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Would You Bet on Goldikova’s Brother?

The Breeder’s Cup is fast approaching and one of the most anticipated horses will be a turf miler who hasn’t really done much of anything. He hasn’t won a group one race. He hasn’t beaten a top turf miler. He hasn’t been able to record a win since June of last year. What he has done is win the genetic lottery. Perhaps you have heard of his sister, a lady named Goldikova. Yes, Anodin, the brother of Goldikova will attempt to win the race that his sister has thoroughly dominated: the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

What is it about breeding that makes us think the impossible is possible? If I showed you Anodin’s past performances, but hid his name from you then you would think he’s a plodder who isn’t fit for an allowance at Santa Anita. However, he is royalty and so the racing world is intrigued.

The beauty of horseracing is that family does matter. Siblings can inherit the preferences for distance and surface from their siblings, but they cannot inherit heart. Goldikova was a genetic freak of nature who absolutely craved racing. How else do you explain her longevity? Racing was not in her blood, it was something that she personally desired. Anodin on the other hand, seems to get discouraged by traffic troubles and the physicality of racing. Let’s look at the Queen Anne Stakes. Anodin was given every chance to steal that race from Toronado and couldn’t do it. What do you think Goldikova would’ve done? I think she would’ve gone for the jugular and beaten Toronado by open lengths.

Coming into the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Mile, Goldikova was 4-1-0 in 5 starts. Coming into this year’s Breeder’s Cup Anodin is 0-2-1 in 5 starts. He clearly doesn’t have what made his sister special. You cannot call him the Eli Manning to Goldikova’s Peyton because Eli actually accomplished things in his career. Anodin hasn’t accomplished anything and I don’t think America’s third toughest race (Kentucky Derby and the Classic are more difficult IMO) is a good place to start.

Situations like this are why I am a proponent of algorithmic handicapping. The TA Indicator doesn’t know Anodin’s relatives and quite frankly doesn’t care. The TA Indicator only knows what Anodin has accomplished, or more befittingly has not accomplished.

Do Jockeys Matter?

One Universal truth in horse racing is that people who do not have any interest in actually handicapping tend to give undue importance to jockeys. I’m not talking about the guy at the track who is torn between two equally talented 7 furlong horses and then decides to go with the one ridden by Bejarano. I’m talking about people who pick thoroughly outclassed horses simply because said horse is ridden by the meet leading rider. This person fails to understand that jockeys will never be as important as horses and trainers, but how important jockeys are is a completely valid question. So, how important are jockeys?

One of the most famous jockey changes of all time was Secretariat being ridden by Eddie Maple instead of Ron Turcotte. Turcotte was serving a suspension so Maple stepped in to ride. Turcotte and Secretariat got along great and obviously had plenty of success. Maple’s riding style didn’t suit Secretariat as much, but Secretariat still managed to win the race with Eddie in the irons.

Of course, there have been jockey changes which have made all the difference in the world. When Shane Sellers rode Skip Away to several second place results, Sonny Hine decided to cut him loose in favor of the greatest jockey of the last 50 years; Jerry Bailey. This resulted in several wins for Skip Away and all of these wins can be attributed to Bailey since the only part of the puzzle that changed was Bailey replacing Sellers. The problem with this is how much of an anomaly this particular situation was.

With all due respect to Shane Sellers, he wasn’t a world-class jockey. He was similar to Dean Butler, but unlike Dean he got the chance to ride for top trainers. Jerry Bailey has the type of skill we may never see again. He was miles ahead intellectually and held his own athletically. In short, he was a student of the sport. Most jockey changes will never be of the magnitude of Sellers to Bailey. This jockey change is the gridiron equivalent of going from a local high-school quarterback to Aaron Rodgers.

So while jockeys do matter, their importance is pretty situational. Bejarano is better at sprints, Gomez was great at routes. This is how you should think about jockeys when handicapping. Always segment jockeys by running style, distance and surface. Only pay attention to jockey changes when they are on a level of a Sellers being upgraded to a Jerry Bailey.

In part two of this series we’ll talk about who the best jockeys actually are using some statistical analysis.

Feel free to chime in with your opinions on Facebook and Twitter as well.

How Much Was Shared Belief Sabotaged?

Is spectacular the correct word to use for Shared Belief’s performance in the Awesome Again?

There were plenty of angry Shared Belief fans last week after the Awesome Again Stakes. Though Shared Belief won the race, he was the victim of some age old jockey tactics some refer to as “race riding”. Basically, instead of trying to win the Awesome Again Stakes, Victor was simply trying to cause Mike Smith and Shared Belief to lose. Here is the things regarding what unfolded you as a bettor need to understand.

