December 21, 2012 - 7:55 AM
By Gene Kershner
It's that time of year where we dance around the Festivus Pole and discuss Racing’s 2012 Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances. I’m no Frank Costanza, but I do have some thoughts to share during this joyous time of the year. After downing a delicious Festivus dinner and a few Festivus ales we're ready to unveil this year’s Racing Festivus for the rest of us...
“Feats of Strength”
Thank you sir, I’ll Have Another. Was there a more impressive four race run than I’ll Have Another had, highlighted by the Derby win and culminating in the Preakness? The first horse to sweep the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby in 23 years tops our list. Having the nation talking about horse racing again and the potential of a Triple Crown was a feat of strength all of its own.
Ramon Dominguez’ dominance of the NYRA circuit. Not only did he capture the coveted Saratoga meet riding title (68 wins), he won the Aqueduct spring meet (82 wins) ending in April, the Belmont spring (38 wins) and fall (36 wins) and currently leads the winter Aqueduct meet as we close out the year. The king of New York in 2012 sweeping each title claims one of our feats of strength laurels.
The versatility of Wise Dan. The probable Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Turf champion won graded races on all three surfaces (Grade 1’s on turf and dirt) during 2012. He’s put together a winning streak of four straight races which include wins at Saratoga, Keeneland, Woodbine and Santa Anita. His only loss of the year was when he was nipped at the wire on a fast closing Ron The Greek in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in June. His connections weren’t afraid of taking on the competition and traveling around North America, thus he captures one of the feats of strength honors for 2012.
Joshua Tree wins his second International in three years. The 5-year-old Monjeu had the French sensation, Frankie Dettori aboard to win the Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack in October. The world class jockey won for Joshua Tree’s connections for the first time and beat a stellar field to grab one of our 2012 feats of strength.
Ok, so here’s what you’re really looking for, the annual airing of grievances…also known as “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people!”
“Airing of Grievances”
Governor No-Show. Come on, Mr. Governor you can’t take over an entire Racing Association and not show up for the two biggest races on the NYRA’s calendar? You’re even a short drive up the Northway to Saratoga for the Travers? Triple Crown was on the line, and no plans to grace Belmont Park prior to the announcement of the dreaded scratch? No gubernatorial applause from this end of the state.
NYRA Wager Minimums. I’ve been beating this drum for several years, but can’t we get a $0.50 trifecta or $0.50 Pick-3 wager at the NYRA tracks? Give it a shot for a meet or two…and check the handle.
Provide Hochuli-like explanations from the Stewards Booth. The NFL does it as well as any sport, explaining reviews and replays and explaining decisions. If there’s a steward’s inquiry, describe the reasoning of the final decision over the microphone, or at least give it to the track announcer to give the horseplayer an explanation why his horse has been taken down.
Derby Points System shuns Illinois Derby. It was more than obvious of the snub that parent company Churchill Downs pulled when eliminating the Illinois Derby from its new points system. The Illinois Derby is run at Hawthorne Race Course, the rival Chicago track to Churchill-owned Arlington. Draw your own conclusions, but I’m airing a grievance here.
TVG still in Standard Definition. Come on TVG, let’s get the HD mojo going! Horse racing, by far, is a sport that jumps out at you in High Definition. I’m no techie, but let’s make this happen.
That’s a wrap for this year’s Racing Festivus. Next week we’ll look at some 2013 prognostications, Kreskin-style. Happy holidays, racing fans.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.