Horse Racing

This side up: Missing points

It is often said that all roads lead to Rome. Now they all seem to lead to Louisville, whether you’re starting in the desert or on the road in Florence, Kentucky. Some of us, though, still remember the long-forgotten roundabout route favored by old-school riders. In fact, there are times when I fear that we might actually find ourselves on a path of fame paved with good intentions.

Saturday ushered in the third cycle of drills providing the starting point for the GI Kentucky Derby. The first offered some small reward for quick wits, with no more than 20 points (10 for winners) for the vast majority of minors and what could be termed the “minor dwarf” qualifiers. ” (Jerome/Sham style). Apparently, even these prevent sprint speed. The next phase, offering 40 to 100 points, virtually guaranteed to score more will begin on the first Saturday of May; and now we come into this concluding series of tests, three of which instantly give even-placed horses every prospect of pry open a gate with their split of a whopping 200.

Not everyone agrees that all three deserve such help, and skeptics are sure to notice some political considerations at play. Jeff Ruby is only a Class III, synthetics race, but it is held at a track owned by Churchill Downs. And then there’s the UAE Derby, Group 2 held halfway around the world.

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It’s not hard to see why a flying carpet should be delivered directly from Meydan to Louisville, when the most lavish benefactor in the sport’s history has been excited for a long time at the idea of ​​winning. in the Kentucky Derby from his own hometown. However, for one reason or another, his stables seem to be moving away from this particular path quite clearly lately.

Last year, both of the first two, trained in Japan and domestically, respectively, brought their chips to the counter for a trip to Kentucky and really had a decisive impact of the day, ripping apart at dose rate. to the point where they’ve established something that’s become extremely important. a rarity since sprinters were expelled from the Derby: a success beyond speed.

Of course, Rich Strike (Keen Ice) himself was only on the bench for 20 points when he finished third in the Jeff Ruby tournament, although what ultimately brought him into the race was the lone score he earned. was earlier when he finished fourth in John battalion. That’s another race on the synthetic track at Turfway, by the way, and one this year bumped it up to 40 points (from 17).

Rich Strike Wins 148th Kentucky Derby | Coady Photography

However, I think it’s fair to acknowledge the inherent and evolving legitimacy to the kind of competition stimulated by both the United Arab Emirates Derby and the “way back.” to Churchill along Interstate 71.

Rich Strike at least needs to be open about what sometimes happens when a horse moves out of synthetic trials – something to remember when it comes to Raise Cain’s revelatory performance (Violence). Indeed, shifting the race we now call Jeff Ruby to a synthetic surface soon spawned a few poster boys, in that respect, in Spin hard and Animal Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Meydan race over the past decade has been won by some elite talent. One was later hit in the nose during the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic; another has won two G1 Dubai World Cups; another runner-up in GI Travers that summer; while the 2021 winner Rebel’s Romance (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) returns to this card for the GI Longines Dubai Sheema Classic as the Breeders’ Cup champion.

The international landscape continues to change beneath our feet, so even Dubai must now adapt to the entry of an even richer program than in Riyadh – albeit barely facing. with the kind of identity crisis its very emergence has created for races as old as the GI Santa Anita Handicap. But one particular trend continues to strengthen, with the Japanese in Riyadh continuing to plant their flags at the top of the global pyramid.

They have achieved this, at least in part, by capturing aspects of the Purebred that American and European industries have decried as non-commercial. The Japanese value endurance and wellness, and they have resisted the narrow, conventional thinking about which blood types work on which surfaces.

Meydan Racecourse, Dubai | horse photo

Apart from anything else, that should assuage any outrage at the way the synthetic route to Derby is being promoted at Turfway. Much more profoundly, however, the example of Japan should prompt Americans and Europeans to regain the faith that their predecessors had shown in the transferability of genetic competence, when they sent people like Nasrullah (Ire) and many other sons of the Northern Dancers in reverse voyages across the ocean.

As I said before, the last opportunity comes in 2021 when no European or American farm is ready to accommodate the Japanese interest in Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire}) after he competed in Classics in three different countries in 22 days (won the first and suffered a short hit on heavy ground in the third after running in France six days earlier) before taking his form to the next level in G1 St. James’s Palace S. next month.

By contrast, the most successful horse in the GI Louisiana Derby had two months to achieve its success in the GIII Lecomte S. So while this race is, historically, seems to be a much more favorable environment for the distribution of 200+ starting points than Meydan or Turfway, arguably the scoring system is facilitating an unfortunate contrast to the way Jim Bolger promotes Poetic Flare genetic products.

I cannot guess whether it is the trainers, or the breeders who supply their raw materials, that are primarily responsible for the idea that a Derby pony should be intentionally limited to one start in January. January and another time in March. (Obviously, this is a general complaint – we’re not pointing out this particular horse trainer here. Juvenile champions have been treated in a very similar way.) conditioned horses. a bit more on the rare occasions that we get to see them, with recent outstanding dividends. But often lamenting that the exclusion of sprinters has diluted the Kentucky Derby as the ultimate display of speed performance, I now fear it is also degrading the race. race in other respects.

If they’re going to stick with the scoring system – and it clearly is – it might be time to look at some sort of weighting in favor of those making the road to the Derby varied and interesting. than; and the Derby itself is a more instructive test. Perhaps a bonus or tiebreak advantage is for a horse that represents achievement over multiple distances and/or surfaces, or even just for each start taken.

No doubt crazy ideas in a world where people are more interested in making money fast than raising a fast horse. In fact, so crazy that they can even be quite reasonable.


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