Horse running through field

Dancing Rain ‘Not Guilty’ in Oaks Win

by Roger Lyons

If the expression “stole the race” is worth using at all, then it needs to be used less often than it is. First of all, stealing a race must involve an element of guile. A horse goes off at 20-1–kind of like Dancing Rain (Danehill Dancer-Rain Flower, by Indian Ridge, by Ahonoora) in the 12-furlong Epsom Oaks (G1)–and gets an easy lead. The soon-to-be losing jockeys are not that concerned, even though they’d prefer an “honest pace,” because they think she’ll be finished in any event by the time they’re coming off the turn. The soon-to-be winning jockey knows better, and that’s the con.

But, as W.C. Fields said, “you can’t cheat an honest man,” which in this context means that Dancing Rain could have stolen the Epsom Oaks only if there had been another filly (a mark) in the race better than she was. If the best horse wins, it’s not stealing, no matter how the race is run.

Anyone who thinks, as the T.V. analysts do, that there are just two kinds of horses, the front-runners and the closers, might well think Dancing Rain stole the Oaks. Because two horses were running more or less side by side in the lead during the early fractions of the Preakness, lots of people thought it was a speed duel. They entirely missed the point that one of those two horses–namely, Shackleford–is a stayer. Apparently, the concept of a horse that stays, that controls the pace and carries its speed around two turns, is too complex for network coverage.

Dancing Rain’s ability to show speed that stays is easy to figure out. The offspring of both Danehill Dancer (her sire) and Indian Ridge (her broodmare sire) have a mode (most frequently occurring) stakes-winning distance of eight furlongs, and in both cases it’s a strong mode. Dancing Rain’s speed carries because her second dam is by Alleged, the mode stakes-winning distance of whose offspring is, by a very large margin, 12 furlongs.

Not just any speed and stamina can combine effectively to yield a stayer, but this does. Danehill Dancer has a superior-runner strike rate of 7/42 with mares that have Alleged in their ancestries, and he has a strike rate of 6/28 when Alleged descends through a daughter, as in this case.

That daughter, Rose of Jericho, figures in the ancestry of another stakes winner by Danehill Dancer and in a revealing way. Dual-listed stakes winner Deauville Vision is out of a mare by Epsom Derby winner, Dr Devious. Like Indian Ridge, Dr Devious is by Ahonoora, but his dam is Rose of Jericho. So, Dancing Rain’s dam is a three-quarters sister to Deauville Vision’s broodmare sire. It’s the Ahonoora-Alleged sire-line cross through the same daughter of Alleged. Deauville Vision won listed stakes in Ireland at eight furlongs and 10 furlongs, at ages four and six, respectively.

Her pedigree says Dancing Rain is a stayer, and stayers don’t steal races. What could be more honest than a horse that goes to the front and stays there?

5 comments to “Dancing Rain ‘Not Guilty’ in Oaks Win”

  • Greg writes:

    Actually, that’s the kind I’d like to have. Just saying.

  • Roger Lyons writes:

    I’ve been thinking the same thing lately, Greg.

  • Tinky writes:

    Pedantic, perhaps, but I take issue with your characterization of either Dancing Rain or (especially) Shackleford as being a “stayer”.

    Certainly in the classical sense, a horse which gets 10-12 furlongs is a “middle-distance” horse, and not a stayer. Of course we have different (read: degraded) standards here in the U.S., but the point stands.

    It seems to me that the more accurate characterization would that they are galloping types. Yes, they have also shown sufficient stamina to be effective beyond nine furlongs (and up to 12 in the case of the filly), but stayers? Unquestionably not in the case of the colt, and the filly has more to prove to be placed in that category.

  • Roger Lyons writes:

    Tinky, I have no doubt that the specialized sense in which the term “stayer” is customarily used would tend to support your view, and I have misgivings myself about using it in reference to Shackleford and even in reference, as you suggest, to what Dancing Rain has shown so far. The point I wanted to make is that horses like Shackleford and Dancing Rain are the most honest of horses, and I think that’s a point of tradition; otherwise, the poet A.B. Paterson could not have written the lines below, especially as part of the poem in which they appear:

    They bred him out back on the ‘Never,’
    His mother was Mameluke breed,
    To the front–and then stay there–was ever
    The root of the Mameluke creed.

    Terms of specialized vernacular, such as the term “stayer,” need never be called to account for ordinary usage, but the use of a specialized term in that vernacular doesn’t necessarily bar the use of that same term in an ordinary sense. In that ordinary sense, I believe, horses like Shackleford and Dancing Rain capture the essence of what it means to stay.

    Okay, I know that’s a little thin, but it’s all I’ve got.

  • Tinky writes:

    Thanks Roger. You are a thoughtful, interesting observer of the game, and I enjoy reading your work.

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