With spring racing nearly at an end, I find myself utterly disappointed by the quality of this year’s 3-year-old male crop. There, I said it. I know some contrarians out there will disagree, that I'm being too harsh, but after the results thus far (not to mention one of the slowest Belmont Stakes in history), it’s hard to imagine this crop being anything but below average. No colt or gelding has won more than one Grade 1 race this year, and only Sidney’s Candy, Eskendereya, Conveyance and Lookin at Lucky have won more than one graded stakes race as a 3-year-old:
■ Sidney’s Candy (G1 Santa Anita Derby, G2 San Felipe, G2 San Vicente)
■ Eskendereya (G1 Wood Memorial, G2 Fountain of Youth)
■ Ice Box (G1 Florida Derby)
■ Line of David (G1 Arkansas Derby)
■ Stately Victor (G1 Blue Grass)
■ Super Saver (G1 Kentucky Derby)
■ Lookin at Lucky (G1 Preakness, G2 Rebel)
■ Drosselmeyer (G1 Belmont)
Unfortunately, we lost promising colts like Eskendereya, G3 Sunland Derby winner Endorsement, and G3 Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus to injury. Still, unless this is a crop of later developers, its mediocrity doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year. And, honestly, that’s okay. With the disproportionate attention placed on 3-year-olds, it might not be the worst thing in the world for real racing fans to pay more attention to the quality that is available to us.
For example, in our turf runners. Not that a wider audience would know that, however. Like the G2 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day, the G1 Manhattan Handicap was not shown on ABC despite their exclusive right to air it. Major epic fail, as Winchester upset his Eclipse-winning stablemate Gio Ponti, in a field of 11 that included seven G1 winners. For those that missed it—and that would be everybody hoping to see it live on Saturday—here is the replay:
There’s been plentiful coverage of how poor ESPN/ABC’s coverage was, and particularly the horrific pre-race vocal performance of “Empire State of Mind”. I totally agree on all accounts. Sadly, though, mediocrity is rampant—and apparently acceptable—in nearly ever facet of today’s society, so why should horse racing be any different? God, even the National Spelling Bee was picketed this year by advocates of “phonetic spelling”—yet another anti-intellectual movement to elevate the lazy mind!
Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little), but in the post I wrote for Hello Race Fans about the pedigrees of Belmont contenders, two of the four I highlighted fleshed out the exacta: Drosselmeyer and Fly Down both have exceptional pedigrees to run 1-1/2 miles. Ice Box really was an obvious choice from a stamina breeding point-of-view, but it turns out he flipped his palette during the race and his Pulpit blood got him a little too excited, thus his failure to close. Spangled Star was a total flop as well—I should have thrown him off my trifectas when Rick Dutrow didn’t show the least bit enthusiasm about his chances before the race. So, while the race was rather formful in terms of breeding, I cringed watching the entire field crawl home like a bunch of $10k claimers. On the other hand, I’m thrilled trainer Bill Mott finally got a Classic win—one of the few trainers out there I totally respect as one of the “good” guys. Same goes for jockey Mike Smith.