That figures: Preservationist a player with Surburban win

July 09, 2019 10:00am
After Preservationist’s win in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, it is reasonable to hold some skepticism. At 6 years old, this horse popped into the graded stakes scene after only seven career starts. If he suddenly needs another layoff, it will not come as a surprise either.

Also, when horses run a new career top speed figure, the words “prove it again” enter most people’s minds. He never cracked 120 TimeformUS speed figure before, and yet he earned a 127 on Saturday, three points higher than Catholic Boy’s highest career figure.

On Beyer Speed Figures, Preservationist earned a 108, the same number Promises Fulfilled ran in the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) on the same card. While the two horses are in different divisions, Promises Fulfilled is considered one of the top sprinters in the country. Does that mean Preservationist is one of the top dirt routers?

Right now, yes. Preservationist’s maturity and development were buried on paper because he lacked enough starts to gain a clearer picture.

In 2016 as a 3-year-old, he only ran once when he closed for second in a pace-less maiden race, earning a respectable 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure. If Preservationist had continued, it would have been reasonable to expect him to break 110, or progress toward 120 had it been a long campaign.

But right off the bat, he needed to go on the shelf.

When Preservationist came back in late 2017 at Aqueduct, he ran in another pace-less maiden race and finished a good third with a 114 on TimeformUS. But he broke his maiden the next month in yet another slow-paced maiden race, earning a 113 over a notable runner-up in Stan the Man.

Then, he finally showed real progression in his next race, the third one off the layoff, winning a one-mile allowance race by four with a 120.

However, he went on the shelf again, killing the momentum gained.

Preservationist returned in January this year, finishing third in a sloppy Aqueduct optional claimer with a 114 on TimeformUS. He progressed in his next start, winning a one-mile optional claimer by a head with a 117.

Then, he went on the shelf yet again. With all those layoff lines on paper, it feels like Preservationist is held together by tape and glue.

Regardless, Preservationist came back at Belmont on May 23, winning a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer 1 ½ lengths, earning a second career-best 119.

Next, he progressed by winning the Suburban by 4 ½ lengths with a 127, although TimeformUS marks the race with an “o” designation.

As for his Beyers, Preservationist went from a 97, to a 101 and 108 in the Suburban, which roughly matches the 127 on TimeformUS.

 Also, notice the distances of his best speed figures. His four best speed figures came at one mile or longer, with his career best TimeformUS figure in the Suburban at 1 ¼ miles. Assuming this horse is a true classic distance router, it is possible his real potential was buried in shorter races.

After all, Preservationist’s sire is Arch, the sire of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Blame, among others. His second dam Flying Passage was also sired by A.P. Indy, and whenever A.P. Indy is in the blood it generally signals longer distances are not a problem (although that is not a hard rule).

Imagine if he stays healthy and continues racing in 2019. While Preservationist’s speed figures would level out on a normal schedule, it is not hard to imagine him repeating the 127 on TimeformUS or the 108 Beyer over and over again. Races such as the Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) will fit him, as well as the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Look at his top competition in this division.

Besides Catholic Boy, McKinzie is another top horse who might stretch out again. But he is questionable at 1 ¼ miles, as he lost the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) by a nose to Gift Box and finished up the track in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. It might sound odd to knock his loss to Gift Box, the top dirt router out west. But look at Gift Box’s flat effort in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. Those two horses are questionable. 

OK, how about Seeking the Soul, who won the Stephen Foster by a neck? He has been in this division for a while and never finds his way to the top. The more exciting horse from the Stephen Foster is Quip, who can progress as a 4-year-old and possibly become one of the best longer dirt rotuers.

But at this moment, no one fears Quip. He still needs to make one more move forward to stand out.

Thunder Snow is another horse Preservationist might face at some point, but again, he is not a monster either. He won a weak edition of the Dubai World Cup this year and still lacks a win on this soil, despite good efforts.

In other words, Preservationist can become a leader in the older dirt horse route division, especially since it lacks a standout star. His biggest challenge might end up being himself, as all those layoff lines are not the best signs.

If he continues in the summer and fall, expect more good races from Preservationist. He catches a division void of true 1 ¼-mile runners. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see him disappear again, either. 


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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