Stop It! They’re Both Good

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Derek Simon

February 14th, 2015

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when, mere moments after a thrilling renewal of the San Antonio Invitational won by Shared Belief, social media exploded with chest-thumping I-told-you-so’s and vitriolic cries of “California Chrome sucks!” But I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

Seriously, I don’t get it. Why is it that every time racing has a great rivalry, the churlish among us feel the need to degrade it?

Among the “insights” I saw floating about cyberspace:

“California Chrome hasn’t won a race on the dirt in four starts!”

Ah, kind of like Affirmed, who went 0-for-4 after winning the Travers on Aug. 18, 1978? Or maybe a better example is Affirmed’s rival, Alydar, who finished out his career on a 1-for-5 tear — his only victory coming in the Grade III Nassau County Handicap… against two opponents.

“California Chrome’s breeding is finally catching up with him.”

Yep, just like it did with Seattle Slew, who sold for a mere $17,500 (approximately $77K today) at the 1975 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale. Of course, that was downright pricey when one considers the $1,100 that John Callaway paid for a diminutive son of Ole Bob Bowers at the Keeneland January Mixed Sale that same year. In 2014 dollars, Callaway shelled out approximately $4,600 — less than the minimum claiming level at many tracks — for John Henry, a turf legend who banked over $6.5 million during the course of his illustrious career.

“Shared Belief was lucky. Victor Espinoza had ‘Chrome’ in a bad position.”

Honestly, I’m not sure what constitutes a great trip for California Chrome anymore. Apparently, he doesn’t like being on the rail; he doesn’t like being surrounded by horses; he doesn’t like grey skies, blue skies or rainbows — double or otherwise. Look, Chromies, it’s not like your horse was Spectacular Bid in the 1979 Florida Derby this past Saturday… and, in case some of you forgot, Bid won the Florida Derby.

Let’s just appreciate Shared Belief, California Chrome and the rest of what looks like a fantastic four-year-old crop.

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would want it that way.

SHOWdown Week 2

7th Golden Gate Fields
El Camino Real Derby (Grade III)
1-1/8 miles (main track)

In doing some testing on my new Perceived Ability Rating (PAR) method, I discovered that horses whose PAR and recent speed both ranked fifth or worse in the field were, well, terrible bets — as the following digits prove:

* PAR ranking of 5th or worse.
* Recent speed ranking of 5th or worse.

Number: 52,971
Wins: 2,374
Win Rate: 4.5%
$2 Net: $1.24
ROI: -37.81%

Impact Value (IV): 0.38
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.70

So, in analyzing Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby for the TwinSpires’ Road to the Kentucky Derby Showdown, I had no choice but to toss Donji, Indianaughty, Metaboss, Ernest Shackleton and Harmonic (who I kind of like) from further consideration.

Then, having watched a replay of the California Derby, I also put a line through Soul Driver — he was in great stalking position, yet ran erratically through the stretch — and Stand And Salute, who may be left with too much to do late in a field loaded with stretch runners.

That left me with three primary contenders — coincidentally, the top three PAR horses—and I’ve decided to cast my lot with Cross the Line, who I thought ran very well in his last start, garnering an 89 Brisnet speed figure and a -4 late speed ration (LSR).

Mostly, though, I like the fact that Jerry Hollendorfer’s colt (he has three in the field) is proven in both slow- and fast-paced races. I think the former scenario is most likely today and that gives Cross the Line a huge tactical advantage over many of his rivals.

Mischief Clem is another that figures to be in great position early… but I have a sneaking suspicion that jockey Kent Desormeaux will be content to stalk the pace from the outside, instead of grabbing the early advantage — and that could spell his demise in the stretch (again, there are a lot of good closers in this race).

Anyway, good luck to everyone competing in the Showdown. This week’s races figure to be a real slobberknockers.