According to Trakus, Shared Belief covered 6070 feet while Fed Biz ran 6004. The problem with this is that you may decide to take this literally as Shared Belief  was 66 feet worse off than Fed Biz. The problem with this lies in how the race actually played out. Though Shared Belief was taken wide on both the first and second turns, he was still able to apply some pressure to Fed Biz and maintain his natural cruising speed. People may say that Shared Belief didn’t want to go that fast, but not putting pressure on Fed Biz would’ve cost Shared Belief the race.

Now, how much ground did Shared Belief really give up to Fed Biz that day? It seems to me that Santa Anita was playing pretty honest that day, so the 66 feet is just that. Shared Belief didn’t run on a slower lane than Fed Biz nor vice versa. The added benefit that Shared Belief gained from Victor’s botched attempt at sabotage was that he couldn’t get blocked. Though Shared Belief didn’t want to go wide on the first turn, he would’ve fanned out wide on the second. Though it is tough to play the guessing game, he would’ve had to cover at least 6030 feet even if the race was run honestly.

So, how could Victor have truly sabotaged Shared Belief?

The primary objective for Shared Belief was to put some pressure on Fed Biz and keep him honest; which is exactly what happened. If Victor really wanted to assure a Shared Belief loss, he shoud’ve found a way to stop Shared Belief from putting any pressure at all on Fed Biz. Though Fed Biz isn’t a legend, he still is dangerous if allowed to gallop, the first 4 furlongs can be quite dangerous.

Now, Shared Belief had to keep Fed Biz honest while going wide around two turns, but this is the type of thing great horses have been doing for years; how soon we forget Big Brown in the Derby.

No one can say for sure how many lengths Victor cost Shared Belief, but I highly disagree with anyone who puts the number past five. All I know is that in a stall at Three Chimney’s farm there is a stallion who would be pretty amused at our new definition of “spectacular”.

Can a Champion Bounce Back After Adversity

Can a champion bounce back after adversity? This is the classic handicapping problem that has seperated the men from the boys for years so to speak. The question is even more important this year because of the story lines surrounding the Pennsylvania Derby. California Chrome and Bayern-the two most talented horses in the field in my opinion- have been humbled. They are wounded warriors looking to redeem themselves.

California Chrome’s chances of redemption

California Chrome was on a six race winning streak before an injury and a mediocre ride compromised his chances of Triple Crown immortality. What makes this remarkable is that horses don’t go on six race winning streaks in graded competition anymore. California Chrome was head and shoulders above every other horse in the division this spring. I speak in the past tense because I do believe that three horses have caught up to him, however none of them are in this race.

The more I look at this race, the more I am reminded of Sunday Silence’s narrative. They are both scappy Californians who looked unbeatable until they ran into a track and racing style that they were unaccustomed to. I think the similarities will continue. Sunday had lost a step after the Belmont and did not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. I believe that California Chrome has also lost a step and will not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. Now here is the important part; though Chrome has lost a step, there isn’t a horse in the race with the talent to fully exploit this deficiency.

Chrome’s signature move is to explode at the top of the stretch and maintain that lead for as long as he can. I do think he’ll unleash that move at Parx, and I do think the track is set up to allow for it, but I don’t think he’ll execute that spurt as well as he has in the past. Of course, none of should matter as there are no superstars in this race.

Bayern’s chances of redemption

Here is another horse from the same female family as Chrome who is also attempting to make a comeback; what a strange coincidence!

This descendant of the great Betty Derr will have much more to overcome and may not be up to the task.

Like California Chrome, Bayern had a win streak snapped in a major Grade One by a rising superstar. Unlike California Chrome, Bayern’s win streak was a result of an ideal track and pace scenario which allowed a good but not great horse to shine. Bayern is a need the lead type who may get the lead. The problem is that Edgar Prado and CJ’s Awesome will not let Bayern get away with anything less than ¾ in 1:10 and four.

Do you like Bayern to pull away from this field after having to go 1:10 and four? If you do, then Bayern isn’t a bad play. The problem for me is that there are horses that are almost as good as Bayern and do not need the lead.

If you look at the TA Indicators of each horse in the field, Candy Boy and Protonico have almost as much form and ability as Bayern, but a running style more conducive to route racing. Look for both of these horses to be within range of California Chrome turning for home. If Chrome falters, it is Candy Boy and Protonico who will be the beneficiaries not Bayern.

