I feel like a deep sea diver finally emerging from a decompression chamber after a two-week lull. And the first thing I see after my restful vacation from horse racing is the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot? Oh, god, time to go back into hibernation. What a hot mess! And the first person to start talking about Gourmet Dinner in the same breath as Uncle Mo needs to be committed—immediately. Yet, with the $600,000 he earned today, the Trippi colt likely earned a spot in next year's Kentucky Derby field—more the pity Derby entry isn’t based strictly on 3-year-old performances instead of slots-driven crapfests like this race. And while on the subject of Uncle Mo, who named this horse? Okay, so it alludes to some lame-ass sports colloquialism that suggests momentum. For a horse, it just sounds stupid, and more fitting for an 8-year-old bottom-level claimer than a top-quality racehorse. Please, somebody teach Mike Repole how to name his horses, or he risks the ridicule we bloggers so aptly heap upon Zayat for his “Z” fetish and those Karakorum-crazies.
Forgive my cranky mood, but the litany of retirements over the past several weeks has me both frustrated and pessimistic. Let’s start with the big one—Zenyatta. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan in the true fanatical sense of some, I am a huge admirer. Being at Churchill for the Breeders’ Cup and witnessing in person the phenomenon that is the Big Z, I consider her performance in the Classic the best race she’s ever run, and that, in defeat, she sealed the deal (at least to me) as to being named Horse of the Year. Yet, her owners the Mosses decided to retire her to the breeding barn where, as ever hope springs eternal, they trust she’ll pass on her extraordinary talent to well-bred offspring. The reality is they likely won’t amount to much, as history and percentages demonstrates. So, why sent her off to propagate when she obviously still has the capability to crush her competition? As I’ve read others express, I would loved to have seen her aimed for the Dubai World Cup over Meydan’s Tapeta surface, if for no other reason than to send her off into history with a victory on the biggest world stage.
Another retirement I find hard to swallow is that of Mine That Bird. The Rodney Dangerfield of horses, this little gelding has received no respect this year—and didn’t deserve it with the complete mismanagement of his racing schedule and training. No, I’m not an admirer of D. Wayne Lukas, but that fact does not negate the fact that he was never the right trainer for this horse. To my dying day I will ever believe that, with the proper horse whisperer, Mine That Bird could have been an extremely-satisfying handicap campaigner and made beaucoup dough for his connections. Maybe not always in grade 1 company, but a steady money winner in stakes company nonetheless. Now he’ll just become a tubby lawn ornament, and that’s sad.
There’s nothing new about talented 3-year-olds being shuttled off to the breeding shed prematurely—see Street Sense, Hard Spun, and so many others as examples. Thus, the retirement of Lookin At Lucky doesn’t surprise me—or bother me that much either, as I’ve never believed he or any of this year’s crop of 3-year-old males was worth a damn. Oh yes, I’m going to go there. First Dude, Jackson Bend, Aikenite, Hurricane Ike, Pleasant Prince, Super Saver, A Little Warm, Miner’s Reserve, Apart, Thiskyhasnolimit, Nacho Friend...none of them strike me as particularly impressive, nor likely to make a significant impact on next year’s older horse division. I do have a particular fondness for Fly Down, though, who ran some tremendous races this year, and is my early favorite going into next year’s campaign. But, as for the rest, hasta la vista!
A glimmer of satisfaction in an otherwise dreary fortnight is news of Larry Jones’ return to training in 2011, and he’ll hit the ground running with, in addition to No Such Word and Payton d’Oro, the likes of Havre de Grace and Joyful Victory for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. Seriously, if I owned a filly of any potential talent, Jones is the trainer I would trust implicitly to bring forth her best. Welcome back, Larry!