I am not a handicapper, nor do I play one on TV. But I can’t resist nosing around with some of the dosage profiles of this year’s Belmont contenders.
Dosage has fallen out of favor, so much so that the pedigrees on the Belmont Stakes website don’t include dosage profiles.
But I became intrigued by dosage when I saw an article (that I, of course, can’t find now) comparing the dosage profiles of Smarty Jones and Birdstone. You may recall that Smarty won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, along with the hearts of race fans all over America. But Birdstone out-ran him down that long stretch in The Belmont.
According to the dosage numbers (see my post explaining dosage and why-I-dig-dosage-for-the-Triple-Crown), Smarty Jones was bred for speed, not necessarily for staying power. Not like Birdstone.
So, who’s got the pedigree that can take him the mile-and-a-half distance this year?
Dosage = “What did your daddies do? And what did they leave you?”
If you haven’t read it already, you’ll be a lot happier if you just go read my dosage post now. We’ll wait.
So, you know that a dosage profile, in short, is a series of five numbers that demonstrates a horse’s potential according to the records of its sires AND their ability to pass on certain qualities.
So, what is the “dosage profile?”
The numbers to the left indicate a horse bred for speed. Numbers to the right indicate a horse bred for stamina.
B(rilliant) — I(ntermediate) — C(lassic) — S(olid) — P(rofessional)
or, as my “translation” goes
Speed – I(ntermediate – C(lassic) – S(olid) – Stamina
Even if I’ve screwed up the specifics, that’s what it all boils down to.
The dosage profile is a scale from fast t0 strong that attempts to predict a horse’s ability to win at a particular distance by the capabilities of the male horses in its pedigree.
That said, think of that middle digit – which suggests a horse’s potential to run in the “classic” races, such as the other two Triple Crown races – as the, well, mid-point.
Everything to the left of the mid-point? The horse has sires who pass down a tendency to be fast. To the right? The stallions in the horse’s ancestry pass on endurance or stamina.
If all the numbers are on the left, the horse is fast. You’ll probably see early speed and he may even break fast out of the gate.
If there are numbers on the right? The horse should have some staying power, especially after all those speed horses wear themselves out. These are the closers. The stayers.
So, what doesn’t dosage do?
For one thing, dosage ignores the influence of the mare’s bloodlines. If you noticed, when you read my dosage post, it’s all about the males in a horse’s pedigree.
Since the dam contributes half the chromosones in a foal’s DNA, dosage really only shows half the picture.
Besides, dosage applies to live, breathing animals with minds of their own. They may have the best pedigree in the world and just not into the whole “mad dash to the finish line thing” on a particular day which may or may not be the day of the Kentucky Derby.
Or they may have undiagnosable aches and pains. Or dislike the condition of the track. Or hate heat and humidity, both of which often team up on Belmont Day. Jockey decisions and strategies sometimes don’t work out. And, sometimes, other horse may happen to be in peak condition just in time for the big race.
If it were an exact science, it wouldn’t be horse racing. And it wouldn’t be exciting.
So, how does this apply to the Belmont?
What you want to see in a Belmont winner, IMO, is numbers other than zeroes all across those five spots, especially on the far right.
Birdstone’s dosage profile is 7-8-9-0-2. No wonder he out-ran Smarty Jones (10-3-8-1-0) to the finish line in the 2004 Belmont.
Birdstone’s son, last year’s winner Summer Bird, has a DP is 4-4-7-1-0.
And then, to be fair – because she counters my theory — is the DP of Rags to Riches of 8-11-19-0-0. Oops.
Double digits on a dosage profile, especially in the middle, do seem to change things, though.
This year’s contenders
So, since the Belmont’s website’s pedigrees don’t include dosage profiles, I went to Pedigree Online and downloaded some.
Speed – I(ntermediate – C(classic) – S(olid) – Stamina
Now, let’s see those horses and their dosage profiles, according to post position:
1. Dave in Dixie 4-0-7-0-1
2. Spangled Star 5-3-14-1-1
3. Uptowncharlybrown 5-2-7-0-0
4. Make Music for Me 12-5-9-2-0
5. Fly Down 11-7-12-0-0
6. Ice Box 7-6-11-0-0
7. Drosselmeyer 7-2-10-2-1
8. Game On Dude 8-0-6-0-0
9. Stately Victor 3-2-11-0-0
10. Stay Put 9-6-9-2-2
11. First Dude 8-5-13-0-0
12. Interactif 12-13-15-2-2
When making your picks, even if all you intend to do is cheer on your favorite horse from your sofa, look for those numbers to the right. Also, look for some double digits in there, especially at the mid-point.
Who’s my pick?
Unless I change my mind between now and then – especially considering what I see of the horse’s behavior in the paddock and the post parade – I like Interactif.
His trainer Todd Pletcher added him last weekend. With a DP like 12-13-15-2-2, I say, “No wonder” when I look at the rest of the field. He has a shot. I also think Stay Put (9-6-9-2-2) and Drosselmeyer (7-2-10-2-1) will be making him work for it.
Why did I post picks here?
Except for the six weeks of the Triple Crown and some other major races, this isn’t really a racing blog. And I don’t consider myself a handicapper.
But everyone has an opinion. Part of the fun of racing is talking up “who do you like?” and why. Despite strong opinions and, often, the money riding on a choice, no one comes to blows, especially among the fans.
Race fans can talk spiritedly about their favorites without any bitterness or recriminations. Granted, plenty of people think dosage is a buncha hokum. But I think it’s as good a yardstick as any.
So, all that said – who do you like?