With many of our top 3-year-olds being retired and deprived of a 4- or 5-year-old campaign, and with so many major races taking place on synthetic surfaces, you have to wonder what the horse of tomorrow will be like; the ones the fans all over the country will get to see run and become familiar with on a long-term basis.
Most likely, he will be an older horse, who either is a gelding or not marketable as a stallion, or who is owned by that rare breed of sportsman who enjoys watching his or her horses run. Yes, there are some left.
Although this looks like the profile of the horse of tomorrow, that doesn’t mean he is not already among us.
At this time I’d like to introduce you, or I should say re-introduce you, to Student Council. Take a good look at him, because he is the long-term star of the future; the horse who meets all the criteria, and who we should all be rooting for in the upcoming stakes. No, he’s not as talented as Curlin or Big Brown; he doesn’t have the brilliance of Commentator; and he loses more than he wins. But, you have to love him.
Student Council is a 6-year-old complete horse by Kingmambo, out of the Kris S. mare Class Kris, winner of five graded stakes. He was bred by William S. Farish and is a half-brother to Farish’s graded stakes winner Gradepoint. Surely, he’d make a fine addition to anyone’s stallion roster. Yet, here he is still racing for his new owner, Ro Parra’s Millennium Farms.
So, why is Student Council the horse of tomorrow? Because he has finished first, second, or third (mostly in stakes) on dirt at Churchill Downs; on grass at Saratoga; on Polytrack at Turfway Park; on dirt at Fair Grounds; on Polytrack at Keeneland; on dirt at Sam Houston; on dirt at Pimlico; on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park; on dirt at Oaklawn Park; on dirt at Hawthorne; on Polytrack at Del Mar; and on dirt at Saratoga.
He’s won on fast, wet fast, good, muddy, and sloppy dirt tracks, and on three different Polytrack surfaces.
At ages 5 and 6 alone, he’s managed to win the grade I Pimlico Special and Pacific Classic, grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup, and the listed Maxxim Gold Cup, and placed in the grade I Whitney and Hollywood Gold Cup, and grade III Alysheba Stakes and Razorback Handicap. During that time, he’s also been to Japan and has been trained by three different trainers, while changing barns four times.
In short, he doesn’t give a hoot about anything, except to go out there and run as hard as he can, regardless of what surface he’s running over. That’s all anyone can ask for.
Racing fans have fallen in love with old warriors like Commentator and Evening Attire this year, and rightly so, because they have provided us with something special that we can’t get from the younger horses – longevity and the ability to keep bouncing back year after year and still show the enthusiasm of a 3-year-old. There’s also Better Talk Now, one of the great iron horses on the grass, who still has not lost his explosive stretch kick at age 9.
And you even have to admire a horse like A.P. Arrow, a 6-year-old complete horse by A.P. Indy, and his owner Michael Paulson, who is still trying to land a grade I victory with him. You’re not going to find many A.P. Indy horses running at age 6, so it is only deserving that he returns to form and gets that grade I before retiring, only for the perseverance shown by Paulson. Yes, there will be some who say he’s doing it to get a better stud deal, but who really cares what his reason is? And at A.P. Arrow’s age, it’s still a gamble keeping him in training this long when he could have gotten a good enough deal for the horse in 2006 and 2007. He is after all a graded stakes winning son of A.P. Indy. The bottom line is, it still was sporting of him, and we need horses like A.P. Arrow to stick around and owners like Paulson, who also kept Azeri in training long after most owners would have retired her.
The horses mentioned in the previous two graphs have all excelled on one type of surface. Student Council on the other hand should be the poster child for racing in the 21st century. This is the type of horse we will be embracing in the years to come, which is why we have to appreciate him and give him the kudos he deserves before his retirement in 2009, when he will take up residence at Parra’s Millennium Farms.
Another who fits the horse of tomorrow mold is the 5-year-old Awesome Gem, who is heading to the Pacific Classic and will be seeking to avenge his narrow defeat to Student Council in last year’s running.
Awesome Gem, who unlike Student Council is a gelding, didn’t break his maiden until late September of his 3-year-old campaign. He also has been, well, a gem, on all kinds of surfaces, finishing first or second on Cushion Track at Santa Anita, dirt at Santa Anita, grass at Santa Anita, Polytrack at Del Mar, dirt at Del Mar, grass at Del Mar, Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, and was third on a sloppy dirt track in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.
As a gelding, he’ll be around longer than Student Council, barring anything unforeseen, and the feeling here is that his best days are still to come. It is hoped he will venture out of California on occasion, especially considering his only stakes victory has come on the dirt.
We can even add Tiago, who has won major stakes on dirt and synthetic surfaces and was third in the Belmont Stakes, and Well Armed, who loves the synthetic, but ran a good enough third in the Dubai World Cup to suggest he is adept on both surfaces.
No one is claiming Student Council or Awesome Gem or Tiago or Well Armed are world beaters, but let’s welcome them with open arms, at least as rehearsal for their successors in the years to come.
Of course, you’re going to get an occasional superhorse like Curlin who does stick around at 4 and shuns the synthetic surfaces. We certainly are going to embrace them as well, for they may be a final reminder of the horses of our past and of racing the way it used to be.
In the meantime, here’s to horses like Student Council, who will be around to help us across that unsteady bridge to the future.