This year was sort of blah to me, no real standout performances and nothing to really get overly excited about. I wrote a blog last month reflecting on the great 2009 and 2010 season, talking about how this year I have nothing to be excited about; then I gave it more thought.
We saw a pretty good road to the Derby, giving us a different contender every week. The same can be said about the Triple Crown races, a different winner coming out of every race. Sadly though, so far the curse has not been broken. The last Derby winner to win a race after the Derby is Big Brown. Sounds depressing right? But here is a list of things I have found to be excited about in the last half of the racing year.
#5—The return of Uncle Mo… Last year Uncle Mo demolished his 2 year old competition in his maiden race and in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. After watching my most promising 2-year old retire early (Kantharos) I was ecstatic to see someone step up the way he did. He was brilliant under the master Johnny V. and was always so full of power and speed. The beginning of this year, we watched him “tiptoe” around his competition but we didn’t care…he was Uncle Mo. When he started into the gate for the Wood Memorial, I remember thinking that this year we were finally going to have a strong Derby winner (I know I am going to take heat for that comment, but I don’t think we have seen greatness win the Derby since Big Brown). When Johnny made the final turn and headed down the stretch, I could see Uncle Mo fading and my high hopes sunk. Then in one of the greatest stretch calls I heard Durkin said “In the biggest upset since Secretariat himself…the Kentucky Derby is up for grabs…” Days later we found out that Mo was sick; they gave him some time off and said if he was ready for the Derby that he would run. He was, as we all know, scratched late from the Derby. We all held out hope that he would return to racing and Mr. Repole promised that if he made a full recovery, he would allow Mo to return. Well, the return of Uncle Mo is on the horizon and after following the story closely for the past year it is reason number 5 I am excited about racing. We are desperately seeking a stand out superstar and the return of Uncle Mo may give us what we need.
#4—Racing action at Saratoga…last week I told all of you at the nation why Saratoga was better than Del Mar, I may have even persuaded you to think it was the BEST venue period. Either way, the racing at Saratoga is always reason to be excited about racing. Saratoga offers stakes race, after stakes race, after stakes race. On any given day you can tune in to Saratoga and see a FULL field of competitive races and great stakes race action. Watching a Monday or Thursday card at Saratoga is like watching a Saturday card anywhere else. So far this Saratoga season we have seen the 2-year old fillies shine and the 2-year old boys battle it out. We have also seen one of the best stretch runs of the year so far in the Coaching Club when It’s Tricky went head to head with Plum Pretty. The 2 went back and forth all the way down the stretch one edging in front of the other and changing with every stride. This kind of match-up screams out exciting racing and it is only the second week.
#3—Frankel…it was not until seeing the great Goldikova at last years Breeder’s Cup that I considered giving European racing a try, and with Frankel I am glad I did. Frankel has consistently proven himself to be a great horse. His natural talent and ability, shine through to make his float over the turf seem so effortless. He always appears like he is just doing what comes naturally. I usually like to watch a horse dig down and battle to get the win, but this horse just comes by the wins so easy I make an exception for him. Who knows, I may be watching one of the greatest race horses of all time!
#2—Goldikova…This mare has broadened my horse racing horizon. Just like Rachel brought me to the game in 2009, Goldi has managed to open me up to other racing venues out there and introduced me to European racing. I watched her as she reigned supreme in the Breeder’s Cup last year making her the first horse in history with a three-peat. Before that, I had heard of her and knew I wanted to see her. When it came time for her race I watched her small frame go around the track trying to keep up with the boys, then around the stretch she came, the jock asking for more and right then, I fell in love with her. She was not full of grace and it was not a simple win, but she had a turn of foot that blew me and her competition away. She looked like a cartoon character, her head went down and her little legs were going. It was so amazing and I have not missed watching her race since. We are so lucky that her connections brought her back this year giving us another opportunity to see her live. I am hoping they keep her around for a while. When I watch her, I know I am watching one of the greatest race horses of all time.
And finally the #1 reason to get excited about racing….the Blind Luck/Havre De Grace rivalry. This rivalry is in full force and one of the best we have seen. These two have met on many occasions, each race with a different ending. They have run first or second to each other numerous times and the rivalry continues. They are the best in American racing right now and they keep going to battle with each other. These two seem to be the best we have to offer, they are both (or should be) contenders for Horse of the Year and the fact that they face each other to different outcomes makes their story a great rivalry. I am excited that the connection of BL did not give up on her after she gave us a few second place finishes this year. Kudos to them! I am excited that these two Titans ship around, looking for the best place to play out their next battle in what appears to be a long war. But most of all, I am excited to say that I think these two should have their final showdown in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. No not the Ladies Classic, THE Classic. This year a true Classic contender has been hard to spot, so I want to go out on a limb and say that this year could belong to the Ladies. I think both would have a great shot at winning and we could finally name one of them the best…maybe?