Friday, May 30, 2014

Franco Varola: Some Observations of Federico Tesio And His Famous Horses

© 2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
          Anyone who’s followed my blog for any length of time knows that my study of the late Federico Tesio, a world-renowned owner, breeder and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses, and Franco Varola, a contemporary of Tesio and an equally-renowned writer, author and developer of the Dosage theory, has had a tremendous impact on how I determine if a young horse has star potential. I’ve written numerous blogs about Signors Varola and Tesio. Both were geniuses in the respective fields.
During his lifetime, Tesio bred an incredible 22 Italiano Derby winners. Varola’s Dosage system, not the one commonly used today, consisted of five “aptitudinal” groups, and Varola was most interested in the behavioral traits and characteristics that each sire transmitted to his offspring.
Varola, also, wrote several articles, during his lifetime, about Tesio and his book, The Tesio Myth, published in 1984 by J. A. Allen & Company Limited, is an excellent read for the student of pedigrees and breeding methods.
Recently, I had the pleasure to read a Varola article about Tesio which was published in the November, 1958, edition of The British Racehorse. The title: Some Famous Tesio Horses, Notes on his opinions and system of breeding is an excellent article and I thought I’d pass along some excerpts about two of Tesio’s best horses – Cavalier D’Arpino and Ribot. The Cavalier was the great grandsire of Ribot:

During sixty-two years as master of Dormello and breeder/owner/trainer, the late Federico Tesio probably handled more good horses than any other professional in the history of the turf. A Dormello crop seldom, if ever, exceeded twenty foals, and of these only a minority remained for a long time in Tesio’s hands, either as racehorses or as stallions and broodmares. The number of those who have left a mark on Italian and world breeding at large, is, nonetheless so high as to justify an examination of the best among them, and even of some who have remained less known in Italy and abroad. …

In Tesio’s own opinion, the best horse he ever bred was Cavalier D’Arpino. …

The Cavalier’s dam, Chuette, was quite a good mare whom Tesio had bought in England, and she was by Cicero out of Chute by Carbine. Her success at stud in Italy had been out of all proportion to her purchase price. …

The Cavalier was not a good-looking horse, and he had not got the best of limbs. As a matter of fact, he was a bit course, somewhat barrel-chested, and, all considered, far from representing a model equine build. As a two year old, he could not be trained successfully, and as a three year old he was only seen once in public, when cantering away with a minor race over the straight course at San Siro. …

It was the frequent practice of Federico Tesio not to hurry with backward colts, and concentrate exclusively on those who could be depended upon for the classic races; a wise practice when the five classics, in Italy as well as in other countries, were still the most valuable races that could be won, having not yet lost much of their prestige to the weight for age races. …

It was only as a four year old that the Cavalier gave a full measure of his racing potential. …
There was in the Cavalier a supreme detachment from the horses and things around him, which made him a unique horse and justified Tesio’s opinion of him. His physical possibilities were tremendous, and there was never another horse who could get near him, for his stride was overwhelming, and his behavior was more of a machine than an animal. In a sense, he was not even brilliant, for his style of running suggested nothing but coldness and composure. Under the circumstances, all his jockey had to do was just sit in the saddle, for there could be no question of having to warm him up, or to submit him to any particular tactics. …

After this redoubtable trial, the Cavalier was trained on with a view to follow the path of [the Italian-bred] Ortello and capture the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and it is quite possible that, had he stood further training, he might have anticipated the feat of Ribot by twenty-five years [Ribot won the 1955 and 1956 Arc]; but, as things went, he turned up lame and had to be retired even before going to Paris. He can be considered much in the same class as his great-grandson Ribot, for both had outstanding physical means and an ideal racing temperament. Ribot, however, is free from the unsoundness which afflicted the Cavalier, and which was transmitted to a number of his descendents.

