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Insight - Training By Design



You often wonder why trainers do what they do and why they choose certain races. There is a method to their madness and it all revolves around how the horse is bred and what they consider will bring out the best advantage for the race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May and not necessarily what is the best race to gather points. The race schedule of each individual colt is set to be more in line with what the trainer believes the colt needs to build up, as opposed to where he would be advantaged with ease in running in the prep itself.


There are reasons why a colt is put on a certain path that leads him (hopefully) straight to a gate in Kentucky with every drop of potential worked to bring out the best in the colt for this one race. In other words, it is his deficiencies that he needs to hone in on in order to capitalize on what he already has once he hits Kentucky.


A great example to use to understand all of this:


Remember Morello. Aqueduct Prep Road. That was for a reason. Morello is speed-driven and speed-dominant. Inbred with more than enough speed to have competed at Churchill in the Derby. He needed "training races" that would concentrate on pulling out his stamina to even have a shot at a win in Kentucky. He was tasked to run against the bias to pull out what was secondary in his breeding. That would be the stamina side. He was successful. He would have exploded at Churchill when he finally returned to a bias that he was more suited for. That prep road was to get the horse in perfect condition to compete and WIN the Kentucky Derby. As you will see, most every colt had a similar road. These guys were the lucky ones who gathered their points running against the grain. The others who tried and are now sitting on the sidelines are the ones who could not pull from both sides of the Speed/Stamina balance.


The formula that I refer to Every Year:

MAJOR SPEED + MAJOR STAMINA = DERBY WINNER

is the exact reason why these trainers choose specific roads and it all pertains to their breeding.


You will see, each of these colts were conditioned AGAINST how their breeding dictated. If the colt has dominant speed, they need their stamina trained out of them. If their stamina is dominant in their breeding, they need training to pull out speed. All of this made perfect sense as I worked on Pioneer of Medina and began to question why Todd didn't put this horse on a more conducive speed-leaning track and opted instead for the AWS at Gulfstream and Fairgrounds, which would definitely be much harder for this horse to win. Then everything started to make sense. It is all by design - to WIN the Kentucky Derby. They need that Balance and they need to work on what they appear is their "weaker" side - be it the speed side or the stamina side.


REMEMBER AS YOU READ EACH: CHURCHILL DOWNS ON DERBY DAY IS USUALLY VERY FAST...


WHITE ABARRIO

Saffie trained Tapit Colt. Tapit colts are notoriously covered in stamina. Many of them will struggle in the Derby and excel in the Belmont because they have that natural inbred over the top stamina ability. This type of breeding needs "training" to pull out the speed side because White Abarrio's stamina side is there naturally. He needs both sides in top form to be advantaged at Churchill on the 1st Saturday in May. This colt was put on the Gulfstream fast bias in order to pull that speed out of him and to match the bias at Churchill. Saffie knows the colt has the endurance for the distance. He had his "test" at Churchill Downs in the KY Jockey Club at Churchill. Sent straight back to Gulfstream to work out that Speed. White Abarrio's success on the Gulfstream bias, against his lean to stamina from Tapit, is proof that the road that his trainer chose for him was successful and necessary. He accepted the bias and the stamina that he holds is more than enough to compete at Churchill.


CHARGE IT

Trained by Todd Pletcher. See White Abarrio as it pertains to the Gulfstream races. Ditto. Exactly the same reason this Tapit colt was also working races on that bias.


PIONEER of MEDINA

Trained by Todd Pletcher. The breeding of this colt points to one who would most likely desire a faster track, even a sloppy track. That being the case, he already has the speed, he must be trained to pull out that stamina. If your goal is to WIN the Kentucky Derby, then the horse must be able to compete on a track that will tend to pull out his stamina. Monmouth, Tampa, Fairgrounds. In addition, I had questioned the reasoning why Todd would have gone to Gulfstream and put this colt on AWS when he would have been advantaged on the slick dirt track. Much easier for the colt to win. It is by design. It is to win the Kentucky Derby. Two main reasons; One, training to pull out the stamina. Two, to see if he even had a shot at pulling out the stamina. You can tell by the pace figures, he had a hard time in the early stages grabbing his footing but he came home on AWS. This horse has not been at home on these tracks by design. Medina will have the chance to "explode" on the faster track at Churchill. This was done to win the Derby. He was "Race Trained" where he would tend to be deficient.


CYBERKNIFE

Trained by Brad Cox. Just like his sire Gun Runner, steeped in stamina with a preference up with the pace. Just like Gun Runner, successful early races at Churchill Downs and then sent straight to Fairgrounds to compete. Brad kept him there and put him in an OC to make sure that track suited him. Gun Runner stayed at Fairgrounds to compete in the Louisiana Derby but there was no reason to continue the same type of "beefing up" at that track. Successful at OP. Same route, same bias tests, different trainers. When looking into the breeding, I had noted in the "Head to Head" article that this guy appeared to be much better suited for the Churchill track and that he would be singing in his stall once he was grounded back there. It was so apparent that he had a bumpy road along the way - this is because of the tracks he was asked to run on - the tracks the he had to TRAIN on. This horse was "trained to compete" against his grain, which in turn, gives him a greater chance to "explode" when given the bias he would appreciate. All by design. Trained to win.


