, Steve ‘Laserman’ Bourmas (pictured above) has been featured here before, and recently wrapped up his first entire season working strictly for Jerry Hollendorfer in Southern California, both at Santa Anita and the now-defunct Hollywood Park. Mr. Hollendorfer had his best year ever in the state outside of Golden Gate and broken a long-held stakes record by the legendary Charlie Whittingham in the process:

Congrats Steve, one of the hardest working men in the business that I have had the good fortune to meet. Another one is Aqueduct based trainer Ed Barker – conditioner of My Donna Jean.

Track Date Race Type Finish
Aqueduct 3/13/2014 Starter Allowance 1
Aqueduct 3/6/2014 Starter Allowance 1
Aqueduct 2/28/2014 Starter Allowance 5
Aqueduct 2/9/2014 Claiming 1
Aqueduct 1/23/2014 Claiming 2
Aqueduct 1/9/2014 Claiming 2

To summarize: 1/23 lifetime from 2011-13, and 2 wins in 7 days last week. This $20k claim has earned in excess of $94k thus far in 2014, putting her right in the Top 100 earners nationwide – and with 6 starts, undoubtedly the most busy.

Some backstory:

-She would own 3 wins in 14 days’ time were it not for losing her normal rider and running 5th on the last day of February.

-She posted her lifetime best Ragozin figure with her win on 3/6, and was likely christened the Bounce Candidate of the Century prior to her win 7 days later.

-Do you mean to convince me that every single one of Bafferts and Pletchers horses run best off 5 weeks rest, but Mr. Barker’s mare here thrives on 7-14 days?

-Let’s just say I got an inside view at what it takes for a trainer to enter a horse to run twice in a week in today’s environment. Anyone willing to buck the Bounce Boys and run a horse like we used to EVERY DAY back in the 70’s deserves good things to happen to him.

Here are a few old time claimers my family ran at Fairmount Park back in the early 80’s:

King Bam: 80 lifetime starts
Divine Decadence: 66 lifetime starts

There are dozens more, but I need to pull out an old photo album of winner’s circle pictures to freshen my memory. No Lasix either, unless you were a confirmed bleeder per the vet.

Lastly, don’t let anyone tell you that all nutritional supplements are bunk:

Hay, oats, and water are not enough. What we are asking horses to do is unnatural to them: train and race progressively faster while developing strength, stamina, and power – with little to no protein in their vegetarian diets. They need help, just not of the pharmaceutical kind. Anything a drug can do, proper nutrition and conditioning can also accomplish.

How to Shut Up PETA Forever

This is the heart rate/GPS chart of a 6F work at Churchill Downs: from the gate in 1:15. The horse in question won 10 races that year, from 15 starts.

More on him here:

But that’s besides the point. Imagine every horse in every race across the USA generating such data in real-time. US thoroughbred racing would become the ONLY sport in the world providing real-time physiological data on its athletes, made available for public analysis. I have already done so privately, but the rest of the world will soon develop and witness data proving that HR behavior before/during/after exercise is the earliest sign of a problem. Doesn’t tell you what the problem is, but certainly dictates undue stress earlier than any human’s eyeball.

Think of it as a stopwatch for heat. Every horseman prides himself on detecting heat in the legs of his charges. Where do you think that heat comes from? It comes from blood. The heart drives that increased blood flow by beating faster than normal. There is nowhere else for that blood to come from. There is no room for politics, no room for guesswork, no room for your eyes playing tricks on you. It’s science and math, plain and simple.

And, its been done before.

Many years ago equine endurance events experienced a rash of dead horses. The Cardiac Recovery Index was developed to objectively determine, DURING THE EVENT, if a horse was fit to continue. At regular intervals the horse enters a checkpoint, where a vet administers a simple test of recovery heart rate. Pass and continue. Fail and you are disqualified, doesn’t matter if your owner is the King of All Oil or a Utah rancher. More here:

We can do the same, literally overnight. Certainly the raceday drug issues needs to be addressed, that can’t happen overnight, but this can. With the snap of a finger we can show the NY Times that appropriate steps were taken not only to catch up to the rest of the civilized world of sport, but to surpass even the highest standards currently set. And think of the boon to handicappers. Admittedly few of these men and women, the lifeblood of the sport (like it or not), have a clue what heart rate vs GPS data means, but when it becomes available they will learn quickly to gain an edge at the mutuel window.

