Plugged In: Dougie Sal on the weekend that was

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TwinSpires Staff

October 8th, 2014

It was truly a fascinating week in the world of racing, both at home and abroad.

The French filly Treve became the first horse to win multiple editions of the Qater Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the last 36 years. Our reigning two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan was back in action and captured the richest purse ever offered in a race at Keeneland. A pair of Todd Pletcher-trained two-year-old second-time starters delivered sensational performances in Grade 1 races. A Hong Kong shipper making his first start off of a 160-day layoff thrust himself into the Breeders' Cup Sprint picture. Venerable Suffolk Downs may have hosted its final race. Keeneland unveiled a dirt surface for the first time in eight and a half years. And of course, what's a week in horse racing anymore, without Lasix banter?

Treve’s Arc repeat

After a sensational 5-length victory in last years Arc, the 2014 season had been one excuse after another for Treve. In her seasonal debut, she was a good second to Cirrus des Aigles in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in her first start off of a six-plus month layoff. That performance was flattered when Cirrus des Aigles came back to win back-to-back Group 1 races in his next two starts. So expectations were again high for Treve when she made her second start of the season in the Group 1 Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot, and was hammered to odds-on favoritism. Unfortunately for her backers, Treve only managed a third place finish and exited the race with a minor injury, having pulled a muscle in her back. The Treve camp assured she was recuperated and would be “spot on” for the Arc.

But her bandwagon would take a harder hit when she only managed a fourth place finish in her Arc prep, the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, as an odds-on favorite yet again. The poor result left a lot of people with the impression that Treve's best days were well behind her. Jamie Lynch of Timeform amusingly compared her to the embarrassing Aunt at a wedding:

However, a careful study of Treve's performance in the Prix Vermeille strongly suggested it was nowhere near as bad as it looked. Both the Prix Vermeille and Prix Niel were run on September 14th at Longchamp, at the distance of 12 furlongs. A screen capture of the 1,000 meter split of each race tells a dramatic story.

There's an old axiom in horse racing that falsely states “one length equals 1/5th of a second.” Mathematically speaking, a length should equal 1/5th of a second only when a horse travels a furlong in 15 seconds. The rule of thumb for thoroughbred racing should be that one full second equals six lengths. Thus, the images above illustrates that Ectot, who trailed the Prix Niel field from ten lengths behind a torrid pace, was running 23 lengths faster than the pace setter in the Prix Vermeille. In plain English, Treve was brutally victimized by a snails pace, when taken back in her Arc prep. And speaking of brutally victimized, people who backed Treve in the US pool betting for the Arc probably felt that way when she returned just $8.00 to win. An oddity of French betting caused Treve to be coupled with Ectot and Ruler of the World in the wagering. Ectot was actually the second choice in the betting with European bookmakers and both he and Ruler of the World won major local preps for the Arc. Nevertheless, the Advanced Deposit Wagering companies and TVG stepped up and rewarded backers with 14/1 odds on Treve.

A lightly raced, winless, excuse horse through 2014, Treve managed to fulfill her promise in a race that had been her top priority all along. By capturing the Arc, she becomes the first horse since Alleged (1977 and 1978) to win multiple editions of the great race.

Wise Dan overcomes trouble for 19th graded stakes win

The great Wise Dan may very well have lost a step or two, but he got the job done once again in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. With the Breeders' Cup in mind, there are some knocks on the performance Wise Dan delivered. The final time of the race was an underwhelming 1:35.62, by comparison, Dayatthespa ran a mile in 1:35.21 in her victory in the First Lady Stakes two races earlier on that same card. Seek Again, the chief competition to Wise Dan in the Shadwell, also had a poor start and he encountered a bit of trouble. The Shadwell was also run under weight for age conditions, which means Wise Dan didn't have to concede a big chunk of weight to his rivals as he had in many of his more impressive handicap victories. While his performance Saturday is fair game to be scrutinized by us knit pickers, Wise Dan himself is not open to scrutiny of any kind. He's simply a remarkable horse.

Since 1991, only 14 different horses have won more than ten North American Graded Stakes races. Wise Dan leads the list, as you can see below.

Horse  NA GS wins

Wise Dan       19

Serena's Song          17

Zenyatta         17

Skip Away      16

Azeri   14

Game On Dude         14

Paseana        14

Silverbulletday           13

Sky Beauty     13

Sharp Cat      12

Ashado           11

Cigar  11

Flawlessly      11

Xtra Heat        11

Pletcher juveniles dazzle

A pair of Todd Pletcher trained second-time starters registered dazzling Grade 1 victories on Saturday.

