January 24, 2010

Here’s Why I Like Ron the Greek


Yes, I have heard them all…One should never put too much stock in one single race. The field for the LeComte is infinitely lighter than it will be on the first Saturday in May. A horse that comes from so far behind is at the mercy of the pace. How could a horse that runs his first three races at Hoosier Park, Delta Downs, and Remington Park ever make it big? These concerns are certainly not without merit, but every once in a while a horse comes along that beats the odds. I believe Ron the Greek may well be that kind of horse.

In yesterday’s LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds, Ron the Greek came from the clouds to inhale a solid field of sophomores. The highly regarded Maximus Ruler set down solid fractions and after six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 looked strong on the lead. Meanwhile Ron the Greek was languishing at the back of the pack a full fifteen lengths behind. What happened from there was one of the more impressive stretch runs you will ever see. Still second to last as the horses straightened out for the stretch run, Ron the Greek swung to the outside and unleashed a furious kick that jettisoned him to a rather easy 1 ½ length score. Final time for the one mile and forty yards was a solid 1:40 flat. A closer look at Ron the Greek’s splits reveal what his opponents had to deal with. Ron the Greek ran his first six furlongs in 1:15 1/5, which means he finished the race in :24 4/5, a decent close if we are talking about the final quarter mile. But, of course, we are not. That final :24 4/5 was over a quarter mile plus 40 yards, meaning that Ron the Greek was running the last two furlongs, of this distance race, in just over 22 seconds. Major racehorse time to be sure and the kind of closing kick that strikes fear in the hearts of rival trainers at Louisville.

Making the rally even more impressive, take note that the LeComte was not a race where the pace collapsed. The horses that were near the lead early, were, for the most part, still fighting on in the stretch, and there was clearly only one horse dropping down the hammer in the lane. Make that a Jack Hammer, who happens to be the owner of Ron the Greek.

Trained by Tom Amoss, this bay colt has a powerful frame that reminds me of successful Triple Crown runners Risen Star, Unbridled, and Victory Gallop. Those three also had made little noise running outside of the major markets at two. Each of them flashed their ability in the Spring and continued to grow into their physiques, on their way to big successes as the races became longer. Ron the Greek has the physicality to become that type of horse, as he continues to mature and gets to run at longer distances. He has all the look of a horse who should appreciate the increase in distance as the level of competition gets tougher. When looking for a Derby horse, it is an added benefit to see a horse who has the size and strength to handle the rigors of the Triple Crown series. I remember thinking the exact same thing of Risen Star, the first time I saw him 22 years ago.  Coincidentally, Ron the Greek's next race should be in the Risen Star Stakes.

As far as the tracks that he has run at so far, it only makes him all the more appealing. Running at those small tracks can make it even tougher to consistently explode down the stretch, and that is exactly what he has done in each of his four races. This without the benefit of sizzling early fractions. Imagine what his kick might be if they run in 1:09 or 1:10 early? Yesterday was no aberration, it was just the first time that he got a chance to show off in front of a bigger audience on a more grandiose stage. It will only get bigger from here, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a horse who came from small tracks in Indiana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma become a winner of the Derby, Preakness, or Belmont? I know I will be watching for the big bay closing like a freight train.

18 comments:

LDP said...

I would rate this colt higher than I do Conveyance, but I'm still not quite convinced. As you said, MR set down a very solid pace, but in the stretch he also faught off two more challengers, both of whom, he could easily see. The pace did not completely collapse, but MR was probably getting a little tired after doing all the dirty work. RtG came up in the middle of the track, where MR wouldn't have caught sight of him until he was already past. Also, in recent years, closers have done well in the Fair Grounds preps. Recent examples are Circular Quey and Pyro. Sorry if I mispelled the formers name. This colt does have potential, but I'm gonna sit back and wait for him to wow me in a couple more races.

Brian Zipse said...

Maximus Ruler was not going to hold off ze rush of ze Greek whether he saw him coming or not.

Calvin Carter said...

Brian,

I want to see how Ron The Greek moves forward off the Lecomte. I thought that his late rally was reminiscent of Mine That Bird. Ron The Greek trailed by 16 lengths at the half and was in eigth place going into the stretch, seven lengths behind the leader. Here’s the chart call:

“RON THE GREEK devoid of speed, moved up a bit nearing the drive, swung widest entering the lane, rallied determinedly and got up late.”

