It was also a time when 30,000 fans showing up on an ordinary Saturday was commonplace and it was the start of an era that has been described as racing’s golden age, “Big Red of Meadow Stable” as the precursor of Triple Crown’s to come; one by the black stallion, a.k.a Slew, a.k.a. Seattle Slew, four years later.
Then, the very next year of all things, another chestnut, Affirmed, entered the Triple Crown pantheon but only after looking over his shoulder almost every time he ran to see where Alydar was so that--as Affirmed’s fans would say--he could gut him yet again.
We were reminded of those storied nurseries; Meadow Stud, Harbor View Farm and, of course, Calumet, an outfit that virtually owned the Kentucky Derby before falling from grace until two weeks ago when a horse named Oxbow won the Preakness.
But the big take-away from this year’s middle jewel--victory of sunshine boys Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens notwithstanding--wasn’t so much about the tough, athletic, energizer bunny of a colt that keeps on coming no matter how many times you try him, but rather the defeat of a Derby champion who many believed, myself included, was destined for immortality.
And, so, is there a Double Crown in Orb’s or Oxbow’s immediate future, or will some late developer come along and throw his hooves into the sophomore ring?
Who knows better about these things than Lukas--or Shug McGaughey, for that matter--that other people are also paid to spoil dreams? It’s why races are never won on paper.
Given the latest developments and following Sunday’s numerous workouts, two things are certain: The Belmont Stakes field will be huge--requiring an auxiliary starting gate if 15 horses race--and Orb will have his chance at redemption.
The one thing about Big Sandy is those wide, sweeping turns can more easily accommodate a gateful of runners. Whether all the riders can avoid one another is another matter. The wish, of course, is that all come home safely.
Orb breezed a half mile in company with older Grade 1 winner Hymn Book to McGaughey’s satisfaction, the most significant factor coming after the work when Orb came back playing, challenging his rider, Jennifer Patterson.
As long as Orb continues to do well, he will run and a rubber match with the Preakness winner will possibly decide the three-year-old championship even if there are more important races to come. Two classic victories traditionally have gone a long way with Eclipse voters at year’s end.
NEW NYRA CEO: Chances that the next President of the NYRA will come from inside the industry are 2-1 against. HRI has learned that the executive search committee will have submitted a list of three names to the NYRA Board in advance of the next public meeting, June 10: Two are from outside the industry, one has industry experience.
It would seem state politics likely is playing a huge roll in this. However, a fresh perspective--provided that person is surrounded by the best and brightest advisers--might be a welcome change. After all, didn’t it take a horseplaying whistleblower to point out that the increased exotic takeout provision in the law had already sunset, leading to the dismissal of two top NYRA executives, including its CEO?
THE PENN MILE, a new $500,000 stakes for three-year-olds on the turf, has thrust Penn National into the national spotlight. Rydilluc is a very serious grass runner that proved clearly best in a stakes-class-laden field.
All-sources handle of the inaugural Penn Mile $1,139,478 eclipsed the old mark set by the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap by nearly 300 percent.
The All Stakes Early Pick 4—more good Saturday scheduling—of nearly $200,000 doubled the old mark Total all-sources was a record $3.65 million, compared to the previous record of $2.17 million set five years ago.
Winning trainer Gary Contessa commented on that the win by Rydilluc over a good field of horses made the Penn Mile “a great race, and the timing is great. Next year it will be graded for the next guy,” he said.
If all goes well, the Virginia Derby and Grade 1 Secretariat are next. “Then let‘s try to win a race with him at Saratoga as well. Sounds like a plan. “He stamped himself as arguably the best 3-year-old turf horse right now, and we’re going to stay there.”
EAST BOSTON STRONG as Suffolk Downs got off to a good start on opening day Saturday, getting 7,377 into the building to see female riders win five races on the nine event program.
Tammi Piermarini, Suffolk’s leading rider each of the last three years, rode two winners; well-regarded Andria Terrill also scored a double and Jacqueline Davis, second in the standings to Piermarini last year, also won a race.
One of Piermarini’s wins came aboard a debuting Christophe Clement-trained maiden. David Jacobson also shipped to Massachusetts to win the second race for the Drawing Away outfit, the current leading owners in New York.