Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Review, Crow Eating Edition

Florida Derby

Every year there is a horse or a race you horribly peg and this weekend revealed the most drastic flaw in my Derby analysis to date. I thoroughly underestimated Quality Road and there is nothing I can do but sit down and eat my serving of humble pie like a man. Maybe...

Todd Pletcher has taken some criticism in fan circles for complaining about the Gulfstream track. I'm not a big fan of excuses but nothing Pletcher said on air was incorrect.

Saturday saw two track records broken and every race on the card won on or near the front end. All but one race was won by a horse either laying 1st or 2nd through a half mile. The lone horse that wasn't in either position sat 3rd! Saying that there was anything other than a front end bias is to deny the facts.

The question really comes down to did the bias give an unfair outcome. I'm not prepared to go that far. Dunkirk rallied with a sweeping move around the far turn to bypass the field and looked like a winner by daylight with an eighth to go. Quality Road had enough time to react and respond, and did so with power. While there might have been a bias, there is no doubt Dunkirk hung down the lane. Perhaps it was too much to expect him to sustain that bold move to the wire.

I think more than anything, if Pletcher has something to question its not his decision to run over the Gulfstream track but his decision to scratch his rabbit. If there is a front running bias, he only stood to help his chances by making the pace brutal, something that didnt unfold in the slightest on Saturday.

Dubai Day

Gulfstream wasn't the only track around the globe to have a front running bias on Saturday. The Dubai World Cup card was won by a slew front runners as well on both turf and dirt. I haven't seen that many races stolen on the front end since Keeneland switched to polytrack and ended the reign of the "Golden Rail". The fact that trainers didn't react mid-card is baffling. Especially since the dirt course has been notoriously known for favoring horses laying close to the lead. Horses that get the first run on track have historically fared well, despite the fact that it has one of the longest stretch runs in the world.

With that said I took a great deal of pleasure watching Aron Gryder win the World Cup and Two Step Salsa dominating the Godolphin mile. Gryder was due for a win after having his heartbreak over Well Armed's performance in the Dirt Mile aired on the Discovery Channel's, Jockeys. Two Step Salsa is starting to live up to the potential he flashed last year.

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