One thing that makes horse racing so compelling for handicappers is the difficulty in transposing form consistently from track to track. To those unfamiliar with horse racing this may seem to contradict what it means to fully enjoy watching or wagering on a sporting event. Yet oddly enough this opaqueness is really what keeps true handicappers compelled with the game, and motivated to dig through past performances in search for nuggets of value.
Knowing full well that each track is unique to certain styles of running, a good handicapper may look to exploit that when the same horses consistently run against each other. This is a pattern that occurs often during the prep season for the Kentucky Derby.
Because of its highly scrutinized nature, preps for the Kentucky Derby puts each track under the microscope for ‘how it plays’. ‘How it plays’, meaning, whether there was a track bias, or if the track was fair and every running style had an equal chance of victory that day.
It is no secret that the winter racing resort of Gulfstream Park down in Florida this year was extremely speed favoring on the dirt. The somewhat difficult concept of picking up on track bias was never easier as race after race featured out of the gate speed types, winning race after race, while talented closers were no where to be found.
This theory took a strong uptick in confirmation by the results of last weekends Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The winner, Wicked Strong came back from a pair of tough races down in Florida. Unlike his dad Hard Spun, Wicked Strong has a strong closing kick and likes to sit back off the pace for the early parts of the race. Little did trainer James Jerkens know that when he sent his promising two year old down there after a strong show performance in the Remsen on Thanksgiving day weekend.
So it was fitting that the horse Wicked Strong beat last Saturday Social Inclusion; although a talented horse, but nevertheless one who benefitted from the speed bias at Gulfstream Park.
If anything else, the victory gives credence to betting closers who never got a call down at Gulfstream, and may go off subsequently at nice price because of their darkened up form. The first horse that comes to mind is one that is directly related to Wicked Strong’s races at Gulfstream Park. That horse is Mexikoma, Mexikoma was last seen running in an allowance optional claiming race on Fountain of Youth day February 22nd. Of course the winner of that race; Constitution is also speed favoring front runner, who also happened to win his next race out, the G1 Florida Derby. As Constitution lead for nearly the entire race, behind him were a slew of closers trying to run against the current.
Perhaps the most impressive closing kick was displayed by Mexikoma who looked very comfortable in passing Wicked Strong in relatively easily in deep stretch to get up for third.
Mexikoma is scheduled next out to appear in the Peter Pan, at Belmont Park
If any horse is bred to get the distance in the Belmont Stakes it may be Mexikoma, who is out of the sire Birdstone who’s most infamous moment came in winning the Belmont Stakes when he defeated Smarty Jones.
Birdstone is also credited with siring Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird as well as Derby winner, Mine That Bird .