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Broken Dreams and Tax Breaks

A real championThanks in no small part to our excellent seats in the shade, I had quite a nice Belmont day, which is presumably more than can be said for Big Brown. (I should note that thanks also go to Ventura, Zaftig, J Be K, Silver Edition and Dancing Forever for making our day fairly profitable).

Yes, the heat was oppressive and yes, the lines for the bathrooms were long (at least those that were actually functional), but it was not nearly as packed as the Smarty JonesBirdstone installment had been; I never had trouble getting to the windows. Some of the concession stands seemed to run out of food and drink around eighth race, so I’m not sure exactly what sort of advance planning went on, given that the crowd was considerably smaller than it had been in 2004, but there you are.

I had the pleasure of seeing some of my fellow bloggers in person, which more than made up for Better Talk Now missing out on the Manhattan (which, given the tough field and his age, was not exactly a shocking loss – I didn’t need to go far to find a reason).

It would seem that Michael Ivarone would like to blame the track for Big Brown’s loss (at least that’s today’s excuse):

“I’m understanding they had an issue without water and they weren’t able to water the track and it got deep, I don’t know. We’re perplexed, nobody can figure this one out, the horse did not displace (his palate), he scoped fine, there’s no mucous, everything is ice cold. The horse that won, (Big Brown) had beaten him by 23 (lengths) in the Florida Derby and so, I don’t know. We just have to watch him carefully and make sure we didn’t miss anything. “

I presume he did not notice them watering the track throughout the day (I certainly had a fine view of it), including just before and after the Manhattan — sometimes, you just lose (and that’s a feeling that should be familiar to a penny stock trader). While I would not be thrilled about running in such heat, the only other favorite who had a bad day was Ready’s Image in the Woody Stephens (and even that was won by a horse with short odds), so that did not seem to be much of a factor either. On the whole, favorites were not embarrassing themselves elsewhere on the card, so I’d still be inclined to chalk Big Brown’s performance up to a simply having an off day.

Having learned from Smarty Jones, I did bet the Nick Zito longshot — unfortunately, the wrong one (although in my defense, Anak Nakal’s odds were longer at that point — Da’Tara drifted upward shortly thereafter), but I admit it was rather pleasing to see Zito get the job done again (and in the same manner).

Big Brown looked great in the paddock and very professional during the post parade but was certainly rank early on in the race — more than anything, that was what seemed to cost him energy (at least from my vantage point) — one wonders what might have happened if he’d been allowed to have his own way (given that most Triple Crown winners led wire to wire); I think he would at least have gotten up for 3rd or 4th, even with an empty tank.

But hey, there’s still that equine hospital to fall back on; the good people of IEAH are seeking tax breaks for what should be a very profitable venture even now — obviously, life goes on…

On the drive back, we were joking that Big Brown probably went straight from the track onto a van bound for Three Chimneys; given the fact that they are sure to find something wrong with him when going over him with a fine-toothed comb (he is a horse, after all), in reality I’m sure it won’t be a long wait, which is a shame. Top-level American racehorses don’t seem to be allowed the odd bad day their counterparts elsewhere in the world have.

Not everyone failed to live up to expectations over the weekend — Zarkava (pictured) turned in another outstanding performance (and hey, Christophe Soumillion annoyed The Guardian with ‘unwelcome showboating from the winning jockey’) in the Prix de Diane to remain unbeaten (you can watch the video here); she will likely now point toward the Arc. And that, indeed, is something to look forward to.

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