What we learned: Greatest Honour again passes visual test

What we learned: Greatest Honour again passes visual test
Photo: Liz Lamont / Eclipse Sportswire

After reviewing Greatest Honour’s victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream a few times, the most notable part is that he tries to run in the stretch only when making his final move to catch Drain the Clock. Because of that, it is difficult to knock this horse based on any slow time or figure.

The final time for Greatest Honour in the Fountain of Youth was affected by a probable slow or moderate pace and traffic problems (which a slow pace promotes). When Greatest Honour tips out in the stretch, though, he gives the visual impression of a good horse who wants more ground in the future.

Gulfstream does not make this pace analysis easy without other two-turn dirt routes to study. But notice that only 7 3/4 lengths separates the first nine horses in the opening quarter, and eight lengths separates all 10 horses at the half-mile.

Also note the tight pack up front, which adds to the theory of a slow or moderate pace. The first five horses scrunch together within 2 1/2 lengths.

Even though Drain the Clock gets the first quarter in 23.66 and half in 47.18, numbers that do not appear slow, in most cases a bunched-up field hints at a slower pace than usual. Greatest Honour initially settles in second to last, which makes him disadvantaged behind the pace.

Greatest Honour also eats plenty of dirt from his position, which jockey Jose Ortiz claims he “wasn’t wanting to run through,” as told by trainer Shug McGaughey in the Gulfstream press release. When Greatest Honour finally moves up a little bit while approaching the turn, he then needs to wait patiently behind Prime Factor and Papetu to his right.

At this point, Greatest Honour is not moving forward. But he is not trying to move forward, as Ortiz chooses to wait until Papetu is well past him before tipping Greatest Honour to the outside.

Once Papetu clears him and joins the leaders, Greatest Honour then ranges up alongside Prime Factor and makes his move outside of Papetu at the top of the stretch under urging from Ortiz.

When Greatest Honour straightens out, Ortiz realizes he does not need the stick anymore. On his own power, Greatest Honour passes Drain the Clock in mid-stretch and pulls clear by 1 3/4 lengths easily, giving supporters reason for optimism moving forward.

Is the final time of 1:44.02 slow? There are no other two-turn routes on the card, making this a difficult question. While there were a couple of one-mile dirt races, the one-turn configuration of them makes comparing the races directly to this one hard.  

Regardless of the time, Greatest Honour made a great impression once clear in the stretch. He also overcame a moderate pace and traffic problems to reach that point.

Greatest Honour earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for the win. As of this writing, the TimeformUS Speed Figure is not released yet. 

Before knocking this horse for any slow or mild speed figures that might come out on Beyer, BRIS or TimeformUS, just watch how he runs in the Florida Derby (G1). If nothing else, the longer distance will benefit him.

As for the blog choice Drain the Clock, he ran well enough to finish second after setting the pace. If he cannot hold on against Greatest Honour after enjoying a comfortable lead in the Fountain of Youth, though, then he is not going to beat him at nine furlongs either.

Essential Quality passes initial test

Essential Quality
took a good first step toward the Kentucky Derby after capturing the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn over slop. With that said, he likely did not offer anything new to the conversation about his standing among top 3-year-olds.

In contrast, last year’s 2-year-old star Jackie’s Warrior brought more doubts about his stamina with a fading third. Yet the poor track conditions combined with a closer bias are excuses to consider if the connections try another prep race.

In terms of their trips, there is not a lot to note. Jackie’s Warrior went to the front as expected, while Essential Quality took up a stalking position.

If handicappers want a trip horse for next time, check out Spielberg, who broke slow and to the right at the start before rejoining the group in a wide position around the first turn.

Jackie’s Warrior led through fractions of 23.52 and 48.11.

On the far turn, Woodhouse and Essential Quality began to close in, although Woodhouse did not sustain his move. Spielberg also made up ground right behind them and went four wide on the turn once again.

Essential Quality took over at the top of the stretch and drew clear under mild urging. He won by a clear margin of 4 1/4 lengths. Meanwhile, Spielberg made his way into second past a fading Jackie’s Warrior after a poor break and running wide on both turns. Jackie’s Warrior could offer no fight late and fell 8 1/2 lengths behind in third.

For handicappers searching to nitpick something, Essential Quality’s time of 1:45.48 for the Southwest went more than a second slower than Mystic Guide’s time of 1:44.33 in the Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses. Perhaps that is an unfair comparison given the age difference.

Also, Essential Quality took advantage of a sloppy track friendly toward outside closers. Jackie’s Warrior and other speed types on the card had a difficult time. If Jackie’s Warrior’s connections try another Derby prep, no one can fault them for wanting a fair racetrack to test their runner.

But Essential Quality gives the impression of a horse that can handle longer distances, while Jackie’s Warrior looks and moves like a one-turn horse.

For now, Essential Quality remains in the mix of top 3-year-olds. He needs to move forward off the effort, as he will face better horses than Spielberg, a second-tier colt in Bob Baffert’s barn, and the stamina-challenged Jackie’s Warrior next time.

Spielberg is not high on anyone’s list, but his troubled trip is notable. If he can turn in one more trifecta finish in the last round of prep races, he can make the Kentucky Derby.

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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