by Jerod Dinkin
There will be a healthy debate over the next few days about the strength of Pyro’s Risen Star performance. Here are the obvious questions:(1) If Pyro’s performance was so dominating, why was Indian Blessing so much faster?(2) Who did he beat?(3) Can we get this excited about a deep closer?
I’ve already read several variations of the above questions in the racing press and through some quality blogs and I’m beginning to wonder if I witnessed the same race. Here are a few elementary truths that are difficult to refute:
When wagering on a closer and witnessing the tote pop up a pedestrian ¼, ½, and ¾, you can usually put the ticket in the write-off pile before the stretch run. In this case, Pyro was unaffected by the crawl and still gobbled up the field with a nasty turn of foot, without being asked for run. I couldn’t care less what the final time of the race is, what Beyer fig it gets assigned (for the record, Bob Black Jack received a 109 for running 6f in 106 and 2 at Daytona Motor Speedway). Did they put him to sleep yet, that poor horse?), or how much faster Indian Blessing’s final time was. For the record, the goal of a G3 for 3yr olds in February is not to shatter track records, it’s to stay healthy, learn something, and get better. Mission accomplished.
“The who did he beat?” question is overrated. With rapidly improving 3 yr olds, we’ll only know how solid the field really was in retrospect. With that said, I think the Risen Star was actually a pretty strong GIII field, with Blackberry Road (G2, G3 placed), Z Humor (G1 and G3 shows), and two impressive 3 yo allowance winners in Signature Move and Visionaire.
Keep in mind this horse won on dirt. Not prestone inner-dirt. Not Metemucil. Not plastic. Not even the Santa Anita Bonneville Salt Flats of January 26th.
Get excited about this particular deep closer since he is seemingly unaffected by slow fractions. Usually, the typical deep closer needs a favorable pace scenario, a clean trip, and a well timed ride. He didn’t really get much help in that department on Saturday.
While it’s way too early to anoint this horse the Derby winner, it’s not too early to take in how fantastic that performance really was. Watch it a few more times if you’re not convinced.