Granted the dishrag Times and PETA will simply find something else to attack, as that is their raison d’etre, but at the very least we can inject some new blood into the racing game: using each individual horse’s own vital signs to avoid another Nehro, while providing betting whales with the first advance in handicapping information in decades: a quantitative measure of fitness.

I’ll have to guess since no US racing jurisdictions allows for onboard HR/GPS monitoring, but here’s what it will look like approximately:

-If after a race your horse doesn’t meet the following criteria, he shall undergo intensive veterinary analysis before the next race. I’m not talking watching him jog, I mean bloodwork, bone scans, MRI, etc. All at the cost of the owner. Don’t want to pay? Retire him because these rules are in effect in every jurisdiction.

-Say the race was a 6F effort on dirt. HR must settle to 170bpm within 2min past the wire, while still at a jog (no walking). HR must further settle to 100bpm after saddle removed during walk back to backside, within 10min time from end of race.

Oh yeah, the horse in question must also complete 2 breezes before allowed to enter another race, one at least 6F, while wearing onboard HR/GPS gear and meeting the scores set forth in the Thoroughbred Racing Recovery Index.

For comparison’s sake, refer back to the HR/GPS chart at the start of this post. Time is along the X-axis. At roughly 9:45 this gelding enters the starting gate. He stands quietly, HR sinking to roughly 60bpm, which is very, very good. Around time 10:45 he blasts from the gate to begin his work. Peak speed is reached at just under 1:30 min/mile (44mph) for a few strides just before the wire. Within 2min his HR is down under 120bpm, and down to 97bpm just 5min later.

He is ultra-fit and shows zero signs of any problems anywhere. Imagine every horse in a 6F race providing this data, country-wide. Think of all the help this can give handicappers. Hell, the trainers should feel like they were handed the keys to the kingdom. No more guessing: Is he short? Did I work him enough? Too much? Is he sound? Did I hear a cough last week? Should he rest another week? Can I move him up in class?

If I die with the following on my tombstone, I will have made a mark on this world:

‘He saved thousands of horses by developing the Thoroughbred Racing Recovery Index.’

At the very least, it would give me great pleasure to put an end to crap like this:


My Very Own Longshot in Kentucky


Just a quick update: blog may be quiet for a spell, perhaps up until late April as I prepare both a few interesting posts and attempt to renovate the house above in an effort to regain it’s former glory seen below:


We bought it at a foreclosure auction last week, and plan to move in early April – despite a massive amount of work to do on the inside. Lots of cool history to the place as well; was built in 1851 and played a key role in some Civil War activities as well as a hideout for the famous outlaw Jesse James and his brother, Frank.

With my limited construction skills, I can only paint – and poorly at that, so the odds are likely 50-1 of me completing the project with my sanity intact. 50-1 is also the title of the new movie about the Kentucky Derby win of Mine that Bird:

The subject of longshots also dovetails nicely into a major piece of work I am turning over in my mind. Both of the longest-shot Derby winners in modern history: Mine that Bird and Canonero II, came from fairly high altitudes in the weeks leading up to The First Saturday in May. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend the new book on the first, and likely only, Venezuelan Derby winner:

That cannot be a coincidence. Training and racing at middle, not high altitudes, must have a significant effect on equine endurance. Can you bring a Venezuelan horse over every year and win the Derby? Of course not. But with modern technology you can approximate that method of conditioning here in the Bluegrass State.

Why do you think the Olympic Training Center for human athletes in the US was built in Colorado Springs, CO at an elevation of 6,035 feet above sea level?

