Thursday, May 30, 2013


Wisdom from a Troll: Why This Year’s Belmont is the Race of the Year


For railbirds - but not the casual sports fan - this could be an intriguing NYC marathon.—Internet Troll

This was a comment I stumbled across while reading a popular horse racing website. I normally make it a habit to avoid comments. Comment sections are the bridges Internet trolls reside, eating rocks, slinging insults at each other and other writers, grunting, failing to shower and otherwise become the oozing bed sore on the backside of humanity.

I read this comment because there were only two so it took 44 seconds, consumed little attention and failed to boil my constitution.

I was also on the phone with my buddy Good Ol’ Pete catching up and recounting where we were and how we felt when Oxbow kicked us in the stomach.

“So, Oxbow, huh?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Dumb.”

“Yeah.”

And so goes most of our conversations. That’s 22 years of friendship right there.

“I haven’t been this unexcited for the Belmont Stakes since 2006 when Jazil came into our lives,” I said.

“Ugh.”

“Obviously Barbaro broke down; Bernardini skipped the Belmont, opening the door for the likes of Jazil.”

“Well, at least this year the horses are good.”

“Yeah, no Deputy Glitters.”

“I think Bluegrass Cat ran in that Belmont.”

“He won the Haskell that year. He do anything else?”

“No.”

The Belmont falls flat, like bubble-less Coca-Cola, with the absence of either the Derby winner or the Preakness winner. I’m a narrative guy, not a horse player (can’t bet Mrs. Carryover’s money), so naturally I’m drawn to the Grade 1s. Watching them is like eating birthday cake.

That mess from 2006 happened again in 2010 when the unfortunate emergence of Drosselmeyer beat a field lacking Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky.

All this is makes what D. Wayne Lukas does all the more commendable. He has every reason to put Oxbow on the bench after running his guts out in the Derby and winning the Preakness. The horse is sound. The horse is fit. He’s running the damn horse. Same goes for Will Take Charge.

What also makes this renewal of the Belmont particularly interesting is possibly having the Top 3 finishers of the Derby in attendance. We’re still waiting on word from the Triple Crown-winner Orb, our first Triple Crown winner since 1978, or so I’m told.

Oxbow is in as is Revolutionary. Yet again, one of possibly five (!) from the Pletcher Industrial Complex that could start at Big Sandy.

He’ll try to send out Palace Malice, winner of the 2013 What-The-Hell-Is-That-Horse-Doing-On-The-Front-End Award. Palace Malice turned in a one of those wicked fast workouts that, frankly, don’t mean anything while going into a 12-furlong race. What’s five furlongs in a minute’s time when you have to run seven more?

I’d rather see a nice mile-workout at 75 percent with a nice kick to 10 furlongs. Alas, that’s why I write about these guys from the confines of my desk amidst swirling coffee vapors and Metallica crushing my skull into itty-bitty pieces.

Overanalyze might be a nice little plodder to win this race. Honestly, whoever Joel Rosario nabs is going to be the winner, IMO. I’d bet that guy to win the Belmont riding a greyhound.

Pletcher could saddle as many five horses in the Belmont which doesn't necessarily defy logic, given his strength of numbers, but is illustrative of a greater problem (not for Pletcher, of course) for horse racing. At the moment, Revolutionary, Overanalyze and Palace Malice are confirned; filly Unlimited Budget is probable; Midnight Taboo is possible.

I recently finished reading The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, a positively charming memoir about his childhood growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. Bryson writes, at one point, “I was born into a state that had two hundred thousand farms. Today the number is much less than half that and falling. Of the 750,000 people who lived on farms in the state in my boyhood, half a million—two in every three—have gone.”

Pletcher’s Pick 5 would be an unsettling number that, by its sheer volume, is purely American, which doesn’t necessarily make it good. I’d be interested to know how many licensed trainers there were, say, in the 1970s, and how many there are now, a generation or so later. (I guess, being a reporter, I should find this out. I’m up to it, guys.)

All of this proves, on many levels (Levels, Jerry, levels.) that his year’s Belmont is beyond interesting, if not also a good betting race.

And if I’m not mowing the lawn or enjoying a cold Summer Shandy and a pipe in my Adirondack chair and worrying about the sorry state of publishing, I might just watch it with you.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (5)

BallHype: hype it up!
 
 

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