Race of the Week 2017

In All Fairness

In racing we all have our favorites. We root for them, we cheer them on, we take them as our own. However, while we have fans that are incredibly supportive and optimistic, you also have those that are cynical to a fault. They don’t have favorites and seem to like nothing less than to tear down a talented horse as soon as it should finish less than first.

I myself am neither overly optimistic, nor am I a cynic. I try to be as fair as possible when I evaluate horses, and it is for that reason I am writing today.
For those like me, that are neither optimists nor pessimists, we have to look at all aspects of a race in order to gain proper prospective. Is the horse deserving of the criticism, are they on a downhill slope? Or, was there a good reason behind the performance that saw them second instead of first? In the case of Animal Kingdom, I don’t believe there is any reason for panic.
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap was a short, but deep field.  You had two other grade one horses running in there, one was the best turf router in America. Point of Entry was coming off a stellar 2012 campaign. He ran in four grade ones, and won three. He was quite literally half a length from being named Horse of the Year, Leading Older Male, and Top Turf Horse. However most gave him no credit, due to the fact his best distance was 12 furlongs, not nine. That was a large mistake.
When dissecting the running of the race, one cannot miss the large middle move made by Animal Kingdom, who sat fifth at the half, then was in front in the matter of another furlong. Do I agree with the middle move? I do, only to an extent. The pace was slow, especially for a firm surface at Gulfstream, meaning if he were to have any shot at catching loose on the lead speed, he would have to get involved a little earlier. However, I do not think Joel Rosario should have moved his mount all the way to the lead.
Animal Kingdom is a closer who likes to run down his targets. Here he was put on the lead, which could have thrown him off his game. In hindsight, I think the move would have been more effective if Rosario had moved Animal Kingdom to third, just off of Point of Entry. That would have given him better position, without taking him completely out of his element.
Despite the early move, Animal Kingdom still sprinted home, showing a turn of foot that would have easily won most races. His final three furlongs, he flew home in approximately 33.86 seconds. That is almost unheard of, especially when you look at the internal fraction of the race, after he made his middle move.
Point of Entry, who stayed in his customary stalking position, had the perfect set up, and Johnny Velazquez took advantage of it fully. He got his distance loving mount revved up, and with clear sailing coming into the stretch, he drew his mount to Animal Kingdom’s side and turn him lose. Point of Entry looked Animal Kingdom in the eye and found another gear, coming home his final three furlongs in 33.76.
In conclusion, Animal Kingdom ran an extraordinary race. While both he and Point of Entry were coming off a 14 week layoff, remember, this was only Animal Kingdom’s second start in nearly 12 months. He was taken out of his typical running style, and still fired his best shot. It was only rotten luck that Point of Entry fired his best as well, and in this case it happened to be just a little bit better.
What we can take from this is that we saw two great horses go to post yesterday. Both fired their best shots, and the unexpected horse won. That does not mean Animal Kingdom is off form. It doesn’t mean he isn’t the same horse. It simply means he got beat. He got beat by a horse who is his equal. He loses nothing in defeat.


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Older Comments about In All Fairness...

Your correct, and as usual I liked your article Laura ;-)
Linkin, I did mention the layoff, and possibility of not being as sharp as POE. POE, also impressed me too, Mike. I thought at 9f he wouldn't be close to AK. Looks like it wasn't just the distance that helped last year. It might be possible he just simply turned the corner.
Another way to look at it and not to add an excuse but to be fair to the horse, AK is coming off a layoff from a long layoff pre BC and may not be in top form. Most horses would have been retired long ago to stud but gotta give credits to the connections for entering him into tier 1 races and best wishes to his trip to Dubai.
After watching the race my impression was not that Animal Kingdom ran a bad race but that Point of Entry was a lot better than I thought. He was sort of the forgotten horse after the Breeders Cup, but as you said he was just a length away from maybe being Horse of the Year. I think he will have a great year, and hope to see him back for the Breeders Cup.
Nice article..I think this race was a minor jockey error and it could have gone either way but Joel just got outsmart by Johnny V. I'm sure he learn and will correct that mistake, it is his first time on AK.
He ran sub 148 and is using this as a prep.. He will win atleast 1 big race this year... Plus POE is frickin unreal
While I still do not agree with the move by Rosario, I really like and agree with all other points you made. Great article.
Agreed! Hope both win their separate races in Dubai.

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