Sunday, September 2, 2012

Land triples with two retired guns

Clarksburg Village

Overcast, muggy, temps in low 80s.  Two assistants (Annette and Liza).

Once again, my focus with Laddie was on working toward repairing his tendency to pop.  The plan was to run difficult triples and then, if Laddie popped, immediately call out "No, DOWN," and then call out to have the gunners pick up any bumpers that had not yet been retrieved while I walked out to pick Laddie up.  We'd then go to a new location and start with a new setup.

In an attempt to achieve difficult setups, today I used marks longer than we'd typically see in Quals for the two marks the assistants were throwing, both of the longer guns retired using camouflage umbrellas, and variable terrain that would make it difficult for Laddie to hold a straight line.  Series B, the more difficult of the two, featured marks of 320-170y, both uphill from the start line, and the long mark requiring the dog to traverse several crests, which I've thought might be one of Laddie's triggers for popping.

To make each series a triple, and to give both guns an opportunity to sit down and open an umbrella to hide behind, I threw a bumper to the side after the other two bumpers had been thrown.

My attempt to create setups that would result in Laddie popping was unsuccessful.  Laddie nailed every mark.

I don't really understand what element was missing in order to trigger a pop.  I don't think Laddie was too tired or thirsty, so perhaps those were factors that were missing.  Perhaps also his tail is healing and causing less pain than when he was popping more some weeks ago.

One new theory I have that didn't seem to apply was this: Is it possible that the more I work on Laddie's handling, and the more responsive he gets running blinds, the more likely he is to pop on a mark?  Well, the last couple of days, I took Laddie out to run long blinds rather than marks, and he did well.  Yet I saw no evidence that it increased his probability of popping on today's marks.

I had been thinking a couple of weeks ago that if Laddie had become too likely to pop on difficult marks, it might mean that he could continue to finish Quals but would never be able to receive anything higher than a JAM (or Reserve JAM).  However, after the last few sessions, I'm starting to think that I was being too pessimistic.  Laddie may indeed have an unfortunate propensity for popping, and when he does pop, it will cost us dearly.  But as his recent work shows, he may also be capable of running difficult series without popping, and if that's how he performs in a particular event, at least it won't be popping that holds him back in the scoring.

Given Laddie's performance since I began running him with both long guns retired, I think I'll continue doing that except in setups where a visible gun would actually make it more difficult, in my estimation, to run one of the other marks.  I think we'll also continue to run longer marks than we've typically seen in Qualifying stakes.  This will hopefully work as overtraining — that is, event setups may seem easy by comparison, improving performance and confidence, and perhaps reducing the likelihood of popping — and also will begin to stretch Laddie out for the kind of distances he'll see if we ever run in all-age stakes

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