Cavalier D’Arpino was undefeated in six starts and his great-grandson, Ribot, was undefeated in 16 starts. Unfortunately, Tesio died in 1954 and he never got to see Ribot race.
Indeed, the above magazine excerpts are a small illustration of the depth of knowledge of Franco Varola and Federico Tesio. Both had a keen understanding of Thoroughbreds, their pedigrees, conformation and behavior, which is sorely lacking in most modern-day breeding. Two quotes that aptly illustrate their knowledge of the Thoroughbred come from Varola and Maria Incisa della Rochetta who was Tesio’s business partner for 20 years.
In Typology of the Racehorse (J. A. Allen & Company Limited, 1974), Varola noted:

The differences between the five aptitudinal groups are of essence or character. It matters very little whether a racehorse is 16 hands or 16.2, or whether it is chestnut or brown; but it does matter a lot the way he behaves in actual racing, whether he is consistent or erratic, brilliant or slow, bellicose or resigned, in other words which pattern or mode of being is he expressing...It is of great utility to be able to distinguish between these various aptitudes, this being something that plays an effective part in mating.

In his book, The Tesios, As I Knew Them, published by J. A. Allen & Company Limited, 1979, Rochetta wrote:

We used to play a game at Dormello. Tesio, Donna Lydia [Tesio’s wife], my wife and I would each select our choice from the current crop of yearlings. The names would be put in a sealed envelope to be opened a couple of years later. When this happened, Tesio’s intuition was apparent, although it would have been impossible to define the basis on which he had made his choice, for it was certainly not based on conformation. Eventually I became convinced that Tesio had the knack to see into the horse’s “morale.”

Thank you, Signors Varola, Tesio.

Friday, May 16, 2014

California Chrome Heads Preakness 139 Field; Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile™ Eliminates Over Half Of Kentucky Derby 140 Field From Contention

©2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.

A field of 10 Thoroughbreds has been entered to compete Saturday in the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico racetrack and Kentucky Derby 140 victor, California Chrome, is the prohibitive 3-5 morning-line favorite.

California Chrome, undefeated in his last five starts with a combined win margin of 26 lengths, looms as the horse to beat in the Preakness. He, along with Ride On Curlin (10-1) and General A Rod (15-1), are the only Derby competitors to advance to the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Despite his favoritism, I think California Chrome is vulnerable in this race. In my Kentucky Derby blog, I wrote that California Chrome needed “to be free and clear outside of horses, up near the front or a length off of the leaders” in order to have a chance to win, and, that is exactly how he won the Derby. Here’s the chart call and video:

CALIFORNIA CHROME rated kindly three wide and just off of a contested pace, moved between runners to challenge leaving the five sixteenths marker, poked a head in front with a quarter to go, shook clear when roused, increased his advantage a furlong out, kept on under right handed rousing then held sway.

Despite his Derby win, if California Chrome is not near or on the lead in the Preakness, I think he will have a tough go of it (more about that later). 

Let’s take at the Preakness favorite, California Chrome, and the top four profile horses.

CALIFORNIA CHROME (3-5) – A Chestnut colt by Lucky Pulpit out of Love the Chase by Not For Love was foaled February 18, 2011. He comes into the Preakness Stakes (G1) for the connections of Steven Coburn and Martin Perry with a 7-1-0 record in 11 starts.

If California Chrome runs free and clear near the lead in the Preakness like he did in the Derby, then he will be tough to beat as he has a good burst of closing speed and he’ll be tough to run down in the final strides.

However, as I noted in my Derby blog, it appears that California Chrome has behavioral issues and if he is in between horses or behind in traffic, it’s very hard for him to overcome that and press on to victory. In the three races he lost, it was evident that behavioral issues were a big factor in his loss.

Here’s a look at chart call and video of California Chrome’s 7¼-length loss in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes last June at Betfair Hollywood Park:

CALIFORNIA CHROME went up between horses to duel for the lead, battled three deep between foes on the turn and into the stretch and weakened in the final furlong.

The chart notes that California Chrome, running between horses, weakened at the end of the race but, more likely, he didn’t have the mental aptitude to press through to victory. After that loss, trainer Art Sherman put blinkers on California Chrome but that did not help him overcome the mental barrier he faced when stuck behind horses in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last September. Here’s the video and chart call:

CALIFORNIA CHROME chased between horses on the backstretch and turn, rallied between foes in deep stretch and was in a bit tight off heels late.

