By Robert D. Fierro
Because it’s a synthetic track, one cannot exactly say that the “dust” has settled from the exuberant show that the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company put on at the first 2-year-old sale of the season earlier this month. But if observers and stat mavens thought there was a bit of a “bounce” in the surface, they’ve got another think coming.
Although the breeze times were almost uniformly off the charts, the graphs below show they were not so different than those posted last year for an eighth of a mile. However, there was a major disparity in the quarter mile times below 21.2 seconds, which ironically turned out to be the median time (we call it Par) for the distance in both years.
Indeed, the more we looked at it, the more we realized that the “major disparity” may have been due to the substantial numbers that breezed that were sired by members of the Freshmen crop of 2019–and that raised more than a bit of an curiosity. So, we went on a hunt.
By the time we’d chased all the stats down, we had enough data to suggest that the Freshman crop had more than a little impact on the two of the many factors that we associate with a successful breeze: time and stride length. Even though we take more factors into account in our BreezeFigs algorithm (such as angulation, efficiency, power follow-through), work time and how it matches stride time is a factor.While speed is very important, we have discovered over the years that stride length can give more of a clue to future success. For example, we compile all the 2-year-old race records for all the horses that breezed (not just sold) at each of the major sales every year and the results are always in the same ballpark as they were for the recently concluded compilation for the 2018 sales–i.e. more than 90% of the 34 stakes winners last year that came out of those sales had stride lengths that were longer than average for their sex for distance and day they breezed.
When we saw how this year’s breeze times compared to last year’s, we went deeper into the stats and isolated the “wild card,” which is the freshmen crops, in a way this gives us an idea how the crop might do against the general population when they start meeting older horses. Just as important, we also get a sharper focus on which ones might fare against their peers.
The results of the study showed that 150 foals by 29 stallions in the 2019 crop breezed at OBS March (31% of the breezes) as opposed to 108 foals by 22 sires that breezed last year (23% of the breezes). The overall stride lengths for both sales at a furlong were about the same for the freshmen and the sale as a whole, but the difference in the quarter-mile stride lengths was another story. The 2019 sale as a whole had about 12%-per-foot longer stride lengths at a quarter than last year. The 2019 freshmen, however, had about a 25%-per-foot advantage over the sale as a whole, and a 50%-per-foot superior to the freshmen of 2018–that latter stat is quite significant.
In two of our dispatches last year, we looked at the yearlings by the current freshman crop and came to a conclusion that this could be the most uniformly strong bunch of young stallions to come along in quite some time. While we, like many others, gave a tip of the hat to American Pharoah, Honor Code and Liam’s Map as probably best situated for the long run, there were several others whose offspring caught the eye, and biomechanical favoritism. It was interesting that of the top three, only American Pharoah was represented by enough that breezed (six) to qualify for a closer look.
Our minimum of five that breezed gave us good data on a number of the 29 freshmen which are likely to fill out their cards in April (although it must be said that Liam’s Map, as well as American Pharoah, will be very well represented at this week’s Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale).
Here, then, is an impressionistic round-up, by self-serving category, of what we saw in person, and on spreadsheets, in Ocala.
Run Like an Egyptian: American Pharoah sent out half a dozen and five of them rang more than one bell. They look like they can stalk and pounce and may do it earlier than most expected.
Florida Break-Outs: Never was a horse better named than The Big Beast, whose first crop left tongues wagging about uniform size, fastest furlong (9.3), and stride length consistency. He’s a son of the good-sized Yes It’s True, so Bold Ruler is looking down upon him with a smile. Khozan is an interesting son of Distorted Humor whose offspring moved well and looked well and just may run well.
“B” All You Can Be: Bayern snuck up on a lot of observers at the yearling sales and came through with seven speedy runners here who showed a variety of potential aptitudes that buyers liked.
“C” Here: Five stallions whose names begin with C sent out an almost uniformly diverse bunch–that expression meaning that there were some really nice ones and a few which didn’t quite catch the ring. Carpe Diem and Commissioner showed more overall consistency in speed vs. stride lengths, but Constitution and Competitive Edge had some high moments while Florida-based Chitu looks like he might get the speedy type.
Devil You Say: Probably the surprise of the sale, the five fillies and one colt by Daredevil, a son of More Than Ready, were fast and almost uniform in admirable stride lengths.
Break the Rules: This correspondent has often startled folks with a self-made axiom, “Never breed to a stallion whose name you can’t pronounce.” What, then, do we do about Fast Anna, who is, mind you, a male? Based on the performances of the six of his offspring that breezed at OBS the answer is that the ones in April will be worth looking at.
The Profile Still Holds: Based on our program which projects the potential of a stallion to succeed as a sire when his biomechanics are matched against various books of mares, Palace Malice, Tapiture and Wicked Strong all scored relatively well. Each had a bevy of breezers at OBS and there were some neat ones and some that may miss the mark as racehorses, but overall they projected as stallions who are worth noting for all the upcoming sales.
And that will be a very long season which may shake out projected leaders once the major sales are done in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland and California. Meanwhile, their offspring will be bouncing along.