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BabyTalk Week #1

by Tom Carley

Tonight I introduce a new blog that I will update weekly. I call it BabyTalk. This will focus on nothing but the baby division (3 year olds of 2015). I will visit this group every week until the Triple Crown is over in June 2015.

Today, the Wynn Hotel Sports Book posted their Derby futures for the First Saturday in May 2015. I will resist the temptation and not yet get into mentioning individual horses. The calendar gives us plenty of time for that. Please remember my record is not very good at giving you Derby horses in advance.  The three horses I liked on the Derby trail last year were Tapiture, Commissioner and Kid Cruz (I am beginning to think Linda Rice could train the equine version to drop fewer passes than the New York Giant receiver he is named after).   I hear many of you scratching your heads right now and asking why we are not going to focus on individual horses (at least until the weather gets colder)?

Here is your answer to the WHY question. BabyTalk is choosing to remain consistent with a mission statement of which is to lookout for the well being of the horse. The purpose of BabyTalk is not to simply pick the winner of next year’s Derby. Rather the intention is to focus on ALL issues involving the equine industry, using the 2015 Derby Season to give us examples.  I also will include may tips on how to read the Form, analyze speed figures and look for those hidden hints that help you cash a ticket.  Don’t fret. I will mention some horses worth looking at as you make wagering decisions, but my goal with BabyTalk is to analyze EVERYTHING related to the young horses.

Let’s remember some things very important to the topic at hand.  I will call these the Featured Four.

Horses mature at different rates. Did anyone hear of California Chrome at this time last year?   He was still laboring against Cal breds. Remember, these horses are the equivalent of young teenagers.  Their delicate bones and ligaments are just beginning to grow. Many have not went through their “growth spurt”. While horses do not deal with acne, voice changes and other physical changes that brought us so much drama as we grew up, the horses do go undergo dramatic physical changes at this stage in their lives.  Instead of predicting how a horse will run next May based on how they look today,  all those involved should focus on developing training programs not focusing on earning Derby points, but concentrating on what is consistent with maximizing the quality development of the horse. Some young horses need more time between races and works. Look for the trainer that is a horseman and knows when to give a horse time off.  One who concerns himself with the welfare of the horse, not simply the collection of one more check or 5 more Derby points.

2. Some horses will not grow into distant horses. The Derby preps run after February 1 are run at a minimum of 1 mile. However, some 2 year olds started racing at Keeneland this Spring at 4 1/2 furlongs. Too often handicappers make the mistake of falling in love with a horse that runs around 1 turn very well only to see the horse’s results decline as the races stretch around 2 turns. Wes Ward wins a high percentage of 2 year old races at Keeneland, yet he has never won the Derby. I once fell in love with a horse named Kodiak Cowboy watching his late 2 year old & early 3 year old efforts. As the races got longer, he went from getting his picture taken to running up the track. The connections realized this and after a freshening that had him miss  the Derby preps, he embarked on a very successful career running  as a sprinter. Let the horse’s actions tell you where to run him. If only horses could talk to us the way human athletes do.

3. One does not have to cash a ticket on the First Saturday in May to have a good Derby season. Handicappers have prep races to bet on weekly beginning in January. If you win money on enough of these prep races or be lucky enough to hit that 1 longshot ( see 2012 Louisiana Derby where Hero of Order beat Mark Valeski at odds of 109 to 1) you can still earn a positive ROI (Return on Investment) and make the 3 year old series successful. Therefore, remember to pick your spots.

4. Medication limitations continue for prep races including the Breeder’s Cup races. This represents a trend in getting away from winning by chemistry and rewarding those who develop horses naturally. Future columns will focus on things such as the 1 mile work, schooling in the gate, working horses in tandem, etc. All of these are related to a trainer developing a champion, not a vet.

The purpose of this week’s edition of BabyTalk was not to give you that magical horse you can load up on now at juicy future bet odds. Rather, it was to provide an outline for what this blog will be as we begin down a 30 week journey. BabyTalk will be this:

– A place where all your comments are welcome

– A place where this no dumb question

– A place where we remember the REAL reason we are here

– A place where we remember all of those whose efforts that bring us enjoyment (horse, jockey, trainer, groom, gate worker, farrier, person who breaks the horse, etc.)

My focus is not the traditional “who will win the race question”  that most writers focus on.   Rather, BabyTalk will concentrate on what are the things to look for and think about, not only as we analyze those Derby prospects, but also to help each reader answer this question:

How can I use what I observe with the 2015 crop of 3 year olds to make me a better ___________  (horseman, handicapper, equine care giver, ambassador of the sport, etc.).  If the readers focus on what they filled in that blank with  and in turn it benefits the sport, then I will be a winner even if I continue my Derby trend of not cashing a ticket.

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