Here’s the result chart for the Travers. (With as many horses as I could fit with a screen shot, anyway):
Although V.E. Day got his nose down first, it was Wicked Strong who got the best TFUS Speed Figure in the race. Both Ravi Maragh, on Wicked Strong, and Joel Rosario, on Tonalist, fearful of allowing Bayern to get too comfortable on the lead, had their horses close to what was an extremely strong pace – wicked early pace figures of 133 and 125 for Bayern.
Based on the way Bayern stopped and finished dead last, perhaps they were giving him too much credit. In any event, the early effort was obviously just a tad too much for Wicked Strong, who held on for all but the last jump. For his effort, as mentioned, he got a figure of 109, the best in the race. Now, I’m obviously all for our speed figures and the methodology behind them – taking pace into account. So these figures make perfect sense from that standpoint. However….these are, supposedly, Grade 1 animals, the best that the division has to offer (with the possible exception of California Chrome, pointed instead to the Pennsylvania Derby so that his owners can collect a $100,000 bonus). So I expect that a horse that was in the position that Wicked Strong was in would be able to find a way to win this race. A great horse would have dug down and gotten the job done. Considering that he came home in a languid final quarter of 26.33….I figure that all he had to do to win this race was to come home in a slightly less languid final quarter of, say, 26 1/4. A Grade 1 horse should be able to do that, even if he was tracking a quick pace. And let’s face it folks….it’s not like he was chasing Seattle Slew out there….or even General Assembly, who set similar fractions in the Travers and went on to win by 15.
So, I’m going to make a new rule for myself here. Any time that a Grade 1 horse has a clear lead in mid-stretch and doesn’t win because it can’t come home much faster than a top grade pacer, it doesn’t get any bonus points. In fact, I’m subtracting three points from Wicked Strong’s figure.
As for V.E. Day, he surely has the pedigree credentials to finish the mile and a quarter as he did; final quarter in a respectable 25.51 seconds. One could have seen that had he/she not been as dismissive of the quality of the Travers field as was I and taken the time to look! It’s a turf pedigree for sure, but definitely has the distance chops. He’s a son of the grass champion English Channel, out of a Deputy Minister mare who is a half-sister to Don’t Read My Lips, a Turkoman mare who produced a couple of runners who loved distance racing on grass: Hotstufanthensome set a track record for a mile an 3/8ths when he won the Mac Diarmada at Monmouth; Tacit Agreement won a two mile marathon – The Bob Umphrey Turf Marathon – at Calder. And the second dam of V.E. Day is a half to Sunshine Forever, who won the Turf Classic and the Man O’War, both at a mile and a half. [Correction: The Man O'War, at one point in my lifetime a mile and a half race - like when Secretariat won it - was 1 3/8ths when Sunshine Forever won in 1988.] Perhaps he’ll be pointed for the latter at Belmont next spring.