by Jon White
April 9, 2020
This year’s Run for the Roses, originally scheduled for May 2, has been moved to Sept. 5 due to the coronavirus crisis.
Pool 4 of the KDFW opened last Friday and closed Sunday. Bettors backed the “All Others” option to 3-1 favoritism. I was not surprised to see that. After all, so much can happen before a Kentucky Derby run on Sept. 5.
Charlatan and Tiz the Law each closed at 5-1. Charlatan was the actual betting favorite among the 23 individual horses, with $17,364 wagered on him, $89 more than on Tiz the Law.
Even though I’ve had Charlatan ranked No. 1 on my weekly Kentucky Derby Top 10 here on the Xpressbet.com website for four straight weeks now, I’m surprised more money was bet on him than Tiz the Law.
In light of Tiz the Law’s dominant 4 1/4-length win in the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 28, I thought it was a slam-dunk that he would have the most money bet on him. But that did not turn out to be the case.
While Charlatan retains in the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week, I have decided to move Tiz the Law up to No. 3 after he was No. 5 last week.
As a result of raising Tiz the Law to No. 3, Honor A.P. drops a notch this week to No. 4, while Authentic moves down a spot to No. 5. This is similar to where Honor A.P. and Authentic ranked among individual horses in Pool 4 of the KDFW.
In Pool 4 of the KDFW, Authentic ranked No. 5, with Honor A.P. ranked No. 6 among individual horses.
You might be wondering why I did not have Tiz the Law ranked higher than No. 5 on my Top 10 last week after his convincing Florida Derby victory. A primary reason was I felt that his final time in the Florida Derby of 1:50.00 left much to be desired.
Since Gulfstream enlarged the main track to 1 1/8 miles for its 2005 season, these have been the Florida Derby times, from fastest down to slowest:
1:47.47 (2017) Always Dreaming
1:47.72 (2009) Quality Road
1:48.16 (2008) Big Brown
1:48.79 (2012) Take Charge Indy
1:48.86 (2019) Maximum Security
1:49.00 (2007) Scat Daddy
1:49.01 (2006) Barbaro
1:49.11 (2016) Nyquist
1:49.17 (2014) Constitution
1:49.19 (2010) Ice Box
1:49.43 (2005) High Fly
1:49.48 (2018) Audible
1:50.00 (2020) Tiz the Law
1:50.74 (2011) Dialed In
1:50.87 (2013) Orb
1:52.30 (2015) Materiality
The track for the Florida Derby in 2016 was wet when listed as good.
After finding out that Tiz the Law’s Thoro-Graph number for his Florida Derby was an excellent negative 3/4, I’m now not as troubled by his unimpressive final clocking.
Prior to my Kentucky Derby rankings last week, I did not yet know Tiz the Law’s Thoro-Graph number for the Florida Derby. After learning what that number was, I came to the conclusion that Tiz the Law deserves much more credit for his Florida Derby performance than I had been giving him. It’s the main reason for my decision to raise him to No. 3 this week in my Kentucky Derby rankings.
I believe Beyer Speed Figures are a valuable tool for horseplayers. If I didn’t, I would not refer to them as often as I do. But I’m also of the opinion that Thoro-Graph numbers are superior to the Beyers.
In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, a higher number is better than a lower one. The opposite is true regarding Thoro-Graph numbers.
The winner of a race will never get a lower Beyer Speed Figure than the horse who finished second, the horse who finished second will never get a lower Beyer than the horse who finished third, and so on down through the order of finish.
In the case of a Thoro-Graph number, a horse who finishes second, or even lower, can get a better number than the winner. This is one of the reasons I think so much of Thoro-Graph. I consider a Thoro-Graph number to be a much more realistic evaluation of a horse’s performance than a Beyer. Thoro-Graph’s approach reflects the simple truth that the winner is not always the horse who ran the best race.
Beyer Speed Figures are based primarily on the time of the race relative to the track variant. The variant is an assessment of a track surface. Was the surface on which the race was run normal? If not, how much faster or slower than normal was the surface? The variant is a tool in which one can put the time of a race into perspective as opposed to raw time.
Those who calculate Beyers make adjustments as they deem necessary in order to come up with what they feel is the most accurate figure possible in order to reflect a horse’s performance. One way the Beyer-makers do this is by keeping an eye on how each horse’s figure in a race compares to its previous performances. When a figure looks out of whack, it will be tweaked to make it more realistic in the judgment of the Beyer-maker.
A major reason I believe a Thoro-Graph number is better than a Beyer Speed Figure is the Thoro-Graph number takes many more factors into account. According to Thoro-Graph, “each number on a sheet represents a performance rating arrived at by using time of the race, beaten lengths, ground lost or saved on the turns, weight carried, and any effects wind conditions had on the time of the race.”
