Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Reaching For The Moon

I think most people will remember this mixed metaphor:
Reach for the moon and even if you fail you will be among the stars.
I remember when Houllier quoted it as the moment I realised the shine had come off. But maybe there is some sense to it. What if it means that if you overreach you may be burned up - meaning you may fail more spectacularly than if you had never tried to succeed at all.

In the the 2005 French 2000 Guineas Shamardal was considered a lucky winner over David Wachman's Indesatchel. Many experts felt that that Shamardal, despite starting as favourite, had been flattered by his win. It was felt that those who raced up with the pace had an advantage and if Indesatchel had been one of those he could have won. The Racing post offered the following comment:
Even Shamardal´s most ardent supporters would have to spare a thought for Indesatchel, for whom this was a Classic that got away. In a race in which the draw was more than a little important, Jamie Spencer had no option from his wide berth but to bring the always held-up Greenham winner across to the inside rail. This he did, and though the Irish colt enjoyed a smooth passage, he also found himself having to make up acres of ground just toget to Shamardal. Having done so, he did not have quite enough energy left to go past. Much better at three than he was at two, he was the only horse among the first four to come from off the pace and can now be called a genuine Group 1 performer. 
A month later Shamardal followed up with a win in the French Derby in similar fashion over the future Arc-winner Hurricane Run. This led to the moneyball-type thinking that Shamardal would be under priced in the St. James' Palace. Indeed, most pundits were touting Indesatchel in the run up to the race - all he would have to do was prevent Shamardal from getting an easy lead.

It is likely that people saw a horse who had been fortunate to win two races and he was not likely to get lucky a third time. This would have been fair comment if the races had been against the similar horses over a similar distance. There were two things wrong with that analysis:

First is that if Shamardal had truly stolen the French 2000 Guineas then it would suggest that he would be better over shorter distances.Stepping up and winning over the longer distance showed that he would prefer a stronger pace over a mile.

Secondly, and I only noticed this when reviewing the races, by beating France's best 3-year-old milers and France's best 3-year-old middle-distance horse he had significantly reduced his odds of not having faced a very good horse. This form of one of the races was very likely to hold up. In this case it was the Derby and the 2000 Guineas turned out to be a very poor race.

So what happened?

Indesatchel was heavily eased with a furlong to go when he was in fourth place and finished the bare 41 lengths behind.

In probably the cleanest example Sendewar started as favourite over Dubai Millenium and tried to stay with him but ended up a disappointing fourth.

Finally the most spectacular example is Secretariat "moving like a tremendous machine!".

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