Friday, April 2, 2010

An Endorsement for Rabbits, aka the Winstar Lead-Out Train

Besides being a horse racing lover, i am also a huge fan of road cycling. (Like the Tour de France) I love watching seriously trained athletes fly at high speeds using nothing but themselves as the motor. One of the best sights in the sport is when there is a sprint finish at the end of a stage. If the team has a strong finisher for the sprint, the team might consider setting up a lead-out train. This consist of one or more riders riding in front of the sprinter to ensure a high pace while providing a wind break. One of the best at doing this team Liquigas. (if you have ever seen any road cycling, they are the Neon yellow wearing team)

Here is a video to show what i mean:

Note how at 1:16, the neon yellow jerseys get in position, and how they lead out the their sprinter, Daniele Bennati, who wins this particular stage.

The reason i bring up this up is that Horse racing use to employ similar tactics by the use of the rabbit. Horse racing has a history of using rabbits in races to ensure a strong pace. Usually the rabbit is a horse who is owned by the same owners as the star of the owners. There have been many great examples of rabbits over the years. Damascus had Hedvar; Gallant Man had Bold Nero; Buckpasser had Great Power (Durso, ) Even in more recent times, Breeders' Cup Turf winner had a rabbit employed in either Shake The Bank or Icy Atlantic. The practice is still very prevalent in Europe.

Winstar Farm is the unique position of being able to reproduce a version of the "lead-out train" for their Derby horse Endorsement (and Drosselmeyer if were able to get in to the Derby.) With three confirmed speed types in Rule, Super Saver and American Lion, in theory they could set it up so that one of their horses goes to the lead for the half mile, then have another take over for half mile, then have the last one take over for an eighth and give Endorsement a perfect set-up to take over for the final furlong.

Now, i know that there are several problems with this idea: That the pace set-up will not only help Endorsement, but every other non-speed horse in the field. That it might be considering "unethical". That using the horse as a rabbit is not good for the horse. Those concerns are valid and i really cannot say that the do not bug me a bit as well.

But this is just an idea that if nothing else, would look rather cool to see as the head down the backstretch the first Saturday in May, the Winstar Train rolling along.


  1. Good luck, Chris. You're a tremendous handicapper and a vital spirit. We're lucky to have you.

  2. It will happen. Pletcher did it all winter in New York.

    I think most Kentucky Derbys have a rabbit anyhow. Usually a longshot testing how long he can stay on TV before finishing last.

    Your comparison to bike racing, however, got my weird mind working. What about a team horse race? It would be easy to organize, just run a race for entries only. NASCAR on horseback . . .

  3. Andy Beyer is a big cycling fan too from what I understand. I used to watch the Tour de France every year myself but got disenchanted when Floyd got DQ'd.

    Re: the Derby - every once in a while the rabbit will win the race; especially if none of the other jocks want to press the pace. But looks like this year's Derby will have a fair amount of speed so that probably won't happen.

  4. Watch Bealuh Park, Monday, April 5.

  5. @Gib, the whole entries only thing would rock! Though in New York you could play the superfecta. :)
    I saw Race 2, and that is how pretty much it would work. Thanks for pointing it out.

    @Ernie, thanks for the well wishes.

    Steve, why did you have to tell me that about Beyer? Just when i thought i had a niche. :-)
    About the Derby, i just don't see how in a full field a horse a horse can win going gate-to-wire. The last horse to do it, War Emblem in 2002, caught what might one of the speed-deprived Derby fields ever. The field let him go because they did not think he was good enough, and that was a mistake. Now, with full fields of 20 going in the gate, especially ones that have an abudance of cheap speed, i wonder how long it will be before we get another gate-to-wire horse.