Queen For A Day

Bloged in Belmont Stakes by admin Saturday June 23, 2007

Again a horse stumbled out of the gate, and again that
horse was in front at the finish. Only it wasn’t Curlin,
and it wasn’t even a colt. It was Rags to Riches, who not
only took on and took down her male contemporaries, but
did what no filly had done in more than a century: win
the Belmont Stakes.

And all the US racing world should be saying is ‘Thank
you, thank you, thank you.’ Not just because this
extraordinary filly has made the 2007 racing season far
more interesting than it was two weeks ago, but because
she IS a filly.

Not only that, she is a filly who belongs to owners who
care about US racing, even if they aren’t American.
Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith are British; both have
backgrounds as the British bookmakers; and both grew up in
a country where the idea that three year olds, and
especially three year old fillies, cannot negotiate a mile
and a half, is a non-starter.

When Rags to Riches got up off her knees after breaking
from the Belmont starting gate and began running, US
racing may have gotten up off its knees and began running
again as well. With no chance of a Triple Crown winner
coming out of the race; with no hope of a Street
Sense/Curlin match race, and with no hope that either of
those two colts is likely to set foot on a racetrack after
this year, there simply wasn’t much to get excited about
on Belmont Day.

A Secretariat-like performance from Curlin would certainly
have changed that, but when the pack passed the six
furlong pole in 1:15 and change, as opposed to
Secretariat’s 1.12, there was little doubt that we were
witnessing a rather typical and forgettable Belmont
Stakes.

Three furlongs later, however, all that had changed.
Curlin, in a remarkable bit of athleticism for a horse of
his dimensions, threaded his way through an opening
between C.P. West and Slew’s Tizzy, while Rags to Riches
had clear sailing four horses wide, and at the top of the
home stretch the two of them entered another zone. The
rest is American racing history, and American racing can
rejoice for awhile.

While Rags to Riches’ trainer Todd Pletcher does not seem
enthusiastic about running her against colts in the
future, her owners will have the final say. And because
they do not have to be cautious about preserving her
racing record and potential stud fees, they may once again
make the American racing public their priority. How
refreshing that would be!

My final thoughts on Triple Crown 2007 is that of all the
horses involved, the one which hooves-down ran off and
hid, in terms of his accomplishments, from all the other
contenders, was Curlin. I posted before his Preakness
victory that I thought he resembled his distant ancestor
Man o’ War. And when Curlin’s Triple Crown campaign is
viewed in its entirety, he can be described as nothing
else but a throwback to the Thoroughbreds of the 1920s and
1930s.

Curling had to do everything he did without having any
experience racing as a two-year-old. And what he did was
win his first three races by a combined 29 lengths, and
then head to Louisville and manage to outrun seventeen
far more seasoned animals, many of whom were major stakes
winners, after having traffic problems for nearly the
entire mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby.

Next came the Preakness, where he fell to his knees coming
out of the gate, had Street Sense pass him in the stretch
because he failed to change his leads, and then came back
after being passed to win the race in record equaling
time. His speed figures for the Preakness were the best of
his life.

The ‘bounce’, a term unheard of in racing days of yore,
did not catch up with Curlin at Pimlico, but many a racing
guru said that it would in the Belmont. It clearly did
not, and this horse, in the past five weeks, has proved
beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is truly the stuff of
champions. I sincerely hope that he and Rags to Riches
have another date, if not on the race track then, one day,
in the breeding shed!

Picture of Rags to Riches winning theĀ  Belmont Stakes

rags-to-riches.jpg

Street Sense Heads for Easy Street, and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Bloged in Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation by admin Sunday June 3, 2007

thoroughbredretirementfoundation.jpg

No surprises for me this week with the news from the
Street Sense connections that their boy would be passing
on the Belmont Stakes, and they have sold him as a
stallion prospect to Darley Stud, which already owns his
sire Street Cry and dam Bedazzle.

The only reason, at this point, for Street Sense to keep
racing at all is that a year-end championship would allow
his initial stud fee to be higher. That is, if his future
owners don’t care about racing him for the sake of racing
fans–and apparently, for the time being, they do. We can
look for Street Sense at Saratoga in August, unless Darley
has a change of heart.

In the meantime, and going from what happens to horses in
the upper echelons of Thoroughbred racing at the ends of
their careers, to what happens to the hundreds of
thousands of others, the US Thoroughbred Retirement
Foundation has a program designed to save retired
racehorses from the slaughterhouse.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which is itself
based in Saratoga, began working with the New York State
Department of Corrections in 1984 by sending a retired
racehorse named Promised Road to the correctional facility
at Wallkill, New York. Promised Road was the first
racehorse ever turned over to the TRF, and the founding
member of its cornerstone program.

The Wallkill Correctional facility, in the years since
Promised Road arrived, has provided a safe, comfortable
shelter in which hundreds of former race horses have spent
their final years. The Thoroughbreds get a home, and the
Wallkill inmates have learned the skills necessary to care
for the horses; the Wallkill program, in fact, has
received accreditation as a state-recognized vocational
training course in equine management. The inmates who
successfully complete the horse care program have viable
job skills to help them resume their lives upon their
release.

But even more importantly, the TRF program gives people
who may have never had the chance to interact and bond
with other living creatures an opportunity to take
responsibility for another life and to learn compassion.

The TRF is now overseeing programs which supply retired
Thoroughbreds to correctional facilities in Iowa, Florida,
Kentucky, Indiana, and South Carolina as well as New York,
and will be setting up two more programs in the near
future.

The TRF also runs both the Exceller Farm in Poughquag, New
York, and the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center at the
Kentucky Horse Park, where hundreds of racehorses which
retired sound have been retrained as riding and jumping
horses and placed in good homes. And the TRF’s
Out2Pasture program in Jamestown, Missouri does just what
it says, placing retired animals in a pastured herd
managed by veterinary students at the University of
Missouri, who would otherwise have no way to work with
infirm Thoroughbreds.

Here in Canada, Woodbine Entertainment announced last
September that one-quarter of one percent of all its purse
funds would go towards funding the Ontario Thoroughbred
retirement organization LongRun, to help Ontario
Thoroughbreds after they leave the track.

If Street Sense’s connections did the same with his
winnings to date, they would be giving $7750 to the TRF
tomorrow, and if they did it based on what they will
receive from Darley Stud, Street Sense could very well
treat an entire barnful of his kind to the good retirement
he will soon be enjoying.

Just a thought.

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