Ranking the Derbys: A Quantitative Analysis

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Insane Crazy
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Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:03 pm

Secretariat wouldnt be able to defend himself whether he he were alive or not. His hooves would break the keyboard.

In other words...You're reading way too into TB's statement. She literally was talking about what others have said. And even if we were to be accusing anyone or any steroid use (which was a given for 40 years of our sport, so...), no part of this thread was disparaging. Nada. None.

Anyhoo.

Tessa, is there any element of this that goes retroactively to examine preps, etc. to determine success? Or do we still have to wait for the Derby to run this year for us to play with your nerdy table of numbers? ;)
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no, but a race where they sit down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!
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Treve
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Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:23 pm

Ridan_Remembered wrote:
Treve wrote:Nowhere did Tessablue state or even imply that Secretariat was on steroids.
And this is where I disagree...here is the full statement: "This actually lines up pretty well with the steroid ban, which was around ~2009. Incidentally, according to contemporary reporting, Secretariat was considered by some a harbinger of what steroids would bring to the sport. I would need to do some more reading, but I believe steroid use began (or at least was known about) in the 60's or early 70's at the latest."

What other interpretation can there be for this statement other than the implication that Red was on steroids? The statement, "Secretariat was considered by some a harbinger of what steroids would bring to the sport" can have no other interpretation.
It's strange that you are the only one who interpreted her statement that way, then turn around and say there is no other interpretation. And you're twisting words by making assumptions for the speaker, instead of reading what is written out.
Steroid use began in the 60s and 70s. Lo behold, along came Secretariat. People started Nostradamusing about steroid use.
That is the only thing Tessa said. Now what you're doing is you're assuming she's making a connection by saying the people worried about steroid use were right in thinking he was on roids. You are putting words in her mouth and implying something that wasn't said.

Which is why once again, I think you are getting outraged and indignant at the wrong people. Take it with those who considered Secretariat to be a 'harbinger' back in the day. None of whom, are to my knowledge, on this forum.

Yet another interpretation of those declaring him a harbinger, could also be taken to mean not that he was on steroids, but rather, but rather that his achievements and feats would encourage others to roid their horses in an attempt to emulate or surpass what'd had done, which in turn opened the conversation (independently of Secretariat himself) on how steroid use might or might not impact the breeding industry given we had no idea at the time if it would affect fertility.

No disrespect that's already way more than one interpretation.
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Tessablue
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Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:40 pm

Thanks to all for the defense of my statement. My intent was not to impugn any particular horse, but to comment on the fact that we essentially have no starting point for the "pre-steroid" era, if indeed any truly drug-free era ever existed. This makes it very difficult to determine whether the recent dropoff in figures is an aberration or the result of the recent ban. Whether fair or not, Secretariat was believed by some to be a sign that the sport was changing behind the scenes. I make no comment as to whether or not this was true, because I have no idea and I honestly don't care. In fact, I personally have very little interest in speculating which horses received which medications, legal or not. It's just a question that is far too occluded by history and emotion to be worth delving into. But there is little doubt, at least based on what I have read, that the early 70's were a tumultuous time for the sport, as the topic of drug and steroid usage grew more visible in the public consciousness. Remember, Dancer's Image was disqualified in 1968. We think of the 70's as a great era today, but it's a complex sport and horse racing fans are an argumentative bunch even at the best of times, so I don't think it does us much good to forget the nuance of our history.

