Good tidings race fans, it's that time of year where we dance around the Festivus Pole and discuss Thoroughbred Racing’s 2015 Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances. Whether it’s time to gather round the table and enjoy a wonderful Festivus meal and a few Festivus ales we're ready to unveil this year’s Racing Festivus for the rest of us...
“Feats of Strength”
American Pharoah’s Triple Crown Triumph. The pride of Zayat Stables won one for the ages on June 6 by completing racing’s first Triple Crown in 37 years. It brought the sport back onto the front pages and the lead of every sports station in the country. After winning the Kentucky Derby with a late close from his outside post, he made mincemeat of the fields in the Preakness and Belmont to join the 11 previous champions that have completed the troika of races for 3-year-olds. He continued his feats of strength by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in dominating fashion on Halloween night to put the cherry on top of a stunning season.
Keeneland Serves Well as Breeders’ Cup Host Site. For the first time in its 32-year history, venerable Keeneland Racecourse played host to the Breeders’ Cup and pulled off the two-day event in style, putting its doubters away with a successful run. It not only managed the logistical issues that come with an international event flawlessly, but avoided major hiccups that some sites have had with parking, concessions and track bias. The track played fairly and the racing was spectacular. The weather cooperated and the men in the green suits should be commended for pulling off this feat of strength. I’m all in for a return trip.
Fans of Saratoga show up in numbers for Pharoah workout. In unprecedented form, the fans of Saratoga Springs were out in full force showing their passion for the sport showing up 15,000 strong for the Friday morning workout of the Triple Crown champ on the eve of the Travers Stakes. Folks who have been around the oldest sporting venue in North America for a long time could not believe the fans that stretched down through most of the grandstand to watch the Pharoah’s morning gallop. Bob Baffert said it was the single most moving moment in his career as a trainer. It surely added to the town’s legend as truly the “summer place to be.”
Ok, so here’s what you’re really looking for, the annual airing of grievances…also known as “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people!”
“Airing of Grievances”
Attendance Caps. We need all the fans we can get. Shutting down the attendance at major events such as the Belmont or the Travers makes no sense. There was a whole year between Triple Crown attempts to get it right at Belmont Park, which could easily service another 10-15,000 fans on Belmont Stakes Day. It’s an entertainment product, George!
Perry Martin’s Ascot idea. This corner was totally on board with California Chrome taking on all comers in the Dubai World Cup in March, but to head to Ascot and to run on turf and take him out of trainer Art Sherman’s hands, ending in a season-ending injury while in the UK? Clearly the owner was at the wheel here and our grievance is that we lost a chance at seeing him compete back in the States as a formidable foe to the Triple Crown winner.
The Stronach Group sues Derby Wars. A more recent development where the industry takes on one of its own, is The Stronach Group claiming that the Derby Wars contest site is taking customers (bettors) away from its various tracks. I got a problem with you people. I’ve played Derby Wars and have concurrently wagered on the tracks that the contest utilizes. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. I don’t get it.
That’s a wrap for this year’s Racing Festivus. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at some 2016 prognostications, Kreskin-style. Happy holidays!
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.