Showing posts with label Andrew Beyer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrew Beyer. Show all posts

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Horse Racing Yoda is on my Side Regarding Rachel v. Zenyatta and the Breeder's Cup Being Morons

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

It's nice to see when someone intelligent agrees with someone you believe. This was plagiaraized from the

Female showdown a fitting scenario

By Andrew Beyer

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After her electrifying photo-finish victory in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, Rachel Alexandra should be entitled to rest on her laurels. The filly has campaigned steadily since February, racing at seven different tracks and winning all eight of her starts. With three triumphs over males, she has virtually locked up the Horse of the Year title. Owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen would be happy to give her a breather until she resumes racing in 2010.

Rachel Alexandra, however, still has one piece of unfinished business: a confrontation with Zenyatta, the champion 5-year-old mare who has never been beaten in 12 career starts and has unleashed explosive last-to-first rallies in most of them. Almost everyone in the sport wants to see a race between two of the greatest female Thoroughbreds of all time. The New York Racing Association would like to host the showdown on Oct. 3. But a Rachel Alexandra-Zenyatta race will probably never happen. Partisans of each horse blame the other's camp for being unsporting, but the real blame belongs to the Breeders' Cup organization.

The Breeders' Cup chose Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., and its synthetic track as the site for its event in 2008 and 2009, and last year's results produced an inescapable conclusion: Synthetic tracks are very different from dirt. The horses who won over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface were either proven synthetic-track runners (such as Zenyatta) or turf specialists. Top horses with good form only on dirt didn't win. The highest-profile loser was Curlin. Jackson had been hesitant to run over synthetics, and his views on the subject hardened after the defeat. So when Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra in the spring and watched her develop into a superstar, he adamantly declared he would not race her on "plastic," his derisive word for synthetic surfaces. The Breeders' Cup would not be on her agenda.

For Zenyatta, by contrast, back-to-back Breeders' Cups in her home state were a blessing. The mare can run on dirt or synthetics - she scored a smashing Grade 1 stakes win over Oaklawn Park's dirt in April 2008. But since then she has not ventured from California, where she won the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic last year, except for a planned start at Churchill Downs that was spoiled by an off track. With the Cup back at Santa Anita, trainer John Shirreffs and owner Jerry Moss decided to stay at home for all of 2009 and aim for the Breeders' Cup again - either the Ladies' Classic or against males in the Classic. As for a meeting with Rachel Alexandra, Moss said in a recent teleconference, "The Breeders' Cup was created for this kind of a circumstance. That's the spot where champions are made."

A Rachel Alexandra-Zenyatta race at Santa Anita, however, would not necessarily be a meaningful test. A victory by Zenyatta might prove only that she is a synthetic-track specialist and Rachel isn't. The New York Racing Association sought to have this showdown in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 3. Betfair, the parent company of the TVG racing network, offered to add $400,000 to the purse, making it a $1 million race if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both show up. The Zenyatta camp evinced some interest, but Shirreffs was concerned about sending his mare into NYRA's mandatory prerace detention barn, and he is reluctant to change his long-planned all-California racing schedule for her. Yet Zenyatta could never find better circumstances for a race on dirt against Rachel Alexandra.

Of all the dirt tracks in America, none is more conducive to Zenyatta's come-from-behind style than Belmont Park, with its sweeping turns and long stretch. Zenyatta has conclusively proved her ability to run on dirt - her performance at Oaklawn was one of the best of her career - so Belmont would be the fairest possible site for the confrontation.

Zenyatta is a fresh horse, after running only three times against soft opposition this season, while Rachel Alexandra has been through a grind, running eight times in the last seven months. After earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure in the Haskell Stakes of 116, she recorded a 109 at Saratoga on Saturday. Her form may be on the downgrade, while Zenyatta could very well be pointing toward a peak effort. Advantage: Zenyatta.

Rachel Alexandra is the horse with the most to lose. She could go to the sidelines tomorrow with the Horse of the Year award locked up. The only way she could lose the title is to lose to Zenyatta. Although Jackson recognizes that Rachel Alexandra is ready for a rest, he said, "If Zenyatta were to come to the Beldame, that would direct us to that."

