What does it take to win?

Saturday’s Preakness really showed what it takes to win a horse race.  Of course you have to start out with a really good horse, but there is so much more to winning a race.  The old Irish saying is “The best horse doesn’t always win.”  How true this is.

Track conditions are essential to any race.  Some horses do well on dry fast tracks.  Others like deeper tracks.  Some horses like the synthetic tracks.  Of course we know that some horses are bred for Turf.  And, finally not all horses do well on a wet sloppy track.

Given the track conditions of Saturday’s race it is obvious that there might have been a slight advantage for some of the horses.  But positioning was far greater of a challenge. The winner of the race, Exaggerator was placed just where he needed to be.  Off the pace was essential for saving enough horse to close.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, Nyquist was pushed too hard in the front end of the race and just ran out of energy.  It doesn’t make him any less of a great horse, he just didn’t get the ride he deserved.  The horses that ran so hard with him in the lead finished sixth and eighth.  They too were exhausted. Exaggerator was positioned to save ground which also meant saving that extra energy to finish strong.  Then, when the time was right Exaggerator was moved outside where he could see the light of day and came on strong.

I think the Preakness was a really good schooling opportunity for jockeys and trainers, as well as owners and betters of the importance of the role of the jockey and the instructions from the trainer.  The trainers know their horses and can usually give the best advise.  The jockey is in control in the end and must try to follow the trainer’s instructions, but must be free to make adjustments as needed.

From the follow-up interviews after the Preakness, it is obvious that the jockey of Exaggerator did not follow all the instructions that his brother the trainer might have given him. However he knows that track and he used his professional judgement to make the necessary adjustments.  I hope that some of our jockeys will learn from Saturday’s race and try to follow directions, but in the end rely on their own experience and professionalism to make any necessary adjustments.

Congratulations to the Desormeaux brothers on the job well done.  Of course, I bet on Exaggerator so that made for a small profit for me.  It was a great race to watch!

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