Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

23 December 2010

2010 Year In Review: King of the tough beats

Zito has had more tough beats in big events this year than anyone else I can think of in the last ten years. In almost all of the marquee three-year-old events he had horses garner place or show in excruciating fashion. His year started out well enough; once again he had a shed row loaded with newly minted Derby prospects, including a privately purchased Jackson Bend. Jackson Bend was one of the hot Derby prospects up until February when he had his doors blown off by Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth. Ice Box took over Jackson’s spot as the top Zito prospect with a fast closing victory in the Florida Derby in March.

The Kentucky Derby is not a race known for an abundance of great trips. Ice Box finished second, yet was considered by many to have run the best race that day due to the fact he had to mount two bids with 3/8 of a mile left to run after getting shut off the first time. The usually consistent Jackson Bend threw in a clunker in the Derby finishing well off the board with the only viable excuse being the sloppy surface. A week later at Belmont it looked like Zito was loaded for the Belmont Stakes when Fly Down blew away the opposition in the Dwyer that included Drosselmeyer, a highly touted Mott trainee.

Back in 1996 Zito had Louis Quatorze turn a poor Derby run into a Preakness victory, no such luck this year. Jackson Bend back after his non effort in the Derby looked like he was going to win during a couple of points in the stretch run just to come up short finishing third. Lookin at Lucky repelled Jackson Bend and First Dude made a comeback to capture second after setting the pace. Jackson Bend has had three starts since this race versus competition of grade three horses or less and has finished fourth, fifth, and sixth in those efforts.

The Belmont looked like Zito was going to get a win in the classics, he had the top two contenders lining up for this race. Ice Box skipped the second leg of the Triple Crown specifically for this race and Fly Down was lights out in his prep for the longest of the three races of the series. Ice Box never looked comfortable finishing eighth and Fly Down finished second less than a length by the same horse he beat in the Dwyer, Drosselmeyer. Mike Smith was on the winner as well adding a little more salt to the wound, Smith rode Jackson Bend in the first two legs of the triple crown.

The last big event for the three-year-olds before the weight for age races in the fall is the Travers. Zito came into this race with three entries, Ice Box, Fly Down, and Miner’s Reserve. Miner’s Reserve avoided the spring classics and ran well in allowance races leading up to the Jim Dandy, a prep for the Travers. Unfortunately for Miner’s Reserve he ran into a horse that also missed the Triple Crown races and was highly touted before missing the big races, A Little Warm. Miner’s Reserve set the pace and could not hold off the charge of A Little Warm. Much like the Jim Dandy in the Travers Miner’s Reserve got out to an early advantage and looked like he had a chance to pull a major upset as they turned into the stretch. He gave way inside the 3/16 pole and was passed by Afleet Express and Fly Down. In one of the tighter photo finishes in the history of the Travers Afleet Express came out the victor, Zito lost another close one. Afleet Express won the Pegasus in June defeating Jackson Bend in an upset.

Things looked like they were going to turn around in the fall when Morning Line won the $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby on September 25 defeating a quality field that included First Dude and A Little Warm. The saying things get better before they get worse clearly did not apply here though. The Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile had some of the fastest fractions one will see for a flat mile and Morning Line was on the pace that went in 22.41, 44.94, and 1:09.44. He dueled Hurricane Ike, Vineyard Haven, and Tizway into defeat and had a clear advantage going into the last eighth of a mile. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained Dakota Phone was the biggest beneficiary of the rapid pace up front and picked off horses from the 3/4 pole to the stretch, moving from tenth up to third, and forcing a photo finish. If you read this far, it is no surprise who won and who lost the photo. Zito had a horse in the Classic though, unfortunately this Classic field had to be one of the toughest fields assembled in the 27-year history of this event. Fly Down, a multiple time tough beat made his march to the lead around the same time Zenyatta was kicking it into high gear, unfortunately he did not have the same acceleration as the champion mare. Fly Down finished third, three and a half lengths behind one of the greater stretch runs ever seen in this sport.

As it was said at the top, Zito has had a treasure trove of mind numbing defeats, I know regulars at Belmont and Aqueduct that don’t have this many tough beat stories as Zito has compiled this year. That being said, Fly Down looks like one of the top 4-year-old prospects along with Morning Line due to all the retirements of the big names in the 3-year-old and the handicap division. It may not take much to be dominant force in the older male division either. As far as silver linings go, that is not a bad one to have.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be without a clue.

Nick Zero has been among the most incompetent horsemen in the game over the last decade.

What other thimble brain in the history of horse racing has ever run 19 consecutive Kentucky Derby starters without so much as landing in the top three?

'Zero is a clown who started 11 consecutive Derby runners without landing any of the 11 in the top three at any call during the race (that tallies 65 calls total). The only way he could pierce the top three at any call was to place 5 overbet nags in the field in 2005.

The only reason 'Zero managed his first Derby trifecta finisher in more than 15 years in 2010 was because the race heavily favored deep closers.

A so-called "bad beat" is when you send forth a legitimate candidate who gets close enough, and runs well enough to merit respect.

Nick Zero is just the king of the unrealistic and his nags run right where they belong.

Learn the difference.

Joseph Burns said...

Clearly you are a big fan of Zito.

He had horses finish second in all of the triple crown races. Ice Box wins the Derby with a better trip as well.

Thank you for your continued support.