California Chrome had a hole, granted a small hole, in the final strides of the Del Mar Futurity but he could not press through the wall of horses to win the race.

Last December, in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes at Santa Anita Park, California Chrome raced free, and clear, of other horses along the rail in the stretch drive but he did not have that “heart” of a champion to press on to victory. Here’s the chart call and video:

CALIFORNIA CHROME hopped at the start and was off slowly, chased inside a rival on the backstretch, came around a tiring foe entering the stretch and lacked the needed rally on the rally through the final furlong.

A good mind, the ability of a horse to focus during the heat of a race is so important. And it appears that California Chrome has focus, behavioral issues when stuck in the middle of a herd of horses. He’s talented and doesn’t need the lead to win. But he has to be free and clear outside of horses, up near the front or a length off of the leaders. If jockey Victor Espinoza can put California Chrome in that spot then he’ll be tough to beat in the Preakness. However, if California Chrome is stuck in the middle of the herd, he could run close to his profile ranking or even worse.

RIDE ON CURLIN (10-1) – A bay colt by Curlin out of Magical Ride by Storm Cat was foaled on February 16, 2011. As a yearling at auction, Ride On Curlin fetched a mere $25,000 from bidders at the Keeneland September 2012 Yearling Sale. Ride On Curlin comes into the Preakness with a 2-2-4 record in 10 starts.

I like Calvin Borel, the jockey who rode Ride On Curlin in the Kentucky Derby. He’s won three Kentucky Derbies and one Preakness Stakes. Borel has the will to win. I think Ride On Curlin also has the will to win and I wish the two were paired for their run in the Preakness. However, I can understand why Borel lost the mount when he disobeyed trainer William Gowan’s pre-derby instructions to not take Ride on Curlin straight to the rail. Here’s the Derby chart call and race replay.

RIDE ON CURLIN dove towards the rail soon after the break, settled well off the pace while remaining inside, steadied off heels when making headway into the lane, altered course nine wide inside three sixteenths pole, wandered outward despite right handed urging inside the sixteenth pole and had a belated gain.

Ride On Curlin only missed finishing in fourth-place by one length and he lost the race by 6¾-lengths which is close to the distance of ground he had to run when he swung nine wide around the entire Derby field for his stretch run. A better run in the Preakness will make him a tough competitor and he has the breeding to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

Ride On Curlin is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he’s bred on a nick with the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd which, since 1990, has been the most successful nick on the Triple Crown Trail producing 12 Classic Champion Thoroughbreds.

Curlin, the sire of Ride On Curlin, did not make his career debut until February of his 3-year-old racing season and was undefeated in three starts, including wins in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2), en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1).

Curlin went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) by a head and he lost the Belmont Stakes (G1) by a head. During his career, Curlin won numerous Eclipse awards, compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts and earned over $10.5 million dollars. At stud, Curlin sired the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.

Smart Strike, the grandsire of Ride On Curlin, has proven to be an outstanding sire of champions and classic champions. He sired the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Curlin and Lookin at Lucky and he’s the damsire of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

In addition, Smart Strike is the sire of numerous Canadian Sovereign Award winners: Soaring Free, Portcullis, Added Edge, Eye of the Sphynx, Gold Strike; and Smart Strike is the sire of the American Eclipse Award winner English Channel.

Storm Cat, the damsire of Ride on Curlin, sired Tabasco Cat, winner of the 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Storm Cat also sired the outstanding European champion Giant’s Causeway, who was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old (all at 7-furlongs) – winning the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes. As a 3-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was 6-4-0 in 10 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs, and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.

A Preakness Stakes victory by Ride on Curlin would be sweet for owner Daniel Dougherty who turned down a $1 million offer for his purchase after his maiden-breaking 7¾-length romp in a sprint race at Ellis Park last July. He covered the 5½-furlongs a track record-setting time of 1:03.00.

