On Track with Johnny D: By Any Other Name

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –William Shakespeare

Hate to disagree with “The Bard” but, as kids say…Not!

If you’re gonna name a 2-year-old Thoroughbred filly Diamondsandpearls you had better be positive she can run. Otherwise, why saddle a filly with a handle she can’t possibly match? ‘Diamondsandpearls’ suggests beauty, refinement and elegance. Sophia, Grace and Audrey. Rome, Monaco and Manhattan. Before she’s finished Diamondsandpearls might also add speed and determination to the mix.

If you were watching the races from Santa Anita Sunday, July 2, you got a preview of what’s in store. A ‘coming attraction.’ A ‘trailer’ to promote the main event. Based on that sliver of entertainment value, you’re going to want to catch the entire show when it opens nationwide in the Sorrento Stakes, August 5, at Del Mar.

Diamondsandpearls debuted as one of those ‘can’t miss’ blockbusters bolstered by media hype, high-profile connections and a massive budget. She was less than even money to succeed. A certain champion. ‘One of the year’s best!’ claimed early reviews. Directed by Bob Baffert and starring Mike Smith—owners of multiple prized statuettes–how could she fail?

Easily. It’s happened before. More than once. More often than not, in fact. The ones advertised as ‘the next coming’ seldom work out. Disappointing. Not very good. ‘Straight to video.’ Because they begin so high they often fall flat. The truly great ones surprise you. Like Arrogate in the Travers. What gambling price was the world’s most talented horse that afternoon…11-1? Who knew?

Diamondsandpearls may be an exception. The overall number one draft pick that actually exceeds expectations. It happens. Just not very often. Bred by Todd Frederick, Chad Frederick & Phoenix Farm and Racing in Kentucky, she was purchased twice in 2016 at Keeneland auctions–once by Dixon Enterprises in January for $60,000 and then in September by Patrice Miller/EQB, agent for Zayat Stables, for $250,000.

In 2017, McKathan Bros–who have history with Zayat, Baffert and a horse named American Pharoah, among others—as agent, consigned Diamondsandpearls to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales in March. Before bidding began she ripped a co-fastest furlong in a rapid 9 4/5 seconds. Watch her OBS video http://www.obssales.com/marcatalog/2017/360.mp4 to sample some pure unadulterated speed. To the untrained eye it’s easy to understand why she brought a sales-topping bid of $1.7 million! Do her hooves even touch the ground? Kerri Radcliffe, as agent, signed the ticket and the Baffert barn became Diamondsandpearls’ next home.

Now, a filly’s not the same as a colt…in more ways than the obvious. For example, once retired from an outstanding racing career, a member of the fairer sex won’t function like an equine ATM, entertaining mares at around $100k a visit like some horsey assembly line. A mare becomes a mom—to one foal per year. And, while motherhood is the most important occupation in the world, the pay ain’t so great.

Do the math. Dad, who had a very successful career on the racetrack, services roughly 100 mares at a stud fee of around $100k each to the tune of $10 million a year. Mom, who won just as many Grade 1s as dad did, has one foal each year and they sell for…wait for it…a couple of hundred thousand dollars each. And that’s if they’re perfect. Sure, mom’s kids may go on to do great things and she could become worth millions as a broodmare, but she’ll never have the same earning potential as dad.

And that’s why paying $1.7 million for a 2-year-old filly is a little crazy, even if you have that kind of money. Where’s the upside? What are the odds that she’s going to be a champion? Do you know how many races she’ll need to win to earn that money back on the track? Must you ask so many questions?

Do yourself a favor and use your Xpressbet account to access a replay of Phoenix Thoroughbred III’s Diamondsandpearls breaking her maiden in the second race at Santa Anita on July 2. Watch her pop the gate in front. Notice how readily she responds to jockey Mike Smith’s request for speed. Pay particular attention to how effortlessly she does it. Just like the filly we saw at the sale, only better. More mature. Confident instead of cocky.

Now, see her ears twitch back and forth like antennae, listening for a potential threat, as if pre-race she’d been warned that a mountain lion was hunting for lunch in Arcadia. In the lane, under minimal urging, she leaves others behind–runner-up six and one-quarter lengths back, five and one-half between that one and the next.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of races and seldom do I pick my head up from a pile of past performance data. Diamondsandpearls caused me to pause. To marvel at her talent. To appreciate her performance as one might a fine wine’s bouquet. I drank it up. And then revisited the replay to enjoy it again.

She’s got the talent, the connections and the hype. How can she miss? She can’t. How far will she carry that blazing speed? No one knows for sure, but with Bob Baffert calling the shots she’s got a chance to go as far as she needs to.

One thing’s for sure, she’s got the right name. One that definitely will fit a champion.

Race On!

On Track with Johnny D: By Any Other Name