Tiz the Law’s Thoro-Graph number of negative 3/4 in the Florida Derby was identical to the number he recorded when he won Gulfstream’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 1.
Among the 23 individual horses in Pool 4 of the KDFW, Tiz the Law is the only horse to have ever posted a negative Thoro-Graph number. And he’s done this not once, but twice.
As for the Beyers, Tiz the Law and Charlatan are the only two of the 23 individual horses in Pool 4 to have recorded a triple-digit figure.
Tiz the Law recorded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure when he took the Holy Bull. The New York-bred Constitution colt regressed to a 96 in the Florida Derby.
In Charlatan’s two career starts to date, he has recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 105 and 106.
Here is this week’s Top 10 for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby:
3. Tiz the Law
4. Honor A.P.
7. Sole Volante
8. Ete Indien
9. Thousand Words
10. King Guillermo
Here were the final odds for Pool 4 of the KDFW:
3-1 “All Others”
5-1 Tiz the Law
15-1 Honor A.P.
28-1 Wells Bayou
29-1 Ete Indien
31-1 Gouverneur Morris
34-1 Sole Volante
36-1 King Guillermo
45-1 Thousand Words
46-1 Mischievious Alex
53-1 Storm the Court
54-1 Major Fed
63-1 Three Technique
67-1 Max Player
71-1 Ny Traffic
*Actual betting favorite among the individual horses.
While the nation -- indeed, the world -- continues to fight the insidious coronavirus, one of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is for individuals to constantly wash their hands.
“Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs,” it is stated on the CDC website. “Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community -- from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.”
In terms of how long one should wash one’s hands, the CDC says “scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the ‘Happy Birthday’ song from beginning to end twice.”
While vigorously washing my hands and singing the Happy Birthday song twice from beginning to end on Monday, each time I came to the end of the song, I wished a happy birthday to Turbulator.
It was 55 years ago on April 6, 1965, that Turbulator came into this world when foaled at Tom and Marguerite Crawford’s five-acre ranch in Veradale, Wash., a suburb of Spokane. The Crawfords not only bred Turbulator, they raced him under their fuchsia silks. Until his death of a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 56, Tom Crawford trained the horse.
When Turbulator was training as a 2-year-old in the spring of 1967, he was unable to avoid a virus that spread through the stable area at Spokane’s Playfair Race Course. A horse’s temperature generally will range from 99 to 101 degrees.
Turbulator’s temperature skyrocketed to 105 degrees. He became so sick that he nearly died.
The illness took such a toll on the young Thoroughbred that Dr. Dale Johnsen, a highly respected veterinarian, told Tom Crawford that he should forget about racing Turbulator as a 2-year-old.
In addition to the place where Turbulator was born in Washington, the Crawfords owned a ranch in Montana. When Turbulator recovered enough from his illness, he was sent to the Montana ranch.
Unfortunately for Turbulator, while he was at the Montana ranch early in 1968, he severely injured his right knee when it accidently struck a sprinkler head in a pasture.
After damaging his knee, a racing career for Turbulator seemed to be a longshot. Tom Crawford, who spent several years as a car salesman, decided to try and unload the horse by trading him to a neighboring Montana rancher for two cows.
I had never known who that Montana rancher was until a few years ago when I received an email from Sidney Powell. Back when I worked as a chart-caller and columnist for the Daily Racing Form in the 1970s at Playfair, Powell worked in the racing office.
“That Crawford ranch in Montana was here at Arlee,” Powell wrote in her email. “It was my first cousin, Bob Schall, that Tom Crawford tried to trade Turbulator to. Bob also had a rodeo string. So who knows? Turbulator might have ended up being a rodeo horse.”
It’s perfectly understandable that Schall declined Crawford’s offer to swap a pair of cows for a horse with a bum knee. And as a charter member of the Turbulator fan club, I am forever grateful the proposed trade did not go through.
Turbulator finally did make it to the races as a 4-year-old. On June 7, 1969, he competed for the first time at Coeur d’Alene, a small track in Idaho that was about 35 miles east of Spokane.
At that time, the races at Coeur d’Alene did not appear in the Daily Racing Form, making it what’s called a “bush track.” Thus, Turbulator’s first start is not part of his official racing record. But I can attest that he did run in that race at Coeur d’Alene. I was there that day with my father. As a 4-year-old maiden running against horses with multiple wins in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race, Turbulator finished third.
The first and second official starts for Turbulator occurred at Portland Meadows in 1969 on June 16 and June 23. He ran in a pair of six-furlong maiden claiming races. He finished second both times as the 4-5 favorite. He could have been claimed for just $1,500 on June 16, $2,000 on June 23. But nobody wanted him.
He would never, ever be risked in another claiming race.
