Friday, September 25, 2009

Cryptoclearance, You Will Be Missed


September 25, 2009

Cryptoclearance (Fappiano - Naval Orange by Hoist The Flag) died at Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic Thursday, August 24 from a heart attack stemming from complications following colic surgery.

He was 25 and had been actively breeding through 2009.

“On behalf of myself, and all of the staff , we want to send our condolences to Phil Teinowitz and to all of the fans who have appreciated and supported Cryptoclearance during his lifetime.”

“He was a ‘breed-shaping’ horse, and his influence will be passed down over the years through not only his sons, but very significantly, through his daughters. His contribution to the breed is that of soundness, stamina and above all else heart - traits that he and his offspring have displayed in the races that define class in our breed."

“Scotty Schulhofer and Mr Teinowitz found Cryptoclearance in the 1985 Saratoga yearling sale and he remained wholly owned by Mr Teinowitz throughout his racing and breeding career. Named after the Naval Security department during WW 2, Phil had a very special relationship with “Crypto” during the 24 years he owned him, and he followed the success of all of “Crypto’s” offspring as if they were his. “

Cryptoclearance ran in all legs of the American Triple Crown, closing through traffic to finish 4th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Preakness, and 2nd in the Belmont. The popular son of Fappiano was a four-time Grade-1 winner, including scores in the Florida Derby and Donn Handicap. Known for his tremendous closing kick, Cryptoclearance amassed $3,376,327 in earnings during his racing career, which saw him win 7 stakes races and hit the board in 29 of 44 starts.

As a sire Cryptoclearance was wildly successful, siring no less that 3 Champions, 41 Stakes Winners and 88 Stakes horses. Progeny of Cryptoclearance have gone on to earn over $50,000,000 on the racetrack.

Notable offspring by the stallion include Champion Older Male and 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, Breeders Cup Classic winner Volponi, G1 Bluegrass Winner Millenium Wind, G1 Spinaway winner Strategic Maneuver and G1 Futurity winner Traitor

“All of his handlers over the years recall how smart and easy he was to work with, but when his mare came into the breeding shed, they also knew they had to be on their game because it was an Olympic event when it was time for him to breed. That’s how he lived his life.”

“He ended his racing and breeding career with the respect and admiration of all horsemen.”

He will be buried at Margaux.


Blog note: I had been writing a fairly big piece for the blog this week that I was quite eager to post today. Its been a pretty rough couple days with Crypto's passing and I was unable to finish it. My apologies. The blog should be back in action early next week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview With Steve Haskin!

The Rail Tout is proud to post a Q&A done with renowned Turf writer Steve Haskin this week. It is undoubtedly the high water mark for the blog and it speaks volumes to Steve Haskin’s generosity and commitment to the sport and its fans to take time out of his schedule to contribute here.

For those unfamiliar with his work, below is a brief bio…

Steve Haskin is an award-winning Turf writer renowned for his Kentucky Derby commentary. During his nearly three decades at Daily Racing Form, Haskin made a name with his "Derby Watch" columns. He joined The Blood-Horse magazine in 1998 as senior correspondent. Haskin, who has won six Red Smith Awards for his Kentucky Derby coverage, is the author of Tales From The Triple Crown, Horse Racing's Holy Grail - The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby and biographies of Dr. Fager, John Henry, and Kelso.

I highly recommend everyone follow his blog, Hangin' With Haskin, on the Bloodhorse website and his book on the great Dr. Fager in the Thoroughbred Legends series is a must read.

I hope everyone enjoys the following interview and I hope to be able to provide more content of its type in the future.

Thanks again Steve!


Rail Tout: The Breeders Cup has grown considerably over the years. They’ve added an extra day, divided the day by sexes, and have created a handful of “specialist” type races. Do you think the creation of these new races dilute the overall quality of event and what is your feeling about the “Ladies Day”?

Steve Haskin: At first I did think it diluted the talent and was dead set against it, but when I was actually at the BC last year, I was glad to see some of the stayers, turf sprinters and juvenile turf horses given a chance to shine. But all in all, I believe it does dilute the BC as a whole. And I do not like Ladies Day, because the Distaff (Ladies classic) is one of the few BC races that at times produces a Horse of the Year, and its not appropriate to have fillies like Zenyatta perform in front of 20,000-25,000 fewer fans and virtually no TV audience. And it's not fair to the Saturday customers who pay all that money and have to work or go to school on Friday to deprive them of seeing a mare like Zenyatta and a possible Horse of the Year decided.