A recent bullet work out at Pimlico on May 14 could have Ride On Curlin primed to run a career-best race at a nice price.

RING WEEKEND (20-1) – A chestnut gelding by Tapit out of Free the Magic by Cryptoclearance was foaled on April 27, 2011. He comes into the Preakness Stakes (G1) for owners St. Elias Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds with a 2-2-2 record in seven starts. Ring Weekend had enough points to run in the Derby but trainer Graham Motion took him out of contention when he spiked a fever a week before the race.

Ring Weekend was my long shot pick to win the Tampa Bay Derby and he comes into the Preakness off of a second-place finish in the Calder Derby. Here’s the chart call and video replay:

RING WEEKEND bobbled slightly at the break, pulled and was steadied entering the clubhouse turn, stalked outside, bid three wide on the turn, steadied and briefly took up at the three sixteenths marker, then could not stay with the winner.

Despite the second-place finish, Ring Weekend has never finished worse than second in his four starts as a three year old. Jockey Alan Garcia, who rides Ring Weekend in the Preakness, also noted in a story for the Handicappers Edge that his Calder Derby race was a throw out.

Tapit, the sire of Ring Weekend, was a multiple graded-stakes winner who won the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) en route to a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He did not race in any of the other Triple Crown races.

Pulpit, the grandsire of Ring Weekend, also was a graded stakes winner who was competitive on the 1997 Triple Crown Trail. He won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), finished second in the Florida Derby (G1) and won the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) en route to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Cryptoclearance, the damsire of Ring Weekend, was a multiple graded-stakes winner who finished fourth in the 1987 Kentucky Derby (G1), third in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

A recent bullet work out on May 10 could have Ring Weekend ready to run a good race and I look for him to be competitive in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Of the top four horses, Ring Weekend with 20-1 odds is the best long shot pick.

BAYERN (10-1) – A dark bay colt by Offlee Wild out of Alittlebitearly by Classic Champion Thoroughbred Thunder Gulch was foaled on May 3 2011. Bayern, with a 2-1-1 record, has never been out of the money in his four previous starts for owner Kaleem Shah, Inc. Bayern finished first in the Derby Trial, narrowly defeating Embellishing Bob by a nose, but was disqualified from first to second. Here’s the chart call and video replay:

BAYERN was away in good order, disputed the pace off of the inside, brushed with EMBELLISHING BOB repeatedly through the drive, drifted out under left handed urging and was all out to prevail by the narrowest margin.

Bayern never raced as a two year old and, since his debut in January, he’s shown steadily improving form with each race. Bayern’s stretch out to finish third in the 9-furlong Arkansas Derby (G1) was a good test for the young colt and he followed that with another nice performance in the Derby Trail Stakes (G3). And Bayern has the breeding to be competitive in classic competition.

Offlee Wild, the sire of Bayern, was a multiple graded-stakes winner who never won a classic race but he was more than capable of stretching out to the 10-furlong classic distance when won the 2005 Suburban Handicap (G1). Wild Again, the grandsire of Bayern, sired Sarava, the 2002 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner and Born Wild, winner of the 1995 Austrian Derby.

Thunder Gulch, the damsire of Bayern, was a Classic Champion Thoroughbred who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). Alydar, the sire of the second dam, would have been a Classic Champion Thoroughbred if Affirmed had not been his rival on the 1978 Triple Crown Trail.

I look for Bayern to run a career-best in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

KID CRUZ (20-1) – A bay colt by Lemon Drop Kid out of Layreebelle by Tale of the Cat was foaled on March 30, 2011. Since his seventh-place finish in his maiden debut last November, Kid Cruz has never finished worse than second in five starts for owners Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black S. He comes into the Preakness with a 3-1-0 record including a 4-length win in the Private Terms Stakes and a 3½-length win in the Federico Tesio Stakes. Here’s the chart call and video replay of the Tesio Stakes:

KID CRUZ settled three to four wide off of a slow but contested pace, edged closer after a half mile, came under some urging leaving three eighths pole, rallied under right handed pressure to take command in mid-stretch, had his rider switch to left stick soon after, was roused once then quickly widened to prove clearly best.

