Monday, October 28, 2013
Great Reward at the Great Race Place
At last, we’ve reached the Breeders’ Cup, the opiate for a long year of racing. It’s the perfect weekend, especially when it’s gift wrapped beneath the San Gabriel mountains.
Yes, it’s the perfect weekend: Big, curvy, non-surgically-enhanced fields, long odds on live horses, and big money to attract all the big swingers.
And, really, there are no surprises--except that Arcangues happened at the same track in 1993.
There may be some upsets in store, but, let’s face it, horses running in the Breeders’ Cup are nice horses. If a 15-1 horse wins the Classic, can it really be called an upset?
I think back to the New England Patriots defeating the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams were huge favorites on the line in Vegas, something like 13 or 14 points. New England won. It was shocking, yes, but New England went 12-4 that year and made it to the Super Bowl, albeit with a little luck.
Thus, it wasn't that surprising: The team was one of two left standing and happened to win, sparking a modern-day dynasty the likes of which the NFL specifically engineers against.
Same thing with the Breeders’ Cup. All these horses, in some form or another, belong on the stakes to graded-stakes stage. They are classy and they are fast. As written in the Antepost, there’s no shortage of succulent morsels for the passerby and the bar’s regulars.
It was nice to see Conan O’Brien try his luck in the booth calling a race the same way Bobby Flay did at Saratoga. Frankly, I’d rather see Triumph the Insult Comic Dog call the race. Whether it brings Coco-ites into the fringe of horse racing is up for argument, but the crossover is nice to be worthy of his celebrity.
The Breeders' Cup is, in many ways, the yearbook for a given year. We see these faces, we’ve seen them for the entire year. Now we get to look back on replays from January, June, September; see the development, see the triumphs, see the flubs, and string together the beads of this year’s narrative.
The titans who were with us on January, namely Royal Delta, Game On Dude, and Wise Dan are still here, still sound. Others have fallen, namely Orb and, unsettlingly so, Points Offthebench. Almost as unsettling as Dan Illman’s Stage 1 mullet. Another month and he’ll be full-on Joe Dirt.
We get two sighs of relief over the course of 12 months of horse racing and they come at relative times of fatigue: The Derby and the Breeders’ Cup. The Derby prep season lasts for five to six months, depending on when you start your stopwatch. By the time the Derby rolls around we’re ready for it. We need the Derby because we’ve earned it. Just give us the damn roses and Tom Hammond!
In many ways, the rest of the year is a prep for the Breeders’ Cup, on a large scale that is. Our colts and fillies at Parx and Laurel don’t delude themselves with dreams of yellow and purple garlands, but everything else points right to Friday and Saturday.
The season is reverse engineered for peak performance on the World Championships in four to six week chunks. We saw Fort Larned win his way right out of Horse of the Year talk and we saw Mucho Macho Man get reacquainted with SoCal for Kathy Ritvo (I like him. I really do. What does that mean? Stay away, people, stay away.).
It’s a long time coming; we’ve earned it. Let’s hit it hard so we can do it all over again and wonder why the heck it took so long.