Thursday, April 30, 2009

Derby picks based on equine exercise physiology

For those of you who don't know, I monitor the heart rate and gallop/breeze speed using equipment like in the above photo: a heart rate monitor and GPS unit. Much more info elsewhere in this blog and at my website at

With the horses I consult, I can often tell when they are ready to run in the money, or finish up the track, based on the data I collect. Unfortunately, I have no such numbers on this year's Derby contenders.

But I have learned some things that help me handicap. 

First of all, a complete warmup helps, but likely none this year will break from the pony during the post parade and gallop out a strong sub :30 second quarter - so cancel out that factor in 2009. 

Secondly, horses going over synthetics have it much easier than on dirt, as much as 50% easier. Therefore synthetic races and works don't compare apples to apples with those on dirt. Ideally there would be a mix of both, as in the case with Friesan Fire, who is my first choice.

Thirdly, I love the pre-race blowout for many reasons enumerated elsewhere. As of this moment, only one Papa Clem trained by Gary Stute, has done so correctly in my opinion. He is my second choice.

We all use Beyers and other factors to handicap. Talent often wins out over the stuff above. For this reason I like I Want Revenge in my third slot. Unfortunately, I don't think our boy Mr. Mullins will be able to sneak in the pre-race Air Power bronchiole-dilating treatment on such a large stage. 

Of the others: 

I liked WestSide Bernie, but he hasn't looked his best this week on the backside. I liked Chocolate Candy going a mile at CD this week, but everything else is Synthetic City. The Godolphin entries are tough to gauge, as nothing is really public knowledge over in the desert. If they have been gettting synthetic breezes I would certainly consider. Pioneer of the Nile is also unproven on the surface. Count me among all those who like the backstory of General Quarters. Dunkirk is possibly the most talented, but so lightly trained. 

Good luck to all, and any trainers out there give me a shout to see if I can help get you to the big dance in 2010.

To summarize: 1. Friesan Fire 2. Papa Clem 3. I Want Revenge

1pm Sat:
After late scratch, revise 3rd pick to Dunkirk, lots of breezes shorter than I would like, but all on dirt, and seems to be peaking at right time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rachel Alexandra's fantastic work explained

I was on the backside at Churchill Monday morning for the Derby and Oaks works. This is the day of both the horrible training accident and the spectacular work by Rachel Alexandra, and these 2 events are definitely related.

Rachel, with Calvin Borel up, had just finished her warm up and was preparing to roll into her breeze when the horn sounded signifying a loose horse. With the workout aborted, Borel took her back to the barn for about 15-20 minutes, kept her moving, then brought her back out when the coast was clear. 

Then she blew through a half in :46 and change on her way to galloping out 6F in 1:10 - all looking incredibly easy with no urging. No wonder:


Sorry, I never go 'all caps' but this is very important. In the hurry to get all horses trained between 6-10am, none are ever warmed up properly. Rolling into a half mile breeze after a steady 1 mile gallop is not sufficient. 

Yes the muscles and such are warmed up decently, but the nervous system isn't yet firing at it's best. In addition, her spleen has been contracted prior to the breeze, which flushes her system with fresh oxygen carrying red blood cells BEFORE the exercise bout, not during.

But, add in a 15 minute rest period after this 1 mile gallop - while walking and staying active, and you give the all important nervous system, think eye/brain/foot coordination, time to reset and efficiency increases. You can probably get just as much good out of a 5 minute rest/walk bout - you don't even have to leave the track necessarily.

I realize that the economics of the training game prevent doing this on all of your stock, but surely you can practice this with your top contenders, right? It takes extra time, and a smart rider, but the results can be worth millions, hell why not do this in the post parade before a huge race? You are getting 2 sec faster per half mile, with less effort-

I mean, this was universally regarded as a work befitting a Derby champion, never mind the Oaks. The trainer, Wiggins, wanted her to go the half in :48 - she beat that by 2 seconds and rolled off another :24 quarter to boot. 

I can illustrate with my HR/GPS gear this concept. After the post warm up rest period - any half mile will go faster, with less effort, than the traditional manner. People need to understand, if you want to get results better than everyone else, you have to train differently. Not harder, just with an eye towards proven exercise science. 

Otherwise, it's just a matter of who has the best stock.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where have I been? Where am I now?

Again, sorry for the lack of recent posts, I am looking forward to getting back in the mix after Derby next week.

Speaking of the big race, I will be all over the frontside and backside at Churchill Downs for the entire Spring Meet, including Oaks and Derby days of course.

I'd really enjoy meeting any and all readers of this blog, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call if you are in town - perhaps we can fit one of my horses up with the HR/GPS monitor and run through a very detailed training analysis!

Bill Pressey

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Air Power and Performance?

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, been busy at my 'day' job and traveling a bit.

Mr. Mullins busted administering the above to his horse pre-race at Aqueduct. Of course he is also the trainer of the superstar I Want Revenge, who I think we can assume gets the same pre-race treatment - although it would never be admitted to.

Forget for the moment that pre-race administration of anything other than Lasix is forbidden. Clowns like myself even know those rules that Mullins pleads ignorance of. When asked "Why give cough medicine to a horse without a cough?" he replied with the gem: "Why put socks on your feet?" Whatever the hell that means. 

This reminds me of a discussion I had in Lexington over the wintertime with 2 famous vets. We were discussing bronchodilation, or opening up of the small airwaves in the lungs, and its positive effect on performance. Both of these guys mentioned a product being used that was accomplishing this effect, but neither would mention the name of said product. 

Could this be it? Administered so close to race time for a horse with no cough seems suspicious to me.

The company that makes Air Power calls itself Finish Line products, which insinuates you take the stuff and win races, right? To be fair it's labelled as all natural, and if that proves to be the case they are cool in my book. But on the human side, which is probably more highly regulated by the FDA, many supplements marketed as natural at GNC have since been banned by the major sports leagues after more detailed testing. 

Stay tuned on this one...