Jackson has been the consummate sportsman in his management of Rachel Alexandra, picking tough spots such as the Woodward so that the filly can show how good she is. And it would be extraordinarily sporting for him to risk Horse of the Year honors in the Beldame. Meanwhile, Moss and Shirreffs have so far avoided any serious challenges this season for their mare. They have avoided racing against males. They have acted as if their main goal is not to lose and not to jeopardize the mare's perfect record. If that was their aim, they could have retired her last season. But if they are in this game because they like the excitement of the sport, how could they resist a showdown with Rachel Alexandra?

(c) 2009, The Washington Post

see also:

Let's see if Zenyatta "Forfeits" This Race- my Prosaic Tryptich About Rachel Alexandra V. Zenyatta

My Socratic Homage to the Breeder's Cup re: Rachel v. Zenyatta

My Proof that the Breeder's Cup has lost its mind

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Some Context for Rachel Alexandra's 116 Beyer Speed Figure

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

I'll try to put the 116 in context a little. First, it's the fastest Beyer Speed Figure of the year so far. Second, Big Brown's highest career Beyer was 109. I pulled out the lifetime past performances for every Kentucky Derby winner since 1992 (Lil E. Tee) and checked out their Beyers- so every race by every Derby winner in the last 17 years. Of all of those races, only three horses have earned BSF's of 116 or higher (the 1992 winner, Lil E. Tee ran a 116 Beyer in the 1993 Razorback Handicap, 1997 Derby winner Silver Charm ran a 118 in the '97 Preakness, a 123 in the '98 Kentucky Cup Classic and a 118 in the '99 Santa Anita Handicap, Monarchos won the 2001 Derby with a Beyer of 116, and 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones won the Preakness that year with a 118 BSF. That's the entire list- 4 horses, 6 times total.

I was looking over some other Past Performances I had laying around and came across the PP's of the 2006 Breeder's Cup Classic. That race featured notables such as, Bernardini, Brother Derek, Flower Alley, George Washington, Discreet Cat (he scratched from the race, but his PPs are still here), Lawyer Ron, Perfect Drift, Suave, Sun King, Perfect Drift and eventual winner, Invasor. That's a nice group. Here is how they fared in a similar evaluation (based on their career PP's up until the Classic)

Bernardini- 117 in the 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and a 116 in the Travers that year.
Brother Derek- Career high of 108
Discreet Cat- Career high of 115 (at that point)
Flower Alley- Career high 112
Lawyer Ron- Career high 105
George Washington- raced in Europe where they don't use BSFs. But received a timeform rating of a 132 and one of a 129, which translate to right around the 116s BSF mark. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Perfect Drift- 117 in the 2003 Stephen Foster
Invasor- career high 113
Lava Man- 120 2005 Hollywood Gold Cup

The 2008 Whitney Handicap featured exactly one horse who has ran a 116+. Commentator had topped that figure 3 times up to that point. The career Beyer high for the field in the Travers of that year was 106 (Harlem Rocker). None of the horses in the 2008 Arlington Million have come close to a 116.

Oh these are all male horses by the way. None of the horses listed has been female. To mix in some gender-based perspective: the high BSF for the (female) horses in the 2006 Breeder's Cup Distaff was Fleet Indian's 112. No other filly or mare had topped 105, and the highest BSF for a horse in the 2008 Beverly D. (also a race for fillies and mares) was 108.

Female horses just do not run 116's.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This Gave me Some Derby Closure

By: T.R. Slyder,

Horse racing Yoda, Andrew Beyer wrote this great article explaining how the unlikely Derby result was the product of a perfect storm. I plagarized it below. I took it from here.

Don't look for Mine That Bird to win the Preakness, however. Rachel Alexandra's connections just announced that she will run in the Preakness Stakes. The boys are in a LOT of trouble. Anyway, the Beyer article is below.

Many factors led to eye-popping win

By Andrew Beyer

WASHINGTON - After Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby, all reports of the race noted the 50-1 payoff was the second highest in the race's history. Even so, most casual fans probably did not appreciate the magnitude of this incomprehensible upset.

Because many people blindly bet on longshots in the Derby, even hopeless horses rarely go off at odds higher than 50-1. Mine That Bird deserved to be 200-1. This was one of the biggest upsets in the history of American racing. In my four decades of covering the sport, it ranks as one of the two most mystifying results in a major stakes race, along with Canonero II's victory in the 1971 Derby.

