In the final analysis, it remains to be seen whether the trend of offering obscene purses results in raising the level of American racing to perceived higher international standards. But two things are clear:
Money will make the mare–and the colts and horses, too–go as the concluding legs of New York’s Turf Tiara series, the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational and the $1,000,000 Jockey Club Derby drew more than its fair share of ship-in support.
It is no secret that American racing, especially in the Empire State, would like to be the representative for America’s answer to making Thoroughbred racing a true international sport.
Of course, every major circuit in America wants to be a kind of destination boutique venue, the continued use of race-day medication notwithstanding. Then not all racetracks comes replete with casino dole attached.
Depending on your point of view or station in life, this is money well spent because it raises the level of the game or, like America itself, the industry’s wealth gap will continue to widen between have and have-not horsemen.
Exactly how many fillies have shipped in for the Oaks depends on whether you consider a Canadian invader an international entrant or not. It is, after all, only a long van ride away.
So, if you include a Canadian-bred horse and a Canadian-based horseman foreigners, then five of the eight Oaks entrants have shipped in for the 1-3/8 miles of the Jockey Club Oaks on Belmont’s inner turf course.
True foreigners are the early line favorite Edisa (5-2), for trainer Alain Royer-Dupre; second favorite Wonderment (7-2), trained by Christophe’s brother, Nicolas Clement, and the third early choice, Love So Deep (9-2), for Jane Chapple-Hyam.
Canadian-bred and owned Desert Ride (8-1) is, however, trained by a hard boot by way of Brooklyn, Neil Howard, while Woodbine-based filly Art of Almost (5-1) is in the hands of the redoubtable Roger Attfield.
(A handicapping analysis both international races will be featured at HRI later today).
In the seven-figure Jockey Club Derby at 1-1/2 miles on Widener Turf, three of the nine European-based runners: second favorite Spanish Mission (3-1) and price shots San Huberto (10-1) for Fabrice Chappet and Pedro Cara (12-1) for trainer Mauricio Delcher.
Not sure how to categorize Tone Broke. The three-year-old Broken Vow chestnut started with Steve Asmussen, went to Dubai, came back to the U.S., up to Canada, where it was bred, but is currently based in Kentucky. So, who’s the favorite?
Really, do you need to ask? Chad Brown’s Digital Age, fourth in the Belmont Derby and second in the Saratoga Derby, is the 5-2 early line choice for the Jockey Club Derby with Javier Castellano in the boot.
Three foreign riders have come along out of loyalty and, of course, the promise of a huge payday: Jamie Spencer and Tony Piccone, have been winning partners for Spanish Mission and Pedro Cara, respectively, and Stephane Pasquier will accompany regular partner Wonderment.
The weather Friday calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon but the sun is only a day away. The course likely will be on the firm side with a bit of cut to it and should not impede any of the performers, with the possible exception of West Coasters who are used to the billiard tables out west.
It will be interested to see handle comparisons between these international style events and the races run in Franklin, KY on Kentucky Cup Day over a European-style course with its twists, turns, undulations and large fields.