By Gene Kershner
Summer racing is just around the corner, it's hard to believe that in four short weeks it will be opening day at Saratoga Race Course. The Queen's Plate and coverage by The News is just around the corner on July 6 as well.
Some random thoughts as we put the Triple Crown season in the rear view mirror and look forward to a great summer of racing…
It was a riveting Triple Crown series with another failed attempt at the troika by a valiant horse who gave his all in the Belmont. We'll never know how much the cut foot on California Chrome's right front really bothered him in the race. One thing we do know is that it surely couldn't have enhanced his effort.
A number of stories have been written about changing the Triple Crown series as is done every year ad nauseum. I once thought spacing the races out made some sense using the First Saturday concept of May, June and July, but I've since changed my tune being closer to the series. The Belmont would really get lost in the July 4th holiday if that was the case.
One thing I would change is who qualifies to run in the races, especially the Belmont. Matterhorn, the horse that stepped on Chrome's foot, was never even graded-stakes placed, but could run in the Belmont. Something needs to give here. Horses that have been stakes-placed and have earned Derby points (or maybe TC points for races like the Peter Pan) should be the only ones allowed to enter. Matuszak would have been the other horse that wouldn't have qualified under this parameter.
In I'll Have Another's year, several horses hadn't even run in a stakes race but ran in the Belmont. Stalwarts including Five Sixteen, Unstoppable U, and Guyana Star Dweej were all entered in the 2012 Belmont. Am I painting a picture?
The Breeders' Cup announced the track rotation for the next three years, being Keeneland (2015), Santa Anita (2016) and Del Mar (2017). Both Keeneland and Del Mar will hold their inaugural Breeders' Cups and I have to say I'm excited for both of them and a change of pace from Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. Back in 2009, I actually nailed Keeneland in the 2015 year, in a post on the Blood-horse website; just don't pay any attention to my other predictions.
Speaking of predictions, I'm currently 4-for-7 in my 2014 Racing Kreskin post last December, already doubling my 2013 total. The stinking Haskell hat projection eluded me again this year. It's orange, if you were curious.
We Miss Artie propelled himself into the favorite role for the 2014 Queen's Plate with a win in Sunday's Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine by 3/4-lenghts over Majestic Sunset. A shorter field than normal is still not expected even with the presence of the son of Artie Schiller. The Plate Trial drew only seven entries including the Todd Pletcher-trained winner, but 15 horses are currently probable for the Plate.
I'd say We Miss Artie has as good a chance as any horse in recent years to capture the Canadian Triple Crown, first since 2003 when Wando pulled off the feat. The 3-year-old colt who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby should have no issues with turf, his sire Artie Schiller won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2004. It will likely come down to the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday, July 29 on dirt as the race that will be the toughest of the three. The final leg, the Breeders' Stakes, is run on turf at Woodbine in August.