No Sound Reason to Bet On Cozmic One in Debut

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TwinSpires Staff

April 17th, 2015

One of the most talked about and publicized unraced horses is finally set to make his career debut in the second race on April 17 at Santa Anita Park. Cozmic One, the first foal out of the great Zenyatta, will break from the rail in a one-mile maiden special weight event with Victor Espinoza aboard. (CLICK HERE for free Ultimate Past Performances).

The workout reports indicate that Cozmic One hasn't flashed much of anything in the morning. One account of his April 6 drill reads “Slow here all the way working in company with stablemate Smart Transition. This is his typical drill. Going along in one speed."  Smart Transition was most recently fourth in a maiden special weight.

If there is an encouraging thing in Cozmic One's workout report, it's that he broke well from the gate in his final work in preparation for his debut. "Broke good here, but was slow pretty much all the way and was pretty much like all of his drills. I have timed this horse for many of his drills and they all look the same. Not showing us much."

From a betting standpoint, this is not the type of horse you want to bet on first-time out. The only encouraging thing is that he's not debuting in a sprint race, where his apparent total deficiency of speed would make a winning debut even that much more difficult. From a pedigree standpoint, what Cozmic One has is a lot of stamina and class. Unfortunately for his well wishers and fans -- the most optimistic scenario I can envision is that he comes running on at the end for a piece.

The bottom line is that he landed in a pretty legit Maiden Special Weight race. Morning line (7-to-5) favorite Moe Candy finished more than four lengths ahead of Smart Transition in his most recent start, and that one has reportedly outworked Cozmic One. The morning line (5-to-2) second choice D' Church was a good second at this same level last time. Both horses have run Speed Ratings that equal or exceed par for a winning figure at this class level. The bottom horse in the field, Tried and True, is the darling horse with clockers of this group and they seem to suggest he has the most upside potential.

Simply put, Cozmic One should take some money on his pedigree and celebrity alone, but I can't recommend anyone betting on this horse for any sound reason.

There was once a time when you had to either bet or fear every single debut runner John Shirreffs sent out. Shirreffs training career started in 1994 for 505 Farms. The previous year, Bobby Frankel trained the star of 505 Farms Bertrando to a champion older-male title. The relationship between Frankel and 505 Farms deteriorated when Frankel was informed that Bertrando would serve stud duty and race during his 1994 season. Frankel stubbornly refused to have anything to do with training a horse who was covering mares. This is how John Shirreffs got his big break. Prior to the 1994 season, Shirreffs had never won a single race as a trainer, but now he was entrusted with a good stable of 505 Farms horses that included champion racer and active stallion Bertrando. The opportunity was a great one.

It's a little known fact, but in the late 1990's John Shirreffs was the most brilliant debut trainer in the land. In 1998 and 1999 he trained 24 first-time starters and a mind-boggling 14 of them won their debut and another four finished second. In those days, the Southern California circuit was unquestionably the toughest year-round circuit in horse racing, and Shirreffs won at a 58.3% clip with first-time starters and 75% of his debuters finished first or second.

What's more, Shirreffs debuters didn't just win at scary high percentages, they often ran Graded Stakes caliber speed figures in their debut and were often dismissed at generous odds. Horses like the monstrously large filly Manistique won her career debut by 11 lengths at 6/1 odds with a 110 Beyer Speed figure. Hook and Ladder paid $8.80 in his career debut and also won it with a mind-blowing 110 Beyer figure. This was incredible stuff, it's one thing for a guy like Shirreffs to win 58.3% with his debuters, but it was the way his horses were winning these debut races that truly impressed. He really knew how to crank a horse up with workouts. However, a lot of these John Shirreffs/505 Farms horses who dazzled in their debut eventually fizzled out fast.

In 2000, Matriculate was the last of the brilliant 505 Farms owned Shirreffs trained debut horses. He won a stakes race with a 107 Beyer second time out, and was eased with no takers in a $16,000 claiming race just two races later. Offered up for a $4,000 claiming tag with no takers by just his fifth career start:

After 505 Farms disbanded in 2001, John Shirreffs went out on his own as a public trainer. Suddenly, his magic with cranking up horses for their career debut race was gone. He displayed the modus operandi of a patient developer of horses and what an unbelievable reversal of training methods it was.

Even though Shirreffs has been a very patient and fairly conservative trainer since the days when 505 Farms disbanded, he will still let the old devil in him free and train a horse hard right before a major objective. Zenyatta's workouts were always much faster before her Breeders' Cup starts. When Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby at 50/1 odds, his workout times improved dramatically before the race. Giacomo worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 and seven furlongs in 1:23.80  right before his Kentucky Derby upset. He went six furlongs in 1:14.80 in his final Santa Anita Derby work. And his previous seven furlong workout was timed in 1:27.80

Obviously, I'm still very nostalgic for the old John Shirreffs from the 505 Farms days. The guy who could crank up a debuter better than anyone. The guy who could work miracles off of nothing but workouts. You go back to the late 1990's and he even had more impressive stats with 2-year-old debuters than Wesley Ward, who was in Southern California during that period.

The bottom line is that Cozmic One is not a good bet tomorrow. And while some fans are nostalgic for the great Zenyatta, I'm nostalgic for the old John Shirreffs from his 505 Farms days. The guy who could crank a horse up and have it ready to run out of its mind in a career debut race is what I miss. Not the big beautiful equine legend who danced in the post parade and made dramatic finishes out of most of her races.