09/04/2012 11:21AM

Belmont Fall Meet, and Labor Day Weekend Thoughts

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I like the Belmont Park fall meeting, which opens Saturday, almost as much as I like Saratoga. But I also think it’s time to reconsider calling it the “Fall Championship Meeting” when “Championship Day or Two” would be far more appropriate.

Belmont’s fall meet has 37 racing days, and nine of the 31 stakes that are scheduled for the session are Grade 1 events, most with tremendous prestige. But eight of these nine Grade 1 races will be run on two days – five on what is rightfully billed as Super Saturday on Sept. 29 with the Jockey Club Gold Cup leading the way, and three others the following Saturday, Oct. 6.  Two of the eight weekends at Belmont have stakes no higher than Grade 3, and one weekend has no graded stakes at all.

Of course, the big reason for concentrating Belmont’s fall Grade 1 races the way they are is so that they remain relevant as Breeders’ Cup preps. And that is not just slightly galling when you consider what the Belmont fall meet sacrificed (more than any other track) to help establish the Breeders’ Cup, and when you consider the Breeders’ Cup’s treatment of New York racing in recent years, even if they finally now have some cause.

But if Belmont fall races such as the Gold Cup, Beldame, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Flower Bowl, Champagne, and Frizette aren’t the certified champion makers they were before the Breeders’ Cup, they are still very much championship-type events. Just look at all the champions who won these races recently. It’s just that these races, run over two days, do not a 37-day championship meet make.

There was an undeniable Breeders’ Cup feel to many of the stakes run over Labor Day Weekend. Let’s take a look back at few of them:

There has been a lot of talk about how To Honor and Serve could have been disqualified and placed second for floating Mucho Macho Man out three or four paths in deep stretch of the Woodward (the stewards didn’t even post an inquiry). First, let me say that I think Mucho Macho Man was best, not because of this, but because he missed his break and ran the first seven of the Woodward’s nine furlongs near the dead rail. But those who are complaining about To Honor and Serve not coming down shouldn’t throw stones, because Mucho Macho Man should have been disqualified. In a desperate search for racing room at the top of the stretch, Mucho Macho Man came out and bumped Trickmeister, and knocked Trickmeister into Stay Thirsty, putting Stay Thirsty momentarily off stride. This was far worse of an infraction than anything To Honor and Serve did.

There are three ways to look at Executiveprivilege’s desperate nose victory in the Del Mar Debutante: She’s been overrated, contemporaries have already caught up to her, or she needed a wake-up call and will be a much tougher customer going forward. Right now, I buy into the last viewpoint.

So Many Ways improved off her Schuylerville win when she took the Spinaway, but I’m still not sold because she got a tremendous set up in the Spinaway.

I like Shanghai Bobby, and I loved the way he rated early in his decisive Hopeful score, especially after he engaged in and survived a fierce pace battle to win the Track Barron in his previous start. But I’m not certain he beat a lot in the Hopeful. And I find Hopeful runner up Fortify’s early profile be uncannily similar to Alpha’s.

Potesta is a freak, as she showed in her track record win in the Torrey Pines. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get to see her and Questing battle in a 3-year-old race without older opponents to confuse the issue, and affect race dynamics.

Emcee looked very good winning the Forego, but I’m not going overboard yet. Emcee was out in the better part of the track, and when Shackleford was scratched, and Jackson Bend showed he wasn’t anywhere close to being himself, Emcee had little left to beat.

I’m also taking a wait-and-see approach with Dominus after his successful turf debut in the Bernard Baruch. Although Dominus has a license to be a good turf horse, he also walked on the lead. And for that reason, I won’t hold Data Link’s second place finish against him.

