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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Just a Fan

I know my writing is known for generating debates, getting people talking, sometimes rather heatedly. I know I can come of sarcastic, pushy, and sometimes arrogant. However, underneath all of that the fan in me emerges every so often to get completely swept away in the pure love, passion and excitement of the game. One such moment was in 2007, it was the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where two of my favorites were set to duke it out over 10 furlongs, at beautiful Belmont Park.

It was Lawyer Ron and Curlin, one a just a lightly raced three year old who was trying to redeem himself after a lackluster third in the Haskell, the other trying to continue a streak of brilliance and dominance that begun with a record setting, tour de four in the Whitney Handicap. As they turned the home the stage was set perfectly as Lawyer Ron surged to the front, with Curlin right off his heels. I was shouting my lounges out, even though I couldn’t decide whose name to cheer. In the end it was Curlin, who swept by to take the race by a head. The heart, the grit, and the determination of both horses left me breathless. It is one moment in racing I will never forget.

I have had moments since then, that have evoked such emotions, but none where it came down to two of my favorites duking it out, leaving it all on the track, leaving me in such a frenzy that I didn’t even know which to cheer for. After four year, it looks like it will finally happen again, at the same track on the same Saturday, Super Saturday at Belmont Park. The race will take place in the Kelso Handicap.

The Kelso will feature Saratoga sprinting sensation, Jackson Bend, who win five races in a row as a juvenile, sweeping the Florida Stallion Series at Calder. Unfortunately, during his 3yr old season he went winless, and slowly began to fade away. Nobody seemed to know what it was, whether he was simply a tired horse, if the distances were too much, or if he had simply not progressed from his two year old form. It would not be until the meet of champions, Saratoga, where Jackson Bend would spring up to display the brilliance he showed as a two year old. In the James Marvin, Jackson Bend announced himself loud and clear with an explosive win, covering the seven furlongs in an eye popping 1.20.91. He followed that up with a win in the Forego, trouncing a solid field that included Grade one winners Sidney’s Candy and Jersey Town.

The other star ready to make a splash in the Kelso is none other than Uncle Mo. Never have I seen a juvenile display the brilliance and utter dominance that this colt did last year, over such a short period of time. Capturing his maiden by a mind boggling 14 lengths, the Champagne in near stakes record time, and then crushing a dynamite field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with disdainful ease, had the nation in complete awe. Those three performances had nearly everyone ready to hand him not only the Derby, but the Triple Crown. Those dreams would come crashing down when he ran third in the Wood Memorial, a race he should have won by open lengths.

It was later discovered he had a form of hepatitis, and that sidelined him for over four months. His comeback race was the grade one Kings Bishop. For any normal horse, entering them here off a liver disease and four month layoff would be like feeding them to the wolves, but Uncle Mo is no normal horse. In the stretch he looked as if he may win, he had a three length lead, but did not see the late charging Caleb’s Posse who stole the victory by a nose.

Jackson Bend comes into the Kelso as Lawyer Ron, a dominant force that has no intentions of stopping, but only to continue streaking on. Uncle Mo comes in as Curlin, a proven talent, but still needing to prove that he has not regressed and can still run with the best of them. I love both of them, and while I have loved Jackson Bend the longest, the high that Uncle Mo gives me every time he races is rivaled by none. For once, I will throw logic to the wind, and on October 1, 2011 I will once again become nothing more than just a fan getting swept away by the sport I love.


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Older Comments about Just a Fan...

Although probably irrelevant to the debate, I'd like to add that horses are unable to see objects that are directly in front of their faces--a "blind spot" due to the eyes being positioned so far apart. Just a little equine trivia!
I don't buy that a horse lost because it "couldn't see" its opponent. It's a convenient excuse similar to the dreaded "cuppy track" in my opinion. I see thousands of races every year where horses CAN see there opponent going by and it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference.
Very nice and I would like to add a little something........................GO MO!
Very nice article. I loved it. Looking forward to the Kelso especially after the way you described the match up of Mo and Jackson Bend and their histories.
Arazi dominated his two year old season, as did Favorite Trick.
How do you know what Mo "saw" or "didn't see"? Why do you find it necessary to make excuses ONLY for the horses you favor? If Blind Luck were to lose a close race and someone suggested that she "didn't see" her victorious opponent, what would your reaction be? From my understanding, horses can see everything in a 360 degree field around them EXCEPT an object that is directly behind them.
  • DeadHeat · Also, a horse can see too their sides, but have a much less detailed vision than we do and depending on what type of vision a horse is using they may or may not see another horse coming. From what i normally see in races where there is a far outside horse charging, I would say that racehorses, when in race mode, use binocular vision. You are right that a horse cannot see behind them, but a horse's vision is also very distorted when you a standing right in front of them. Here is a link I found, it is quite interesting if you would like to read it. http://www.equusite.com/articles/safety/safetyEyesight.shtml · 2229 days ago
I agree with DeadHeat. There are many cases where a horse just didn't see the other horse until too late. I think the debate though would be whether he would have beaten Caleb's Posse. I have seen enough gallop outs to know that some horses gallop out strongly and others, when they know the race is over, shut down. I am one of those people who don't put too much emphasis on a gallop out. But that is just my opinion.
gocashking, it was a conclusion in drew based on what the connections said and what i saw. JV said he felt Mo had more left and i would believe that since Mo rebroke galloping nearly 5 lengths clear. Pletcher also felt Mo didn't see him, and considering Mo was on the rail and Caleb was down the middle for the majority of the stretch I'm able to belive that. Many believe this same thing when it comes to the Belmont wher VR beat Real Quiet, and both stretch runs were run in fairly similar fashions. People don't question that but this? Is it possible I'm wrong, yes, but from what took place during and shortly after the race, I don't think that i am.
It is articles like this that make be stay a racing fan. It reminds me what the sport is all about. Seeing our new heroes, remembering the old ones. A sweet article indeed Dani, well done as always.
LOL... I can relate... sweet article, Dani. :)

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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