RT: The Breeders Cup will be run over a synthetic track for the second time this year at Santa Anita, what is your opinion of synthetic racing and the Breeders Cup decision to have their event run over it in consecutive years?

SH: I hate synthetic racing, because the form is awful, it's phony, and horses are still breaking down. The decision to run the BC at Santa Anita two years in a row was the worst decision they've ever made, and they've paid the price not getting Rachel Alexandra and a host of the top horses who will not run. I hate to say it but they got what they deserved.

RT: Most fans universally despise the medication rules and penalties for those that get caught breaking those rules, why is it that the sport has been so slow to address the issue and are you in favor of a “no race day medication” policy?

SH: The medication rules are a mess. There is nothing rational about them. The sport has been slow to address it because it's slow to address everything. There is no one running the sport. At least the sport is trying now, but it took Eight Belles and PETA protests and congressional hearings to get them off their butts. Yes, I am in favor of no race day medication, but it would take a long time to implement it because so many of our horses are so dependent on Lasix.

RT: It’s generally accepted that the modern thoroughbred is not as sound as decades past. Statistics show that the average amount of starts per horse has declined steadily with each passing decade. With this said, there also appears to be a major shift in training, where horses train more and race less. (Especially with a wealth of lucrative options available and commercial breeding stock values being so high) Is it accurate to say that modern training tactics and advances in veterinarian care and diagnostics could actually be more to blame than any inherent genetic deficiencies in the modern thoroughbred?

SH: That is a part of it, but I believe the main reason is the amount of speed we have infused into the blood of the Thoroughbred, combined with the use of Bute and Lasix and other drugs. I'm not sure if training tactics contribute to unsoundness and much as unsoundness contributes to today's training tactics. Trainers are forced to be conservative, and sometimes they overdo it. Horses are now being trained defensively rather that the offensive approach taken by trainers years ago. Horse also race fewer times, because owners nowadays do not want to lose and dont accept defeats with the same class owners did in the past. That's because every loss means a decrease in stud value in owners' minds. It's not so much advances in veterinary care that has changed the game as much as the number of veterinarians in the sport now who have lot more power in decision making, and they too have become more conservative.

RT: I maintain that on the basis of versatility, speed and level of opposition, that Dr. Fager is the greatest thoroughbred of all time. As the resident leader of the Dr. Fager fan club, is this crazy talk, or does he have a legit claim to the throne?

SH: In my opinion Dr. Fager in 1968 was the greatest horse of all time. Of the horses I've seen, over a three-year period -- ages 2,3, and 4 -- Spectacular Bid was the greatest. He was the closest thing to the perfect horse.

RT: I’ve outlined here prior that I believe the sport should have a tiered purse structure based on age, with the aim to create less emphasis on bottoming out young 2yo’s and making the handicap division twice as lucrative. Simply put, a 3yo runs for more money than a 2yo, and a 4yo+ runs for more money than a 3yo. The thought process being, until we emphasize running older horses, and more importantly put the real money in that division, there will be little incentive to keep horses on the track if they have commercial value. What do you think of such an idea and what do you think can be done slow the retirement rate of top horses so that fans can follow horses for more than a season?

SH: It's a good concept, but it will never happen, because 3-year-olds will always be the glamour division, and purses will always remain high. We need another ACRS Series, where one major bulk of money -- like $5 million or $10 million -- is paid to the winner of the series, who accumulates the most points. One crazy concept would be, if a horse is retired at 3 for stud duty, and not due to an injury, he must wait twice as long to become eligible to the Hall of Fame. Of course, that would mean Secretariat would have had to wait, but that's just the way it would be. It's difficult to turn down an offer from Sheikh Mohammed.

RT: Rachel Alexandra vs Ruffian, who you got?

SH: I can't compare the two and never take part in matching horses of different generations. Ruffian was the most brilliant filly I've ever seen and Rachel is the more accomplished.