Ultimately, I am going to trust my eyes which tell me that Chrome has lost a step, but no more than that. I don’t think he deserves to be a heavy favorite, but he is still head and shoulders above this group of horses.

Win: California Chrome

Place: Candy Boy

Show: Protonico

The Ten Best Sires Right Now

The Keenland sales season is upon us. Baby horses  (yearlings/two-year olds) are embarking on the first step to becoming a champion racehorse; finding an owner. With all of the sales madness, and these horses about to hit the track in MSW races that you will probably be wagering on, I thought it was time to rank the ten best sires in the country right now. The rankings are based on a simple formula that I will not go into the details of becasue I wouldn’t want to bore you. I looked at all sires with North American runners who have made a combined total of 1500 starts within the last five years. This population is assumed to be the complete list of sires whose foals race in North America on a regular basis. The results were somewhat obvious, but there was one surprise.

10. Bernardini: Everyone had high expectations for this son of A.P. Indy even after he lost to Invasor. Well, he certainly hasn’t disappointed. He has a higher efficiency rating than both Tapit and Pulpit and has yet to kick his career into full gear. With two of the sires on our list no longer producing foals, this son of A.P. Indy becomes all the more important.

9. Smart Strike: He can get horses like Minorette then horses like the speedy Centre Court. He can hit home runs with horses like Curlin. There is very little that this horse cannot do. He almost snuck into the eigth spot on our rankings, but fell short because of stakes wins per starts. Either way, this horse is keeping American Racing interesting.

8. Empire Maker: Why did we let him go to Japan? Even though many of his runners are overseas now, he was still in the top ten in several major categories which landed him the eigth spot in this countdown. His yearlings are usually strikingly big and strong for their age. His runners are durable and consistent. Basically, his sons and daughters represent everything that American racing lacks right now. So, why exactly did we sell him?

7. A.P. Indy: This brings us to our first pensioned stallion; the great A.P. Indy. If you are surprised to see the legendary colt all the way at number seven on my list, you are not alone. As great as A.P. Indy is, there are horses who are producing stakes winners at a much higher clip. There are also horses who have been slightly more versatile than the legend has been. Either way, seventh is a respectable finish to a remarkable career.

6. Medaglia D’ Oro: Eleven grade one winners on all surfaces kind of says it all. He isn’t the type of horse that comes to mind when most think of versatility, but he is as versatile as they come. He has had success in two-year old races, three-year old races, and older horse races as well. The best thing about him is that he can hit home runs with horses like Rachel Alexandra, but hit plenty of base hits as well which is evindenced by his great stakes wins to overall starts ratio.

5. Dynaformer: I never realized how good this horse was until I started looking at his numbers. Though he was definitely a turf route sire, he could sire the occasional dirt miler. He wasn’t always the best horse for commercial american breeder’s, but he sired the types of horses Americans are accused of not producing anymore. It doesn’t seem like his male line will be carried very well, which makes his passing all the more heartbreaking.

4. English Channel: This is the big surprise on the countdown! So, how did a horse with a paltry 25K stud fee beat some of the biggest stallions in the industry? He gets stakes winning routers; many stakes winning routers. He is also very adept at getting these stakes winners on both surfaces; just look at V.E. Day. When I looked at his stats I wished that I were in the business of buying and selling racehorses because a 25K stud fee for this stallion is the bargain of the century.

3. Giant’s Causeway: The greaest son of Storm Cat has had quite the impressive stud career. He leads all sires in stakes wins contested at a mile or greater. This alone would have given him the number one spot if he didn’t sire the occasional 10K claimer. Nevertheless, Giant’s Causeway is worth every penny of his stud me in my humble opinion.

2. Kitten’s Joy: Second to Giant’s Causeway in stakes wins contested at a mile or greater, but fewer duds on the racetrack earned this son of Kris S. his runner up spot. His progeny earnings are also at the top ten, quite a feet for a sire of turf horses. If he was slightly adept at siring dirt horses he would probably be at the top of this countdown.

1. War Front: The numbers do not lie. No horse has better ratio of stakes wins contested at a mile or greater to overall starts. He has more than half the route stakes wins that Tapit has but only a third of the starts! If that stat doesn’t surprise you I don’t know what will. When the efficiency ratings were calculated, he won and it wasn’t even close. There is a chance that he regresses closer to the mean, but even if he does regress a bit, I don’t see him losing the top spot anytime soon. As bettors, we rarely gain any value from playing his already overbet foals, but they are so much fun to watch run.