At Keeneland, it was Carpe Diem who destroyed the field in the Breeders' Futurity, winning by more than six lengths and earning a 100 BRIS speed figure. At Belmont, it was Daredevil who splashed home to a decisive victory in the Champagne. The victory earned a tremendous 104 BRIS speed figure.

We will start with Carpe Diem, who was initially a $550,000 yearling purchase on September 9th of 2013. This son of Giant's Causeway was entered in the OBS March 2-year-old in training sale where he displayed an efficient stride and worked an 1/8th mile in 10.20 seconds, as you can see by clicking here.

Considering his good route pedigree on top and bottom, and that impressive under-tack drill, Carpe Diem proved a successful pinhook as he sold for $1.6 million on March 10th of this year. His auction value literally increased by over $1 million in a span of just six months time. Interestingly, Carpe Diem's half sibling JB's Thunder also won the Breeders' Futurity in his second career start. In his case, he won it over the old Polytrack surface in 2010.

As impressive as Carpe Diem was, the faster speed figure (104 BRIS) was assigned to Daredevil. A $260,000 yearling purchase, Daredevil is a half sibling to Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Albertus Maximus. Ridiculously, Daredevil has a published workout tab which indicates that he worked 4 furlongs at Charles Town on July 9th, going 53.80 seconds from the gate. As well as a 4 furlong workout in 49 seconds flat at Emerald Downs on April 20th of this year. One would hope that these silly errors will be erased before the Breeders' Cup.

Hong Kong Phooey for Goldencents and Secret Circle

In what was anticipated to virtually be a match-race, last years Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents (4/5 favorite) faced off against last years Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle (6/5 odds) in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Saturday. However, it was the Hong Kong raider Rich Tapestry who came away victorious. A classy six-year-old gelding, Rich Tapestry was a good second in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen this past March. He also had previous dirt experience, having won both times he competed over a dirt surface while racing at Sha Tin. Not only did Rich Tapestry stamp himself as a top class sprinter on dirt, but he won while making his first start off of a 160-day layoff.

Thoroughbred racing faces extinction in New England

From War Admiral and Seabiscuit to Cigar and Skip Away, some truly great horses have competed at Suffolk Downs. However, the venerable East Boston track has declined rapidly from the glory days. To be very kind, the day-to-day racing carded at Suffolk has been lousy in recent years. Slots were desperately needed in order to provide a quick fix for the racing product. Extinction from live racing now looms for a New England region where 17 different thoroughbred tracks have operated in the past.

Keeneland unveils a new surface

Horseplayers who were nostalgic for an inside-speed favoring conveyor belt of dirt were left sadly disappointed by Keeneland's brand new dirt track. Ironically, the opening day feature, Grade 1 Alcibiades was won by a 23/1 European invader Peace And War. At most, she would have been half that price had the race been run over the old Polytrack surface. Not only was the Alcibiades won by a European horse with grass form, but it was run at a supersonic early pace. The hot pace completely melted down. In a field of twelve, the horses who raced 11th, 10th, 12th, and 9th after a quarter mile, made up a Superfecta that paid $54,218.40

While a brand new dirt surface at Keeneland has been welcomed by most racing fans, the brand new name for Calder Race Course has been met with complete derision. Yes, Calder is now officially known as Gulfstreak Park West and they kick off a 44-day meet today.


The Lasix/raceday medication debate continues

In a speech on September 28th, renowned equine surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage reportedly said “I believe furosemide is valuable to the horse when racing, but there are too many reasons we can't keep it. The general public can't understand it and the continual drumbeat of journalists, most of whom truly have no idea of what they are talking about, will become a death knell if we don't stop it.”

In other words, Dr. Bramlage is saying that racing should yield to the whims of pubic opinion, which he believes are being driven by misinformed journalists.

This week, the TDN published Op-Ed pieces by Jerry Brown and Barry Irwin. Both of them addressed the comments of Dr. Bramlage.



It's pretty unbelievable that this topic isn't going away. The argument that horseplayers will “feel better” about placing big bets if horses ran without lasix is beyond ridiculous. We've already had lasix bans imposed on the Breeders' Cup races for two-year-olds. Horseplayers will desperately clamour for a lot of things, but the banning of a lasix is not one of them. And yes Alan, unfortunately, “We talkin' bout Lasix!”