Horse Racing Lesson #1: There are no sure things!

June 08, 2008 | Gary Quill

I apologize for the length of this blog, but it will be my last one until live racing returns to Maryland in August. Have an enjoyable Summer!
Something happened on the way to the coronation of Big Brown as the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. It’s called history. It seems as if from the time Big Brown crossed the finish line on May 3rd at Churchill Downs, we all put on the rose colored glasses and never took them off until after witnessing Big Brown finish last in the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes.

Let’s face it. Everyone, from the most notable horse racing expert to the novice, we all got caught up in the hype and hope that the Triple Crown drought would end this year. Well the horse racing gods were not ready to make that happen. We want one so bad that we ignored logic and blindly believe each year the Derby and Preakness winner might be the second coming of Secretariat.

Do I think the fact that Big Brown did not have his monthly dose of steroids in May is 100% to blame for his flop in the Belmont? No. In my humble opinion, there were many other factors…
# 1 – The hoof. Whether the quarter crack bothered him during the race or not, his training schedule was compromised due to it. Athletes know that if they don’t practice for a week before a big game, you’re not going to be on top of your game.  
# 2 – The heat. Sure, all of the horses had to deal with it, but looking at Big Brown on the track prior to the race, it was obvious to me that he was not handling it well. No replay will show the Post Parade, but if you watch the replay as they enter the clubhouse (first) turn from the rear, he appeared to be the only one with excessive kidney sweat (the white lather between a horses ass, to put it bluntly). Without getting too graphic, imagine if you were a runner and had to run the longest race of your life and you had “stuff back there”. I doubt that you could run your best.       

# 3 – Rank. Again, watching the replay for the first couple furlongs, he fought jockey Kent Desormeaux, throwing his head, using unnecessary energy very early in the race. 

# 4 – Pace. In my pre-race analysis blog, I stated that there was only one horse (Da’ Tara) except Big Brown who would want to be on the lead. When Big Brown did not challenge for that lead, Da’ Tara’s jockey Alan Garcia was able to slow the pace down to the point that the eventual winner had plenty left in the tank to hold off the rest of the field in the stretch. “Pace makes the race” is one of the oldest rules of horse racing.

# 5 – Eibar Coa. The jockey on Tale Of Ekati (#7). Again, watch the replay. Going into the first turn, Desormeaux attempted to come off the rail and stalk Da’ Tara. Coa was not going to let that happen. He rushed Tale Of Ekati up to cutoff Big Brown, forcing him to check and then swing to the outside of Tale Of Ekati. Coa continued to sacrifice his mounts chances by keeping him 6 wide throughout the backstretch, with Big Brown to his right, 7 wide.
# 6 – Money. Odds of 1-4 are short enough, but I thought they would have been 1-9. After all, he convincingly won the Preakness at 1-5. There must have been tens of thousands of $2 bettors purchasing their souvenir $2 WIN ticket on Big Brown. That alone would have made him 1-4. So the big money (insiders) may have sensed on Saturday morning that he was not on top of his game?!   
… and this is why they put the horses in the gate and make them run 1½ miles around the track before they award the Triple Crown to the winner of the Derby and Preakness. 
Recapping Day 30 (June 7th) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Best Bet, Kaufy Big Shot (# 3; 2nd race; 8-5) helped me go out on a winning note, even though the return was pretty poultry, paying $4.40 WIN and $2.60 PLACE. There was no SHOW wagering due to the small field of four horses.

Longshot, Queen Rio (# 8; 9th race on the turf; 8-1) was running in her first lifetime race and appeared that she just needed the opportunity to get out and run, as she finished ahead of only 2 horses after trailing the field for most of the race at 10-1.  
The 2008 Pimlico Spring Meet is now history. From my point of view it was a success. The majority of races had an adequate number of starters to draw betting interest. Many prohibitive favorites failed, which believe it or not is good thing. When favorites seem to always win, it tends to deflate handicappers ability in trying to find price horses.
I’ve enjoyed posting blogs for each live racing day at Pimlico. In reviewing my Best Bet and Longshot selections, The Daily Racing Form comment line on my performance would probably be “Early speed; faded”. Early in the meet I picked five (5) consecutive Best Bet winners. Throughout the meet my Longshot picks were often duds, but did manage to get a couple winners and quite a few in the money. My best pick turned out to be Student Council in the Pimlico Special, who paid $16.80.
Over the next eight weeks, there will be no live horse racing in the state of Maryland as Magna Entertainment tracks give way to Colonial Downs in Virginia. I will also take a hiatus from this blog to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities with my family.
Special thanks to Nestor who believed that my passion for horse racing would be beneficial to blog readers of the WNST website. Thank you Marc and Andrew Unger. You were the first WNST on-air radio personalities to give my blog exposure and introduce the WNST listening audience to me. I’m thankful for the new friendships I have gained with fellow WNST bloggers and associates… specifically Chris Voxakis, Ed Frankovic and Jason Jubb. And last but certainly not least, you, who read my blogs. I write the blog because I love to share my thoughts on horse racing with whoever is willing to read it. Your comments have inspired me to continue my quest to expand the horse racing audience both locally and nationally.
Enjoy your Summer. Look for my blog when live racing returns to Maryland in August.