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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mid Year Bests and Worsts

Happy Canada Day for all our Canadian friends to the north!

Two weeks to Del Mar and three weeks to Toga and summer racing. Now that we've reached the midpoint of the 2008 racing year I've listed MY five best and worst moments in horse racing for the first half of 2008.

Best Moments in Racing - YTD 2008

1 – Big Brown Wins Kentucky Derby from Post #20
A ton of doubt existed if he could do it from the far post, and when trainer Dutrow grabbed it with glee at the Post Position Draw on 4th Street in Louisville, it was exactly where he wanted to be. A stunning performance by the big fellah was easily the best moment for me so far this year.

2 – Curlin Wins Dubai World Cup in Romp
The world champion lived up to expectations in overpowering an international field of horses in the world's richest race ($6M). His record setting 7 3/4 length victory at the Nad was not only after a five month layoff since his BC Classic win at Monmouth, but was drug-free to boot.

3 – Tiago Outduels Heatseeker at wire in Oaklawn Handicap
In maybe the year's best race between two terrific rivals, Tiago nipped Heatseeker by a head in the Oaklawn Handicap. They would duel again later in early June with Heatseeker avenging the loss. Unfortunately, Heatseeker has suffered a career ending injury and will be retired.

4 – Pyro’s visually stunning victory in the Louisiana Derby
At the time, one of the leading Derby contenders, Pyro, made a visually impressive move late to win the La Derby at the Fair Grounds by three lengths. In all kinds of traffic, Pyro, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, navigated the victory to put him over the $1M mark in career earnings. He recently won the Northern Dancer (G2) on Stephen Foster Day at Churchill. Unfortunately he disappointed his fans on Derby Day, but his performance on that day in early March, makes my top five.

5 – Proud Spell Upsets Indian Blessing in Louisiana Oaks
On the same day as Pyro's La Derby win, Proud Spell shocked BC Juvenile Filly champ Indian Blessing in the La Oaks (G2), with a time that was actually better than Pyro's in the La Derby. It was the second loss for Indian Blessing to Proud Spell, and a rematch in the Kentucky Oaks loomed. Unfortanately, Blessing was rested until Belmont Day and the rematch has still not occurred. Proud Spell went on to win the Ky Oaks, after flirting with entry in the Derby.

Honorable Mention: Big Brown's Florida Derby win from post 12, Student Council's Pimlico Special win in the slop, Sweet Vendetta's win in the Black-Eyed Susan for breeder David Cassidy.

Five Worst Moments in Horse Racing - 2008 YTD

1 – Eight Belles breaks down in gallop out after placing in Derby
Not much more needs to be said here.

2 – Congressional Hearings on June 19, 2008
The sport takes its shots on Capitol Hill with threats of governmental intervention if issues such as steroids/drug use, breakdowns, excessive whip use and centralization are not addressed. Worst moment #1 above, a big driver of the feds getting involved.

3 – Big Brown falters in Triple Crown bid
Whether it was the heat, the loose shoe, the bad ride, the faulty bathroom facilities, the starter or the quarter crack, the Triple Crown has still not been won in 30 years. While it drove up interest in the sport for a few weeks, it also showed the world the ugliness of the connections and the difficulty of the Test of the Champion in front of a huge NY crowd.

4 – Santa Anita track problems due to excessive SoCal rains early in year.
The $11M Cushion Track installed at Santa Anita last summer suffered major drainage problems in January and February, wherein 11 racing days and numerous revenues were lost. Just last week the track announced another overhaul of the surface to start this month with the Australian-based Pro-Ride surface replacing the current surface. With the Breeders' Cup scheduled for October, the installation schedule is very tight and they could be pushing the envelope with the timing.

5 – Jeremy Rose suspended for six month for abusive whip use at Delaware Park
With PETA already on the doorstep after the death of Eight Belles, comes an unfortunate incident wherein Rose struck his mount in the eye. Delaware Park officials immediately suspended Rose for six months. Another black eye.

Honorable Mention: Breeders' Cup moves all five ladies events to Friday and renames the Distaff, Einstein's owners fail to obtain NY license for Manhattan on Belmont Day, Preakness field weakest in years, Mother Goose gains only four runners, Pletcher finishes last in Derby for third straight year, Buffalo CPA starts racing blog :)

I'm sure I missed something feel free to chime in!



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