The only concern I have with Kid Cruz is his slow finish times in his last two stakes races. If he can step up in this group of horses, then he could be competitive. He definitely has the breeding to be competitive in classic competition.

Lemon Drop Kid, the sire of Kid Cruz, was a multiple graded stakes winner and Classic Champion Thoroughbred who won the 1999 Belmont Stakes and was the 2000 Eclipse Award Champion Older Horse.

Tale of the Cat, the damsire of Kid Cruz, never raced in classic competition but Storm Cat, the second damsire, was the sire of Tabasco Cat who won the 1994 Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1).

Other classic influences in the pedigree of Kid Cruz include Kingmambo, Miesque and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

Kid Cruz will have to improve his game in the Preakness, but he has the breeding to be competitive and I look for him be closing at the end of the race.


Kentucky Derby 140 Wrap Up

Although Kentucky Derby 140 was not as profitable as I hoped it would be, I’m encouraged that for the second year in a row, my Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile™ has been an effective handicapping tool, eliminating over half of the Derby field from contention.

The Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile is a tool I use to measure classic potential in young Thoroughbreds. The higher the profile score, the more potential of that horse to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

The profile does not take into account other factors that could determine the outcome of a race such as the horse’s will to win or the trip the horse gets during the race. Another thing to keep in mind is that horses, for many different reasons, sometimes fail to live up to their potential.

And if three of the six horses I wrote about in my Derby blog had a little bit of racing luck, they, all, would have finished in the top six spots. Nevertheless, I used California Chrome in a few Derby wagers and hit the exacta with him and Commanding Curve, who was a whopping 37.80-1 long shot. Wicked Strong and Medal Count were interfered with by Danza who knocked me out of the trifecta and superfecta. A big disappointment was Ride On Curlin who only lost by 6¾-lengths and if he’d had a better ride he would have been up there for second, third or, maybe, even the win.

As you can see from the chart below, my whopping long shot, Commanding Curve, was the best call of them all. He was ranked third and finished second. Wicked Strong was ranked 4th and he finished in that spot. Ride On Curlin was ranked 2nd and finished 7th. Medal Count was ranked 5th and finished 8th.

Some horses who took a lot of money from handicappers were complete throw outs: Intense Holiday was ranked 13th and he finished 12th, Candy Boy was ranked 19th and he finished 13th.

Other horses that had no chance in the Derby ran close to their ranking: General A Rod was ranked 10th and finishd 11th.  Uncle Sigh was ranked 16th and finished 14th. Vinceremos was ranked 18th and finished 17th. Wildcat Red was ranked 15th and finished 18th. Vicar’s In Trouble ran worst of all. He was ranked 13th and he finished dead last. Let’s take a look at the final Derby outcome.

Original Rank, Horse, Odds, Profile Score – Derby Finish

10. California Chrome (2.50)       303.76 – 1

3. Commanding Curve (37.80)    326.26 – 2

9. Danza (8.70)                              304.38 – 3

4. Wicked Strong (6.50)              320.00 – 4

17. Samraat          (16.70)             295.63 – 5

12. Dance With Fate (16.00)       303.13 – 6

2. Ride on Curlin (17.30)              331.26 – 7

5. Medal Count (26.20)                318.75 – 8

7. Chitu (25.50)                             311.25 – 9

1. We Miss Artie (27.60)             332.13 – 10

 10. General A Rod (30.70)         303.76 – 11

13. Intense Holiday (14.10)        302.51 – 12

19. Candy Boy (9.40)                   283.13 – 13

16. Uncle Sigh (30.80)                299.38 – 14

6. Tapiture (35.20)                      311.26 – 15

8. Harry’s Holiday (44.30)         308.76 – 16

18. Vinceremos (49.70)              283.76 – 17

15. Wildcat Red (18.60)             300.01 – 18

13. Vicar’s In Trouble (20.40)  302.51 – 19