I think you may be missing the point of the article which specifically mentions that pedigree is most useful as a handicapping tool when horses are encountering conditions they have never encountered before (first time starters, first time routing or on turf, etc.). The same goes for the angle I mentioned. True, you cannot evaluate a horse that was privately sold or homebred using this angle, but that doesn't mean the extra information gained from seeing a daughter of Temple City purchased for $500,000 or a son of Tapit purchased for $30,000 is not potentially helpful. If handicapping was about "knowing" who was the best there wouldn't be much point, as we'd all pick the winner every time. It's about making informed decisions with all the available information about the horses, connections, and race conditions, knowing that there is always information to which you don't have access. How on earth are you going to bet a maiden race if most of the field are first timers and you limit yourself to "on track performance" as your only handicapping tool? For that matter, if you extend that logic you would only be able to evaluate the horses in a field that have actually raced against one another before.
But back to the bigger picture, as I mentioned above, these tools provide clues in situations where you can't use performance because of a lack of opportunity. Once the horse has enough experience in a given situation, it's a much more valuable tool for handicapping and pedigree/price become irrelevant in that situation. If you run up the track in your first 5 starts it doesn't matter who your family is or how much you cost, you're a throwout.
I'm not sure how California Chrome relates at all to my comment? He was never sold at auction. But he showed high speed and ability early in his two-year-old season and routinely works impressively, so I would guess that if he had been, he would have brought far more than the typical price for a Lucky Pulpit - and thus fit right in with what I'm saying. But that's just speculation.
Nice article. One thing I'd add that I've had a lot of success with when it comes to pedigree and the lightly raced is to take purchase price into account in the context of pedigree. If a horse sold for substantially more than is typical for their pedigree, and has less than a few races, I give them a big look because it means the connections saw something in this horse's athelticism that made them willing to overlook a pedigree deficiency. This is especially true of horses who were bought as two-year-olds, and can also be a great way to pick horses who maybe have had a start or two that didn't go so hot (for whatever reason, bad trip, lack of conditioning, etc.) and is then being ignored at good odds in the next race, or a horse who didn't run as a baby (shins, growth spurt, whatever) and is starting off at 3. I remember in particular I once scored big in a multi-race wager on Derby Day by including a three-year-old maiden by Cape Town they'd shelled out over $200K for at a two-year-old sale. Conversely, if a horse sold for much less than their pedigree demands, I like to look at their works for a clue - if they're good, maybe they just have some conformational flaws that haven't hurt them, but if the works are slow they're likely just a bad apple.
So according to the numbers, one person put Shared Belief first instead of second, and that person doesn't believe American Pharoah is in the top 10 active horses in America. Talk about sour grapes.
The most interesting thing about American Pharoah to me is I don't think I've seen another major horse before who passes the eye test so resoundingly but has yet to actually run fast (at least as a 3yo). I mean, his Arkansas Derby was breathtaking but it wasn't particularly quick. And his Kentucky Derby, which appeared workmanlike to some, I didn't think was visually that disappointing. He was wider the whole race than the other top two, yet dug down and ground out the win like a good horse is supposed to. But, again, it was slow. Whether that was due to the way the track was treated, or just tired horses, is anyone's guess. And the Preakness was extremely impressive to me visually - yes, Firing Line threw in the towel. But AP absolutely ran the field off their feet; Dortmund made his move on the turn and AP broke his heart in the stretch. And he effortlessly ran away from a good horse in Divining Rod who made what looked like a winning move on the turn. To me, this race is the hardest to gauge because the way the track was treated - sealed then harrowed just before the torrential downpour in which the race was run - is about as close as you can get to guaranteeing an extremely slow and tiring surface. Which makes the initial fractions perhaps even more impressive and helps explain why the field was strung out by 50 lengths - every horse in that race was TIRED. But Pharoah was a lot less tired than the rest of them. Any way you try to evaluate the time of this race in respect to others on the card (the track was floated and thus MUCH faster and harder for the next race), including assigning a Beyer, is pretty much meaningless guesswork so I have to trust my eye and say that was probably his best performance this year. So what will we see in the Belmont? Is he just better than the rest and will he take them wire to wire again? Or will he be understandably tired after the last two and unable to overcome his pedigree limitations? I honestly have no idea. But I will say that with the exception of War Emblem (who never looked like a Belmont horse at any point, plus lost his race at the start), the horses Baffert has brought over there with a shot after running in the first two legs have either maintained or improved (Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Point Given). If I had to bet on any trainer being the next to win the Triple Crown, Baffert would have my money.
I agree that American Pharoah has a suspect pedigree at the distance but I don't agree that Frosted's is any better. Tapits generally top out around 9F. Tonalist was out of a Pleasant Colony mare, which is probably the best source of stamina in America in the last couple decades. Frosted's dam Fast Cookie was a sprinter/miler, as were her dam and half brothers. So American Pharoah might have a little more stamina on the sire side and a little less on the damside than Frosted - to me that evens out. Keen Ice is just too slow, regardless of his pedigree.
And another thing: Mr. Z has a history of running erratically, which Zayat knows, and his running style is totally up in the air right now. I'm sure Bob would probably like it if he went out as a rabbit for Dortmund and Pharoah, but when what if he blows the turn coming into the stretch and sideswipes Pharoah? That's a risk I wouldn't be willing to take if I were Zayat.
Ugh. Nothing about this makes sense or feels good. Zayat and son spend all week talking about how they want to do what's right for the horse and give him a break and then let Lukas convince them to sell him to one of his clients so he can run? Zayat sells the horse his kids name after him, who has the potential to make him some big money in minor derbies down the road if properly managed? Lukas' billionaire client Brad Kelly can afford to buy any horse in the race if he cares that badly about running in the Preakness (which he has already won with Oxbow) and decides to buy a horse who is obviously exhausted and on a downward (or at least stationary far below his rivals) form cycle because, why? Because Lukas was bombastic enough to convince him he had a chance? I have to believe someone who has invested most of his money in long distance, stamina-laden turf horses has more horse sense than that (although he does send all these horses to Lukas when they'd be better placed with Clement, Mott, Motion, Brown or almost anyone else). What do the Zayats even get out of this? I mean, seriously, how much would you even pay for Mr. Z right now?
I think this is an overreactive article. Yeah, Pletcher often skips the Preakness because he doesn't like running back in two weeks. So? I don't agree that he is the most influential trainer in the game. What about Baffert? And he is definitely not the most influential trainer with regards to the Triple Crown. His record of two Belmont victories and a Derby win is not a small accomplishment, but pales in comparison to Baffert's 4 Derbies, 5 Preaknesses, and a Belmont, Lukas' haul over the years, or even Nick Zito's wins in all three races (two in the Derby and Belmont).
I think the real reason we haven't had a Triple Crown winner is a combination of recent Derby/Preakness winners not having the stamina for the Belmont, regardless of the race spacing, and simple bad luck. Point Given, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Risen Star, Thunder Gulch, Silver Charm, and of course Real Quiet - all could have been TC winners if things had shaken out a little differently in their respective losses, or they had chosen another race to throw in a clunker.
Lisa Danielle won Broodmare of the Year last year, and it's a lifetime achievement award. As my favorite runner of all time, I'm so elated to see TCL enjoying this type of success as a broodmare! Way to go, girl!
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