Sunday, September 22, 2013
Fall Championships and Life Beyond the Spring Classics
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, Sept 22, 2013—A funny thing happened at Parx Racing this weekend on the way to the three year old championship: A Horse of the Year battle broke out.
And if you don’t believe that Will Take Charge could not only seal the three-year-old championship with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but also thrust himself into the Horse of the Year conversation, too, you’re being unfair.
Of course, much would have to happen for that to happen: Game On Dude would have to disappoint on Breeders’ Cup day again. And, for the sake of this argument, we’re conceding a Breeders’ Cup Mile repeat to Wise Dan.
But what if Orb and Palace Malice fail to beat older handicappers in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup and the improved Will Take Charge wins again at Santa Anita on November 2?
As for the Travers/Pennsylvania Derby repeater, only a Rebel would have recognized him before Wayne Lukas took the blinkers off for the Jim Dandy, giving him a chance a to reach his potential and become a serious second-season sophomore.
Of Will Take Charge, Lukas wasn’t kidding when he referred to his colt’s size and immaturity, the reason why his early season record was very much in and out.
But as the man said after The Pennsylvania Derby, “he’s learning where to put his feet,” which might be the reason why he was so much handier on Saturday than he was at any time this year.
So Will Take Charge is becoming a man at the right time of year and can prove there’s life after the Triple Crown.
As far as the ultimate prize is concerned, the Horse of the Year vote will be close if Wise Dan runs the turf table and Will Take Charge wins his final appearance this year.
Ultimately, it will depend on how voters view an exclusive turf campaign vs. two of this country’s most important dirt races.
And a Game of "What If" in the Three Year Old Filly Division?
No one will argue that Princess Of Sylmar is the queen of her division. And if she beats older mares on Saturday in the Beldame, the divisional title surely will be is hers.
But what if she doesn’t win the Beldame and Close Hatches, who did lose their only head-to-head meeting in the Kentucky Oaks, turns back in distance and beats her elders in the Filly and Mare Sprint?
Of course, a three year old should not be punished in its division if it loses to older horses. But if Princess Of Sylmar doesn’t win the Beldame and Close Hatches wins the F & M Sprint, what then?
The Princess is a deserving favorite and would be a deserving champion. But there are permutations that could shake things up, give voters pause.
Close Hatches is trained by Bill Mott as is champion Royal Delta, who will try to win her third consecutive Distaff and Mott his record sixth.
Mott’s first Distaff was won by a three-year-old, Escena, in 1997. He won it by getting Escena to peak in the fall and hold that form into the Breeders’ Cup. That pattern is eerily similar to Close Hatches’ season.
Championship positioning in the fall; game on.