BigBear More than 1 year ago
The Breeder's Cup has shown on respect for NYRA. If we had the financial backing I would endorse a head to head go with the Cup. We can guarantee a great dirt and turf course. And aggressively recruit the Europeans. If Belmont doesn't get the Cup every third year, its time to challenge the Cup.
Robert More than 1 year ago
Then Belmont and NYRA have to fight back. Run a day to compete with the BC to keep east coast horses home and entice the Euros to come instead of ship to California. Problem is where are they are going to get $5M for Jockey Club Gold Cup purse or $3 M for Beldame and Joe Hirsch and $1 M for Champagne, and Frizette. They are going to have to get rid of those $87K state Bred MSW and $55K NX1 allowance races.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Saturday looks like a ton of chalk. Even the deep fields feel chalky. All the longshots can be safely eliminated. Id be suprised if any Tri is over $1k Sat. Id rather have MSW open than NY bred. I hate these 5 horse stakes races. No value. Cant wait to Gulfstream. Parx had nice card Sat for once. Another awful track that has one good month a year.
Robert Pawelec More than 1 year ago
All great points Mike keep it up!
James Scully More than 1 year ago
Agree about the comments on Mucho Macho Man -- it was a tough trip. I read Michael Hammersly's trip notes earlier this week and nearly fell out of my seat when I read this: "Mucho Macho Man had no excuse. He got a dream run stalking the pace while saving ground, moved up behind the pacesetters while still inside, had to wait briefly for room but it came quickly." He was watching a different race or not paying close attention to the horse's trip.
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Mike, your referencing of Mucho Macho Man's coming out into Trickmeister is the first I've seen it mentioned. I missed it while watching the race live, but caught it with the replay. On a second look it seemed even more deliberate. Not saying Trickmeister was winning the race by any means, but he wasn't backing up either. Dominus? Nothing against him, but he exploited a tactical advantage in a two horse race. Show me more, and maybe he will. The Fall Championship Series. Remember being at Belmont and getting to see Charlie Whittingham, Ron McAnally and all the big California trainers bring their best and win their share trying to take down a title. Special days they were. Still, I guess we just have to try to make the most of the cards we've been dealt. The used car salesmen who run the BC these days don't even know Belmont is around.
r t More than 1 year ago
it was so sad to see the marlborough cup probably year 1884-85 , i recall it was my first winter in south florida and my first time at both hialeah and gulfstream, there was a sensational colt named Timely Writer who won everything in sight, but when it came time for the marlborough cup at belmont, timely writer broke down and euthanized, it was the happierst of times as a youngster for me spending my first winter in florida and capitalizing on the rich horse racing scene in south florida that my Dad brought to my attention to enjoy and oh how we did, from hialeah to calder to gulrstream to pompano to the dog tracks, life was young and so much fun! Timely Writer was a heck of a horse!
BigAfan More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately its more about handle then how many fans are at the track.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Right on Belmont will have 6000-8000 fans if they are lucky every day.Maybe 15000 on the 2 big day's.The day of 3 or 4 day racing around the country are right around the corner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watchmaker said: "Although Dominus has a license to be a good turf horse, he also walked on the lead. And for that reason, I won’t hold Data Link’s second place finish against him." And, I won't hold Data Link's second place finish against him either, but if he goes up against Dominus again, he'll have to do more running than he did to win next time. Dominus reminds me of Little Mike and Acclamation. Bettors are constantly complaining of the jocks letting horses "walk on the lead". My contention is, that this is one of the definitions of Class. Horses can walk on the lead and no matter what the jocks do behind the leader, the horses behind the leader know it is not in their best interest to pass this leader or they may be savaged or kicked later in the shedrow. When horses like Little Mike , Acclamation, and Dominus, all frontrunners keep winning consistently, there is a reason and one of those reasons is the elusive definitions of class. I am the boss, don't mess with me. Maybe jockeys don't have a clock in their heads, but they do know if they are going relatively fast or slow and can adjust their running tactics accordingly. But if their horse doesn't respond, what do you want them to do? Ron Zuercher
frank More than 1 year ago
Utter nonsense. A. Horse racing is the dynamics of deceleration B. Yes, class matters a lot in turf racing, esp at or over over 1-1/4, but I doubt competitors fear a shed row beating from an Alpha hoss. C. Speed runners who have little pressure exert themselves little D. Come homes are limited to the physical limits of decelerating race horses, no matter what. E. see pojnt A. Stayers are stayers, but the pace will always affect the run to the wire. That is why we handicap and run the races, instead of just handing out the trophy. F. If you are wondering why nobody goes by, in a big race, there is money earned for 2nd and 3rd for everybody involved. If you know you cannot beat the pace horse at his game, why burn and be last last when you can easily follow and hold a payday spot? Sheesh!