Thoughts on Smokey Image’s California Cup Derby Beyer

Thoughts on Smokey Image’s California Cup Derby Beyer

Smokey Image defeating Found Money in the 2015 Golden State Juvenile Stakes – © Benoit Photo

In the aftermath of Smokey Image’s dominating win in the January 30th California Cup Derby at Santa Anita, some racing fans are questioning the Beyer speed figure of 82 that he received for his victory. Given that he won by 8 1/2 lengths under a hand ride and eased up late, with a solid final time of 1:43.49, the Beyer of 82 was lower than many expected.

At first glance, I thought the 82 figure seemed about right, but after taking a look at some of the data, I suspect that Smokey Image may have deserved a much higher figure.

On January 30th, the California Cup Derby was the only two-turn dirt race on the card, which means that there wasn’t much data for calculating an accurate track variant for the race. Without enough data for a good track variant, the next step by the figure makers was probably to try and project a figure for the race–that is, calculate a figure based on how well the horses were expected to run.

This works well in many cases–I’ve done it myself with some success–but with the California Cup Derby, the results were a little too unpredictable to make any projected figure accurate. Based on the results of the King Glorious Stakes, a notable prep for the California Cup Derby, one might have expected Glory Bound to finish second to California Cup Derby, but he did not–he finished a very distant fourth, behind two rivals that he had easily beaten in the King Glorious.

Comparing the results of the California Cup Derby to the pre-race past performances, I can certainly see how Smokey’s Image’s 82 speed figure was derived–Smokey Image has consistently run figures in the 82-85 range, and runner-up Tough It Out was coming off figures of 69 and 70, so California Cup Derby figures of 82 for Smokey Image and 68 for Tough It Out make sense. But this doesn’t take into account the possibility that Smokey Image improved with more distance and improved over the winter, and it doesn’t consider the fact that Tough It Out has been steadily improving and got an excellent trip in the California Cup Derby, which would help him run faster and earn a higher figure.

Basically, it comes down to this–if I were asked to project a speed figure based on the data from just the California Cup Derby, I would have given Smokey Image a 94, Tough It Out an 80, Xingontothebone a 70, Glory Bound a 67, and Record Highs a 66. I’m certainly not an expert on Beyer speed figures, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents for those that are doubting the official figure–no matter which way you slice it, it’s a hard one to calculate, but I suspect Smokey Image may have deserved a higher figure than he received.

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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Eric Rickard

It was or should have been at least a 90 Beyer. He was not all out and was very impressive. If you don’t think this horse can run , you are sadly mistaken.