I’m talking to you, Mr. Andrew Beyer, who may I remind everyone openly doubted California Chrome's chances of doing remotely well in the Kentucky Derby because of his… *drumroll*… pedigree. If you reread my pre-Derby analysis, I was pleasantly surprised at the back-class of Chrome’s family tree. And any half-enlightened turf writer would know that out of the two, the dam side is the most important when sifting through pedigrees, and this colt has La Troienne written down multiple times and Numbered Account twice, who practically bled blue! COME ON!
And it comes out of absolutely no bias that I ascertain that California Chrome’s 97 Beyer speed figure for the Kentucky Derby— historically one of the slowest figures— does not matter. Let me count the ways factually and hypothetically:
- Speed figures are not the end all, be all to handicapping. In fact they should be used if you cannot determine who to pick after considering everything else, or are looking to see who has the slightest bit of edge in a wide-open race.
- Numbers are not indicative of potential, they only account for displayed effort. A horse who was kept in check, or like Chrome who was EASED at the end, will not give out an accurate speed figure that shows how good they really are. Only horses who are going all-out at the end will provide accurate figures.
- While many horses spit out the same figures again and again over their careers, three-year-olds in their spring season are at the stage where they are changing their form and showing their long-term potential as the distances change. A horse who ran a 100 Beyer going a mile in April can really take a nose dive going just another furlong a month or two later. This is how we get overhyped horses and upsets.
- There was a notably strong headwind in the stretch of the Kentucky Derby. I know because I keep hearing about it. That might help explain Chrome’s slow final time, why few horses were moving forward in the stretch, and the resulting slow Beyer. Again, he wasn’t all-out while most others were.
- If Chrome DID for whatever reason give a Beyer higher than his career best 98, we would all be biting our nails as to whether he could maintain that lunge forward heading into the Preakness and then the Belmont.
- The old “let’s blame the track” always works. But honestly I’d rather have a slow track versus a fast one, the latter of which we’ll probably get in one or both of the next legs.
- Yes, the last quarter was run in a sedated:26 1/5. But if you can win in that kind of pace pulling up, why not save it for next time?
Perhaps in a sense I am searching for reasons to excuse California Chrome, but at the same time, it feels unfair to assail the winner for not being a super horse straight out of the gate. It would be overkill to keep comparing him to Secretariat or even someone as recent as Barbaro. But make no mistake— Chrome is the real deal.