Happy holidays racing fanatics, it's that time of year where we dance around the Festivus Pole and discuss Thoroughbred Racing’s 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 the 2018 Racing Festivus for the rest of us...
“Feats of Strength”
Justify breaks Apollo Curse on way to Triple Crown. It was a curse longer than the Bambino’s. Since 1882, no thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby without racing during its 2-year-old season. In a 111-day career that commenced on Feb. 18, the son of Scat Daddy won the Santa Anita Derby before sweeping racing’s Triple Crown. He became the 13th horse to join a historic group of horses that won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in succession. Truly two genuine feats of strength worthy of some Festivus love.
Accelerate sweeps Cali older horse races and adds Classic win as icing on the Festivus cake. What a year for the son of Lookin at Lucky who won six of his seven races during 2018. He became the third horse in history to sweep the big three California races, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic. The latter he won in August by a wide 12 ½ length margin over his closest competitor. He went on to add the Grade 1 Awesome Again before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic from outside post No. 14 for trainer John Sadler. He had the year of a champion and his sweep and win in the Classic was a solid feat of strength.
Dylan Davis wins six races on single card, tying NYRA record. Ironically on the same day as Justify’s debut in February, Dylan Davis tied the NYRA record with six wins at Aqueduct, including five straight to start the card. He became the first jockey with a six-win day at a NYRA track since Javier Castellano captured six at the Big A in November 2013. Two weeks earlier, Davis had ripped off five wins on an Aqueduct card and he one-upped himself on Feb. 18 earning a spot in this year’s Feats of Strength.
Honorable Mention: Gun Runner’s swan song in the Pegasus in January.
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”
Wonder Gadot connections shun the Canadian Triple Crown. Staying closer to home with our first complaint of the 2018 season. After winning the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine and the Prince of Wales Stakes at the border oval in nearby Fort Erie, Mark Casse looked for greener pastures in Saratoga. The high flying filly had dominated her Ontario-bred brethren in the first two legs only to skip the Breeders Stakes in the final leg. Visions of a Grade 1 Alabama were quickly turned away for another shot at the boys in the Travers. She competed early, but was no match for the American colts and finished in the back of the pack. Once again the Canadian Triple Crown took a backseat to the Spa (and it never ends well). The last winner was Wando in 2003, and there hasn’t even been a chance at it since then, unlike the U.S. Triple.
Triple Crown weather. Come on Mother Nature, what do you have against our biggest weekends? Washouts at the Derby and Preakness produced sloppy tracks that play havoc with handicapping and can be stifling to handle on the biggest betting days of the year. Not only in the U.S., but Canada's second jewel, the Prince of Wales encountered a monsoon right before post time. I got a lot of issues with you Mother Nature.
Free Rick Dutrow. Serving a 10-year sentence doled out by the New York Racing and Gaming Commission back in 2011, he is still on the sidelines for a string of suspensions and rules violations, the last being a positive drug test in one of his horses for butorphanol and the discovery of loaded syringes in a desk drawer in his barn office at Aqueduct. It was the longest and harshest penalty placed on a trainer in history. You could basically call it the “death penalty” based on the affect it’s had on Dutrow’s life. He recently was forced into personal bankruptcy and served the majority of his sentence, one no other trainer has even come close to having to serve. It’s time to give him another chance. Several trainers have petitioned the Gaming Commission to cut short Dutrow’s sentence, but it has fell on deaf ears. Free him I say.
That’s a wrap for this year’s Racing Festivus. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at some 2019 prognostications, Kreskin-style. Season's Greetings!
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.