I didn’t realize until after the race that Ron The Greek’s dam, Flambe’, is a half sister to Musket Man. Ron The Greek, Musket Man and Chelokee (another decent runner) all are bred with the nick of Mr. Prospector and Dixieland Band-Northern Dancer on the distaff portion of the pedigree and that is a nick on which I am keeping a watchful eye. (Champali has a reverse nick of Dixieland Band-Northern Dancer over Mr. Prospector.)

Another horse with that same nick is Via Verde who is a three-quarter brother to Musket Man. However, in the San Rafael, Via Verde faded in the stretch and finished last in a field of five.

So we will have to see where Ron The Greek goes from here. He might turn out to be a descent racehorse. Only time will tell.

Brian Zipse said...

Close Calvin, Ron's dam Flambe, is actually a half sister to the dam of the excellent horse, Musket Man, not Musket Man himself. She does sport the very successful Mr.Prospector-Dixieland Band cross. That along with having the powerful A.P. Indy as his paternal grandsire, makes me like Ron for his breeding as well as his running.

Amateurcapper said...

BZ,

After reading your piece, I was forced to reassess RON THE GREEK's win. Had I missed something?

Going into the race MAXIMUS RULER was the only possible Derby contender in the group by my eyes. I thought RTG's win was a case of MR not being right (first time front wraps) and didn't have a differing opinion afterward. He was left short, only four works for his first race in 56 days for a small, low % outfit with hopes of a Derby berth down the line.

RE: the final fraction RTG ran...my adjustments put him at :22.75 for the final 1/4 of a mile race with a final time of 1:38.02. Maybe a more accurate view would be to extrapolate his final fraction at 1 1/16 miles...his final 3/16 would have been :28.44 so the final time could have been something like 1: 43.71.

In the end, I agree with LDP and have to respectfully disagree with your assessment that horsemen of more tactical and better bred runners will fear RTG. From the 1/2 mile to mile markers, the internal fraction was :50.94 after the first 1/2 mile in :46.80...they were coming back to RTG who did his usual...finish strong. MR was just tiring at a slower rate than the rest of the pace players, his last three quarters were :25.47, :25.49, and :25.50 (adjusted).

As the distances increase, the pace early on usually slows down making it more difficult for deep closers to make up ground. If horses run in 1:10 next out, RTG will be 25 lengths back where his :22.80 final fraction will allow him to clunk up for 3rd or 4th but he'll be beaten 10 or more lengths. If the jock gets nervous about being so far back, he'll sap the late run trying to keep in contact about 15 lengths back mid-race, and finish even farther back.

If RTG becomes a Derby winner, a pretty big if IMO, he will be an upset on the order of GIACOMO or MINE THAT BIRD. I'm looking at him more like DENIS OF CORK, '08 winner of the Southwest S. in 1:37.89 and a distant 3rd in the Derby behind BIG BROWN and ill-fated EIGHT BELLES and 2nd in the Belmont debacle behind DA'TARA.

Even though RTG is a May foal and a grandson of A.P. INDY, to mention a Florida bred son of minor SW FULL MANDATE in the same breath as SECRETARIAT's son RISEN STAR, or proven Derby sire FAPPIANO's massive UNBRIDLED, or even $3 million/MG1 winner CRYPTOCLEARANCE's son VICTORY GALLOP is a bit premature.

Valerie said...

With all due respect, Brian, if Maximus Ruler (or, more specifially, his jockey) had seen Ron the Greek, I think he would have been able to hold him off. I've seen Maximus Ruler re-rally hard late even after a quick pace when he's challenged. A jockey upgrade is what he needs at this point.

Not that I don't like Ron the Greek (athough, what a stupid name!). I'm a huge fan of Musket Man, and love that connection. I just suspect he's a bit one dimensional, much like Mine That Bird (as Calvin Carter mentioned). If he can't get that one late rush, he's toast. Only time will tell if he can develop into a more multi-dimensional horse like Summer Bird did, but at least from what his connections are saying, he's only a closer for now.

Brian Zipse said...

Amateurcapper,

Thanks for the devil's advocate. One of the reasons I wrote this today is because I felt many would discount his performance yesterday, as you have. I see him as a real up and comer, and one that will not be on most people's Top 10 yet...yet. As far as fractions for the race, I have it marginally faster than your 22.75, but no matter, he was flying at the finish. I compared him to those other horses physically (in this regard he reminds me very much of Risen Star), not by the racing careers of their sire. By the way, do not be surprised if Full Mandate becomes a very good sire, as many A.P. Indy's are becoming. Finally, assuming that he will be 50-1 in the Derby, is assuming that he will not do well in his next few races. Obviously, I am not ready to make that assumption.

Brian Zipse said...