RT: If her career was over today, where would you rank Zenyatta in the all-time filly/mare division and do you think the connections have in some ways hindered her long-term status by not challenging her more in 2009?

SH: As of now, I'd rank her in top 20 all time and in the Top 10 of modern fillies/mares. And yes, her conservative campaign at 5 will probably hinder her when people assess the greatest fillies, as will having 11 of her 12 starts on a synthetic surface. But on the other hand, most fillies in her similar situation would have been retired after last year's Distaff. Let's see if she runs in the Classic and how she does before ranking her. I just wish she would have run a few more times on the dirt, so we could get a true gauge on how great she is.

RT: You’ve successfully made the leap from traditional print media to the online world, with a wildly popular blog on the Bloodhorse site. What do you think of the decline in traditional media and the switch to the digital realm? What do you see as the positives and negatives of this shift in coverage?

SH: The demise of tradition is always sad, and the loss of so many beat writers leaves a major void. The internet allows the average fan to have his or her comments printed in public, and that's good. But you still have to be able to separate the casual fan with a blog from the professional writer who has been writing publicly all of his or her life. One is a hobby and pastime and one is a job and a livelihood, so there is a difference. But there is a place for both.

RT: What do you think of the Rail Tout Blog and do you have any advice for us amateur bloggers?

SH: Definitely one of the better blogs, because it's knowledgeable and well thought out, and the analysis of the leading horses is extremely well crafted. My advice is to stick with what you know best and what aspect of the sport you like the best -- whether its handicapping or rankings and comments or race analysis -- and concentrate on that and keep trying to improve on it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rachel Alexandra: The Best Ever

Saturday confirmed what many thought going in, Rachel Alexandra is the greatest filly to ever step on a racetrack. The race drew unusually deep (In a relative sense, considering the handicap division) and I couldn’t help but think the trainers had decided to take a stand against the talented filly.

She certainly was not done any favors during the running. Da’Tara and Past The Point pressured the filly on both sides into extremely fast fractions of 22.85 and 46.4. For a comparison, she was forced to go as fast early as the G1 Forego sprint just an hour or so earlier. To underline the nature of how the race was run, look at how the field finished. The 4 horses closest to Rachel at the half-mile pole, were in the final four spots at the wire.

That was a brutal pace and the fact that a 3yo filly could withstand that and still out finish the field is nothing short of amazing.

There can be no doubt that she is the greatest filly ever. None whatsoever.

Now, I hate to give up space here to address internet message board talking points, but I feel compelled to touch on some of the things that have made the rounds on internet forums by the small minority of lunatics that are either anti-Jess Jackson, anti-Asmussen, pro-Zenyatta or pro-Ruffian or all of the above. Remarkably some Internet loons don’t understand that you can be a fan multiple horses and that fandom in horseracing is not an exclusive venture.

1. Zenyatta has had the softest of schedules in 2009. She has not been routinely challenged at any point in her career to the extent Rachel has.

2. Speculating that Zenyatta could defeat Rachel Alexandra at 10-furlongs is just that, pure speculation. Of course under Saturday’s conditions you wouldn’t have liked Rachel’s chances, but each race dictates different tactics. Rachel had to be gunned to the lead from that post-position otherwise she would have been boxed and battered the entire race. Rachel had no problems going 9.5 furlongs in the Preakness under a brutal pace and there is no doubt that she would have beaten that field at 10-furlongs. To assume Rachel, who has shown the complete ability to rate, could not be effective at 10-furlongs is a baseless opinion. Her ability to set the pace or stalk gives her the advantage over Zenyatta in any hypothetical match up. (Beyond the fact that Rachel has routinely beaten stiffer opposition anyways)

3. Ruffian never left the confines of the northeast and as a 3yo never left New York. She didn’t run in the Kentucky Oaks and never competed in a Triple Crown event. Rachel has won over 8 different tracks to Ruffian's 4. Rachel has won over a variety of different off tracks, whereas Ruffian only ran over fast tracks. Rachel won the premier event for 3yo fillies Kentucky Oaks, Ruffian didn't make the gate. Rachel won a Triple Crown race, Ruffian never entered one. Rachel beat 3yo males twice, Ruffian never beat a male racehorse. Rachel defeated older males, Ruffian never raced against one. Additionally Rachel ran more often than Ruffian, even if you omitted Rachel’s last two races, which would have occurred after Ruffian’s breakdown in their respective seasons.

