The Dortmund weight goof and other Thanksgiving weekend thoughts

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

November 30th, 2015

Probably several pounds heavier after a long weekend of eating, I'm also, hopefully, a little wiser on turning 39 and gorging on more than 20 graded stakes over the same period. Here are a few thoughts on last week's racing action:

Weight concerns are seemingly relative: Daily Racing Form, via an alert reader, reported Sunday that Dortmund carried three pounds more than he should have in taking Saturday's Native Diver (G3). According to the race's conditions, Dortmund, as a three-year-old, should have carried 121 pounds and not the 124 pounds he actually carried.

While a regrettable oversight on the part of the Del Mar racing office and Dortmund's connections, looking at the chart it also appears fellow three-year-old Iron Fist didn't carry the weight he should have either. Iron Fist toted 118 pounds, three more than the 115 he was entitled to.

The Native Diver is one of numerous graded stakes formerly run as handicaps which are now contested under allowance conditions. Vocal opponents of handicaps in the industry, and there were many, often complained about the arbitrariness of assigned weights as well "unfair" weight spreads. However, I've seen little outcry about running major stakes under allowance conditions, which has not made the assigning of weights any less arbitrary or more fair. 

Several years ago I argued that if handicaps in major races are going to go the way of the dodo, then all graded stakes should be run under scale weight conditions. I stand by that observation, and if this policy had been adopted before it arguably would have been easier to catch errors such as the one that occurred in the Native Diver.

I can imagine most jockeys would find this change favorable for obvious reasons.

No Eclipse Awards were won: The Pizza Man and Effinex concluded their fine campaigns with wins in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) and Clark H. (G1), respectively, but neither victory should have bolstered their candidacies for the turf male and dirt male championships.

The Pizza Man performed as an even-money favorite should have in the Turf Cup, but dispensing with a large, weak field did little to enhance his resume vis a vis Big Blue Kitten. A neck victory over the latter on his home course in the Arlington Million (G1) had a chance to be validated in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), but it was Big Blue Kitten who proved best of the American contingent in a race unsurprisingly dominated by European invaders.

Effinex, like The Pizza Man, now has a stakes victory at each of the three grade levels this season. However, a second in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and a gusty win over Hoppertunity in the Clark doesn't exactly erase memories of thrashings in the Brooklyn (G2), Woodward (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).

I look forward to seeing both perform at a high level next year.

No Eclipse Awards should have been lost: La Verdad's rough month, and career, ended on a sour note Thanksgiving Day with a poor effort in the Fall Highweight H. (G3). That loss, her second in that particular race, proved she's not the same facing males, but in no way should have diminished her qualifications for 2015 champion female sprinter honors.

Despite having her win in the July 29 Honorable Miss H. (G2) recently revoked due to a clenbuterol positive, her 2015 body of work remains much stronger than that of Wavell Avenue, with whom she split decisions in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2) and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

The jury is still out on Airoforce: The solid win in Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) by the two-year-old Airoforce was certainly no surprise given the class he had shown previously. However, how fortunate was it that a horse campaigned exclusively on grass to that point happened to catch a sloppy track?

In other words, I'd like to see how well Airoforce does on a fast track before tabbing him as one of the leading Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders.

Private in the Twilight Zone: Heavy favorite Private Zone didn't look good at all racing down the Aqueduct backside in Saturday's Cigar Mile (G1). Whether Private Zone was fighting Martin Pedroza, the other way around or a combination of both, the bottom line is that a horse known for burying his rivals by setting fast fractions (like Private Zone did in the 2014 Cigar Mile and nearly did in the 2013 edition) isn't going to be as effective going in :24.15, :48.50 and 1:13.04. Just saying...

(Benoit Photos)