Sunday, May 31, 2009

Should Rachel Run?

Why does this have to be such a difficult question?
Because all the data used to decide is both subjective and qualitative in nature, that's why.

How does she look? How does she act? Are her legs tight? Are her ears perked? 
Is she cleaning out the feed tub? Is she better than before the Preakness? 
Better than before the Oaks? How did she look at her half mile breeze?

Listen, all of that stuff is important - but it's only half of the puzzle. The other half is based in exercise physiology. The objective, quantitative stuff is missing from this picture in all stables.

In the simplest of terms, how much blood (fuel) does it take for her to complete a 2 mile gallop, or a half mile breeze? How quickly does her heart get back down to 80bpm after that fast work? Compare her data during this weeks workouts to before/after her other races and get some meaningful numbers.

V200, described in this blog elswhere, is the velocity traveled when the horse's heart rate hits 200bpm. For those of Rachel's caliber, that number is around 30mph. This gives you a number over time that can show you when she is peaking, peaked, or ready to bounce - wouldn't you like to have that information?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Genius of Calvin Borel

Man, how can you not love this guy?

Humble in victory, mowing his lawn the day before the Preakness, back at Churchill riding claimers the day after Rachel's victory, etc.

I've seen him in person a few times this meet at Churchill, and he acts no different after his last 2 big wins as he did before. Class act.

Now onto the 3 things I've seen that lead me to believe this guy is even better than his win record indicates.

Number one is simple and well known, he chooses the rail trip when at all possible, as its the shortest way around the track, everyone knows this about him.

Number two: I have observed him adding a quarter mile strong gallop out to nearly every work in the mornings. Maybe he was told to do so by the trainer, but I doubt it because he was pretty consistent regardless of who he was riding. He makes 6F timed works actually 1 mile in length, 4f breezes become 6f, and so on.

Finally, on many occassions I see him break away from the lead pony and vigorously warm his horses up in the post parade. He's on the backstretch after a quarter mile gallop in 30sec or so while everyone else is still walking. Then he allows his mount to jog, walk, and calm down prior to loading in the gate. Brilliant. Of course he may not do this on the big stage with 50 TV cameras on him - because some would think he was crazy. 

When he does this the spleen of the horse contracts, and brand new red blood cells are introduced into the bloodstream, ready to carry oxygen to muscles during the race. All other un-warmed up horses accomplish this within the first furlong when the race is underway, but Calvin has already bought himself some extra time until fatigue with his pre-race routine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Preakness picks based on synthetic to dirt prep angle

Mine That Bird (MTB), at right looking very comfortable with the attention at Pimlico this week, good for him.

The biggest finding I've made using my heart rate and GPS gear with thoroughbreds in training is the huge difference between works on dirt vs works on synthetic. To simplify, works on dirt are 50% harder on most horses - i.e. a 4F breeze on dirt takes as much out of a horse as does a 6F breeze on the fake stuff. 

As long as the Triple Crown races are run on dirt, it is my belief that you MUST prep your horses on dirt tracks, as the number one rule in exercise physiology is that of Specificity, you get what you train for. 

I liked Papa Clem and Friesan Fire for my Derby picks because they spent time on both surfaces. FF trained much at Keeneland and raced on dirt, Clem raced on poly early, switching to dirt over the past few months. MTB did the same with his 2 year old season spent at Woodbine before hitting the NM dirt trail, but I overlooked it because of his previous high Beyer of  just 80.

As far as talent goes, of course Rachel Alexandra and Pioneer of the Nile are at the top of the list and can't be discounted. I think POTN will get better through these 3 first dirt races of his life this spring, but I don't see him in the money. 

Preakness selections: Rachel on talent, Clem on superior work tab, Friesan Fire stays out of trouble for 3rd, with MTB lurking behind.

Ran out of room to talk about what I saw with Borel in a starter allowance race at CD last week, next post I promise. 

Also this week in DRF we found a great piece about the different training practices of someone like Jack Van Berg and Gary Stute. Needless to say I favor Stute, and I hope to be able to explain why in this space shortly...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One filly, 6 days, 2 wins

Congrats to the connections, you know who you are!-

4 year old filly, two allowance-level wins at 2 different tracks within the same week - the second one easier than the first, never being touched with the whip.

Goes to show that you can buck tradition, train/race a bit differently, and get great results.

Next post analyzes the synthetic to dirt pre-Derby routine of Mine That Bird throughout the past year and also an in person look at the genius of Mr. Calvin Borel, genius that has nothing to do with the rail trip.