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When Teletimers Attack


Mark Patterson


Thu, Apr 14, 2016

With a three- inch cushion of fine-grain river-sand spread over an aged clay and limestone base, Mountaineer's main track has the trigger- eyes at reasonable run-ups and isn't known as unusually quick.

However, when mere 10k claimers smoked a mile in sub-1:36 for openers Wednesday evening, it was apparent that shifting weather patterns and or maintenance measures taken to avoid further cancellations-most of Monday's and all of Tuesday's cards were lost to cold, wintry conditions-would engender eye-popping times. But who even suspected history in the making? That is, an onslaught of clockings fast enough to forge a new and bizzare chapter in Mountaineer annals. We're talking speeds that a starship would envy, flying four-legged objects that probably set off military defense systems.

Now, to the best of my knowledge, Fred MacMurray didn't slip flubber into the surface Wednesday afternoon, nor did mischievous gremlins get into the teletimer. But something equally surreal was afoot (no, make that underfoot) for an evening's sport that saw longstanding track records at two commonly run distances fall to runof-the-mill horses within a 25 min span.

Fall? In one instance, the mark was obliterated by a full second. Do the math: racing commenced here in 1951; 40 (or so) years ago, a year-round schedule was adopted; ten races per -card were long the norm, with double programs regularly offered. So, how many 5 ½ furlong races have been run here? 10,000? 12,000? Estimating an average of eight starters per- event, that's perhaps 100,000 horses- classy speeds on confidence -building leads; lethal stalkers perched behind duels; and thundering closers in rare form-all straining from point a to point b. And Wednesday night, a generic two- time winner, twice beaten double-lengths recently, got there some sixlengths faster than the next fastest performance. In 63 years.

And, oh, by the way, Silver Antelope's 101.26 missed the all-time North American dirt mark by about one- fifth of a second, or roughly the length of an NBA center. Unfathomable, since the performance was unexceptional. The beyer makers heartily agreed with that assessment, assigning Silver Antelope a modest 83 -cheap claimers rate higher everyday-for saving ground to surge a mere four-lengths clear of a pacesetter that came under a ride mid-turn, then proceeded to drift out and tire.

Nor were they particularly impressed by the new mile-standard set by Present Course, a relatively talented, if somewhat sporadic, mid- claimer, whose customary turn -move and margin of victory were enhanced by an ideal setup. For throwing down the fastest eight-furlongs in Mountaineer's history, a Dr Fager-esque 1:33.44, the sometimes hanger received just an 85.

How can less than historic efforts result in clockings Stephen Hawking couldn't explain? The answer is simple: a surface so supernaturally fast that Stephen King should be writing this. Consider the 108.53 turned in by Ms Jean Elizabeth, a 30-1 never-three eligible scoring by only a length. Granted, the beyer associates routinely “project” (make up?) numbers, but compare the filly's bsf with the towering 119, Mountaineer's all time high, put up by G-1 winner Fabulous Strike here at the same six-furlongs back in 2006. Imagine THAT performance in the same 7th-race time-slot over a course that quickened during Wednesday's card. That transcendent 119, friends and fellow thoroughbred enthusiasts, then translates to a raw clocking just over 1:04. The world record (just to give this insanity some context), on any footing, since stop watches were invented, is 106.6. Wrap your mind around that.

Has the mountain-main , over the course of perhaps 10,000 programs, EVER played as fast as on Wednesday? Highly doubtful. No, let's go with “not even close.” But here's the lurking question-the broader, audacious one that almost dares not be posed: has any strip, anywhere, at anytime been as rapid?

History was indeed made here Wednesday-by maybe the fastest oval of all time.


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