Wednesday morning quick picks

Commenter John S. shares with us the origin of the term “hands down,” used to describe Watson’s victory in the first running of the Jerome:

It is so common in our language, but who knew it actually is a horse racing term
from the 1800s, used to describe a jockey loosening the reins and dropping his
hands once he sees no one will catch his horse…

At least one website I checked (and that I can’t find again) indicated that dropping one’s hands could be seen as a kind of grandstanding by a jockey, rather like, I imagine, those football players who slow down before they get to the end zone, knowing that no one is going to catch them.

In other racing language news, I’ve often pondered the counter-intuitive nature of the terms “breezing” and “placed.” “Breeze” connotes something done easily, without a care, yet a horse who breezes is actually working hard; the word’s denotation supports its somewhat contradictory use in that context, according to Merriam-Webster:

1: to move swiftly and airily
2: to make progress quickly and easily

And among the first things one learns when going to the track is that “to place” means to finish second and “to show” means to finish third. Why, then, are horses that finish second or third considered to have “placed,” as in “graded stakes placed”? Isn’t that confusing?


Our favorite Hook and Ladder two year old, Early Response, lived up to his name in the mud at Belmont on Sunday, racing in second down the backstretch but ultimately finishing fourth. Maybe he was just outclassed, maybe he didn’t like the surface.

Though Early Response ran beautifully in the slop at Saratoga, jockey Mike Luzzi said Sunday that there’s “different mud at Belmont than at Saratoga,” reminding me of Mike Venezia’s comments following Forego’s victory in the Woodward. Forego had run terribly on an off track at Saratoga, and his connections nearly scratched him from the Woodward when the track came up muddy. Venezia said,

“There’s more loam at Saratoga…That makes it a truer mud. Here [at
Belmont], the sand content is higher, so it’s more like a beach-type mud.”
(New York Times)

Unfortunately, Early Response didn’t take to the beachy Belmont mud with quite Forego’s alacrity.

Finally, if you haven’t yet checked out the Raceday 360 Wire, do so: it’s a great collection of stories from a variety of media and of photos, updated frequently. Brought to you by Jessica Chapel of Railbird.

Posting may well be irregular over the next few days, as, given the confluence of holidays resulting in a five-day weekend for me, I’m off to Lexington and Keeneland until Monday. Looking forward to the races and farms and friends…full reports upcoming!

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