May has been a great month of racing. It really has. I mean the unfolding saga of I’ll Have Another alone is enough to put a smile on the face of a discerning race fan. And besides the magic that comes from a potential Triple Crown winner, the amount of good older horses around, of either gender, is frankly something we have not seen for a while. So what has turned my mood slightly sour today? Field size.
May 28 at Belmont Park was literally a racing card that I’ve literally been looking forward to for months. The Met Mile is one of my favorites. Some of the best horses in America always look at this Memorial Day feature as a key race the first half of the year, and let me tell you, this one-turn mile is every bit the test that the three-year olds will face in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. It’s eight furlongs of all-out equine courage and class. Throw in a pair of grade 1 biggies for the distaff set in the Acorn and the Ogden Phipps, and you had the making of one of the cards of the year. I was geeked. Now I am not.
As I learned of the entries today, I could not help but to say, “that’s all?” Not once, not twice, but I said it for each of the big three races. The quality is high, with horses like Caleb’s Posse, To Honor and Serve, Shackleford, Jackson Bend, Awesome Maria, It’s Tricky, and On Fire Baby, but the field size? Well, it stinks.
Whatever you may think the problem is … Too many racetracks … Too many races … Too much money at less prestigious races … Simulcasts taking away from live racing … Good horses not racing enough … Not enough horses … or all of the above, it doesn’t matter to me right now.
I’m just disappointed that the most horses we can hope to see in the three big grade 1 races at Belmont on Monday add up to a grand total of 17. I pray there are no scratches.