The Look of Leftovers

Suddenly, with the onset of Travers Week, the tone of the racecourse has shifted to horse racing.  Saturday alone will feature four graded stakes.  The horses that will race are among the best of their generations.  NBC Sports is setting up on the grounds to allow the world to see them run.  Just about all the final morning works of the upcoming weekend’s competitors have been logged in the clockers’ books.

The emphasis on horse racing is not to say that there won’t be some distraction at the racecourse for fans who simply want to take in the air and be part of the scene.  The New York Racing Association has created a few more excuses to lure warm bodies to the track.  There was an ice cream eating contest on Wednesday for 31 people who looked like they’ve eaten a ton of it.  On Friday, there’ll be a beer drinking festival and, on Sunday, a social media day.  By one definition, crazy is doing the same thing over and again and expecting a different result.  At least in the case of Social Media Day, NYRA is trying something new to boost its dropping numbers.

Stand-ins for Saratoga’s embattled racing department announced the Travers Stakes (gr. I) lineup at an 11 a.m. press conference.  Two bits of news occurred a couple hours beforehand.  The first was that Frankel, the European wonder horse, won his 13th straight race in the 10.4 furlong Juddmonte International (Eng-I) at York, England.  The second was that Hansen, the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) champion, had been scratched from Saturday’s 143rd “Midsummer Derby.’  

With Hansen joining Union Rags, Gemologist, Paynter and Bodemeister as recently announced no-shows, the Travers has the look of leftovers.  Alpha, the useful Godolphin Racing runner that has triumphed on two prior Spa occasions, was installed the 5-2 morning line favorite.  He finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Of the 10 others that’ll face the starter, only Liaison ran for roses and none for black-eyed susans.  Godolphin, the meet’s leading stable in terms of money won, has won with three of the six runners it has sent to the post at Saratoga this summer.

In the p.m., Wilmer Garcia rode a second in the third that paid $21.80 to place.  The betting favorite, Willy Beamin, was a facile winner of the featured Albany Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds. Alan Garcia was in the irons for trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr. and owner James A. Riccio.

The Belmont Child Care Association honored Barbara Banke of Stonestreet at the Gideon Putnam.  Each year on the Wednesday preceding the Travers, lots of very thoughtful people contribute to this worthwhile charity by paying $250 per plate to wear jeans while drinking margaritas.  There are no leftovers at this party, only hangovers.

Vic Zast is the author of The History and Art of 25 Travers. He has attended the races at Saratoga for 47 straight summers.


4 Comments

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ksweatman9

American racing has gotten so pathetic that I consider the true champions to be the horses left standing on 4 legs at the end of the year. Quite a feat for our thoroughbreds, they seem to fall apart at the seams. If the industry doesn't start to correct breeding practices, horse racing  is doomed. The bigger picture must be looked at. Money has to take a back seat to strong sound horses. Our horses have to be bred for more than speed. No one seems too concerned when ponies break down after a few races, as long as those races were 6 digit payoffs. Then it's off to the breeding shed to squeeze a few more bucks from  fast, talented, unsound ponies. No big loss. Really? The sport is dying as fast as the horses are breaking down. No one gets this? The Mosses were pioneers the way they promoted Zenyatta and the way they allowed her to run when she was ready, not at all conventional. Maybe they could step out of the box again and breed this nation's best mare to a strong European bloodline. I thought that was the plan initially, I don't know why she was bred to Tapit and Bernadini. She is so perfect, she should be bred to a Euro horse. She could be the one to change the face of racing in this country.

23 Aug 2012 7:44 PM
gt1957

" "You must always put the horse first, and it is in Bodemeister's best interest to retire at this time," said owner Ahmed Zayat."    

That is just B.S.   This, like most of these early horse retirements for the last 30 years, is ONLY due to the financial greed of the owners.

What is wrong with horse racing today?  Owners don't care about the horses or racing fans; they  just want the big bucks of breeding.  This horse had what a whole six races?   That is a joke.  The great horse of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s often had 25+ races.

Why are fans leaving horse racing?  It isn't just casinos or other gambling.  This is the number 1 reason: there are no horse racing stars anymore.   This is why auto racing is so much more popular.   There are no horses today that are stars at 2, 3, 4 and even 5 years of age.   Most of the 4 year olds and up winners today are geldings!  They are at the top only because the potentially great horses were retired at two or three.    

The 4 year olds and up today would not come close to beating Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Dr. Fager, Buckpasser, Swaps, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Round Table, Gallant Man, Kelso, Forego, Native Dancer or Tom Fool, all of which were brilliant at 4 or older.    

I refuse to get too excited about any 2 or 3 year old any more.  I know they will not be around very much.

George

23 Aug 2012 10:07 PM
PomDeTerre

we continue to wonder what is wrong with us breeding.  and yet four broken down three year olds who were headline makers earlier this year are bound for the sheds. and some owners will be clamboring to get their mares in foal to them in hopes of a champion.  huh?  breeding these injured animals will insure passing on weak genes, not a BC win.  i like all of these horses, especially rags and hansen, but we cannot keep breeding for "glitz" in place pf longevity and expect a different result.  in most cases, this decision to breed carries no thought as to what it will do to the offspring.  rather it is further financial endowment for the owners, particularly in 1 case where this too injuredchampion has no bottom side to speak of.  5 years from now, we will be reciting the same statements about their offspring.

24 Aug 2012 6:23 AM
PomDeTerre

@ ksweatman- i get the bernardini breeding of Z, but I love your idea- send her to Frankel, after he retires sound in 3 or 4 years, or c the stars.  you think for an instant that goldikova's connections will send her to the states to breed?  uncle mo deserved $ 35,000 a pop for his first crop as my dog does.

24 Aug 2012 7:25 PM

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