I'll have to disagree with you as well, Valerie. My opinion is Maximus Ruler was not going to suddenly re-rally and run a :22 and change clip the last 1/16 even if he had seen Ron the Greek coming. He was simply coming way too fast. I like Maximus Ruler and was impressed with him when I saw him up close at Churchill. He is one of the reasons I like Ron, because I know Maximus is a good horse. I do, however, believe that of the two, Ron is the much more likely to appreciate the ten furlongs of the Derby. Obviously Ron will need to continue to develop and improve, but so far I really like what I see.

TurfChatter said...

Good Analysis. I was impressed the "Ron" I had put him in a couple of bets, so I never took my eyes off him, it was hard when he was off the screen, but I saw he was coming wide. He seems a like a one run closer, but you can make a lot of money with a horse like that and I especially like the part about, what if he get a 1:10 pace. I was also impressed with Maximus. He did all the dirty work at the rail and put away all the challengers, he will probably improve off the race.

dodgenrj said...

His last fraction was nowhere near 22 seconds it was 23.40 sec.
Remember for every lenght it's 8
feet not 1/5 sec. So 15 lenghts x
8 = 120ft. subtract that from 3960
ft.(six furlongs)= 3840 divided by
72.27 sec.(six furlong split)=
53.13 fps.(feet per second)= 114.53
sec. - 100.09 (final time)= 25.56
sec. for 1440 feet divided by 25.56
= 56.34fps. Now 1320ft.(1/4 mile)
divided by 56.34fps. = 23.43 sec.

Trifectabox said...

Zipse
I am gald to see Ron the Greek getting some respect (finally). Many people laughed at me when I went nuts over his debut MSW win at Hoosier (Oct 11, 2009), one of the greatest closing moves I've ever seen by a young horse. I watched all his next races and saw that same talent - he loves to come flying late.
I would not discount Full Mandate, either, as I have been watching many of this sire's offspring do well. Some have done well on off-tracks, and I haven't seen any distance limitations so far.
RTG will continue to be discounted no matter how he fares because he comes from the smaller circuits. Those who discounted Mine That Bird last year because he came from Woodbine and Sunland didn't take home any winnings!
Whether is he a top Derby contender is unknown as of yet, but Ron the Greek is a very talented closer and deserves respect.

Calvin Carter said...

Brian,

It can be confusing at times but I love to study pedigrees - it's my passion. I'll eventually get it right.

Flambe' is a full sister to Fortuesque the dam of Musket Man.

I also like the A.P. Indy-Bold Ruler sire line. I'm looking forward to Ron The Greek's next race.

Brian Zipse said...

Now we got it Calvin...we were both a little confused, lol. The dam of Musket Man is a full sister to the dam on Ron the Greek, and as Trifectabox alluded to, the sire, Full Mandate is extremely well bred and is a young sire to watch.

Anonymous said...

Ron the Greek has NW1 going 6 furlongs at Mountain of Tears (mountaneer) next year written all over him. This guy is a sprinter. Never sniffs the Derby starting gate.

Anonymous said...

Ron the Greek has NW1 going 6 furlongs at Mountain of Tears (mountaneer) next year written all over him. This guy is a sprinter. Never sniffs the Derby starting gate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Ron the Greek is not a sprinter!!!! He is bred for the ten furlongs and should actually get better as the distances increase. He reminded me very much of Zenyatta and I cannot wait for his next race. He is absolutely gorgeous and can move it when he needs to. He took my breath away. Lentenor and RTG exacta box $100 for the derby.

Laura Ross said...

Ron the Greek may be a nice horse, but pedigree-wise he is challenged to get the 10F of the Derby. Additionally, with a one-run horse, he's at the mercy of the pace.

Only two horses since 1988 have done well on the Triple Crown trail, Risen Star (1988 Belmont) and Hard Spun paced in the Derby (2008) years ago.

I've enjoyed reading your comments and became a fan on Facebook. I invite you to become my fan as well and check out my website IronMaidensThoroughbreds.com

Calvin is also a friend.

Thanks,
Laura

GQ said...

Brian; I didn't find your post-LeComte RTG comments until tonight (day after Risen Star). I was all over RTG in the LeComte, and because of those final fractions, feel he WILL be in the starting gate come May 1st at CD.

Oddly, I did not back him in the Risen Star, only because he was conceding 4 lbs. to all of this foes. He still finished strongly, but he fell victim to a pedestrian early pace.

I hope he came out of the race OK and Tom Amoss brings him back for the LA Derby.

On May 1st, all starters will carry 126...and he'll carry it well for the 1 1/4 mile.