By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
My grammar school debate teacher was fond of misquoting Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Statistics are the hobgoblin of little minds,” she would say.
I am absolutely sure she knew the real quote, but she was making an attempt to squelch the bad habit that novice debaters often fall into – quoting statistics ad nauseum, attempting to prove their positions.
Judging a debate tournament at St. Rita’s School in Sierra Madre, California early in 2012, I couldn’t help but smile when a young debater started spewing stats like a slot machine does nickels.
I thought of Miss Jackson.
It always amazes me when life’s little moments return when you need them most.
Jeremy Plonk is a statistician. He is also owns one of the best handicapping minds of this century. He has provided racing stats for giants ESPN, NBC and ABC and consulted for Keeneland, Del Mar, Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs. To say Plonk is a racing expert belittles his talent and ability. He is more of a Thoroughbred racing savant.
His fifth race comment in Saturday’s Track Trends article on the Keeneland website read:
“None of the 50 winners at 1-1/8 miles on turf during this timeframe (since Fall 2006) exited a sprint prep.”
Jeremy wrote about the tenth event:
“Since the Fall 2006 meet, there have been 35 turf sprints and only 1 winner from the rail.”
Here is Plonk’s full comment on Saturday’s fifth race:
“I really like Close Ally in this spot and I’m going to do so against a pretty stark stat. None of the 50 winners at 1-1/8 miles on turf during this timeframe exited a sprint prep. But stats need to be taken in context. Close Ally is not a sprinter, but rather was given a modest sprint return race by old school trainer Neil Howard after a 6-month layoff. I respect that kind of foundation building, even if it goes against the numbers.”
He also wrote of the tenth race:
“That’s a tough order for Perfect Officer, a horse I would play with confidence if not for the rail. He’s one I highly respect.”
We all remember Big Brown breaking from post 20 in the Kentucky Derby. Many were up-in-arms because only Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 had overcome that draw in 133 previous runnings of America’s greatest race.
The impressive and fast Arkansas Derby winner never raced at two and we all know that no horse unraced at two has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo 1892.
What is a handicapper to do with him on Derby day?
He obviously has talent but he was beaten by Creative Cause. He gets worked-up before his races and the Kentucky Derby paddock is no place for a hot-head. He is brilliantly fast and his Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, is one of the most prolific Kentucky Derby trainers of the modern era.
Maybe he’ll draw the 20-hole and we won’t have to worry about it.
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