Anyways, I'm glad people enjoyed or were interested in that article- the SI Vault is a wonderful resource for racing fans. Here is a fun article from Sunday Silence's Derby, which has a pretty delightful description of his stretch run- https://www.si.com/vault/1989/05/15/119 ... y-in-years. Suffice it to say, people weren't exactly blown away by it!
Insane Crazy wrote: Tessa, is there any element of this that goes retroactively to examine preps, etc. to determine success? Or do we still have to wait for the Derby to run this year for us to play with your nerdy table of numbers? ;)
I haven't tried to do anything predictive just yet- I did play around with some field quality measures a couple years back but I ended up concluding that you can never really predict how many quality horses are in the Derby until at least one year later. Finding a predictive measure would be the holy grail though! Currently I'm looking to see whether there are any methods for reliably predicting pace, but it's pretty iffy so far. Kennedy's 20/20 system is definitely the best predictive one you'll see on here!
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Ridan_Remembered
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:28 am

Tessablue wrote:Thanks to all for the defense of my statement. My intent was not to impugn any particular horse!
It's all fine that people rush to your defense. We all need friends and supporters, even in a context such as this. And I'll accept your assertion that you didn't intend to impugn the reputations of Secretariat and his trainer (the two are inextricably intertwined in this context). The intent of this thread would have been better served if the conversation did not take a detour into steroid use and the naming of a particular horse as an example of the issue.

The unfortunate tendency toward a knee-jerk defense dismisses what I contributed to this conversation -- that Lucien Laurin denied that Secretariat ever was administered drugs like steroids. He denied it in that SI article and he denied it many years later to me only a couple of years before his death. This is a first-hand true account whether or not the people here want to believe it. It shouldn't matter what a news article said while using the all-too-typical sly tactic of rank speculation to draw impressionable readers to the conclusion the author wants to assert without being able to do so with facts. It should matter a lot that the Hall of Fame trainer who was closest to the horse during his racing career denied in print and in my first-hand account that steroids were ever used on Secretariat. This is the "elephant in the room" that the rush to your defense misses.
Tessablue
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:04 am

Ridan_Remembered wrote:
Tessablue wrote:Thanks to all for the defense of my statement. My intent was not to impugn any particular horse!
It's all fine that people rush to your defense. We all need friends and supporters, even in a context such as this. And I'll accept your assertion that you didn't intend to impugn the reputations of Secretariat and his trainer (the two are inextricably intertwined in this context). The intent of this thread would have been better served if the conversation did not take a detour into steroid use and the naming of a particular horse as an example of the issue.

The unfortunate tendency toward a knee-jerk defense dismisses what I contributed to this conversation -- that Lucien Laurin denied that Secretariat ever was administered drugs like steroids. He denied it in that SI article and he denied it many years later to me only a couple of years before his death. This is a first-hand true account whether or not the people here want to believe it. It shouldn't matter what a news article said while using the all-too-typical sly tactic of rank speculation to draw impressionable readers to the conclusion the author wants to assert without being able to do so with facts. It should matter a lot that the Hall of Fame trainer who was closest to the horse during his racing career denied in print and in my first-hand account that steroids were ever used on Secretariat. This is the "elephant in the room" that the rush to your defense misses.
I've spent three years working on this. I was excited to share the results and encourage discussion on the topic, and my original statement was an attempt to discuss the findings and place the subsequent hypotheses in a historical context. I generally look forward to all topics of discussion, but I do NOT appreciate you coming in here and berating me, berating the other people in the thread, while telling me how to "better serve" my purpose. You're on the warpath because you took offense where none was meant, you apparently can't let go, and I'm just not interested in continuously defending myself from someone who can't separate emotion from fact-based discussion. You're attacking targets that were never there in the first place.

So in summary, YOU have derailed this conversation, not me. I've explained my case and I'm not interested in continuing further down this dead end. I'm done engaging with you, but I hope that others are not discouraged from posting in here because of it.
peeptoad
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:25 am

You did a good, objective, un-biased job, Tessa.
The entire world on a global scale is tilting toward defensive, emotional, amygdala-dominant behavior both on and off the internet. It's a sad direction that humanity has carved a path towards over the last few decades, and this thread is turning into a small reflection of that. Us and them I guess. Some people just can't function without having opposition of some sort, even if it's fabricated (my current job is rife with these types, actually).
Somnambulist
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:11 am

peeptoad wrote:You did a good, objective, un-biased job, Tessa.
The entire world on a global scale is tilting toward defensive, emotional, amygdala-dominant behavior both on and off the internet. It's a sad direction that humanity has carved a path towards over the last few decades, and this thread is turning into a small reflection of that. Us and them I guess. Some people just can't function without having opposition of some sort, even if it's fabricated (my current job is rife with these types, actually).
I like the amadygdala driven description. It's so accurate.
Social media has made beasts out of people.

