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.