10/06/2014 11:16AM

Bergman: Grand Circuit meet still something special

USTA Photo
Driver Tim Tetrick hopes he can keep coming back to Kentucky for "the next hundred years".

Following the last race of two weeks of Grand Circuit racing at The Red Mile, winning driver Tim Tetrick, who moments earlier had pulled off the upset guiding State Treasurer to victory, made this statement:

“I hope we can keep coming back to Kentucky for the next hundred years.”

Tetrick and many others that earn a living as catch-drivers are always on the move from track to track. Doubleheaders are part of the job and for Tetrick and his ilk it’s a function of the profession.

The driver had to be thankful that not only did his schedule slow down during the two week Grand Circuit meet, but it also gave him and so many others time to actually enjoy racing horses.

That’s the significance of racing two weeks in Kentucky. Sure, much of the drama of the Red Mile meet has been reduced strictly because the Red Mile can’t match the purse structure offered at so many other locations. Yet at the same time the commitment to two four-day cards is apparent as dedicated horsemen truly recognize the importance of racing in Kentucky, even if it’s for a fraction of the racing season.

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If the Red Mile meet revealed anything about today’s racing product it was that nothing good lasts forever. Of course when we talk about good we’re referring to the brilliance of three of the sport’s superstars over the course of the year. Namely the top three horses in North America- Sebastian K, Father Patrick and Sweet Lou.

It seems just when you’re ready to crown a king something happens to force a change of course.

Sweet Lou was as dominant as any aged pacer had been for a two-month span. His effortless victories at a high-rate of speed left many wondering if he was in fact beatable.

On Sunday Sweet Lou got the front and set the fractions that he’d been comfortable with all summer long but could not hold off a solid group in crunch time. Mind you these were the exact same horses that couldn’t get near Sweet Lou for a period of time.

Sebastian K not only shattered the world mark trotting to a 1:49 mile at Pocono earlier this year, but his ability to leave quickly and then shut down the pace made him appear to be a mortal lock no matter what racetrack or combination of horses were placed against him.

His loss in the Centaur was easy to explain, especially to those who witnessed a change of shoeing prior to the event.

Sebastian K raced his eyeballs out in Sunday’s Allerage Farms at The Red Mile, but the effort wasn’t good enough for victory. The same horse that looked good horses in the eye and went on by during the summer, suddenly looked vulnerable against a field that was arguably weaker than the ones he had dominated early on.

Credit Creatine for going as big a trip as he’s ever gone and give kudos to Trace Tetrick for not panicking when the horse he was following (Master of Law) made a break on the final turn.

At the same time it was extremely hard to predict that Creatine, the same horse that had but one victory in 11 tries in 2014, was a class match for Sebastian K considering his four-year-old resume.

It wasn’t more than a few weeks ago that we wrote about the changes that generally occur as the weather cools down and the wear and tear of the racing season impacts the sports stars. So it wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world to see Nuncio defeat Father Patrick in the Kentucky Futurity.

We spoke to John Campbell, Nuncio’s driver, days before the race and were reminded that nothing is given- it has to be earned when racing in the Kentucky Futurity. Campbell recalled the bitter loss suffered by everybody’s superstar Mack Lobell in 1987 while appearing a lock to win the sport’s coveted Triple Crown. Campbell spoke about how everything went right that day for Mack, except that Napoletano, the race winner, found an extra gear in the stretch and rolled on by Mack in the second heat.

There was only one heat on Sunday and this time no one could have blamed Campbell if he thought Father Patrick would go by Nuncio in the stretch. That appeared to be in the cards until midstretch when Father Patrick lost his momentum and Nuncio, unsung until this moment, found the courage, if not the gait, to fight back and earn a trip to the winner’s circle in the sport’s oldest contest.

So while the Red Mile did produce its share of 1-10 favorites that coasted around the course with ease, it also produced an incredible amount of drama and a significant amount of triple-figure longshots.

Even though North America Cup winner J K Endofanera and Meadowlands Pace runner-up Always B Miki were successful in capturing the split Tattersalls on Saturday afternoon, it was clear that neither was drawing away from the competition. The two do however appear on course to be among the stars of the three-year-old division as the season winds down and victories became worth more in the race for divisional honors.

While some horses step up with victories and lose luster from defeats, only one horse in this sport gains admirers no matter where he finishes. Foiled Again has been counted out more times than any other horse in the history of the sport. His resilience is uncommon to say the least. As part of the Burke-brigade of aged warriors, Foiled Again appears to be gaining momentum again while the leaders falter or retire. His effort on Sunday in defeat was atypical of so many of his great miles in the course of a career that may never be matched again.

State Treasurer did trip out behind Foiled Again, but he didn’t leave Foiled Again in the stretch. To the contrary the 10-year-old fought back and made the longshot earn his victory right to the wire.

There are still plenty of races left on the calendar but the fall has the promise of being one of the greatest seasons ever as invincibility has taken a back seat, leaving the door ajar for great competitive races.

Kentucky has set the table once again.

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