This past weekend there was fantastic turf racing on both coasts. Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom kicked off the turf action with a much anticipated show down in the G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Part. Animal Kingdom was sent off as the heavy favorite, but it was Point of Entry who won the day, pulling past the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner who did not have enough left in the tank after making a preemptive move to counter a lethargic pace. On the opposite side of the country, front running Slim Shadey was equally impressive while wiring the G2 San Marcos field at a mile and a quarter. The final time for the real Slim Shadey was a zippy 1.59:17. Not only did he duplicate his 2012 effort in the race, but he also shaved more than two seconds off his previous time.
Now that those two races are in the books, I cannot help but look forward to this year’s biggest turf races…and hope that the biggest turf stars will show up to duke it out. Unfortunately Animal Kingdom cannot be a part of this since the GP Turf Handicap was his last American start, but there are still plenty of other heavy weights. Other challengers to distance loving Point of Entry and speedy Slim Shadey include front-running Little Mike, the ever versatile Wise Dan, 2012 three-year old turf stand out Silver Max, stretch runners Jeranimo and Data Link, always in the mix but not quite getting there Interaction, and the on-the-rise Unbridled Command.
Now lest anyone think I made a bad reference to Eminem (if you did not get the reference, then simply carry on), let me explain. When the real Slim Shadey shows up, rivals are hard pressed to catch him; but when Shadey does not get the lead, he does not win. Maybe his performances have a little something to do with distance, too, since he appears to have an affinity for 10 furlongs. Whichever may be the case, there is a definite discrepancy between the real Slim Shadey and the Shadey that throws in the occasional clunker.
With Slim Shadey being the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the bunch, the others are thankfully easy to figure out. Point of Entry relishes a route of ground. Little Mike will constantly surprise you by doing exactly what you said he couldn’t do. Wise Dan will win no matter what the surface or distance may be. Silver Max will go to the front and play the part of the Gingerbread Man. When the speed falls apart in the stretch, Data Link and Jeranimo will be there to pick up the pieces. You can always count on a good race from Interaction even if he just can’t quite make it to the winner’s circle, and Unbridled Command is looking to make a name for himself in a division full of heavy weights.
All this brings me to my point: I would love nothing more than to see these nine in the same starting gate. With the exception of Wise Dan and Data Link who have not even tried the distance, these nine are experienced at 10 furlongs. Slim Shadey, Little Mike, Silver Max, and Unbridled Command are winners at that distance. Point of Entry’s best finish at a mile and a quarter was a second place, but his best distance is arguably 12 furlongs. Interaction has also recorded a second place finish at 10 furlongs. Jeranimo’s best finish at the classic distance was a 4th place finish on synthetics, and his best distance, like Data Link, is probably around 9 furlongs. Despite Wise Dan never having been asked to go a mile and a quarter, trainer Charlie Lopresti does not doubt the three-time Eclipse Award winner’s ability to go longer.
With the seemingly even mix of speed, stalkers, and closers, I believe a mile and a quarter would be the perfect distance at which to try this hypothetical field because there are just so many ways this could go. Little Mike, Slim Shadey, and Silver Max could get caught up in a speed duel, leaving the rest of the field to pick up the pieces. Little Mike has proven that with an uncontested lead, he can slow things down and run all day. Wise Dan can do anything asked of him, including beating a field of distance lovers in his first attempt at 10 furlongs. Or Unbridled Command, the lightweight of the group, could shock them all. But no matter how the race unfolded, it would be sure to be one for the ages.
Is this field likely to take shape? I highly doubt it. Do I want it to happen? The answer is a resounding yes! The best chance of this happening will probably be the 2013 Breeders’ Cup, but even then it would be a stretch. There is practically a whole year between now and then, and so much can happen during that time. Maybe the Arlington Million? Well, why not?