Archives for November 2016

“OUT, OUT BRIEF CANDLE”

The names of Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Creator were in the glare of the sports-media spotlight less than a half year ago, but are now mostly yesterday’s forgotten news.  These winners of the 2016 Triple Crown races were absent from November’s Breeders’ Cup and won’t be found running in any race.  All have been retired and a new sheriff is in town.

Today’s media star, Arrogate, winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, did not make his first career start until April 17, 2016, two weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.  His second race and first winning effort came at about the same time as the Belmont Stakes in early June.

A cursory review of the entrants in all of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup races turned up approximately eight horses that had competed in the Kentucky Derby during their 3-year-old campaigns.  The Breeders’ Cup Classic included four horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby:  California Chrome in 2014 and Frosted, Keen Ice, and War Story from the 2015 Kentucky Derby.  Not a single colt from this year’s Triple Crown races made it into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  In fact, Arrogate was the only 3-year-old in the field.

While the Triple Crown races unquestionably comprise American horse racing’s annual showcase, the equine participants in these venerable races often call to mind Shakespeare’s immortal passage from MacBeth:  “Out, out, brief candle!  Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more.”

Owners and trainers of gifted 3-year-old racehorses face the decision of whether to push their animals physically and seek the glory of a Triple Crown win or to be more patient and look to the longer term.  Most opt for the allure of the Triple Crown, never mind the possibility of burn out.   That is understandable but by no means the only way to go.   Hall of Fame trainers like the late Allen Jerkins and Bobby Frankel never won the Kentucky Derby and Jerkins never seemed to put much effort into doing so.

Today, given the opportunity to own one horse from among Arrogate, Creator, Exaggerator, or Nyquist, the choice would be evident.  In June, only five months ago, the puzzled query would have been “Who is Arrogate?”

Copyright© 2016 Horse Racing Business

DISADVANTAGES FOR EUROPEAN HORSES IN THE BREEDERS’ CUP?

European horses traveling to compete in the Breeders’ Cup must cope with at least four presumed disadvantages.

First, the time differential between Western Europe and the United States can disrupt a horse’s normal training, eating, and sleeping routine.  The differential is eight or nine hours when the races are being held in California, as is the case in 2016.

Second, the horses must endure long air travel and possible jet lag, especially to get to Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles.

Third, the horses must race counterclockwise rather than the clockwise manner in which they are most familiar.

Fourth, the weather of much of Western Europe can be significantly cooler than in sunny Southern California.

In the case of a European grass horse competing in a dirt race, surface becomes a fifth potential disadvantage.

To estimate weather effects on European horses, consider statistics from the previous 32 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (1 ½ miles) and the Breeders’ Cup Mile (turf).

From 1984 through 2015, the record of European-based horses in the Breeders’ Cup Turf stands at 17 wins for a 53% win percentage.  The win percentage is 47% at warm-weather sites and 59% at non-warm-weather sites.  (Warm weather sites were Gulfstream Park in Florida, the now-defunct Hollywood Park in California, Lone Star Park in Texas, and Santa Anita Park in California.)

During the same 32-year period of races, European-based horses in the Breeders’ Cup Mile had a 44% record overall.  This broke down to 53% at the warm-weather sites and 35% at the colder venues.

Now, how did the time-differential effect come into play, if at all?

From 1984 through 2015, European horses in the Breeders’ Cup Turf won 55% of the time when the races were held at California racetracks compared to 52% when the races were held at racetracks in the eastern time zone (with the exception of the central time zone in 2004).

In the Breeders’ Cup Mile, European horses had a 73% win percentage at the California racetracks in contrast to 29% at other racetracks.

In sum, historical evidence is inconclusive as to whether European-based horses do better in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in a warmer or colder climate, whereas European horses in the Breeders’ Cup Mile much prefer a warmer climate.  European horses performed about the same in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in eastern and western U. S. time zones, but European horses performed dramatically better in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in the western time zone.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business