Regardless the SI articles are so fun. Primary documents are my favorite reading.
"Life's no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe's my own to fool with."
peeptoad
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:34 am

I agree on social media. It's the main reason I am only on 3 message boards and linked in. And linked in is only because of work. The Internet has morphed into a soapbox for many people and it's starting to bleed over into reality.
The best thing is to limit it and just try to keep perspective. At least for me; can't speak for others.
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Ridan_Remembered
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:01 am

"Disclaimer: this is meant to encourage discussion, not anger!"

Not out of anger, but out of dismay.

And discussion should include all points of view, not just those who are complimentary and in total agreement. Otherwise it isn't a discussion at all.
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Insane Crazy
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:15 am

Ridan_Remembered wrote:
Tessablue wrote:Thanks to all for the defense of my statement. My intent was not to impugn any particular horse!
It's all fine that people rush to your defense. We all need friends and supporters, even in a context such as this. And I'll accept your assertion that you didn't intend to impugn the reputations of Secretariat and his trainer (the two are inextricably intertwined in this context). The intent of this thread would have been better served if the conversation did not take a detour into steroid use and the naming of a particular horse as an example of the issue.

The unfortunate tendency toward a knee-jerk defense dismisses what I contributed to this conversation -- that Lucien Laurin denied that Secretariat ever was administered drugs like steroids. He denied it in that SI article and he denied it many years later to me only a couple of years before his death. This is a first-hand true account whether or not the people here want to believe it. It shouldn't matter what a news article said while using the all-too-typical sly tactic of rank speculation to draw impressionable readers to the conclusion the author wants to assert without being able to do so with facts. It should matter a lot that the Hall of Fame trainer who was closest to the horse during his racing career denied in print and in my first-hand account that steroids were ever used on Secretariat. This is the "elephant in the room" that the rush to your defense misses.
All you have done here is attempt to dictate the purpose and intention of a thread that has NOTHING to do with the things you're taking issue with. Tessa has tried REPEATEDLY to explain why she said what she said in terms of how it impacts the numbers -- steroid use DID likely begin in the early 70s, and whether or not Sec had anything to do with it, he is the name people looked to when considering (a) a horse who COULD be on one, or (b) a horse who would drive OTHERS to try to get an edge/be more like Big Red. Neither of those things are defamation of Sec, Laurin, or anyone in between

Furthermore: you're essentially saying your alleged story (not that I don't believe it's true, but I only have your word for it) and hurt feelings over the most oblique, non-personal offense possible is more important and worthy of our time than Tessablue's three years of very tedious and very neat work with numbers, stats, and research. More important than her contributing something very useful and interesting to a board full of people who like this stuff! Who cares about the "elephant in the room" as you continue to clutch your pearls over who or who did not say something completely unspecified about a horse? You're letting your tender and frankly unrelated emotions over a single sentence relating to an off-site article derail a good poster's very hard work. You're being ludicrously rude directly to someone who never said anything to you in the first place.

Seriously, dude. Let. It. Go.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no, but a race where they sit down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!
Admin
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:15 am

I read the harbinger part the same way as Ridan and don't see why it's a problem for her to respond to it. I disagree with her that a trainer telling her that he didn't run on steroids is proof that he didn't. Maybe he did race without them, but if he did, that's something a trainer will take to his grave. The only person I've seen who was crazy enough to admit to an illegal or controversial drug usage was Doc Harthill about Northern Dancer, but he wasn't the trainer or owner so had no reputation he had to protect from taint. If anything, it was the opposite with him, wanting the credit for his part in the horse winning the Derby.

