Last week I made American Pharoah one of the Kentucky Derby favorites even though he had yet to run in the Arkansas Derby. Yes, my fear in this business is assuming anything.
Well, my assumptions were correct and American Pharoah dusted a very mediocre field. Regardless of the competition, American Pharoah couldn’t have looked much better.
After the turn for home he extended his lead with almost every stride before being under the wire with a comfortable win in hand.
With his win, the Eclipse Award winning 2-year-old champion of 2014 should get to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May as the post time favorite.
The Derby field, which I thought would be somewhat weak, is turning out to be a strong one. We are looking at some of the top owners and trainers in the business having legitimate candidates.
Right now we have about as much anticipation for a Kentucky Derby that I can remember with three weeks to go before the race.
That’s great. That’s also not so great.
I’m sure everyone gets tired of hearing how “things were better in the old days…” Blah, blah, blah. I’m sorry, but in the world of horse racing, it’s true.
Most final Derby preps are now run a month before the race. The Arkansas Derby was three weeks out from the first Saturday in May, and that is clearly the final major prep race.
Was it all that long ago most final prep races, like the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby and Wood Memorial were all run two weeks prior to the main event? The Blue Grass Stakes was a week before the Derby to give horses a final shot to get ready. You won’t see that again.
What has happened to the American thoroughbred that they are now so fragile they need a whole month to recover from one race to be at peak form for the next?
It’s no accident the Preakness is scheduled for two weeks after the Derby and the “long” break of three weeks is traditional for the Belmont. That was all most horses needed as a rest period.
I’m not a breeding expert or a scientist, but I do know how to read what some in the know have to say.
The allowed medication, particularly on race day, has hurt the American breed.
It’s not going unnoticed by international thoroughbred owners, either.
An article in the April 10 Blood Horse explains extensively how the medical practices in this country differ from those around the rest of the racing world.
According to that same article, since 2007 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more have risen 12% in Britain and Ireland, but are down 22% in America.
American horses are not nearly as durable as they once were.
In 1960, American thoroughbreds averaged 12 starts a year, but only 6.2 in 2013, according to an article by Ron Mitchell in The Horse, dated July 9, 2014.
Horses run less often over the course of a year and over the course of their careers. Less starts means less prize money. Even as a non-expert I can figure that out.
The results are less betting options per race for handicappers, which spirals the effect of less prize money for those who do run.
I don’t know if it has to begin with breeders or trainers or a national racing board or what. But it has to start somewhere or the breed will just continue passing on the genes of less durable horses that have their performances based on the right medication rather than talent.
The numbers, all kinds in the thoroughbred industry, speak for themselves.
Things were better in the old days.
Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. Check out his new website at www.againstthenumber.com and www.sharpssports.com.&n bsp;You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Contact Chris at [email protected].