Now that we’ve gone to a monthly publishing schedule at Hybrid Vigor, our readers were spared my Kentucky Derby predictions. Those who use my selections as automatic throw-outs might have done well, as my pick, Irish War Cry, was the public’s second choice but finished 10th, far behind the actual favorite, Always Dreaming.
I would have told you why I liked Irish War Cry. I liked the fact that he finished remarkably well in his debut, suggesting that as distances got longer (the Kentucky Derby is usually about as long a race as its contestants will run) he would stick around nicely. In fact, he didn’t—after spending most of the race in perfect striking position, he had nothing when it mattered most.
I would have told you that I liked Irish War Cry’s versatility—he won his first race from far behind but subsequently won three more races while leading all the way or coming from just off the pace. You need flexibility to win a wild race like the Derby. And while Irish War Cry and his rider, Rajiv Maragh, were ideally situated for most of the race, it didn’t end up helping.
I would have told you that I liked Irish War Cry’s trainer, the Englishman Graham Motion, who trained my best Derby pick ever, the 20-1 winner Animal Kingdom six years ago. Patient, methodical, disciplined, Mr. Motion (what a great name, by the way) is the ideal horseman. None of that mattered when Irish War Cry came up empty.
What’s the point?
You can have everything seem right and still be wrong. It happens with horses and it happens with markets. Sometimes things work out. In 2011 Animal Kingdom won the Derby for Mr. Motion without having previously raced on dirt. That never happened before. This time Irish War Cry had won one of the most traditional prep races, New York’s Wood Memorial. Secretariat and Seattle Slew both ran in it. And… nothing.
When you assess a market, you look at valuations. You compare them to where they’ve been to estimate where they might be going. Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you don’t. This market’s been confounding a lot of very smart and experienced followers. It’s made them look as bad as Irish War Cry looked in the Derby’s last quarter-mile.
The difference is that Irish War Cry never gets to run in the Kentucky Derby again. The investors who’ve been getting the market wrong will get more chances. Most of them, anyway. Sometimes you lose so badly that you get shut down for good.
And that, I think, is the secret, the real war cry. Even if you lose the current battle, stay in the war and live to fight another day. Current conditions, whatever they may be, won’t last forever.
Even Irish War Cry will probably win some more big races before he’s done. Just not this one. It’s not the end of the world.
(This is the cover letter for the subscription-based weekly Hillside's Hybrid Vigor newsletter. For a complete copy, please contact John Anderson at + 1 (646) 712-9289 x 107).