After his back-to-back losses in Portland, Turbulator took Spokane by storm. From Aug. 22 to Oct. 26 at Playfair, he reeled off seven consecutive victories at distances ranging from six furlongs to two miles. How many horses have you ever seen possess the capability of winning a six-furlong sprint AND a two-mile marathon?
“A most remarkable feat was accomplished during the past dozen months when a lightly regarded 4-year-old named Turbulator amazed the Northwest with a near-incredible seven straight victories,” Jim Price wrote in the February 1970 edition of The Washington Horse magazine. “The win skein included conquests in three stakes races. All seven triumphs occurred at one track -- Playfair.”
A WORLD RECORD AND A BROKEN STIRRUP
What Turbulator achieved in 1969 served as a tantalizing appetizer for his 1970 campaign. Fifty years ago, the “four-footed legend in his own time,” as Price put it, took Pacific Northwest racing fans on a memorable ride from May to October.
When Turbulator won the 1970 Yakima Mile on May 17, he shaved four-fifths of a second off the track record for one mile at Yakima Meadows. Turbulator would hold that record from 1970 until Slew of Damascus broke it when he won the 1993 Yakima Mile. Slew of Damascus would go on to capture the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park in 1994.
The highest of the highs for Turbulator came on a summer afternoon in 1970 at Longacres. On Aug. 16, he roared home from 12 lengths off the pace to win the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap by a half-length. He broke the world record by two-fifths of a second. It was one of his seven stakes victories that year.
Two weeks after Turbulator’s world-record performance, he was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 1970 Longacres Mile. Regular rider Larry Pierce was aboard Turbulator in their quest to capture racing’s biggest prize in the Pacific Northwest.
Early in the Longacres Mile, Pierce realized his left foot was not in the stirrup.
“I just thought my foot had come out of it,” Pierce said years later when I asked him about that race. “I was kind of riding lopsided, a little off balance, but I wasn’t that worried about it right then. I was worried more about my position going to the first turn. I wanted to get as good of a position as I could and figured I could put my foot back in the stirrup later.
“Just before we got to the first turn I reached down to put my foot in the stirrup, and I realized there was no stirrup!”
The stirrup had shattered into several pieces. Without Pierce having a stirrup for his left foot and even though Turbulator was boxed in throughout the entire final three furlongs, Turbulator managed to close from 10th to finish fifth in the field of 13. He lost by only 2 1/2 lengths in what is widely considered to be the most famous loss by a horse in Northwest racing history.
Pierce has always believed that he still would have won despite the broken stirrup “if I had just been able to somehow get him to the outside” and into the clear in the final three furlongs.
Tom Crawford, confident of a Longacres Mile victory, was fuming after seeing Turbulator finish fifth. Crawford initially did not know about the broken stirrup.
“What the hell were you doing out there?” Pierce recalled an angry Crawford saying to him after the race as the rider dismounted.
Pierce did not respond right away. Instead, he just pointed toward Turbulator’s saddle. The rider then shook his head and said in a soft voice to Crawford, “My stirrup broke.”
Upon hearing that, Crawford walked away.
All but one piece of the stirrup was recovered. Crawford had the stirrup fragments framed. When I visited Marguerite Crawford to interview her at her home in 2004, she showed me that particular piece of racing memorabilia, which was displayed on a hallway wall.
At Longacres on Sept. 14, Turbulator won the 1970 Washington Championship despite carrying 128 pounds. He broke the track record for 1 1/16 miles, a mark that had stood for 16 years. After that victory, Turbulator made his final two 1970 starts at Playfair.
In one of the finest performances in the history of racing in that part of the country, Turbulator came from 20 lengths behind to win the one-mile Washington State Breeders Handicap on Sept. 27. The sight of Turbulator zooming past several rivals on the final turn that day is something I’ll never forget. It looked like he was going about twice as fast as the other horses. He won going away by two lengths while thumbing his nose at being burdened with 134 pounds.
“Many knowledgeable individuals who are associated with racing throughout the Northwest are saying that this is the greatest horse in the history of Northwest racing,” Scott Shirley wrote in the Daily Racing Form following Turbulator’s victory under 134 pounds.
These days many do not seem to fully appreciate the difficulty of winning a race while carrying 134 pounds. But if you are one of those who subscribe to the notion that weight does not matter, the next time you’re at an airport, I urge you to see what it’s like to actually carry your luggage everywhere instead of rolling it along. My guess is you will quickly grasp the importance of weight.
Turbulator was assigned a whopping 138 pounds for the 1970 Playfair Mile on Oct. 28. That is a record to this day. It’s the most weight ever carried by a horse in an open stakes race at a track in the Pacific Northwest. Turbulator was asked to spot 21 pounds to no less an opponent than the multiple stakes winner Ruler’s Whirl.
