Social Icons

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gotta Love the Grinders

Once upon a time it was common to find warhorses that raced dozens of times per year, often with mere days between races—and it wasn’t just cheap low-class horses that did so. While not the most dramatic example, the great mare Gallorette who made 72 starts in 5 years once raced (successfully) three times in the course of 12 days—winning the 7-furlong Bay Shore, followed five days later by a runner-up finish behind Stymie in the 9-furlong Edgemere Handicap, and a week later captured the 9-furlong Beldame. In 1962, Kelso followed up his two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup win exactly one week later by contesting the 12-furlong Man o’War over his less-than-favored surface (turf) and finished second. Devil Diver won both the Metropolitan and Suburban in 1945, exactly five days apart, and during her 1944 campaign which culminated with a new track-record setting win in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Happy Issue ran 21 times.

Today, in American racing it’s extremely rare to find such durability, but it’s definitely visible abroad, particularly in Australia where, come carnival time, horses are running much more frequently than we normal see here in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why I find it pitiful that recent Test winner Turbulent Descent (apparently without any physical issues to conquer) won’t likely start again until the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint—three months away. Blah! Yet another unfortunate consequence of the disproportionate and, indeed, sport-damaging impact of the Breeders’ Cup, with owners and trainers feeling it necessary to “save” their horses for one year-end race, one big effort. While perhaps financially beneficial, this tactic doesn’t do much to whet fans’ appetites as top horses are raced all too infrequently.

That’s why I love the grinders, horses that plug away regardless of their class level. For that reason, I’m intrigued by an English-raced 4-year-old gelding named Collect Art. By the extremely lightly-raced Footstepsinthesand—a Coolmore-owned son of Giant’s Causeway who only ran three times in his career—Collect Art is out of the Scenic mare Night Scent, which makes him a descendent of Foolish Pleasure. Trained by Andy Haynes who’s based near Bath, Collect Art is a handicap horse who, between January 13 and July 14 of this year, has already run 20 times, mostly in 6-furlong sprints, carrying between 120 and as much as 136 pounds!

What most caught my eye about him, though, was when I started to repeatedly see his name appear in race results in May. A third-place finish on May 2 (just one length back of the winner) was followed by a narrow 3/4 length second-place finish three days later, on May 5. Then he won by over two lengths on May 12, followed two days later by a third-place finish (in a 19-horse field), and then another win on May 20, followed eight days later by another narrow runner-up effort. If that frantic spurt weren’t already impressive enough, how about two consecutive victories (the first carrying the afore-mentioned 136 pounds)—on two consecutive days, on June 7-8! Just three days later, Collect Art was back, finishing a half length back in second, carrying 128 pounds, in a 20-horse field. Now this is the kind of horse that inspires fans!