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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Around the Horn

Wise Dan (Courtesy: Reed Palmer,
Churchill Downs)
We've had some time to decompress after last weekend's whirlwind tour on Long Island and sort out our thoughts after returning to Buffalo on Wednesday. There are a few topics that have been spinning around in the let's get to it....

Triple Crown Season
It was a terrific triple crown season, even with I'll Have Another's untimely scratch last weekend. Having each race be decided in the final jumps really couldn't have been scripted better from the drama angle. Even though we didn't have a Triple Crown attempt I think the sport received some excellent coverage from most outlets and for a while we were front and center in the sports section as well as on Sports Center. It has set up an awesome summer season with a lot of story lines between Bodemeister, Paynter and Union Rags battling it out in the stakes at Saratoga and Monmouth. The Haskell should be a terrific race and I'm pretty psyched to be attending for the first time since Bluegrass Cat's 2006 romp at the Shore.

2013 Road to the Kentucky Derby
With the announcement of the major change in how horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby, I actually have to say I'm on board with 95% of the switch from graded earnings to the new point system that is weighted based on the timing and historical significance of the race. The fact that all of the races are a mile or longer seems on the face to be a solid decision, but for the exclusion of 2-year-old 7-furlong races at Saratoga and Del Mar which have had some historical significance. I understand the theory and thinking of Churchill on this, but it is a bummer for those two tracks and probably some trainers that would use those races as a start for building a foundation for a potential Derby runner.

While I believe change is good, and in this case the elimination of high dollar 2-year old races worked positively relating to the Delta Jackpot and negatively for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, I'm sure the powers that be at Churchill will tweak the point system after discovering the flaws after the initial 2013 implementation.

Two things I would change (since we're on the change train) would be limiting the Derby runners to 14 (possibly 16) horses to prevent the inevitable bumping and injuries that seem to be more common over the past few years. More than one good horse has been ruined in that cavalry charge at the start. The other item would be to award the selection of gates based on the point system (most points gets first choice of gates) to eliminate the chance that a Lookin at Lucky would be stuck at the rail and benefits the horses that have earned the most points and the right to select a more preferable gate.

Grade 1 Stephen Foster
Tonight's Stephen Foster Handicap looks like a winner. I'm a big Ron The Greek fan, but Alternation looks to add to his four race win streak under the lights at Churchill. I haven't spent much time on the card, but I think I'll use RTG, Alternation and Wise Dan in some combinations and as part of my P-4. The handicap division is extremely strong this year and the BC Classic could end up being quite a great betting race. It also sets up the Whitney and Woodward for some decent fields at Saratoga this summer.

Queen's Plate on Horizon
I'm looking forward to heading up north next week for the Queen's Plate Draw Breakfast, I have to pass on Monday's BBQ due to family obligations (which means I'm playing golf with my father in Syracuse for a belated Father's Day get together) and plan on attending the race next Sunday at Woodbine. I've been included in the Woodbine media expert selections all spring and always enjoy my time in Toronto. This will be my first actual Plate appearance so I'm anxious to see how it compares to the big race days down here in the States.

I did much better last year in my selections of the Canadian Triple Crown hitting all 3 winners in the paper. Speaking of the Canadian TC, it's a shame that this year is possibly the final Prince of Wales to be run at Fort Erie, which is tentatively planned to shut down its racing operation at the end of this season. I've been delinquent in getting over to the border oval this spring due to my US Triple Crown obligations, but will be headed over a few times before the summer is out.

That's it for now...wishing all the dads out there the best on Father's Day tomorrow.



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