EPICENTER

Trained by Steve Asmussen. Early tests at Churchill. Over-bearing inbred stamina. See Cyberknife - Ditto. This trainer sees this horse returning to a speedy Churchill track and flying up with the pace. Back on the Churchill speedier track, his hard work pulling out that speed along the way on those specific biases will feel like he is skating at Churchill. Watch him late in the Derby, flying like a freight train. It's so obvious now that he was trained to pull that speed out away from tracks like Gulfstream. All by design to win the Kentucky Derby.


TAWNY PORT

Trained by Brad Cox. Tawny Port is a speed-driven colt who had his hard road completely mapped out on purpose. It was in order to pull out the stamina. The colt gave proof that he could and would display his mares stamina. When he let him loose on the dirt at Fairgrounds, it didn't work out as planned (although the horse was shuffled back and made up ground.) Back to AWS to work on the stamina side. Back to dirt in Keeneland for success. This was done by design in order to be competitive at Churchill - for what that bias demands. If this horse competed down at Gulfstream, his pace figures would have been faster. That track would have aligned better with his breeding. He needed to work on this colt's stamina. He knew he had the speed in his breeding, he needed the stamina training to get him balanced. This was designed in order to balance him and win the Kentucky Derby. The horse , unfortunately, did not "explode" when he should have. He won, yes, but the killer speed he needed to display was not there.


MO DONEGAL

Trained by Todd Pletcher. This colt is speed-driven but prefers a rear running style. Sent to first prep to Aqueduct on purpose. In order to train this horse (just like Bourbonic) to close into the front running lead speedsters who would have no advantage on that bias. He then sent him to Gulfstream to "train" and witness competing against the bias and how this horse would react. (He sent Bourbonic to Parx for the same exact reason). Back to the advantaged track at Aqueduct to gather points and to "train" his horse to close into failing lead speed. Because of the Holy Bull performance on the fast track, expect Mo Donegal to be more forwardly placed (or at least his trainer will want him closer) for a shot at that board.


TIZ THE BOMB

Trained by McPeek. Tested at Churchill in maiden to see if he had a Derby horse. Failed. Sent to AWS at 8f. Exploded by 14 lengths. Then three very successful Turf races. McPeek decides to try dirt again, fast dirt, down at Gulfstream. Fails miserably. Puts him back on AWS to collect points for the Derby. Is he expecting a miracle to occur all of the sudden back at Churchill? All by Design.


Most of these horses were all running on biases that were counter to the breeding in order to train and pull out what is necessary to win the Kentucky Derby. You must gauge how they reacted against that bias and how it will relate to the Churchill track. I will tell you now, a few of these guys are going to explode. Watch their reaction in the workouts at Churchill. Those who post significant workouts will tell you that they are finally "home."


This is why these trainers get paid the big bucks. It is all about winning the Kentucky Derby.


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15 Comments


Unknown member
May 02, 2022

In an interview by Todd Pletcher, he said that he wasn't "hard training" Mo Donegal at Churchill and kinda skated over the reason. The reason is because he doesn't want Mo Donegal "learning" to run fast early, expending any energy early, and saving it for late. He would not want to see or work Mo Donegal in a 4f, 5f or 6f fast workout. It would be counter to what would help him win the Derby. All by design.

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Unknown member
May 01, 2022

Another great article. Thank you for your insight.

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Unknown member
May 01, 2022

Fastest Workouts: In May

4 Furlongs:

Crown Pride 46.40

Charge It 47:40

Pioneer Of Medina 47:40

Un Ojo 47:60


5 Furlongs:

Un Ojo 59:40

Simplification 59:42

Pioneer Of Medina 59:80

Messier 59:80 (SA)


6 Furlongs:

Cyberknife 1:11:20 Updated

Zozos 1:11:40 Updated

Messier 1:11:60 (SA)


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Unknown member
Apr 30, 2022

BTW, I hear Charge It is quite a handful. Like the kind of horse that wears everyone in the barn out, I hear tell he is rather, um..........randy. I guess that comes from his female line? I dunno how tractable a horse like that is........

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Unknown member
May 01, 2022
Replying to

Windy, your "randy" comments have thinking back to Todd Pletcher's comments on the eve of a Belmont when admonishing anyone walking into "Rags to Riches" space. Pletcher stated if you got too close to the fillie, you would either be "kicked or bitten". Off of that comment I collected on the Belmont that year. She simply would not allow Curlin to get past her in the stretch. Sometimes "randy" can work in your favor.


Safe journey to all.in


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Unknown member
Apr 30, 2022

A lovely interview with Crown Pride's exercise rider MASA MATSUDA, (giving his English a workout!) explaining the Japanese style, and also his strategy (they've been working on speed, which is guess is obvious in his latest bullet workout.) What a confident person, his honesty and integrity shine thru. Also a nice look at Crown Pride.... I love his ears! "Japanese Way". All of this "makes him happy." https://mobile.twitter.com/kentuckyderby/status/1519340923687215106

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