Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Too Early to Dismiss Flashback

Once upon a time there was a lightly raced three-year-old trained by Bob Baffert who may have been just a little too keyed up early on for his own good. In between horses heading to the clubhouse turn, the gray stakes winner undoubtedly felt the pressure, and at that point in his young career, did not know how best to properly relax. Running head and head with another in 1:09, it’s no wonder that the highly regarded colt was unable to hold off the eventual winner in the late stages of the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita. This scenario sounds an awful lot like how things went down for Flashback in yesterday’s San Felipe Stakes, doesn’t it?

The horse in question happens to be the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Silver Charm. In his sixth lifetime start (yes, that was considered lightly raced 16 years ago) Silver Charm found himself in a blistering speed duel in the Santa Anita Derby with the talented filly, Sharp Cat. Softened up by the grueling fractions, the eventual near Triple Crown winner could not hold off the rush of Free House down the stretch, and finished a very game second in his final prep for the run for the roses.


Now, I’m not ready to call Flashback the next Silver Charm, of course, but to see all the comments that followed his first defeat yesterday, I have to say that it seems way too early to dismiss this talented colt as a possible Kentucky Derby winner. Sure he was a little too headstrong for his own good in the San Felipe, but considering this was only his third lifetime start, and the fact that he battled the talented Goldencents into submission and in taxing early fractions, I consider it to have been a very good performance. Not surprisingly, his three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer seemed to agree.


“I think he ran well despite all that. He had a nice, tough race and he got tired at the end, considering he went so fast, but I think we learned a lot about him today,” said Baffert. “I think we were just intimidated by the free speed today, and the rail, so you learn from racing. That’s what these preps are all about.” 


After the race, I also noticed many a glowing comment concerning the winner of the race, Hear the Ghost. Many of these statements intimated that if he could rally like this 1 1/16 miles, just think what he could do at a mile and a quarter. I’m here to tell you that reasoning is very flawed, and for more than one reason.


First of all, the San Felipe was a textbook scenario for a horse to pick up the pieces. Flashback and Goldencents went at it tooth and nail for as long as they could. 99 times out of 100, when this happens, any closer worth his weight in salt will come and get the survivor of the duel. The fact that Flashback was still very much in the picture at the finish speaks to his class.


The second aspect of the above reasoning that is flawed is in the assumption that horses that close fast at shorter distances will automatically real in the same horse at a longer distance. It actually rarely works out that way. A slower pace in the longer race generally makes the speed all the more difficult to wrangle in, and as any experienced handicapper knows, just because a horse rallies at a shorter race, does not always mean he will do the same  in longer races.


Don’t get me wrong, Hear the Ghost, also making only his third lifetime start, looks like a colt with a future, but given the choice between the two, I will have few qualms about selecting Flashback next time. Nothing I saw yesterday makes me doubt that he is a very talented horse.


Where Flashback still has many questions to answer, Silver Charm turned out to be a horse that could get any distance, and truly possessed the heart of a champion. Clearly Flashback has a long road ahead to be seriously compared to him, but jumping off his bandwagon after yesterday’s defeat seems way too premature for my taste. 


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Older Comments about Too Early to Dismiss Flashback...

Flashback got caught in a vicious pace, consideration must be given here.
I think Flashback is a little better than Hansen, can get a little more distance
He is a Tapit...the next round of Preps are past his best distance you will see. Another Hansen.
NO Derby contender is early as all the survivors are sustained/prerssers, EACH and everyone of them.
Great comparison, Brian! Silver Charm was one of those rare "early energy distribution" types that also possessed that tremendous stamina which enabled him to take some heat early but have plenty left in the tank, late. Given the top contenders now having completed their second to last Derby preps, you can see that several of the more highly regarded contenders possess that "early energy distribution" profile that people get excited about early on. But, just take a look at the past several years of Derby winners (and in the money finishers). Many of these "popular" horses with early energy profiles were nowhere to be found at the end...2nd place finishers Bodemeister and Hard Spun being the recent exceptions. But, as contributor Travel_Vic would warn us, we have a long way to go before we'll know which horses will line up in the gate on the first Saturday in May. However, after the final preps are in, a look energy distribution profiles of each horse in the Derby field and how those profiles were aided or compromised in preps will provide useful clues in seperating pretenders from contenders.
Agreed. Still on Flashback's bandwagon!! Good, tough race for him. As you know the Derby is no walk in the park and the winner must be tough and tested! Like they say: if you can't run with the big dogs, you better stay on the porch!! Flashback should really move up after this race. P.S.- it's weight, not wait. Lol
I'm willing to give Flashback another chance. Goldencents, not so much.
There was only a length or two between all 4 of the final finsihers. I think GC is the horse people are jumping off the bandwagon for prematurely.
Great article, my brother reminded me of Silver Charm's SA Derby being very similar
Not to take away from Flashback, but how about the bizarre series of after race comments his rider Leparoux & Goldencents' rider Krigger had after the race. Think the pressure may have gotten to them?!?!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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