As most everyone knows by now, Archie Graham finished fourth in Sunday’s 9th race at Emerald Downs. Not bad, but a step down from last month’s thrilling victory in his Emerald racing Club debut.
I’m here, however, to tell you that Archie did just fine Sunday. Allow me to digress. . .
From out 6th floor perch atop the grandstand, Jacob Pollowitz and myself have watched every single race the last seven years at Emerald Downs. For Thoroughbred racing fanatics like ourselves it’s mostly a labor of love, and on crystal clear days like Sunday when Mt. Rainier towered over the track, lucky might be a better adjective to describe my chosen profession.
Jacob and I have many duties at the track, one of which is to post the running numbers during every race at Emerald Downs. That is, once a race begins and the horses begin to spread out around the track, it’s our job to list the top four horses in the race. I watch the race with binoculars and will blurt to Jacob something like “4-9-3-2” which means simply the No. 4 horse is currently in first place, No. 9 is in second, No. 3 is in third, and No. 2 is in fourth. Jacob types the numbers into the computer and within seconds they appear on both the Toteboard and TVs throughout the track. It’s a fluid situation, and sometimes we’ll have as many as seven or eight changes in running order during a given race.
Sunday, however, was something different at Emerald Downs. There was virtually no passing throughout the 10-race card; speed horses utterly dominated:
Race 1: Ace On the River wins from slightly off the pace while early leader Captain Shaddock finishes second.
Race 2: Gymnast Jadie hugs the rail and leads gate-to-wire, winning by 9 1/4 lengths and earning a career-best speed figure.
Race 3: Timberfaller sprints clear and turns aside even-money favorite Always Macho for a 1 1/2-length win and earns a career-best 70 Beyer.
Race 4: Daves Birthday Boy is hustled to a big early lead and holds sway, earning a career-high 61 Beyer.
Race 5: Fooled Again is gunned to the lead by Juan Gutierrez and romps by 3 1/2 lengths, just missing a career-best Beyer.
Race 6: Ducoti scores her 16th career win and earns her biggest figure in nearly two years with a gate-to-wire triumph.
Race 7: In the day’s first route race (one mile or longer) Secret Harbor leads coast-to-coast for a 2 1/4-length victory.
Race 8: Full credit to Barkley, still unbeaten after a neck victory over Mach One Rules in the $50,000 Coca-Cola Stakes for 3-year-old colts or geldings. The fact he was able to make up three lengths on Mach One Rules–a talented horse with a bias in his favor–bodes well for Barkley.
Race 9: Oldtimers Vision is a good 5-year-old gelding. On April 30, he ran the meet’s fastest mile, 1:35.27, and on Sunday he was allowed a dawdling lead–:24.84, :48.98 and 1:12.25 are slow fractions–and thus was able to repel a bid by Private Boss in the stretch for the victory. Oldtimers Vision and Private Boss ran one-two the entire mile while closers like Shared Life and Archie Graham were unable to make up any ground in the stretch.
What is a bias? Put simply, track bias occurs when a racing surface favors a particular running style or position. It can be caused by several factors, sometimes track maintenance, but a possible reason Sunday was the 94-degree heat. Who knows. I even recall in the old days at Longacres some fans insisted the tides would cause a speed bias.
Without doubt, though, Sunday was a virtual conveyor belt, a pronounced speed bias seen only a few times throughout a 70-day season, certainly one of the most pronounced speed-favoring surfaces Jacob and I have witnessed here. Sometimes the track will favor closers and horses that prefer to rally from behind will perform well–Sunday, May 29 is a good example–but for the most part Emerald Downs has a reputation for having a fair racing surface with perhaps a slight nod toward speed horses.
Considering everything, Archie Graham ran just fine Sunday. In fact, his 73 Beyer was up three points from his May 15 race, but the combination of facing tougher horses and a speed favoring track were too much to overcome. A 4-year-old with 20 career races, Archie Graham has a come-from-behind style, and if jockey Leslie Mawing had attempted to hustle Archie into contention early, it would have been futile. Long story short, it just wasn’t our day.
PS–Sharon Ross texted last night and said Archie Graham cooled out fine and should resume jogging later in the week.
I also want to express my gratitude to Sophia for expressing confidence in Jacob and myself to take over ERC duties and wish her well in her new job. I’ve met many people in a quarter-century in the Thoroughbred industry, and without question Sophia is numero uno when it comes to caring for Thoroughbreds before, during and after their racing careers.