Now Ruffian backers can point to two things. Ruffian won a race at a mile and a half and she set 5 stakes records and equaled 2 track records.

First, outside of her one start at 12 furlongs, Ruffian never ran past 9 furlongs. In fact Ruffian only had 2 races beyond a mile. To act as if she was some great stamina horse is purely revisionist history. Of her 10 wins, 7 were 7-furlongs or under. Also, she was loose on the lead under modest fractions in her 12-furlong win, where speed is even more dangerous against horses that have stamina but no tactical speed.

As far as her records, it’s certainly much easier to break stakes records the earlier you ran in the time line. A stakes record in 1975 is easier to break than a stakes record in 2009. Each year, as thousands more horses have a chance to whittle down the times, they in turn become more difficult to break. Also consider, three of Rachel’s races have been against males, which will have records infinitely more difficult to break than age and gender restricted races that Ruffian ran in.

I say all of this not as a means to degrade the greatness of Ruffian. She was unquestionably a brilliant racehorse and one of the finest runners the sport has ever produced. Ruffian was light years better than Rachel as a 2yo and I would without question pick Ruffian over Rachel under a mile. With that said, Rachel is the vastly more tested and proven entity. She has routinely faced and beaten the best the sport has to offer, not just the best of her sex. Rachel is the better horse because she has thrived in races most fillies, even great ones like Ruffian, dont even bother to load in the gate for.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

3yo Top Ten

1. Rachel Alexandra (1)
2. Summer Bird (5)
3. Quality Road (3)
4. Munnings (6)
5. Capt. Candyman Can (5)
6. Mine That Bird (2)
7. Kensei (New)
8. Big Drama (4)
9. Charitable Man (9)
10. Papa Clem (8)

No change at the top and no reason to believe it will for the remainder of the year.

Summer Bird takes a sizeable leap from the last poll off his score in the Travers. He is simply the most accomplished two-turn male in the sport and he looks better and better every race.

I didn’t feel compelled to move Quality Road. I still believe he is the most gifted 3yo colt in the division and his Travers performance could be blamed on a number of things from the sloppy going, erratic scheduling, first 10-furlong race or a bounce off of his track record sprint. It’s worth noting he could very well be the best 3yo sprinter as well, though he has nothing of note to prove in that division and will likely not sprint for the remainder of the year.

Munnings moves up a couple spots. Now this might be curious off of two losses but hear me out. One, the top ten hadn’t been updated for a while and he was very much deserving of this spot going into the weekend. He gets a mulligan from me on Saturday because he was dropping back in distance and the track conditions were less than ideal. (As was his post position) I simply don’t think the Captain is as good a sprinter as him on a fair track. He now has to prove he can overcome a couple losses, but the ability is there.

Capt. Candyman Can moves up a few spots with the Kings Bishop score. It’s only fair as he is the most consistent sprinter in the division. To be fair he has only stayed in this division while other freaky sprinters have tried more ambitious races, but there is something to be said about sticking with what your best at. I actually think there are 3-4 sprinters that could be better than him, but he is the most accomplished in the division and deserves to be ranked as such.

Mine That Bird makes a big fall. I hate to say he is increasingly looking like a one hit wonder, but perhaps a better way to put it is he is looking like a horse that got hot at the right time. Now, he has not run a bad race since his Derby score, but he has a bad case of second-itis. The company line is he has had a handful of bad rides of late. I somewhat agree to an extent, but the fact that the horse has to have a certain ride and a certain setup to be effective speaks of his deficiencies as a runner. He’s a threat in any race he runs in, but until he shows some consistency others are more deserving of higher rankings.

Kensei is the new boy on the list because of the infrequency of the list of late, but his scores in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy make him deserving. His Travers effort was poor but again that could be based on a lot of different things. He is an emerging horse and could be force late in a variety of different races/divisions.

Big Drama falls big-time based on his clunker in the Kings Bishop and underwhelming effort in the West Virginia Derby. Talent isn’t enough at this point to rank him higher and my concern moving forward is his handling and how he’ll be used in the future.