Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
Goodbye to 2011 - and good riddance too
IN about a week we will say goodbye to a year that, at least for me, will be filed in the 'forgettable' drawer.
That might be a risky stance to take for someone well into his 70th year on this earth, but from several standpoints it fits.
I have to say that from several points of view the US racing year was a disappointment.
Uncle Mo, ever so promising as a juvenile for trainer Todd Pletcher, missed the Triple Crown due to internal ailments.
And just when Animal Kingdom appeared a worthy substitute after his dominating victory in the Kentucky Derby andnear-miss in the Preakness Stakes he was injured in the Belmont and rendered done for the season.
At least we will have Animal Kingdom back in 2012and he figures to be a major player among older runners. Uncle Mo, of course, has been retired to stud.
With the retirement at the end of last season of the likes of 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta and runner-up Blame, the ranks of older horse on the 2011 season had quite a lot to measure up to.
Predictably, they failed. But that does not mean there were not some good horses and good stories.
Flat Out, trained by ‘Scooter' Dickey, overcame an absence of some 22 months to become a Grade 1 winner in taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in October.
Havre de Grace followed in the footsteps (hoofsteps?) of Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Zenyatta (2010) in defeating males in important races.
She ultimately wasfourth, beaten some three lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Classic behind the uninspiring Drosselmeyer, but the smart money is that her performance was good enough to make her US racing's third consecutive female Horse of the Year.
Promising two-year-olds give reason for hope to their connections and to racing fans alike.
A pair of them came on in the latter half of the 2011 season and, oddly enough, each lost his final start on the year.
Union Rages, trained by Michael Matz of Barbaro fame, looked the part of a champion at Saratoga and Belmont Park only to go down narrowly to stubborn pacesetter Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Jonathan Sheppard has a good one in Ever So Lucky, impressive winner of his first two starts before finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in late-November.
Watch them both carefully.
>>The Breeders' Cup, held for a second consecutive year at Churchill Downs, demonstrated once again that (a) two days of the event are one too many, and (b) there is more than one insignificant race among the Cup 14 races on offer.
It is well past time to rethink this once-grand event.
>>On a final note, we would be remiss not to mention the passing of Louisvillian Julian Wheat.
Never heard of him?
Well, how about Buck Wheat?
Dubbed 'Mayor of the Backside' at Churchill Downs, the affable Wheat died Tuesday as a result of complications suffered from a fall at his home.
Every trainer who ever brought in a horse from anywhere in the racing world to run at the Downs ultimately got paid a visit and offered a helping hand from Wheat.
Wheat, 78, who sent out 25 winners over 15 years as a part-time trainer and had worked at Churchill in several capacities since the late 1940s , was perhaps best described by former track president Tom Meeker.
His training "was not worth a hoot," Meeker reckoned, " but he "set the standard for what good horsemen's relations is all about."
He will be missed.