Today in Racing, April 6, 2014

Unless a horse in next week’s Arkansas Derby makes a similar explosive move forward, Wood winner Wicked Strong ($20.40) will go into the Kentucky Derby with the top dirt TFUS speed figure in the field.  The son of Hard Spun earned a 117 for his upset victory. (California Chrome received a 113 for his devastation of the Santa Anita Derby field.) That’s a 25 point career top for him, and congratulations to those of you who anticipated that off his form thus far this year, his “sneaky good” 4th in Constitution’s key race allowance win notwithstanding.

Here’s the result chart, with triple-digit figures across the board for the top seven finishers:

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 11.16.19 AM


Not noted in the chart comments is that favored Social Inclusion was off just a half beat or so slowly; or perhaps we’ll just say that his break was not particularly sharp.  That doomed any chance of him clearing the field after the short run to the turn.  Instead, he was a good 3 wide throughout the turn as Luis Contreras was determined to get to the front. So much for the rating thing.

It was surely a strong pace that he set in tandem with Schivarelli.  Note the strong pace figures, and the splits were 23.79 / 23.68 / 23.69 before they finally began to slow up front. When Social Inclusion finally cleared rounding the turn, Contreras was still high in the saddle and peeking behind, as Jose Ortiz was already working hard on Samraat, who had drafted behind the dueling leaders. Thought for a moment there that we were going to see something really special; but the pace took its toll.  Surely, neither of those two were disgraced in defeat, as the race set up ideally for Wicked Strong, who saved ground early from his rail post, and was unencumbered by horses outside of him as he started his winning move approaching the final turn.  Social Inclusion had his raw final time figure upgraded by two points to 115 for his early efforts on the pace; and Samraat by one point to 114 for his efforts tracking it.

That had to be a frustrating nose by which Social Inclusion lost second to Samraat.  Will likely keep him out of the Derby, and he probably deserved better with the effort.  Might all be for the best however.  The Preakness, with its usual shorter field, will serve him far better than the calvary charge to the lead that we are virtually certain to see in the Derby. Samraat, who was already assured of a Derby slot, validated his prior races (as well as our speed figures, which had him – and Schivarelli and Uncle Sigh for that matter – rated higher than did the competition’s numbers).  And he presumably gained some additional fitness and foundation for the big race.  He certainly has the tactical speed to gain position and avoid traffic in the Derby.  But it remains to be seen if his pedigree will carry him a mile and a quarter.  (Which we can say for each and every one of the 20 that will ultimately comprise the field.)

Tough break for Gary Contessa and Uncle Sigh, who was left at the gate, four wide on both turns, yet still finished 5th and earned a solid speed figure. We should certainly be hearing more from that NY-bred as the season rolls along.

– We have our Top Play at Aqueduct up now, along with Horses in Focus for the Big A and Keeneland; and check back for updates with Santa Anita.  Best of luck and have a great Sunday.

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4 Responses to Today in Racing, April 6, 2014

  1. nepetalactone says:

    California Chrome has been racing now for a year. This is very much the career of a horse from the past. He appears to see more work than most of the others, and his conduct is flawless–he must have been handled a great deal to produce a well-mannered horse. I went back and watched his last four races; they are all pushbutton races with the horse delivering when asked. He ran the 4th-fastest Santa Anita Derby, without so much as being shown the whip. Some of those fields are not of high quality, but each race he faced greater competition and longer distance, and he kept rising to the challenge. He brings a lot to the Kentucky Derby: a good mind, the experience of running many races, a quick turn of foot to get him ahead of trouble. I’m not predicting a blowout, but I have not seen many 3 y os in the last 50 years who looked this solid.


  2. Dennis says:

    While Wicked Storm earned a 117 speed figure and California Gold earned a 113 they looked like 2 different races. Wicked Storm looked like a drunken sailor coming down the stretch while California Chrome just cantered home not breaking a sweat. Was that fact used in giving California Chrome a 113?


    • marc@tfus says:

      No, we don’t factor anything like that.
      A few thoughts:
      1) We never cease to be amazed at the number of horses who “canter home” who fail to run back to the effort next out. Sometimes “more in the tank” is an optical illusion. Arguably, players generally overrate easy winners in their subsequent starts, creating underlays.
      2) Also, despite the margin, note that Hoppertunity blew by Cali Chrome on the gallop-out. Probably means nothing. But still.
      3) Most importantly, the entire Timeform team–both in the US and globally–feel strongly that certain things will never be captured by a figure or rating. YOUR eyes told you Wicked Storm was fully extended earning that figure and now YOU need to decide what to do with that information. It sounds like you may have found a horse to bet-against…while others play speed figures too simplistically.


      • Dennis says:

        I just think California Chrome is a horse from the past when it was not uncommon for horses to have many more races than they do today. Will this help California Chrome remains to be seen but he’s been tested and I think with all the races he’s had will be able to handle the full field at Churchill Downs much better than horses that only have a few races under their belts.



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