In Support of the State-bred

By Teresa Genaro, Brooklyn Backstretch

This Saturday is New York Showcase Day at Belmont; seven New York-bred stakes races will be run for more than a million dollar in purses, and a variety of family-friendly activities are planned, including hay rides, face painting, and pumpkin carving. 

The prevalence of state-bred races on New York race cards is often the object of the derision of bettors, who bemoan their quality and the difficulty in handicapping them.  As a fan and a New Yorker, I welcome their presence, looking forward to Showcase Day each fall. 

Any registered New York foal with properly filed papers is eligible to run in these races, and they offer a variety of conditions:  the Maid of the Mist is for two-year-old fillies; the Mohawk is a mile and an eighth on the turf; the Empire Classic is a mile and an eighth on the dirt.  Each of the seven races' names carries with it historical, geographical, or cultural associations. 

According to Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Showcase Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the New York breeding and racing program, offering some of the most prominent New York-bred races of the year.   Just as winners of the Breeders' Cup races often go on to win Eclipse Awards, winners of these races are often featured prominently in the end of year New York State racing awards.   

In response to those who decry the quality of New York-bred horses, Cannizzo points to the fact that through September of 2008, 25 New York-breds have won 31 stakes races outside of restricted company at 17 tracks in 10 states, Canada, and England.

One of this year's state-bred stars is Tin Cup Chalice, who raced mostly at Finger Lakes in central New York but who became the first horse to capture the Big Apple Triple--the Mike Lee at Belmont, the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, and the Albany at Saratoga-earning a $250,000 bonus for having done so.  He went on to win the Grade II Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, defeating multiple graded-stakes winner Pyro.

As a New Yorker, I'm proud of the long history of racing in this state, and it makes sense to have races that direct purse money into the breeding program, thereby strengthening it.  As a fan, I appreciate the state-bred program because it means that there are horses that I get to watch all year round.  As horses bred elsewhere jet around the country to chase purse money, or head south in the winter to enjoy warmer climes,  the state-breds I watch at Saratoga in the summer stick around to race at Aqueduct, giving me horses to root for and to head to the track to see through the  winter months.  They don't generally retire at three, so fans can enjoy them while the higher-profile horses head off to the breeding shed.  And of course, the New York State breeding program yielded Funny Cide and Commentator. 

It's great to go to the races and watch the stars race in Grade I stakes; as this week has shown, though, those stars are often around only long enough for us to get attached before they're taken off the track.  Come out to Belmont on Saturday and pick out a few horses to follow; chances are, they'll be around next year, too. 

Teresa Genaro writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.

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