GRADE I FEVER CAN LEAD TO QUESTIONABLE OWNER DECISIONS

Racehorse owners of promising 3-year-olds usually dream of winning America’s premier races, especially the Kentucky Derby.  However, I’ve often thought about why some owners persist in running their horses in Grade 1 races once it has become apparent they aren’t all that competitive.

Vino Rosso is one of several cases in point in 2018.  The colt has a blueblood pedigree (by Curlin out of a Street Cry mare) and won both of his races as a 2-year-old, a maiden special weight and an optional claiming allowance.

In 2018, his record leading up to the Kentucky Derby was:

February 10:  3rd in a Grade 3 at Tampa Bay Downs
March 10:  4th in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby
April 7:  1st in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct

Based on his win in the Wood Memorial, he certainly warranted a try at the Kentucky Derby, in which he ran 9th.   Since then, he has run three times:

June 9:  4th in the Grade 1 Belmont
July 28:  3rd in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga
August 25:  5th in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga

After the colt finished a badly beaten 9th in the Kentucky Derby, it is understandable that he was given a chance to redeem himself in the Belmont, where he finished fourth but was nowhere near the winner, Justify.

At this point, an objective assessment by his connections would have led to a more realistic racing path, consisting, say, of the $500,000 Grade 3 Ohio Derby in late June, the $750,000 Grade 2 West Virginia Derby in early August, and if he performed well in these races, the $1 million Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby in late September.

Owners can choose to run their horses when and where they want.  Yet in terms of boosting a colt’s career earnings and potential value in the stud, wins in some lucrative Grade 2 and Grade 3 races are better than mediocre finishes in Grade 1s.  There is always the danger, of course, that a colt won’t do well in less prestigious races, but horse racing is all about taking calculated risks to do what is best for a horse and his or her owner.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

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