Making a slow return to being a half-conscious college student by weekday and a pony racin’ degenerate by weekend.
Thank you Delta Downs for your country music playing in the background of the simulcast, it was… different. Top pick Bern Identity got bottled up and was the best horse in a race lost to pace-setting Goldencents, who honestly did deserve a stakes win after that second in the Champagne (I) last out, taking a step down in class. A chalky Saturday, I went with the favored winner of the previous race Roses to Gold, who ran clear in the Delta Princess (III). Mylute impressed me in the Jackpot, but again I have to relate that he should be put in sprints.
Weekly race picks weren’t entirely bad; top pick Bern Identity rallied hard for 2nd, second choice Central Banker was nipped to be 5th at 7-1, and third choice Itsmyluckyday was somehow 6th. Know More revealed his form is probably off and was second-to-last, and as predicted, Show Some Magic quit after discovering “HEY THIS IS A ROUTE! I NO ROUTE!” So the whole race was a very formulaic morning line favorite, post time favorite, longshot for the top three. How uncreative! Bern Identity really should have won though… my reaction when Paco Lopez goofs up that ride:
YOU JUST DENIED BERN A MILLION DOLLAR VICTORY, PACO! YOU SO FIRED!
Noticing how G1-winning ex-claimer King David was a “top choice” to finish 2nd to Lea in Saturday’s Commonwealth Turf Stakes (III), I thought I would do another analysis of a major upset stakes race. Honestly, I don’t think there’s too many from this year that can beat All Squared Away’s surprise Lexington Stakes (III) win at 70-1. I remember being so mad when this happened; I had noticed something different about him from his Spiral Stakes (III) that I knew gave him a shot— I even mentioned it in my original race analysis— but I wasn’t around to watch the simulcast otherwise I very likely would have taken a shot at that ridic price! Let’s take a look:
- The course was set for a medley of three-year-old colts going the route distance of 1 1/16 miles on Keeneland’s all-weather surface. All-weather can be tricky to handicap because both dirt and turf horses may or may not like it… you can’t really tell for sure until they race! Horses with poly experience leading up to the race: Hammers Terror (3rd, a past winner who has since proven he loves poly), Gold Megillah (4th, but did not win over poly), Holiday Promise (6th, well-beaten place in Turfway’s Spiral Stakes), Golden Ticket (5th, ran 2 non-winning efforts at Keeneland), and Johannesbourbon (7th, won his last race, his debut, at Keeneland). All Squared Away, however, had by far the most poly experience: 7 out of 8 prior starts were on synthetic.
- Class was a question all around: None of these horses are likely going to get in the gate for the Derby, so it’s apparent that they’re generally second-string class-wise. Summer Front had 2 ungraded stakes wins on grass, Castaway was the winner of the easiest Southwest Stakes (II) on dirt, and Holiday Promise had a graded place in the Spiral (III).
- Incorporating the above information, that automatically gave us a vulnerable favorite: grass-loving Summer Front was untested on the fake stuff and hadn’t even started as a three-year-old! I still don’t know why people favored him significantly more than any other horse.
- False pace handicapping: Looking at the past performances, I think most people dismissed All Squared Away’s chances when they saw a string of maiden claimers out west early in his career plus that ugly 7th finish in the El Camino Real Derby (III), suggesting this horse had zero class to win. Truthfully, the sheet was misleading as All Squared Away got involved in an exhausting duel early on in the El Camino Real, and in his last start, was taken way back early in the Spiral (III) and made a bold, 5-wide move on the turn to finish a pretty good 6th. He had changed his style from a horse who liked being close to or making the pace to one that sat behind it. No the Spiral effort wasn’t necessarily an amazing feat, but it certainly made his odds very false!
- Anything can happen: The golden rule of horse racing handicapping is there isn’t any guarantee! A very rocky start and some poor trips put some lukewarm runners at an even bigger disadvantage while All Squared Away got a good trip.
This upset was the product of vulnerable favoritism, surface preference, and freakish luck. 6 of 11 horses were either bumped or off slow at the start, and 2 of them received tight, confining trips including Summer Front. 6 of 11 had poly experience including the winner and the 3rd place horse. All Squared Away got a clean trip, had the most experience out of anyone, and had changed his running style to suit him better (he still uses that mild closing move). The fact that he was a ridiculous 70-1, a price you can rarely get anywhere never mind for a graded stakes win, is still unfathomable to me.