For devotees of speed figures - which usually have been a reliable gauge of Derby horses - this result was especially hard to explain. Since the publication of the Beyer Speed Figures, the weakest horse to win the Derby was Giacomo, who had never earned a figure higher than 98 before he scored his 50-1 upset in 2005. Yet Giacomo looked like a superhorse compared with Mine That Bird, whose best lifetime figure was the 81 he recorded while losing an obscure stakes race in New Mexico. His figure of 105 in the Derby represented a 17-length improvement.

How did it happen? I put that question Sunday to a few of the people whose opinions I respect the most: professional handicappers Maury Wolff and Paul Cornman; New York Racing Association TV analyst Andy Serling; and ESPN commentator Randy Moss. With their help, I have tried to fashion an explanation for Saturday's events.

It's not a simple explanation, but as Moss said, "What happened was a perfect storm of situations that added up to give you a wacky result."

These were the elements of the perfect storm:

* The Derby field was weak and the best horses delivered poor performances on the sloppy track.

* Racing on or near the rail was an advantage at Churchill Downs on Saturday, and jockey Calvin Borel took advantage of the conditions by keeping Mine That Bird on the rail.

* Mine That Bird obviously relished the sloppy track, and he evidently possessed more talent than his past performances indicated.

* The two outstanding members of the 3-year-old crop, I Want Revenge and Quality Road, had been knocked out of the Derby by injuries; I Want Revenge was scratched on the morning of the race. In their absence, nobody possessed rock-solid credentials.

Even in a normal year, few horses deliver peak performances in the Derby - it's an extraordinarily difficult and stressful race. Over a sloppy track, even fewer horses fire their best shots. On Saturday, Friesan Fire, the favorite, barely picked up his feet and lost by more than 40 lengths. Dunkirk, the second choice, lost by more than 20. Almost nobody besides the winner ran well. If Mine That Bird hadn't been in the field, the winning speed figure for the Derby would have been 95 - by far the lowest ever for a Triple Crown event.

Besides having trouble with the sloppy track, many of the horses in the Derby were compromised by the bias of the Churchill racing strip. Most of the winners Saturday spent all or part of their journeys near the rail, and nobody won by circling the field. This was no secret: ESPN's commentators were talking about the bias all afternoon and asking jockeys about it. But few of the riders in the Derby tried to take advantage of the rail, except for Borel, whose propensities have earned him the nickname "Bo-Rail." His performance was almost a duplicate of his rail-skimming ride aboard Street Sense in the 2007 Derby. Wolff observed: "With any other rider, Mine That Bird doesn't get that trip."

The bias wasn't so strong that it was propelling bad horses to victory. There hadn't been any absurd results on the Churchill card before the Derby. In the Derby, jockey Kent Desormeaux also stayed on the rail with his mount, Hold Me Back, and he made a strong move down the backstretch and into the turn before his mount faltered badly. So the winner needed some talent to take advantage of his ground-saving trip.

Presumably Mine That Bird improved because he relished the sloppy track - something no handicapper could have anticipated before the race. But the gelding may have also been a better horse than he looked on paper. After the Derby, I reviewed the films of his previous races. In both of his starts this spring at New Mexico's Sunland Park, his jockey had made ill-judged, premature moves to vie for the lead. In both races he fought tenaciously before he faded in the stretch. I would imagine some handicappers in New Mexico were eagerly waiting to bet him the next time he ran. However, no rational handicapper could have considered these trips a harbinger of a victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Mine That Bird's win will be popularly regarded as the result of a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm. Probably this opinion is correct; probably the gelding will never win another major race. However, I can remember that the other utterly implausible Derby winner, Canonero II, was regarded the same way. Two weeks later he won the Preakness and forced all of the doubters to revise their opinion that the Derby was a fluke.

(c) 2009, The Washington Post

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Horse Racing Yoda Speaks

By: T.R. Slyder,

My title/headline is correct. Accept no substitutes. He talks, you listen. Or as Ludacris says, "Nicka, shut yo' ass up when you hear a pimp talk.". Same thing.

Let it be known that this guy is something special. He is better at his job that basically anyone else is at theirs. He revolutionized his profession 30 years ago, and is still the best at what he does. On top of all of that, it's plain to see he is a transcendentally intelligent individual just by reading his transcript. I just hope he gets a sculpture of his bust somewhere after he dies (not that he's close to that). He's great.

Here it is.