By Gene Kershner
Next week's holiday weekend serves up the last big racing of the year with the Clark Handicap at Churchill on Friday and the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. That will round out the racing year for most of the divisions with very few races in December that should impact Eclipse voters.
Both races have some star power as Game On Dude will try and regain some traction after another abysmal performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic by coming east to run in the Clark. The only way he doesn't run is based on the weight he is assigned per trainer Bob Baffert.
The roster of known probable starters for the race includes (with trainers): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder), Easter Gift (Chad Brown), Finnegans Wake (Romans), Game On Dude (Baffert), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas).
In a very close race with Orb, who has been retired to stud, for 3-year-old male divisional honors, Will Take Charge would make a big statement with a Grade 1 win in the Clark against older horses.
The names being floated for the Cigar Mile include three Pletcher horses, Capo Bastone, Verrazano and Forty Tales, in addition to Clearly Now, Groupie Doll and west coast shipper and BC Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. That is shaping up to be quite the contest next Saturday at the Big A.
Some other random racing notes and thoughts as we head towards the holidays…
- This Saturday at Delta Downs features the $1 million Grade 3 Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds has attracted 10 juveniles. Mark Casse-trained Coastline has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite.
- This year's Prince of Wales champion Uncaptured (7-2), will also be in action at Delta Downs on Saturday, running in the $150,000 Delta Mile. Familiar names Decisive Moment (10-1) and Nates Mineshaft (9-2) join the winner of the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown at Fort Erie Race Track this past July.
- I was a guest on Capital OTB-TV's Racing Across America last week and discussed various racing topics including ThoroFan, the Breeders' Cup, Fort Erie and the upcoming Eclipse voting. I come on around the 41-minute mark.
- Best wishes to Bill Tallon, the Canadian editor and correspondent for the Daily Racing Form, who announced his retirement late last week. Bill was always a gentleman to me while covering the last three Plates every June. He'll be sorely missed in the Woodbine press box.
- RIP turf writer Paul Moran, a former Buffalonian who spent a number of years covering racing for publications such as Newsday, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and most recently, ESPN.com. Moran passed away recently after a long battle against cancer. I ran into him in a back room at the Preakness last May while we were both waiting to go on radio shows in Buffalo and Albany, respectively. I deferred to him and went outside to conduct my interview so he could have privacy for his call back to Albany. As we exchanged pleasantries about Buffalo and whatnot, he mentioned that the only reason he was at the Preakness was he thought Orb had a great chance to win the Triple Crown, and that it might be his last chance to see a Triple Crown winner.