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Victim of a Brown-Out

by Jeremy Plonk

July 31, 2017

Easy game, this horse racing. The sport’s champion trainer, Chad Brown, won eight consecutive races over the weekend, from Saratoga to Monmouth to Woodbine. Sit back and simply back the game’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer and all will be well, right?

But what if I told you he ran last in the Jim Dandy with the Preakness winner and misfired with two bullets in a short-field Haskell, including a post-time favorite who finished way up the track? Welcome to my world. As you may guess, the two Brown trainees that I backed were Cloud Computing and Timeline, the bookend losers to his eight-race ambush of North America.

So, what did Brown do for you?

The exasperating admission of my own Brown-out points out two very key elements of horseplay: Nothing lasts forever, and it only matters when you’re on board. Even when equipped with a tsunami of a trend – winning eight straight races certainly fits that bill – the success of the recent winners has no direct correlation on how the next horse will run. Timeline drew no additional stamina from the victory by Wekeela in the Matchmaker about a half-hour before the Haskell. Just the same, Cloud Computing served no better effort in the Jim Dandy even though his stablemates ran 1-2 in the Saratoga finale the very next race to kick off the incredible streak.

I’m not here to tell you handicapping and betting the horses ranks as random as roulette, because I wholeheartedly feel this is far more a game of skill than a spinning ball landing on red or black. But the late Saturday-Sunday run by Chad Brown’s barn had the feel of watching the roulette results board post the winning numbers. It was like we saw four straight blacks and were certain the next number had to be a red. Then a fifth, a sixth, a seventh and eventually an eighth spin kept producing the same result.

All you had to do was keep doing the same thing and you would have kept winning eight straight times. But just as that seems a longshot even in a random roulette run, consider all the handicapping elements that go into blind faith. You had to believe Brown was beating Miss Temple City in the Matchmaker. The other seven winners were, indeed, post-time favorites. And, you had 3-5 favorite Paid Up Subscriber vs. just two rivals in the Shuvee at Saratoga to hang your hat on with confidence. Hopefully you took the “over” on any win margin side bets after her 32 ½-length Ruthian romp.

But did you see Cloud Computing running so poorly in a five-horse Jim Dandy? I didn’t. Previously unbeaten Timeline looked to have a big ceiling, but his flare-out in the Haskell wasn’t a crazy result. Many dazzling class risers have been dealt such a hand when taking on a big class hike like that. Some of us drank the Kool-Aid; others were wise to look elsewhere. But, then again, after watching Brown win eight straight races he had entered, what odds would you take that an undefeated Haskell favorite would not hit the superfecta in a seven-horse field?

Nothing in this game comes easy. Not even Arrogate. Not Chad Brown on either end of an eight-race win streak, losing the two races among the 10-pack he absolutely wanted to win the most. Sometimes you ride the wave of success and sometimes you feel as though you’re jaded enough to pick the two losers in an 8-for-10 run by the game’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer.

But, we’re horseplayers. And we’ll do it all again today in hopes that the spins go our way.

PLEASE NOTE: I will be on hand at Mountaineer this Saturday for West Virginia Derby Day providing free, all-day handicapping seminars to individuals, small groups and large groups throughout the entire card. First post is 2 pm ET and we look forward to teaching there as the Night School Tour makes its third appearance on Mountaineer’s biggest day of racing. See you on the patio deck!