Bob Ehalt on tinkering with the Triple Crown schedule:
Moving the Belmont Stakes to July will not help NYRA. If anything it will turn June into a dead spot on the NYRA calendar and force it to conduct its biggest race of the year during a period of time most people in the New York-area associate with beaches and vacations.
Yes. Also — and this is something I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere — how would running the Belmont Stakes and its traditional undercard races on the first weekend in July affect Saratoga stakes, especially the Travers? Move the Belmont, and the glamour division loses its annual 11-week freshening.
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I’m going to keep this short, because otherwise I’ll get all gushy and emotional — today marks the 10th anniversary of Railbird. I couldn’t have imagined the adventures and friendships that would emerge from that first impulse a decade ago to start blogging about horse racing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who’s visited or followed this site since, or to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or working with because of it. Thank you.
Ryan Goldberg profiles the remarkable Criquette Head-Maarek:
… as far back as the age of 5, Head-Maarek said, she told her father she wanted to be a trainer. “One day he said to me, ‘You marry a trainer, but you won’t be a trainer because there are no women trainers,”’ she recalled.
But in 1978, after four years as her father’s assistant, Head-Maarek was granted a training license by the French racing authorities, the first for a woman. Her father gave her 35 of his own horses, and success quickly followed. Owners such as Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the late emir of Dubai, sent her horses. She remains the only woman to train an Arc winner.
(This part of her story reminds me a bit of trainer Linda Rice:
A proud “my father’s daughter,” she’s the youngest of trainer Clyde Rice’s four children and the only girl. She began helping at her dad’s stable in grammar school. She walked horses, then exercised them. At 17, as they drove back from a Keeneland horse sale, a major accident blocked their route for hours.
That’s when Rice revealed her career path. She turned to her dad and confessed, “I want to be a trainer, just like you.”
Clyde Rice measured his response before speaking it. He told her, “That career would be a lot easier if you were one of my sons.”
Rice won the Easy Goer Stakes with Kid Cruz, eighth in the Preakness Stakes and a former $50K claimer, on Belmont Stakes day.)
More Head-Maarek in the Guardian: “We’ll take my Rolls-Royce …“
No matter what the reason for California Chrome coming up empty when it counted, I am convinced that had the Belmont been run a week earlier, two weeks after the Preakness instead of three, he would have won since he was full of energy then. I felt the same way with Funny Cide and Smarty Jones who also looked great the week before but came up short on the big day.
Running the Belmont two weeks after the Preakness would definitely not be traditional: One of the most striking things in Natalie Voss’ report on the race schedules of the 11 Triple Crown winners is that the Belmont is consistently three to four weeks after the Preakness. Citation won a race between the two, but his Triple Crown season stretched 42 days. Assault, the only horse to win the Triple Crown in 28 days, had three weeks between the two races.
Related: Matt Hegarty writes about the proposal to increase the time between Triple Crown races to four weeks. “Plainly stated,” he asks, “is it worth it for the racing industry to risk the significance of the one event that the entire sporting world rallies around when there is no evidence that the public is clamoring for change?” Of course not! What makes me hopeful that this scheme will fizzle for another year is that NYRA just set a record, handling more than $150 million on their new mega-Belmont Stakes day.
Tonalist was given a Beyer speed figure of 100 for winning the Belmont Stakes. TimeformUS rated his performance a 102.
When William Nack visited 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1973:
His groom reached over and patted the Count on the neck. “There has always been a living Triple Crown winner,” the groom said. “Ever since Sir Barton won. You could always go visit one, like you’re visiting this horse today.”
The groom asked me if I knew Secretariat’s people. “I saw the horse and his groom, Ed Sweat, just this morning,” I told him.
“Next time you see him, you tell him that there has always been a Triple Crown winner alive and he better win it this year or that string will be broken,” he said. “I don’t think this old horse is gonna make it to the end of the year.”
Next morning, I told Ed Sweat that story of Count Fleet. He whistled softly. “That horse is still alive?” Eddie said. “Don’t you worry. We got it covered.”
There are no living Triple Crown winners now. Affirmed died in 2001, Seattle Slew in 2002. Whoever wins the title next will be starting a new string.
If we were not all spooked by so many near misses and locks that were not locks, this Belmont would be about as complicated as this Derby and this Preakness. One horse stood out in both races on form. That horse, California Chrome, ran right to his form. Why, really, should the Belmont be different?
Just as a fan, I hope he’s right.
California Chrome drew post #2 for the Belmont Stakes. He’ll face 10 others:
KYD/PRK = finish position in the Kentucky Derby and/or Preakness.
When Birdstone passed Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes:
“There were 120,000 people there that day, and I bet 119,000 of them were rooting for Smarty Jones,” [jockey Edgar] Prado said. “It was very loud, a lot of noise going down the stretch. I could hear everything, people screaming, but as I got closer and closer, and then when I went by Smarty Jones, it was totally silent. It was this strange feeling, this weird feeling, and I could tell the difference that one horse was making in people’s lives.”
What a lovely way to express how it feels to be a spoiler.