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Palone: Post 9 "a death sentence" for Peelers

August 30, 2011

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Triple Crown champion Blissfull Hall could not overcome an outside post in the 1999 Adios, and neither could Pacer of the Year Well Said in the 2009 renewal of The Meadows’ signature race. So for Dave Palone, the leading driver at The Meadows in wins and earnings the past 21 years, it’s easy to understand why driver Marcus Johansson could not overcome starting from the outside nine hole with See You At Peelers in Monday’s $193,500 Nadia Lobell. The filly's sixth-place finish brought to a halt her perfect 22-race win streak.
“See You At Peelers was a victim of circumstances and she will bounce back fine from that,” said Palone, who directed Some Girls Do to a fifth-place finish in Monday’s race. “It’s not like her life is over, she is still the dominant filly and the one to beat. She just got saddled with the nine and that’s a death sentence at The Meadows.”
See You At Peelers was parked three wide heading into the first turn before clearing the lead over Myluvmylife, who left from the eight hole with driver Brian Sears and made the early journey even tougher. See You At Peelers was still parked at the opening quarter of :26.1 and then continued on through a :53.1 half--a :27 second quarter--and 1:21.1 three quarters.
In midstretch it was apparent See You At Peelers was out of gas and she faded to sixth, finishing 6 ¼ lengths behind the winning Idyllic, who charged first-over around the final turn for driver David Miller to win in 1:50.
“I have started behind that starting gate for 27 years and I’ve watched a lot of horses,” said Palone. “When I saw the draw come out and I saw the nine for her, I thought she was in a very tough spot.
“From the nine hole you can’t go out of there floating; you have to leave full blast like (Johansson) did,” he continued. “And she never did that before in her life and she got wound up. I’ve seen it happen here a million times and it’s nothing that Marcus did wrong. He had to go in :25 or so and it wasn’t like she crossed right over; she was out around the turn. When you see :53.1 come up on the clock (at the half), it’s easy to point at the driver. But I sympathize with him because I’ve been there so many times.”
Only 6.4 percent of the 923 horses who have started from post nine this year at The Meadows have reached the winner’s circle, with just 18.2 percent even finishing in the top three. According to Horseman correspondent Dave Liker, who keeps meticulous wagering stats at The Meadows, 52 times this year bettors made a horse starting from post nine the favorite, with 28.8 percent winning—only 24.4 percent for pacers.
“At The Meadows you go so fast around that (clubhouse) turn that when you have the nine, you literally pace a quarter in 28 seconds before the gate even opens,” Palone explained of the disadvantageous starting spot. “Sometimes from the nine you have to race a mile and a quarter, and that’s exactly what happened with her. Marcus had to rev her up to get her started to make the lead and by that time she had already paced a vicious three-eighths of a mile.”
Palone vividly remembers both Blissfull Hall and Well Said's Adios defeats, especially the former since he won that year's renewal with Washington VC. Sent off in the final as a 9-1 longshot, Washington VC bested the heavily-favored Blissfull Hall by 2 ¾ lengths after that one tired after leaving from post seven and leading until deep stretch.  
Showing how tough that starting spot was, Blissfull Hall later came back to win his Little Brown Jug elimination despite being parked to the quarter from the outside post seven over the half-mile oval at Delaware, Ohio. He then won the decisive second heat from an inside post he earned by virtue of winning his elim.
Well Said drew post nine for the Adios final but he was parked early, dropped in briefly before moving to the front, before tiring to a third-place finish as the odds-on favorite. Well Said then overcame post eight to win his Jug elim before also scoring a victory in the final.
“The time I won the Adios and Washington VC beat Blissfull Hall, it was the exact same scenario. That horse was saddled with an outside post,” remembered Palone. “Two years ago when everything was being said about Well Said, it was the same thing. He got stung leaving and that’s exactly what happened to him.”
As for the key to winning from an outside post at The Meadows, Palone said, “I think the key to winning out of the nine hole is to somehow get yourself into position without having to blast—and that’s not easy to do. Especially when you have a horse like See You At Peelers, with a target on her back.
“The times I had the most luck winning from the outside posts at The Meadows are when you go out of there and get lucky sometimes and fall in and conserve your horse.”--harnessracing.com
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