07/18/2012 3:00PM

Jerardi: Plenty of must-see racing beyond the 3-year-old division


What became of my summer?

The last Sunday of July, I was heading to Monmouth Park to see Union Rags try to catch Bodemeister in the Haskell. Then, I was going to see Bodemeister. Now, I am not sure what I am going to see. But I am still going because I love Monmouth Park. And I must get my annual Rooney’s fix the night of the race. I recommend any of the seafood and a stroll by the Atlantic Ocean after dinner.

I was planning a Saratoga trip to see the Travers and a possible Union Rags-Bodemeister rematch, with another 220 yards to spice it up. Well, I am still going to Saratoga just because it is one of the few rules I adhere to anymore. There will be no August without Saratoga. And when at the track, there will be no pick four unplayed or pick six carryover unconsidered.

By the way, I really need to get back to Del Mar one of these summers to hang with the DRF Jays and improve on my perfect record. Every time I have been to Del Mar, I have cashed big. Sadly, the last time was 1999 when I was there to do a story on Laffit Pincay’s pursuit of Bill Shoemaker’s record. It has been so long ago that Pincay got the record, held it, and then relinquished it to Russell Baze, who seems quite likely to hold it forever.

Still, what happened to this 3-year-old season? I’ll Have Another clinched the championship with his four wins from February to May. I don’t see a scenario where any of the horses still running can catch him. Either Union Rags or Bodemeister likely would have had to run the table to have a shot. This all looked so promising in the winter and spring. The Triple Crown season had everything but a Triple Crown. Now, nothing.

Except if the same horse wins the Haskell and Travers. Then, it, at least, becomes interesting. Right now, it is deflating.

We still have those 3-year-old fillies and a pretty good group of older horses that are starting to put up some serious Beyer Speed Figures. Horses like Mucho Macho Man really give me hope that if Union Rags comes back as a 4-year-old, we might get to see what trainer Michael Matz and a few of us true believers always expected – a really good horse running really fast.

Meanwhile, Grace Hall blew up on Saturday in the Delaware Oaks, getting a career-best 103 Beyer. She has run eight times and never been worse than third, with five wins, including three graded stakes. Unlike the colts, the filly division still has most of its major players in training to decide a championship.

The Alabama should go a long way to deciding that title. And if that doesn’t, there is the Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 22, the first Grade 1 in the history of Pennsylvania and one of two $1 million races, along with the Pennsylvania Derby, on the card.

Writing this has made me slightly less depressed. This sport, however, really will test you. Just about every time you think something is going to be settled, something else happens. Who ever heard of a horse being scratched on the eve of a Triple Crown attempt? Or the next two best 3-year-olds being declared out of the first major summer stakes within five mid-July days?

All that is history so I will do what comes naturally. Get in the car Saturday and drive south for an hour to Delaware Park, still one of America’s most beautiful venues. There waiting to run in the Delaware Handicap will be Royal Delta, absolutely one of the best horses in training.

All she did last year was win the Black-Eyed Susan, Alabama, Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, and $1.6 million. All she did in her last start was win the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs by eight lengths and get a career-best 110 Beyer. When she got that 104 in the Ladies’ Classic, you knew she had those kinds of figures in her. If 110 is going to be the new norm, it will not only be very difficult to beat her in the Del Cap, it may be difficult to beat her in anything.

I look forward to seeing Royal Delta in the flesh for the first time since BC Friday at Churchill when she roared by the field in the stretch and gave Bill Mott the push he needed for his Eclipse Award, a push that went over the top when Drosselmeyer won the Classic the next day.

We all love to do it, but you really can’t look back in this game. You can think about the past, wonder about it and consider it. But it is not changing. So you look ahead. And hope. Anybody got the name of a hot 2-year-old prospect?