All this brings me to a point regarding the drop off you're discussing. Trainers who have been in the sport for decades will tell you that for all the talk about drugs in today's racing, that the sport has never been cleaner than it is today. Basically, they assume that all the past greats were running on something, from the famed arsenic tonics to cocaine to steroids and everything else and inbetween. Today, you will get busted for all those things. There may still be people pushing the envelope with new drugs, but overall it's far cleaner today than decades ago.
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Insane Crazy
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:25 am

Admin wrote:I read the harbinger part the same way as Ridan and don't see why it's a problem for her to respond to it.
There was nothing wrong at all with responding to it. It's the continued arguing after Tessa presented her side and continual underminding of the thread's purpose that started to be ridiculous.

I'm always trying to explain to non-racing fans about the drugs thing, so it's nice to hear your take on it -- I might snag some of your wording! Outlining something like lasix and bute and their various policies, vs. snake venom and steroids, seems to be something that is hard to convey appropriately. And I think it's right to note that at some point we have to acknowledge that previous generations of horses raced on "stuff" and it is going to have some impact on numbers and historical perspective.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no, but a race where they sit down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!
stark
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:29 am

Tessablue wrote:I've spent three years working on this.

I may have missed it in the beginning, what the objective was and what you hope to have when its a finished project?
thanks
I've found it easier to tear up tickets at 8/1 instead of 8/5.
stark
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:31 am

Admin wrote: All this brings me to a point regarding the drop off you're discussing. Trainers who have been in the sport for decades will tell you that for all the talk about drugs in today's racing, that the sport has never been cleaner than it is today. Basically, they assume that all the past greats were running on something, from the famed arsenic tonics to cocaine to steroids and everything else and inbetween. Today, you will get busted for all those things. There may still be people pushing the envelope with new drugs, but overall it's far cleaner today than decades ago.
BINGO!
I've found it easier to tear up tickets at 8/1 instead of 8/5.
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Treve
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:08 am

Insane Crazy wrote:
Admin wrote:I read the harbinger part the same way as Ridan and don't see why it's a problem for her to respond to it.
There was nothing wrong at all with responding to it. It's the continued arguing after Tessa presented her side and continual underminding of the thread's purpose that started to be ridiculous.

I'm always trying to explain to non-racing fans about the drugs thing, so it's nice to hear your take on it -- I might snag some of your wording! Outlining something like lasix and bute and their various policies, vs. snake venom and steroids, seems to be something that is hard to convey appropriately. And I think it's right to note that at some point we have to acknowledge that previous generations of horses raced on "stuff" and it is going to have some impact on numbers and historical perspective.
All of this.
Besides, if everyone else was doing it, all it did was level the playing field. It becomes less about pointing the finger at specific horses or connections and more how the overall numbers of a given era compare to another.
A filly named Ruffian...

Eine Stute namens Danedream...

Une pouliche se nommant Trêve...

Kincsem nevű kanca...


And a Queen named Beholder
Admin
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:27 am

i don't think we could call it a level playing field though. Those who are first to use a substance, like Northern Dancer in the Derby, are going to have a benefit the others don't have if the drug in question truly has a performance enhancing properties. The same is true of the early steroid users, but even after it became commonplace, we know of at least 2 other cases where it was proven that not all used steroids. That's the case of Larry Jones who'd said that Hard Spun and none of his horses raced on steroids, and then that was proven in Eight Belles' necropsy. As an aside, he believed they weren't beneficial. He believed with his feeding program, he could get them to eat up, so he didn't want anything which made them aggressive and difficult to manage. And he'll point out that his horses can go directly from training to the shed and catch the first time.

