PREAKNESS-DAY IMPRESSIONS

1. The Daily Racing Form‘s description of how the Preakness was run cogently depicts why Nyquist lost the first race of his career:

“Nyquist was sent hard from the gate to outrun Uncle Lino to his inside and Awesome Speed to his outside, but he and Uncle Lino sped the opening quarter in 22.38 seconds–the fastest opening quarter-mile in the race’s history–and Nyquist was in front after a half in 46.56 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.97.  He was slowing down, and the others were gaining, most notably Exaggerator, who had saved ground from the start and was ready to pounce.”

Very few horses can set these kinds of fractions and win a race at 1 3/16 miles.  Why Nyquist was  “sent hard” is unclear, but it was likely miscalculation by his jockey.

2. Nyquist’s trainer, Doug O’Neil, was classy and gracious in congratulating the Exaggerator connections after the race and in not blaming the jockey for the ride he gave Nyquist.  This is how sportsmen take losses, unlike the unfortunate sore-loser display by one of California Chrome’s owners after the colt’s disappointing finish in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

3. Sadly, two horses on Saturday’s Pimlico card perished.  Predictably, PETA and online posters quickly raised nefarious-oriented questions and made accusations, particularly about the possible causation of medication and even animal abuse.

One of the horses died soon after a race he won, probably of cardiac arrest.  This kind of death occasionally occurs among human and equine runners, so I don’t see it as unusual or suspicious.  The post-race blood sample will confirm one way or the other.

The other fatality occurred when a filly broke a leg during a race and was euthanized.  Her owners are Gretchen and Roy Jackson, who also owned the ill-fated Barbaro.  These folks are leaders in the ongoing campaign to rid horse racing of race-day medication and performance-enhancing drugs and they are apparently generous monetary contributors to veterinary research on horse injuries.  In other words, they are unlikely conspirators in doping or mistreating their animals.

Judging from many of the online comments I saw about the Jackson’s filly being euthanized, many people don’t understand that, unlike a human athlete who breaks a limb, a horse often can’t be immobilized while the break heals.

Horse racing should be made as safe as possible for horses and jockeys. To do so, a scientific and factual approach is required, which the horse-racing industry funds at major university centers.  Emotional finger-pointing diatribes don’t qualify as testable hypotheses.

4. The luckiest individual during the Triple Crown races has been trainer Dale Romans, whose horses finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness.  His luck has nothing to do with how his entries fared.  During the Preakness telecast, NBC showed a picture of the SUV Romans was driving after the Kentucky Derby when a driver ran a stop sign and broadsided Romans and his passengers.  It is thankfully a wonder that someone was not killed rather than badly injured.

5. What now for Nyquist?  The view here is the 1 ½ mile Belmont distance is not his niche.  Skipping the Belmont and planning a campaign around the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic seems best.

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