Catching My Eye: Inflated Weekend Figures?

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

July 14th, 2022

Here’s something to form an opinion about: how much can we rely on the speed figures coming out of Prairie Meadows this past weekend? Many of the top Brisnet speed figures of the weekend came out of the Iowa Derby Festival on Friday and Saturday. There looked to be some decent races with some interesting entrants, but the figure performances trump my expectations.

The track was playing super-fast with routers running through sub-23-second fractions. I think this contributed to some figures that appear to me inflated: Macron with a 101 in the Iowa Sprint. Ain’t Life Grand with a 100 in the Iowa Derby. Tyler’s Tribe with an 89 in the Prairie Gold Juvenile. Officiating with a 99 in the Cornhusker. And Jilted Bride with a 98 in the Distaff. I will note this going forward, and accordingly treat these numbers with caution.

In just two races, two-year-old Tyler’s Tribe has beaten his competition by a total of 25 lengths. That’s phenomenal. Most recently was Saturday's Prairie Gold Juvenile, where he scorched the field giving no one a chance to catch him. This son of Sharp Azteca breaks like a lightning bolt and has the strength to carry it forward. Talking to his trainer, Tim Martin, he says Tyler’s Tribe is professional and smart. He also says he has had a lot of stakes winners, a few two-year-old champions, but never a horse as promising as this. The speed and maturity is there and should carry him through a perfect two-year-old campaign.

Candy Raid and Falconet were no match for Butterbean in the Iowa Oaks (G3). A true deep closer, this filly sprinted through the final four furlongs and won pulling away. Kentucky Oaks runner Candy Raid was making a nice closing move through the second turn, but Butterbean flew by her, nudging past, making her foe look like she was standing still. Falconet had a perfect pressing trip, though she went fast early and likely tired some, but there was not even a chance to dig in against Butterbean in the homestretch. No big step up in speed figures, and I wouldn’t want Butterbean against the likes of Nest or Secret Oath, but if spotted conservatively, she can continue to win at the Grade 3 and Grade 2 level for the rest of the year.

Nation’s Pride, who came in second in the Belmont Derby, put on an impressive late run fighting off another game horse in Stone Age and seemingly if a little longer, could have gotten the winner, Classic Causeway. All this after breaking poorly, staying wide throughout and being piloted inconsistently by Lanfranco Dettori, who seemed to be changing his mind about where he wanted to be in the pack—in back or near front, inside or out wide. He went 40 feet longer than Classic Causeway and obviously was the best horse in the race, but for the trip he took. An interesting one if he comes back.

The lightly raced four-year-old Eleven Central got back to his dirty business at Ellis Park after trying the turf last out. Trained by Paulo Lobo, this son of Into Mischief was a $950,000 yearling purchase and is a half to Cambier Parc. He appears to be a frontrunner through and through.

He took on a small but stout first-level allowance field, taking the lead from the outside post coming out of the mile chute, staying off the rail and fighting off Steve Margolis’ more experienced runner Uninvited Guest. He made a big jump up in speed figures, and that coupled with his pedigree and purchase price, Eleven Central has officially caught my attention. His fourth start but only his second on dirt makes him 4-2-1-0.

At Delaware Park in the Delaware Handicap (G2), Miss Leslie tried to keep her win streak alive against older fillies. She succeeded in style, winning by 12 lengths, and earning her first graded stakes victory. With win number 10, she ran her top speed figure. I think she will be a million dollar winner by the end of the year—one more graded stakes win should do it—if her connections can recognize how well she opens up going further. This classic distance victory showed how she can keep finding as she gathers more energy in her stride going long.