I know of trainers who were milkshaking, others who were shockwaving the morning of a horse's race, etc. these and others weren't or aren't cases where "everyone does it" making for a level playing field. The playing field has been and remains unlevel, but maybe it's harder to be the first to use a drug these days that also doesn't make horses keel over dead or cause rare liver diseases.
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Treve
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:53 am

Admin wrote:i don't think we could call it a level playing field though. Those who are first to use a substance, like Northern Dancer in the Derby, are going to have a benefit the others don't have if the drug in question truly has a performance enhancing properties. The same is true of the early steroid users, but even after it became commonplace, we know of at least 2 other cases where it was proven that not all used steroids. That's the case of Larry Jones who'd said that Hard Spun and none of his horses raced on steroids, and then that was proven in Eight Belles' necropsy. As an aside, he believed they weren't beneficial. He believed with his feeding program, he could get them to eat up, so he didn't want anything which made them aggressive and difficult to manage. And he'll point out that his horses can go directly from training to the shed and catch the first time.

I know of trainers who were milkshaking, others who were shockwaving the morning of a horse's race, etc. these and others weren't or aren't cases where "everyone does it" making for a level playing field. The playing field has been and remains unlevel, but maybe it's harder to be the first to use a drug these days that also doesn't make horses keel over dead or cause rare liver diseases.
I meant it in the context of averages. Not everyone uses Lasix today but on average, most people do. Not everyone uses bute, but on average most people do. Like a bell curve of sorts.
Since the original comment that segued into this discussion was about the differences in Derby Rankings from one decade to the next - it's the overall/averages, not a statement that every single horse in X decade was running on Y type of drug, I probably should have worded that better.
A filly named Ruffian...

Eine Stute namens Danedream...

Une pouliche se nommant Trêve...

Kincsem nevű kanca...


And a Queen named Beholder
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bare it all
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:48 pm

tb - this is amazing work. Thank you so much for the time and thought you obviously spent putting into this. I wish I could produce something half as interesting!

Thoughts from reviewing the lineup...

Way to go, Big Brown!
Wait, Monarchos is way up here.. and War Emblem? (rewatch races) Ok those were pretty awesome performances
Barbaro was a beast
Wow, was Alysheba's Derby worse than Giacomo's??
Sunday Silence last??
I can't believe Nyquist made the top 20.
I'm surprised to see the Bid so far down at 8.
Mine That Bird was on par with Affirmed? (rewatches both...) meh. Ok.
Tessablue
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:28 pm

Admin wrote: All this brings me to a point regarding the drop off you're discussing. Trainers who have been in the sport for decades will tell you that for all the talk about drugs in today's racing, that the sport has never been cleaner than it is today. Basically, they assume that all the past greats were running on something, from the famed arsenic tonics to cocaine to steroids and everything else and inbetween. Today, you will get busted for all those things. There may still be people pushing the envelope with new drugs, but overall it's far cleaner today than decades ago.
This is fascinating to hear, although it sort of confirms what I've suspected. There's an arms race between drug detection and development in most sports, I'd imagine, but I know that in my world (life sciences), technology pretty well outpaces pharmacy at this point. Combined with the ease of communication across fans and racing jurisdictions (how many people would have learned about Baffert's dead horses just a few decades ago?) and the steady increase of public pressure, it does seem like you'd produce an environment that is relatively hostile towards the development and use of new drugs. That tumultuous, hidden history is another reason why I just ignore the question when I'm evaluating historical horses.

One other, (slightly) less controversial factor I'm considering is actually the points system. The sample is very small so far, but four Derbys have been run under this system and three of the four were slower than average. An unfortunate characteristic of speed figures is the fact that they are pace-dependent: a fast pace is more likely to result in a high number than a slow one. The 2013 pace was very fast but the race was contested over a sticky tiring track. 2014 and 2015 were rather slow, especially relative to the pace meltdowns of the early 00's, likely in part because of the exclusion of precocious juveniles and no-hope sprinters. It's still far too early to judge and last year's race was more in line with those of years previous, but I'm looking forward to seeing whether this trend holds up in the oncoming years.
Somnambulist wrote: I like the amadygdala driven description. It's so accurate.
Social media has made beasts out of people.

