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I think this trend started 50 years ago when Bold Ruler was bred to Something Royal to give us Big Red.
that was the start of a so called speed horse bred to a Classic bred Mare and the Nasrullah, Princequillo
Nick. Some Deep pocket breeders caught on to that, others discovered Northern Dancer and
Native Dancer Ran/ Mr P for Dirt in North America, breeders many without deep pockets with Lasix breeding speed on speed. The rest of the world Europe and Japan and others Used Northern Dancer
To breed for Turf with great female nicks compatible to ND female tff 2d thru Almamoud in Europe family 5h tff like sadlers wells, and in Japan to Sunday Silence bred to Nor Dancer bmsires. Imo like Smarty Jones with the 13c and 1x, seattle slew 13c ,1x passed on to Api and other famlies like 23b,4m, 8c, 2s,
A4,8f spread in a 5 generation pedigree. Many of these families have BPT tff conduits that carry their speed over a distance of ground and have a balanced pedigree and the styles front runners and stalkers
seem to dominate like this year my top 5 fall in this group with one closer in the 5.At this point anyone can jump up in March or April and of course this is imo and I think it supports what Raes is saying in a different form.
I agree that pedigree is probably the biggest reason, but is there any merit to the theory that the changing trend relative to the preparation of these horses, is exacerbating the “problem”? Will it become a vicious cycle as people breed more and more to winners of these contests?
I don't know. There is evidence the Breeders in North America changed when the Derby Format
changed to have less sprinter milers, one turners getting in the mix, At least the deep pockets
I think they should limit the entrants for a trainer and give somebody else a chance for the Derby.
The Turf runners in America seems more balanced ,saying that the special feed and drugs have to go.
I'm sure over time you have heard someone knock a trainer, some of them are good horseman and take care of their horses and are not cheaters or suspected cheaters, even then we don't know the truth.
Soon we will have a 20 horse field of maidens at the rate we are going and changes are badly needed
and I don't think I will live to see it. have to have 2 races at 2, or one might be doable. 3 races at 3 before the Derby. nah that won't happen.
Big books for the most popular
CROP SIZE is about 20000 and was nearly double that in the decade.
No longer are there robust crops where there's an Alydar and Affirmed healthy in all 3 legs of the TC.
The risk cost is prohibitive for some; yet $40K has been the tag for a winner like Seattle Slew. Some find out late in the Derby points standing that they are eligible but don't want to press their purse earnings as perhaps a long shot. Some don't even know they qualify for the Derby like Mine that Bird.
As Smarty notes connections run few races enough to make the field of 20.
In days past a 6/7 fl sprinter would take a crack at the Roses. Groovy.
With crops with real stick outs going into the Derby they are capable of outperforming the Derby field from the get go and have tiring 19 horses to slow and block.
The Belmont track is a mile and half and Kent D says one needs to know how to ride the special distance and a horse and rider can get lost out there.
DaTara ran on the same card day but not In the Preakness. His time would have been competitive in Preak. He won.
Belmont Stakes.. Big Brown crashed with bad hoof. DaTara got off in 1:12 and the field ended up chasing him home. Couldn't win a. $35K.
And we have the deep pockets, trainers and riders who àh really make a difference.
If you have a great one, go to the front stay out of trouble and be there at every call.
The quality rises.
The more recent change, which is the points system, probably has a lot to do with what we're talking about here. Consider, under the old system a horse that won the BC Juvenile or the Delta Jackpot or the Hollywood/CashCall (now the Los Alamitos) Futurity, is pretty much a "win and you're in" for the Derby because of all that graded stakes money. Throw in horses that piled up earnings winning juvenile races at Saratoga and now you have a lot of 6-8.5F winners that might not be good enough at 10F (or didn't develop well into 3 year olds) but can make the field.
Fast forward to now. You want in the Derby you need to be winning 9F races in the spring to collect enough points. So this means the field won't have as much "cheap speed" to close into anymore, like Bob Black Jack (remember him?). You should have fields consisting of proven 9F runners. And some of them (Chrome, Pharoah, Justify) run on or close to the pace, but won't be spitting the bit at the 1/4 pole.
What might change things back is this year's rule where Lasix is prohibited. Will this hurt speedsters and benefit closers/sustained types? I would have thought Lasix worked better at shorter distances, as the effects of dehydration would tire horses out worse the longer the race goes. OTOH dehydration = less weight to carry = easier to cover the distance.
All good questions! I agree with both Rob and Tex here......breeding and certainly, perhaps even more so, the change to the qualifications. Those previous Derby's with speed folding and closers finishing to win included several who just couldn't qualify today. As Tex noted, the new no-Lasix rule may change things, let's see.....and with 20 horse fields, it's very hard for a great closer to avoid all the backing up horses, as well as to win while running a much longer race.
This year should be interesting though, as which Baffert horse goes to the front? All 3 of his top colts have won a prep from the front, but neither Medina Spirit, nor Concert Tour ran at the same speed as Life Is Good. I have no doubt that his stable, though each owned separately, will have the advantage of pre-race instructions, and I can't help but think that Life will be let alone on the front end. The only challenges at this point would come from Prevalence and Collaborate, assuming that each will qualify.....
We still have Greatest Honour, and Risk Taking, both of whom came from behind, but they may be too far back from a loose Life Is Good running the 3/4 in 10:20 or so. Still a few more preps to see if another colt emerges, crossing fingers on a few utr's!
I can't help but think that Life will be let alone on the front end
2 days after you posted that he was taken out of the race. So he'll definitely be let alone. :)
TUrns out the chip surgery went very well, he might even make it to the Haskell this year.
Growing up I was a "whys" guy of epic proportions. My parents and teachers often pulled their hair out. I have this need to understand why certain things occur. Along those lines, I'm trying to understand why frontrunners have been doing particularly well in the 10f Kentucky Derby in recent years. Starting with California Chrome in 2014, no horse that crossed the line first in the Derby, was worse than 3rd at any point in the race. Before that, you have to go back to Smarty Jones in 2004.
Is it simply the Baffert effect, as most have come from his barn? Is it the breeding industry which has been incentivized by all that money for horses that can win the shorter races? Could it possibly something inadvertent that resulted from the changes in training methods? Horses are starting later and later, running fewer and fewer times. Closers do most of their running in the latter part of the race, so could the lighter racing affect the development of their foundation, relative to their frontrunning opponents that do a bit more heavy lifting throughout the course of a race, causing closers to have a diminished kick late? Remember when it became a thing that frontrunners began stealing Belmonts? Is this just a natural progression of the same trend?
I had no useful thoughts on this formulated, other than what others have already said, but just wanted to give you PROPS for posing such a truly interesting and thoughtful contemplation of these issues.
I think it is the kind of post that deserves it's own topic, actually. Because I can see it having longevity, esp. as we enter the no lasix era and post covid racing era.