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Monday, February 8, 2010

Hyperbole and a Farewell

A couple quick comments about this past weekend’s racing:

Quality Road’s performance in the G1 Donn Handicap was visually spectacular, but I want to see him string together more than one or two good races before I’m willing concede he’s the most exciting horse on the planet this year. Typical for this era of disproportionate hype, Andy Beyer goes so far as to note with his usual portentous authority: “ great as they (Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta) are, neither of the females delivered a performance as good as Quality Road's win in the Donn.”

Has he been snorting that pure Washington DC snow?

I know that all tracks are not created equal, but you would figure that 9 furlongs is 9 furlongs. So, when Quality Road went 1:47.49 on Saturday carrying 123 pounds, that’s quicker than Rachel Alexandra’s 1:46.33 carrying 121 pounds in last year’s G1 Mother Goose at Belmont (which she won by over 19 lengths), or her 1:47.10 carrying 117 over a sloppy Monmouth track in the G1 Haskell Invitational? What about her geared down 20 ¼ length win in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, going 1:48.87—maybe not time-wise on par, but certainly in terms of visual impressiveness? And let’s not even forget Zenyatta’s masterful win in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Neither female delivered a performance as good as Quality Road’s Donn victory? You are absolutely right—they each delivered BETTER performances (plural). Seriously, my perception of a horse's performance is not all about the man-made construct known as BEYER SPEED FIGURES (large letters to magnify their importance as the greatest contribution to handicapping and horse racing since, well, pari-mutuel wagering). Yes, I'm being factious.

As an excellent example of why falling for hyped horses, particularly 3-year-olds this time of year, is an exercise in futility, I give you Eightyfiveinafifty. Lightning-quick in a 6 furlong maiden effort at Aqueduct on January 9, recording the highest Beyer (!) of any 3-year-old thus far, he entered the 8.5 furlong Whirlaway Stakes this past Saturday a huge favorite—and proceeded to bolt to the outer rail where he crashed through it, dumping his jockey Jorge Chavez and jumping another fence on his way back to the barn. Becky rightly asks, how do we analyze his Triple Crown prospects? Honestly, from his breeding alone, I think it is highly doubtful he can get 10 furlongs, so while he may be exciting to watch and certainly to root for when he returns to the track, I would frankly be shocked to see him at the post come the first Saturday in May.

If Janet Patton’s story in the Lexington Herald-Leader is factual, then Ahmed Zayat is a bigger jerk than his megalomaniac naming of his horses indicates. Collecting $2.75 million on an insurance policy for Thorn Song who may or may not be dead, when trainer Mike Mitchell claims there’s a “small chance” the horse may have run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile when insurance company check indicated the horse was already dead? Wow, talk about brass balls, and heartless, to boot! Seriously, Thorn Song had fans who would have appreciated knowing of his passing...godspell, gutsy grey beauty.


Kevin said...

Great post Val!

Agree 100% on Quality Road -- when he runs like that outside of Florida maybe i'll jump aboard. In the meantime, he can be no higher than the 3rd best horse in the county.

nonnonheinous said...

Thank you! I was thinking the same thing... what am I missing? 1:47 2/5 is not some kind of otherworldly time for 9 furlongs. Both Zenyatta and RA have posted sub-1:47 9 furlong races.

Not saying he ain't talented or even "a beast", but it seems like a lot of people are claiming he's a lock to win over RA OR Zenyatta after just one race against a pathetically overmatched field... didn't he get beat twice by Summer Bird? I see QR, and I just think, "Finally, Zenyatta would have a pace to run at."

Sid Fernando said...


That vid was hilarious. I could picture Mr. Beyer snorting something before he went off the cliff. Thanks for diagramming the ledges he hit on the way down, but I'm sure he felt no pain and will be back on the ski lift up to entertain us again.

Becky said...

I can't stand when people suddenly jump on the badwangon of a horse that's had one good performance. I'm sorry, but QR has a bit of work to do before he makes me forget his Breeder's Cup Classic antics. We had names for horses like that at my (non-thoroughbred) barn- F-ing Loco. Sure, they might put in an amazing performance one day, but then the next they're flipping backwards out of their trailer. You never know what a horse like that will do.

tvnewsbadge said...

As far as Mr. Beyer is concerned, he lost all credibility with me last year when he trashed Zenyatta and her accomplishments soley because of the way she made him look like an idiot in the BC Classic.

But as far as HOTY goes. To be fair, Rachel Alexandra had a lock on the trophy after just one race last year (the Preakness), so there's precedent.
The problem QR has is that not being a filly or having an owner like Jess Jackson giving out bottles of whine, he can't expect to have much of a fan club with the voting public.

tvnewsbadge said...

And P.S. in defense of QR.
As far as Quality Road's Breeder's Cup Classic antics goes, it may be politically correct to always blame the horse, but heads should have rolled on that gate crew for their mishandling of that poor animal. That was a shameful display pf horsemanship.

T. N. Trosin said...

As to the gate crew at Santa Anita.

You don't know what was going on. Truth be told, nobody but that crew,Gary Brinson, and the Stewards knew what was up. I personally know 5 or 6 guy on that crew and would put them up against any crew in the counrty. From my perspective ultimate responsibility is on Pletcher for apparently not getting his horse schooled in the morning.
No horse more deservedly placed on the starters list at the time.

Great post Val. A well justified crack back on Mr. Beyer. In his last 2 starts I have gotten on the Quality road bandwagon, but I still have doubts that he could beat Zenyatta.

Keith - TripleDeadHeat said...

"Two dollars! I want my two dollars!"

Touting a horse for the Derby after winning a 6F maiden race is a HUGE reach.

As for QR - a visually stunning performance and it would be interesting to see if RA would rate/stalk the pace should the two meet.

I'm a RA fan, but the early fractions of QR and RA would certainly favour Z at a 1M1/8.

"I'm sorry your mom blew up Ricky..."

Superfecta said...

Classic clip from a classic film - and great retort to Beyer.

tvnewsbadge said...

Certainly we need to fair to the gate crew at the BC Classic.

Given the status of this race, I'm certain they were under tremendous pressure to stuff Quality Road into that gate come hell or high water.

It's just gets up my nose the way people jumped all over Quality Road when the human elements clearly bears a lot of the responsibility when things broke bad.

As a fan of Zenyatta, I think Beyer's column is just a continuation of his rant against Zenyatta for the beating she handed his reputation as a handicapper in BC Classic.

However, I have to say that it speaks very well of Quality Road that he was able to put the BC Classic experience behind him and come back to compete in such dramatic fashion.

I have to wonder, if it had been Rachel or Zenyatta, could they have done the same.

Takeahold said...

All I have to say is this: Has QR beaten RA and Z yet? If you want to be the best then beat the best! They have run against all comers. Just drop your entry and beat 'em. Now they will run against each other to prove who is the best. Bring 'em on!