By Gene Kershner
Palace Malice put a wrap on the 2013 Triple Crown with emphasis last Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, making it a year with three different Classic winners and leaving the 3-year-old division wide open heading into the summer. The next few months should be interesting at Monmouth Park (Pegasus and Haskell) and Saratoga Race Course (Jim Dandy and Travers) where the division should start to sort itself out.
Some thoughts about the Triple Crown and other recent racing events, as we sit exactly five weeks away from opening day at the Spa…
- This year's Triple Crown was all "old school" with venerable connections winning all three Classics. The Phipps and Janney connections in the Derby; Lukas, Stevens and Calumet in the Preakness; and Cot Campbell and Dogwood Stables capturing the Test of a Champion.
- It's way too early to write off this class. The fact that weather impaired the Derby and a slow pace dogged the horses in the Preakness, means some of the sophomores have a chance to step up during the summer. We'll find out soon enough on two competitors, Itsmyluckyday and Verrazano, two solid horses heading into the Triple Crown, right away as they face off in the Pegasus on Saturday at Monmouth.
- Mylute was my unheralded colt of the Triple Crown season. With the right pace scenario in the Preakness, he had a chance to be right there with the frontrunners. Rosie Napravnik did all she could in the second jewel, but could only rally for third and she certainly was one of the few horses still running when finishing fifth in the Derby.
- Speaking of Napravnik, she had Unlimited Budget in perfect position to win the Belmont, but her distance limitations caught up to her. Give Rosie credit for having her where she needed to be coming down the stretch, she just didn't have any horse left.
- Kudos to NYRA vice-president of facilities and racing surfaces Glen Kozak, whose crew had the main track in tip-top shape Saturday after being pounded with as much as five inches of rain Friday into Saturday morning. “Glen did an outstanding job of maintaining the track,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “It wasn’t over-harrowed … those guys did a remarkable job. It was a good, safe track after [all that]
- Will we ever seea Triple Crown winner? I think we will. If you look at the last 16 years, there have been seven horses that have captured the first two legs, before faltering in New York. That's pretty phenomenal when you consider it's been 35 years since Affirmed captured all three legs. A horse will come along sooner or later that will seal the deal. Book it.
- A jockey that was missed during the Triple Crown season, Ramon Dominguez, called it quits yesterday after his physicians recommended that he stop riding after an injury suffered earlier in the year. He was a tremendous jockey who has owned the New York Racing Association meetings over the past two years and was a valiant competitor in the irons.
- The Breeders' Cup announced this week that they will hold the 2014 annual two-day event at Santa Anita Park, making it the third straight year it will be held at the Great Race Place. Seems to me that when the Cup was created the thought was to move the event around to showcase thoroughbred racing in different venues around the country. While I'm not too disappointed that I get to spend a few days in southern California in November, I'm sure racing fans on the east coast aren't too happy. Through 2014, it will make seven Cups being held at either Santa Anita or Churchill Downs. The last track to hold it other than those two was Monmouth Park in 2007, the first year the event was expanded to two days. Of course, the power of money makes these decisions much easier and with the loss of sponsorships in recent years probably contributed greatly to the decision to remain in LA.
- Over the next few weeks our attention will be turned towards our neighbors to the north as the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is slated for Sunday, July 7 at Woodbine Racetrack and the Queen's Plate. Last weekend saw the Mark Casse-trained Dynamic Sky, a colt who spent some time on the Derby trail, take the Plate Trial and a promising filly, Nipissing win the Woodbine Oaks. Stay tuned to the Sports, Ink blog as we take you up through this year's edition of the Plate.Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.