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Post-Preakness ‘Potential’ Post

Shackleford and Animal KingdomAnother year, another No Triple Crown. But that is not to say that this year’s Triple Crown season has not been far more interesting than one might have predicted just a few weeks ago – indeed, the possibilities for some of this year’s crop of three-year-olds going forward is actually quite intriguing (which is more than can be said for what is left of the older horse cohort). Whether it is the result of luck or simply a slower-maturing group than we are used to seeing, we’re finally starting to see some potential stars emerge.

First, Animal Kingdom – if it had not been for some bad luck and traffic trouble slowing him down near the top of the stretch, he might have won the Preakness; his gutsy second-place effort demonstrated that he is not just a one-hit wonder. Given that this was only his second start on conventional dirt (and bearing in mind that even some dirt horses don’t love Pimlico’s track – recall that Calvin Borel felt that Rachel Alexandra did not handle the surface well in her Preakness victory), it was a tremendous effort. He is by far the most interestingly-bred top-class horse running in the US at this point, and while he is still lightly-raced, there are so many potential avenues for him, given his affinity for a variety of surfaces (and, perhaps, distances). He could easily switch to turf or synthetics and back again; I would love to see him get a grass win (or two) in before coming back for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall. As for dirt races, the Belmont looks absolutely ideal for him, and a rubber match would be great for publicity and crowds on Belmont day. It is easy to imagine him pointing for the Dubai World Cup next year; I’d love to see that as a target with more turf racing following on – perhaps even a race in Europe. Ultimately, he has great potential to win Breeders’ Cup races on difference surfaces – that would be very interesting indeed. Becoming a surface triple threat like Einstein would cement him as my serious horse crush.

Of course, we should not overlook Preakness winner Shackleford; his performance more than made up for his pre-race appearance and behaviour. I was becoming quite concerned about having included him in my exacta and superfecta during the post parade and especially as they loaded in – I was nearly certain he was going to finish near the back of the pack after a brief initial lead. But as everyone now knows, that just how Shackleford rolls: looking a mess before the race is a good sign for him. And let’s give credit to jockey Jesus Castanon – not only was it a great ride, but it was his first time riding a Grade I winner. One expects it will become rather more routine for him now. While I don’t see Shackleford relishing the Belmont distance, he also possesses versatility potential – with his speed and style, he could excel at a mile. And while I would have preferred to see everyone heading to Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line, I can’t complain about Shackleford topping my (boxed) exacta – it was more remuneratively rewarding, if not as pleasing from a sentimentality point of view.

I am also looking forward to seeing Nehro in the Belmont; along with Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, he seems to be the best of his year (at least until Toby’s Corner returns). I cannot say I’m terribly impressed by Dialed In (beyond his closing fractions in the Derby), and clearly Midnight Interlude doesn’t have what it takes to run against these competitors, but Mucho Macho Man has a lot of room for improvement – he could be a different horse by the time Saratoga comes around.

Other disappointments on Preakness day included NBC failing to show the Dixie Stakes – especially as the race marked the winning return and, as we now know, the finale for the very talented (and multi-surface-loving) Paddy O’Prado. I’ve been pleased with the switch to Versus overall, but once things moved back to NBC, we were back to human interest stories instead of racing. I don’t mind a few of those, but two minutes could not have been carved out to show this race? Given that they were promoting their Saratoga broadcasts later this summer, it would have been a useful platform to introduce the casual audience to some competitors outside the Triple Crown crowd. It was a missed opportunity all around, not just for the hardcore racing fan. It would have been nice to see Paddy on the track, one last time.

But beyond Preakness day, there are early indications that we will have an exciting Breeders’ Cup to look forward to this fall: Goldikova kicked off her final campaign in winning style, taking the Prix d’Ispahan despite the distance being beyond her preferred mile. It was her thirteenth G1 win – and she may try to pick up number fourteen at Royal Ascot as part of her journey back to a potential fourth Breeders’ Cup. Perhaps next year her more-than-earned place will be taken by her little sister, Galikova? The possibilities are most interesting…

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