EDIT: Forgot to mention I have some recent experience with NM altitudes and longshot Breeder’s Cup triumphs, video included:

The Decline of Horsemanship


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:


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.




Lookin at Lucky Bob Baffert



Spectacular Bid Bud Delp



Affirmed Laz Barrera



Seattle Slew Billy Turner



Secretariat Lucien Lauren



Buckpasser Eddie Neloy



Needles Hugh Fontaine



Nashua James Fitzsimmons



Native Dancer William Winfrey



Hill Prince Casey Hayes



Citation Ben Jones



Count Fleet Don Cameron



Alsab Sarge Swenke



Whirlaway Ben Jones



Bimelech William Hurley



Cavalcade Robert Smith



Reigh Count Bert Mitchell



Man O’ War Louis Feustel



Sweep James Rowe



Colin James Rowe



Burgomaster John Rogers


Sysonby James Rowe



Hamburg William Lakeland



Requital James Rowe


Domino William Lakeland



Potomac Hardy Campbell


Emperor of Norfolk Robert Thomas





Beholder Richard Mandella            12


Silverbulletday Bob Baffert



Go For Wand William Badgett Jr.



Open Mind D. Wayne Lukas



Ruffian Frank Whiteley, Jr.            11


Gallant Bloom William J. Hirsch



Tosmah Joseph Mergler



Cicada Casey Hayes



Bowl of Flowers Elliott Burch



Idun Sherill Ward



Doubledogdare Moody Jolley



Busher George Odom



Twilight Tear Ben Jones



Mata Hari Clyde Van Dusen



Top Flight Thomas Healey



Alcibiades Walter Taylor



Prudery James Rowe


Regret James Rowe



Ocean Bound French Brooks


Maskette James Rowe


Stamina A. Jack Joyner


Court Dress James Rowe


Artful John Rogers



Tanya John Rogers



Eugenia Burch Jim McLaughlin


Blue Girl John Rogers



Cleophus Hardy Campbell


The Butterflies John Hyland


Yorkville Belle Matthew Allen


La Tosca John Huggins


Los Angeles Robert Campbell


More on Mr. James Rowe , the undisputed king of my repeater list from Wikipedia:,_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.”


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


Who Worked 21F in 4 Breezes over Just 15 Days?


Some claimer down at Calder? A millionaire miler in Dubai?  A few dozen random trainees in Europe or Australia? Well, probably – but let’s stick to the US.





















Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Santa Anita Handicap winner, Game on Dude! (not pictured above in silhouette)

Small wonder this training feat was undertaken by Bob Baffert, as he continues to do more with less than any east coast based supertrainer. Did you know that we have had but 3 horses repeat as 3yo Horse of the Year (male or female) in the past 22 years – and 2 of them were trained by Baffert?

Everyone had written off Game on Dude after his last performance, a poor effort in the G2 San Antonio over his home strip at Santa Anita just 28 days ago. And perhaps rightfully so, given his previous Santa Anita effort in the Breeder’s Cup Classic last November, an uncharacteristically dull 9th place effort.

I used to peruse the workout data prior to these big races, but gave up after several months of seeing the same patterns. Only minutes before the Big Cap last night, did jockey Mike Smith mention that Baffert had ‘cranked up the training’ on Dude in preparation for his title defense. After the race I hit Equibase to see if that would be reflected in the worktab, and lo and behold it was.

Hmm, where have I read about the importance of frequency as it relates to speedwork? Namely the reasoning behind the 5 days or less intervals between fast furlongs? Oh yeah, here:

A few cite the 41 longer feet traveled by Will Take Charge on his way to finishing second by 1+ lengths as evidence of a superior effort, but the Lukas trainee was a full second behind the front-running Game on Dude through a half mile and also benefitted from some drafting.

Game on Dude has excelled in the early spring racing in southern California the past 2 seasons, only to come up woefully short in the late fall Breeders Cup races.  He’s getting nothing but older (7) by the calendar – will Baffert continue this work schedule in an effort to resurrect the Dude’s last season chances in 2014?