The real awards happen in January when the Eclipse Awards are dished out at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Some fake ones will happen a week or two before that when the annual Beemies are doled out.
These are neither of those, but some of the horses, tracks, trainers and owners that made an impact during my travels during the past year.
Best Track Visit. Ok, so I saw a Triple Crown in front of my eyes at Belmont Park, so this one will have an asterisk right off the bat. I spent a week in Saratoga starting with Jim Dandy Friday through the Thursday before the Whitney and Jim Dandy weekend was as good a racing weekend as you could see. Beautiful weather, solid racing and spending a few hours at the top of the stretch (a place I rarely visit) made it the best track visit of the year. Getting the Wonder Gadot to the Travers scoop from Mark Casse was icing on the cake.
Asking Mark Casse about Flameaway and the Travers and he drops a bomb. Wonder Gadot to take on the boys in the Travers instead of the Alabama. WHOA!
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) July 28, 2018
Favorite Horse to follow. Ok, I could say Always Dreaming because I had a bet with colleague Mike MacAdam of the Schenectady Daily Gazette that he’d never win again after last summer’s Travers, but that would be gloating and I’m just not THAT GUY. Catholic Boy will take the cake on this one, with his brilliant run in the Travers in completing a turf to dirt move that paid major dividends. Trainer Jonathan Thomas is a future star and he did a yeoman’s job training the colt.
Worst weather moment. Standing on the Churchill turf course 20 minutes to post for the Kentucky Derby in a driving rain ranks up there. It turned into maybe my coolest moment of the year, more on that in our next category. I had my Woodbine rain jacket on, but it wasn’t really doing the trick. I abandoned ship in a hurry.
Coolest moment of the year. Coming back across the muddy track and seeking shelter I weaseled my way up to the Winners’ Circle Suites and must have looked like security in my black raingear. I slipped through to the Lone Sailor suite, was offered an adult beverage and watched the Derby with my new found friends from Louisiana. Interestingly enough, the Justify team was in the suite next door. Full evidence below…
Here’s the Justify Winner’s Circle suite. They’re pretty happy. pic.twitter.com/jcjtVM8Txs
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) May 5, 2018
Best handicapping. Picking Catholic Boy in the Travers at a 12-1 morning line, went off at 7-1 and won going away. Now you see why he was my favorite horse to follow.
Worst handicapping. Picking McKinzie in the Classic and leaving Accelerate out of my top four.
Best trainer interview. Really enjoyed speaking with Tom Amoss on his relationship with former Bills owner, the late Ralph Wilson. He told some awesome stories and when I saw in person at Saratoga this summer he really appreciated the column on his old buddy Ralph. Honorable mention to a Chad Brown chat about the Patriot Way and his relationship with Bill Belichick.
— Buffalo News Sports (@TBNSports) June 7, 2018
Best track meal. The Pimlico crab cakes top the Saratoga Lobster Hut lobster roll by a nose.
Best horse race. Who doesn’t love a ding-dong finish between two quality horses. The Met Mile where Bee Jersey just held off a late charging Mind Your Biscuits ranks up there as one of the best finishes of the year in my travels.
In the coming weeks we’ll have our annual Festivus column and the annual Kreskin projections for 2019 as we move closer to the new year.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.