Regardless the SI articles are so fun. Primary documents are my favorite reading.
Amygdala-driven is a wonderful phrase that I am totally using from now on. And racing primary documents are the best. The sport could be renamed Competitive Complaining and nothing would change. I love it. Wish I could find a digitized version of a Bloodhorse article from around 1955 in which the writer complains about how the starting gate ruined the beauty of the sport. In the meantime, here's a terribly-transcribed article describing how Bid was booed during his walkover. It reads like something straight off of a message board! https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/110320620/

"They're not booing him," answered a regular. "They're booing his connections. Teresa Meyerhoff, one of Bid's owners, said, "I was disappointed in the crowd's reaction. It's not the horse's fault nobody ran against him."
bare it all wrote:tb - this is amazing work. Thank you so much for the time and thought you obviously spent putting into this. I wish I could produce something half as interesting!

Thoughts from reviewing the lineup...

Way to go, Big Brown!
Wait, Monarchos is way up here.. and War Emblem? (rewatch races) Ok those were pretty awesome performances
Barbaro was a beast
Wow, was Alysheba's Derby worse than Giacomo's??
Sunday Silence last??
I can't believe Nyquist made the top 20.
I'm surprised to see the Bid so far down at 8.
Mine That Bird was on par with Affirmed? (rewatches both...) meh. Ok.
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I too was surprised by Alysheba's figure, but he was still immature at the time and he did have that nasty stumble in deep stretch. That race also had a high degree of field compression at the finish, about equal with Giacomo's (a sign that it wasn't just due to a slow track). However, I personally wouldn't go that far- it's a pretty ungenerous method of evaluating his race, because I don't have a rough trip correction! Sunday Silence's race was one of those too-slow-to-be-true performances, probably a combination of the track surface and his drunken wanderings in the stretch. I do enjoy jumping back in time to imagine how disappointed people were by that anticlimactic showdown. I'm sure we all would have been... then the Preakness happened.

Mine that Bird remains an enigma. He's one of the biggest "disagreements" on that list, but I oddly feel a lot better about his figure than, say, Animal Kingdom (who benefited from a completely aberrant pace setup and probably should have a lower figure). Whether from the track conditions or the high altitude training (as peep mentioned), or likely as a result of both, he absolutely freaked that day. His final quarter was astonishingly fast (the only horse since Secretariat to break that sub-24 threshold, as measured by the traditional 5 lengths = 1 second method), and his time was extraordinary for a wet-track Derby. I don't know how to compare that effort to Affirmed's defeat of a far better field of horses, but uncovering these bizarre (and sometimes blasphemous) points of comparison was one of the most enjoyable parts of this process.

Another one I was surprised by is Fusaichi Pegasus. Re-watching that race and remembering how I felt at the time, it's kind of amazing that he dropped out racing consciousness so quickly. He was really, really good for those first few months of 2000.
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Treve
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:31 pm

I laughed at "competitive complaining" :lol: reminds me of the people grumbling in football/soccer about goal line technology being introduced a few years back.

About Mine That Bird, it definitely was a perfect storm but I re-watched his Derby yesterday and it's still astonishing. Not the fact he was a 50-1 long shot winning, but how he did it. It still feels like it shouldn't have been possible. Especially after taking all that mud to the face and likely inhaling a fair bit.
Even rewatching his Preakness I'm impressed.

I don't know what the poor horse did to deserve D Wayne Lukas after his Belmont, at worst he couldn't make up for rider error.
A filly named Ruffian...

Eine Stute namens Danedream...

Une pouliche se nommant Trêve...

Kincsem nevű kanca...


And a Queen named Beholder
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