Weekend Overview: Fourteen years ago a strapping chestnut colt from Sam-Son farms ignited my passion for racing with a hard charging 4th place finish in the Queen's Plate. The horse was Chief Bearhart and although I had never heard of him prior to the CBC telecast I was an avowed lifetime fan by the time the gates opened. I have followed racing week by week ever since so each time the Queen's Plate rolls around I can't help but enjoy the nostalgia. Yesterday Sam-Son farms was back again but instead of a decent 4th place finish they won the Gallop for the Guineas with Eye of the Leopard. He wasn't my pick but I always cheer for the Sam-Son Farms runners. The Plate was the highlight of the weekend and I really enjoyed seeing it back on CBC. I liked the way they presented the show. The only oddity was the Royal representative procession. The Governor General, or member of the royal family if they happen to be present, had always been paraded up the stretch in a horse drawn carriage. Much like they do at Royal Ascot. I can't imagine why they decided to replace that special segment with simply driving him up the track in a convertible. There is just something odd about mixing top hats and convertibles. It seems about as natural as Kraft Dinner for Thanksgiving. I doubt anyone has forgotten just how good Big Drama is but he gave us a useful reminder at Charles Town when winning a rich but ungraded stakes race. He will give Munnings all he can handle at Saratoga. It was nice to see Unbridled Belle get back into form a little bit. She has always looked like a different horse at Delaware. I am very quickly becoming a fan of the plucky little Battle of Hastings. First of all he has a great name and secondly he's a tough little gelding. He does not get great speed figures but you can count on him showing up this year like time or tide. His Colonial Turf Cup win runs his 2009 record to 4-3-1-0. Jonathan Sheppard continued his great run of form with the Augustin Stable runners as Winter View won her third straight in the All Along at Colonial, but don't get sidetracked. Winter View is to Forever Together like Life Is Sweet is to Zenyatta. Grazen looked like a decent sort in the Affirmed and Smart Enough continued to roll with a nice win in the Highlander. Smart Enough has been out of the money only once in 20 lifetime starts. He seems as good as ever as a 6yo.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: A small change has been made to the TCR calculation. Earnings has always been a part of the TCR score because the aim of the rankings is to accurately asses each horses accomplishments and accumulating earnings is one area of accomplishment. With 10 years of data under our belts I noted that average earnings were getting higher. Since purses have increased over the last decade it only makes sense. In 1999 the average purse of an American G-1 race was about $534k. In 2008 that number was $626k. So to compensate for purse inflation I've individually adjusted each years earnings figures. The end result is that the changes are negligible when comparing horses from the same year but when looking at the accomplishments of horses nearly a decade apart the TCR is now much more accurate.
Power Rankings: The Power Rankings underwent the same inflation adjusted revision as the TCR so hopefully it can give you a better look at horses from different seasons. As far as this week was concerned there were only a few races that threatened to have an impact atop the rankings. Criticism failed to improve her score when losing the off the turf New York Stakes. She can be forgiven the loss though. The main track isn't her game. Battle of Hastings very nearly jumped into the top 5 in the Turf Male division. He missed catching Thorn Song by just .01. Because the older turf horses have been relatively weak it leaves an opening for sophomores like Battle of Hastings to have an impact.
Performance of the Week: Smart Enough evoked memories of the mighty Soaring Free as he took the Highlander field by the scruff off the neck and simply shook everyone out behind him. He set very fast fractions for Woodbine but looked none the worse for wear in the stretch as no one could get near him. Smart Enough had a rough campaign in 2008 as he was plagued by injury and failed to win any of his three starts. He is making up for that in 2009 with a pair of wins already and a very useful 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
Race of the Week: It might be because I like to root for Sam-Son Farm horses but I found the Queen's Plate to be a very watchable affair. The finish was a very good one with Mr. Foricos Two U looking home free then suddenly starting to stagger. Eye of the Leopard and Milwaukee Appeal made it really tight on the wire. Three horses finishes in main track races often mean that the race wasn't the best quality but that shouldn't detract from the enjoyment we get out of them. I for one hope that Eye of the Leopard can go on and become a truly first class horse. He has never lost a route race in three attempts and he has improved his figures each time. So maybe he can continue to improve and win some glory for Canada south of the border.
Flop of the Week: The Queen's Plate organizer in charge of the procession can count themselves lucky that there is a more deserving winner of this dubious honor. After the inexplicable failure of Music Note one would think that Godolphin would be looking hard at the readiness of their other stars that wintered in Dubai. But obviously the didn't because just one week after Music Note's flop Godolphin sent out Cocoa Beach to run last in an ungraded stakes race at Belmont. This is a filly that had only lost once, to Zenyatta, in her last three G-1 attempts. Godolphin does not have their horses in a good spot right now. They need to get to the bottom of this before needlessly tarnishing the reputations of even more good horses.
Tip O'the Cap: For years fans have been saying that racing needs to take a stab at changing it's business model because the one we have doesn't seem to work. This past weekend Churchill Downs took a chance and decided to try two things that I have wanted to see for a while now. On Friday they moved the racing to a time when most of the nation is not at work and they raised admission. Raising admission sounds like a weird thing to champion but North America has fallen in love with brand names and anything exclusive. Free or dirt cheap admission is appreciated by the regulars but I suspect it only convinces the casual observer that a day at the races isn't worth much. A higher gate price almost makes the races seem like the place to be and it hasn't been that for decades. A lot of people were critical but I applaud Churchill Downs for thinking outside the box. They drew a very nice crowd and although the night still had some wrinkles I think there was enough there to encourage them to keep on trying new things to come up with a good mix that will benefit the sport.
KC Handicapping: I developed a 20-20 profile for the Queen's Plate this past week and decided to focus on the main contenders as highlighted by the system. Four horses came out as perfect qualifiers and I decided to take the two that I liked most from among that group. Tasty Temptation and Reservoir both underachieved while the two contenders I decided not to take were Eye of the Leopard and Mr. Foricos Two U. The exacta for those two paid $56.10. Even with great tools I can manage to bungle up.
It was also not the greatest week at Monmouth for me in the Survival At The Shore contest. I was too busy for much of the week to give it proper attention and I lost my lifesaver as a consequence. I'm still alive but without a lifeline.
Weekly Record: 2(1)-0-0-0 (-$4.00 -100.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 777(433)-133-123-99 (-$153.90 -9.90% ROI)