06/10/2011 11:45AM

Saving the Brooklyn

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Looking at the five horse field in today’s Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont makes me a bit sad for a race that was once a major event.

The Brooklyn was best known as being part of New York’s Handicap Triple Crown along with the Met Mile and the Suburban Handicap, a trio of races that was swept in the same year only four times – by Whisk Broom 2nd in 1913, Tom Fool in 1953, Kelso in 1961, and Fit To Fight in 1984.

With other past winners such as Forego, Damascus, Buckpasser, Assault, and Stymie, just to name a very few, you can see how truly great a race the Brooklyn once was. But now, the Brooklyn is now run at 1 ½ miles as part of an incoherent path to the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

I think the Brooklyn deserves a better fate, but what to do with it exactly to restore it to its rightful prominence is not easy. It is unrealistic in this day and age to propose linking it back up with the Met Mile and Suburban in a Handicap Triple Crown revival, because not enough good horses, especially older horses, run often enough to make such a series viable.

Years ago (more than I care to reveal), I tossed out the notion of moving the Brooklyn to late November at Aqueduct, and running it at 10 furlongs. Such a Brooklyn could have operated as another chance for those who didn’t run well in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or as an opportunity for those who, for whatever reason, didn’t even run in the Breeders’ Cup. But that didn’t happen, and it couldn’t happen know as the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs has pretty much filled that role.

But I do think there is a place for a meaningful Brooklyn Handicap in today’s game. With the Pimlico Special currently in mothballs, I think there is a hole in the schedule for a big 9 to 10 furlong stakes race for older horses the second or third weekend in May. A Brooklyn Handicap run in this spot could be promoted as a target for those who competed in the Donn or Santa Anita Handicaps, or even the Oaklawn Handicap, and it could serve as a logical interim spot for those looking to run in the Stephen Foster in mid-June, or the Suburban in early July. And NYRA officials wouldn’t have to worry about the Brooklyn cannibalizing the Met Mile, which is run on Memorial Day, because for the most part, these races would attract different types of horses.

Whatever. I would just like to see the Brooklyn Handicap mean more than just the first leg of the Brooklyn-Belmont Stakes double.

SaucyAZN More than 1 year ago
How about something outlandish like creating a handicap triple crown with a schedule almost identical to the 3yo version, but with a $20million bonus for sweeping all three? The Races a) Stephen Foster Handicap --> increase from 9f to 10f and move it to Derby weekend ($2million purse) b) Pimlico Special --> Start up this great race again at it's 9.5f distance (same as the Preakness) and hold it during Preakness weekend ($2million purse) c) Brooklyn Handicap --> keep it at it's current distance and placement on racing calendar ($2million purse) Yeah, it may cheapen our beloved triple crown as it would give horses another opportunity to try for a triple crown (the beauty of the triple crown as it stands is that it can only be tried once at 3yo), but it will still be under the same 5wk schedule, as well as the added difficulty of being under handicap conditions. And I think something as crazy as a $20million bonus is necessary to keep these horses racing past their 3yo season before being shoved to the breeding shed...
Chuck S More than 1 year ago
Does anyone think if Thursday's weather conditions showed up on Belmont Day the card would be cancelled? Of course not - we all know better. NYRA's quote was "the risk was not worth the reward" for Thursday's cancellation. I guess either the horses entered on Saturday must not be worth as much as those on the Thursday card (ha ha), or NYRA is coming to grips with how lousy a product they're presenting that cancelling a day is OK. Either way, I feel bad for owners who had participants on Thursday card. Meanwhile it would be interesting for someone to pose the question to NYRA. I'd love to hear their response.
Devil His Due More than 1 year ago
In reality, the Brooklyn should join the Pimlico Special in mothballs.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Good Article Mike. My first suggestion is The Breeders Cup Marathon's Purse should be increased to One Million Dollars....Instead of being the poor step child at 500K. That would automatically boost the importance of the Brooklyn...and maybe even The Belmont itself.
easygoer132.2 More than 1 year ago
The industry could make it more attractive and important to win races like the Brooklyn. The status of the race needs to be raised - make it a Grade I again. The reward needs to be greater too - raise the purse to 1 million dollars. Maybe you'd attract more than a field of five - although it is great to see former Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer in the race this year. The Brooklyn/Belmont double is actually one of my favorite bets of the year and is the only reason I'm going to the OTB today!
JJ More than 1 year ago
I'm saddened by the unreal zeal for breeding speedy, precocious horses that can't navigate distances beyond 9F. When you look at the champion horses of yesteryear, they were noteworthy for their endurance and durability. It's amazing to think that the Jockey Gold Cup was ran at 2 miles as recently as 1975! And we used to require horses carry substantial weights. Horses weren't so gimpy as to require Lasix/Bute cocktails. The American thoroughbred was sound and able to cover a measure of ground. Yes, the Brooklyn Handicap was run at 9F as recently as 2007 (it has seen several distance changes from 9F to 12F throughout its history), and that would bring it more in line with the realities of American racing. However, racing fans are afforded few opportunities to watch graded stakes action at 10F+. I think an alternate course of action is to bolster the Brooklyn Handicap's purse and retain the current configuration. We need to incentivize horses to run further and more often. JJ
Danny More than 1 year ago
What NYRA should do when they get all the money from the slots is make a seven race series starting Wood Day with the Excelsior at 1 1/8 for 1 million the Brooklyn at 1 1/4 the day after the Derby for 1 million the Met Mile on Memorial Day for 1 million the Suburban on the 4th of July at 1 1/4 for 1 million the Whitney on the 1st Saturday in August at 1/8 for 1 million the Woodward the Saturday before Labor Day at 1 1/8 for a million and the Jockey Club Gold Cup the 1st Saturday in October at 1 1/4 for 2 million. Thats seven races, eight million dollars. No top horse would have to ship out of NY and plenty of horses would ship in. Also, you could get corporate sponsorships and maybe set a bonus based on points where the horses finish in each race like the old ACRS from the early nineties.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
How can everything that looks so right come out so wrong. Good thing I didn't take my Belmont Stakes money with me on Friday or else I would be just a spectator come Sat.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
Many former class races are passed up nowadays. Seems like Trainers pick their spots and also avoid others in their class range. If it wasn't for races like the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup top class horses would never meet. As far as the Brooklyn $150,000 doesn't buy much anymore. The Brooklyn looks like a good race and since it is a Double to the Belmont Drosselmeyer's last year Belmont win will jump off the page at the public. Eldaafer is the only marathon specialist in this field and I think he's the class too. Drosselmeyer's win in the Belmont last year was against other 3yr olds that don't want this distance so I think that race looks better than it is. 4 out o 5 entrants in here prepped against each other last time and all look distance/class challenged... 2-1 on Eldaafer looks way too generous to me. Other than a win bet and a double bet I will take a chance the two speeds on the outside will quit and play Eldaafer over Drosselmeyer and Afleet Again in the tri. This race is all I could come with today.
David H. More than 1 year ago
MW, I'm wondering if we have a long-term problem, or just a short-term coincidence. It's my impression as a handicapper that there are not a lot of quality handicap division horses able to run Classic distances in North America. If you accept my premise, then clearly we have too many Grade I and II races carded right now. Exhibit A: today's Brooklyn, which is a sad race. Is this just a problem of the last, say, 3 or 4 years? Or will this be a problem every year going forward, and the national stakes schedules needs a major adjustment?
Randy Zalman More than 1 year ago
I think it is a little bit of both and for sure there isn't enough good horses around at that level.