When making his familiar charge on the final turn, Turbulator slipped and nearly fell when he encountered a wet spot on the track. It was something akin to a car skidding on a patch of ice. Turbulator broke stride so abruptly that I was afraid that he might have broken down. But once again showing what an exceptional equine athlete he was, he quickly regrouped and resumed his rally.
It would be a tall order for Turbulator to catch Ruler’s Whirl, though. Not only did Ruler’s Whirl have a clear lead in the final furlong, he wasn’t showing any signs of weakening.
Turbulator gave it his all, as usual, but this time it wasn’t quite enough. He had to settle for second. Ruler’s Whirl prevailed by a neck.
After the race, as Turbulator made his way back to the area on the track in front of the grandstand to be unsaddled, he was greeted by an ovation few winners ever receive. The crowd cheered him loudly for several minutes in recognition of his valiant effort in defeat.
Turbulator was acclaimed 1970 Washington-bred Horse of the Year. But his 1970 campaign seemingly took a toll. He did not race at all in 1971.
When Turbulator made his comeback at Longacres on June 16, 1972, he did so with front bandages that he would wear for the remainder of his racing career. From 1972 on, it was evident that Turbulator was past his prime. The lone exception was when he rocketed home to win the 1972 Washington Championship after being 8 1/2 lengths behind at the eighth pole. The most famous come-from-behind racehorse of all time is Silky Sullivan. Not even Silky Sullivan ever won a race from that far off the lead at the eighth pole.
After Turbulator finished eighth in the 1974 Washington Championship at the ripe old age of 9, Marguerite Crawford knew the time had come to retire him.
PUBLIC APPEARANCES FOR YEARS AFTER RETIREMENT
Turbulator won a total of 21 races. That in itself was quite an accomplishment when you take into account he did not make any starts at ages 2, 3 and 6.
Just as consequential as Turbulator’s many victories was the way he connected with racing fans. Thanks in large measure to his come-from-way-behind running style and undeniable charisma, he became the most popular horse to ever race in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t believe me? He was such a fan favorite that there were Turbulator T-shirts, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and campaign buttons.
Pierce rode Turbulator in 24 races. As a team, they won 11. I once asked Pierce what it was like to ride Turbulator in his heyday.
“He had such an explosive move,” Pierce said. “And he had that move whenever you asked him for it. You could ask him for it anytime in a race and it’d be there. It’d be there instantly. He’d go full steam. There was no halfway about it. His move was awesome. I just had so much confidence in him. He could make up 10 lengths, easy, in a quarter of a mile. Horses just don’t do that. He’d go by horses so fast, it’d take your breath away.”
After Turbulator’s racing days were behind him, he remained in such demand that he made public appearances at Longacres and Playfair for many years.
At the age of 24, Turbulator made what would be his final public appearance on Sept. 30, 1989. Playfair honored him yet again that day.
“He hammed it up,” Marguerite Crawford said of that 1989 Playfair appearance by Turbulator in a story Dan Weaver wrote for a Spokane newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. “He knew when he was on stage. He loved the applause.”
On Nov. 4, 1989, Sunday Silence won an epic renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a neck over arch rival Easy Goer at Gulfstream Park. Three days later, Turbulator died. According to Turbulator’s obituary in The Spokesman-Review, the cause of death was a heart attack.
Turbulator was inducted into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.
Playfair, the track where Turbulator burst on the scene in 1969, ceased racing in 2000. It then was demolished in 2004 to become an industrial site.
When I interviewed Marguerite Crawford at her home late in 2004, I asked her, “Do you know what ever happened to the Turbulator statue?”
“It’s out in the garage,” she said. “Would you like to see it?”
The “Turbulator statue,” as most people called it, was a bust of Turbulator’s head and neck that for many years had been located in the middle of the walking ring at the Playfair paddock.
As I looked at the “Turbulator statue” in Mrs. Crawford’s garage, I asked her what she planned to do with it.
“Well, I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m thinking of giving it to the Spokane Interstate Fair.”
“Oh, Mrs. Crawford, please don’t do that,” I pleaded. “It won’t mean a thing to people visiting the fair. It belongs at a racetrack so racing fans can see it and appreciate it. It belongs at Emerald Downs. Would you consider sending it there?”
“Well, yes, if they ask me,” she said.
ASAP after I left Mrs. Crawford’s home, I called Joe Withee, Emerald Downs’ director of broadcast media. I told him that if he contacted Marguerite Crawford, there was a very good chance that she would be willing to send Emerald the “Turbulator statue” that had been at the Playfair paddock.
Excited by the prospect, Withee followed up forthwith. And so it came to pass that the Turbulator bust of his head and neck has, for many years now, been on display at the Washington Racing Hall of Fame exhibit located in the Emerald Downs grandstand. And that certainly is a much better place for it than at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds in a city that does not even have a racetrack anymore.