Friday, December 09, 2011
If There Were a Better Moment than the Delaware ‘Cap, I Missed It
SARATOGA SPRINGS, Decembert 9, 2011--The press realease from the NTRA indicating that fans may now start voting for Racing's 2011 Moment of the Year arrived Thursday morning, leading to this question: Am I eligible to vote? I have opinions, too.
We will take a look at some of this year's events to allow HRI readers, also an opinionated lot, to give their takes.
This is the 13th such "Moments" poll and I'm not sure any could top the pathos of the very first; the image of the late Chris Antley keeping Charismatic on his feet a hundred yards passed the Belmont Stakes finish line.
There have been some other truly memorable "Moments" as well: Tiznow winning a titanic stretch drive over Sakhee for America at Belmont Park in the first Classic run after 9/11. Birdstone's Belmont Stakes upset halting the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones three years later.
Then there was Barbaro’s brave battle in 2006; Rags to Riches’ historic Belmont Stakes defeat of Curlin and, of course, mighty Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic score in 2009 and the following year’s Classic and her gallant effort behind Blame when all appeared hopelessly lost.
There were a dozen such moments that captured the attention of the NTRA panel. I’ll go down the list, one by one, give an immediate reaction to the then handicap those results from my personal favorites. To wit:
Rosie Napravnik guides Pants on Fire to victory in the Louisiana Derby en route to becoming the first woman to win a Fair Grounds riding title—Great ride, but I might have chosen the race that specifically accounted for her the riding title.
Uncle Mo suffers his first defeat, running third behind Toby’s Corner in Aqueduct’s Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial—Please, No More Mo, please.
Animal Kingdom runs down his foes in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands— Pretty yummy, but would I have given this effort a second thought had it not come in the Kentucky Derby?
Shackleford overcomes pre-race nervousness to hold off Animal Kingdom in the Preakness—Dramatic? Definitely. Memorable? Not so much
Blind Luck prevails by a nose over Havre de Grace following a stretch-long duel in the Delaware Handicap—Right now, as we go down the list, definitely makes the finals for being the most dramatic finish in a big spot this year.
Caleb’s Posse catches a stubborn Uncle Mo in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga—Damn good finish, one of the best I saw all year, but not sure this sprint has that kind of cache.
Havre de Grace beats the boys in Saratoga’s Woodward Stakes—Has greater Horse of the Year implications than the Delaware Handicap but given the timing of the season, when Blind Luck and Havre de Grace were sharing the spotlight, not as “memorable” for me.
Joseph O’Brien, 18, becomes the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, piloting St. Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Emirates Airline Turf for his father, Aidan O’Brien— From a historical perspective alone, and given daddy’s season, both here and aboard, this moment has to make the cut.
Court Vision spoils Goldikova’s attempt at a fourth consecutive TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile win, upsetting the field at 64-1—A race and result that was, for me personally, more forgettable than memorable.
Drosselmeyer and Mike Smith edge Game on Dude and Chantal Sutherland at the wire of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, giving trainer Bill Mott his second “Classic” in 24 hours— A tough call. If it weren’t for the Mike-Chantal-Mott factor, I probably wouldn’t give this year’s Classic a second thought.
Rapid Redux breaks a North American record by winning his 20th consecutive race—When is a record not a record? The parameters seem to change with every new winning streak. Not sure a “minor league” streaks are comparable to prime time performances. Sorry, but not for me.
If this were a horse race, my graded selections would be:
1. Delaware Handicap finish
2. Santa Anita Handicap Inquiry
3. Father-and-Son Breeders’ Cup Turf.