No sport, with the possible exception of baseball, is as susceptible to statistical analysis as horse racing. And in no sport can the numbers be interpreted in so many different ways.
Win or lose, there is always a number to explain a victory or explain away a defeat. The fractions were too fast, or too slow; the weight differential was too great, or too small; the distance was too long, or too short.
At the track, excuses are as easy to find as losing tickets.
All of which is another way of saying that whichever horse wins Sunday's John Henry Handicap, the more important of two feature races on this weekend's Hollywood Park program, it won't be much of a surprise.
Nine horses have been entered in the 21st running of the $150,000-added turf event for 3-year-olds and up, and, although the field lacks the quality normally associated with a Grade I race, the John Henry figures to be competitive.
Only two names--Forlitano and Steinlen--stand out, and then only because the rest of the field is more nondescript than usual.
Forlitano, in the money in more than half of his 32 starts, has top earnings among those entered with $614,495, a figure that in itself shows the lackluster nature of the field. In his favor is the fact that Charlie Whittingham is his trainer and Bill Shoemaker his jockey.
Both veterans will be seeking their seventh John Henry Handicap victory and their sixth as a team. They last paired to win the race with Palace Music in 1986.
Forlitano has been less than impressive lately, however, with a second, two fourths and a fifth in his last four starts.
Coming in with much better credentials is Steinlen, trained by Wayne Lukas and ridden by Gary Stevens. Steinlen has won his last three races, including the Premiere Handicap on opening weekend at Hollywood Park.
Forlitano and Steinlen share top weight at 120 pounds.
Other challengers include the Maryland-bred, English-raced colt, Deputy Governor; Siyah Kalem, beaten by a head by Steinlen in the Premiere in his United States debut, and Neshad, who wound up third in the Premiere, as he had done in the El Rincon.
The complete John Henry field, in order of post position and including jockey and weight: Cutlass Reality, Ron Warren, Jr., 112; Neshad, Laffit Pincay, 115; Roi Normand, Rafael Meza, 112; Conquering Hero, Aaron Gryder, 115; Deputy Governor, Eddie Delahoussaye, 118; Forlitano, Bill Shoemaker, 120; Stop The Fighting, Ray Sibille, 115; Steinlen, Gary Stevens, 120, and Siyah Kalem, Chris McCarron, 116.
The second feature of the weekend is today's $75,000-added A Gleam Handicap, to be run at 7 furlongs. The Grade III race has attracted a field of seven fillies and mares 3 years old and up, headed by Integra, with Stevens riding.
The complete A Gleam field, from the rail out and including jockey and weight: Infringe, Bill Shoemaker, 109; Carol's Wonder, Eddie Delahoussaye, 117; Rose's Record, Fernando Toro, 116; Behind the Scenes, Rafael Meza, 116; Integra, Gary Stevens, 118; Saros Brig, Laffit Pincay, 113, and Stalwart Sal, Corey Black, 115.