• In with the old for once

    POSTED Jan 4, 2012
    Thoroughbred racing takes the New Year phrase, "Out with the old and in with the new" a little too seriously for its own good sometimes.

    A litany of marquee retirements often mark the end of the racing season, but that's not the case this year, as the champions in the older male, older female, three-year-old male, and three-year-old filly divisions are all likely to return to racing this year.

    Should that happen, it would mark the first time since the Eclipse Awards were created in 1971 that all four of those champions raced the following year. I.e., It's never happened. That's mind boggling to me.

    To be sure, the three-year-old male division remains the glamor group, particularly in the late winter and early spring, but having the likes of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (yeah, I'm calling it for her even if she didn't get my vote) and certain champion three-year-old filly Royal Delta back in training is sure to add some spice to the long march toward the Breeders' Cup.

    The other two divisions of the four I mentioned--older male & three-year-old male--are unresolved, but regardless of who wins (Game On Dude or Acclamation among older males and Animal Kingdom or Caleb's Posse among three-year-old males), they're all coming back!

    But the excitement does not end with the champions. All three classic winners are returning: the aforementioned Animal Kingdom plus Shackleford and Ruler On Ice. The sprint division has its champion Amazombie coming back along with The Factor and Caleb's Posse. And on turf, there's plenty of excitement swirling around Brilliant Speed and Mr. Commons plus the fairer sex has Summer Soiree, Winter Memories, and Star Billing.

    It's often said that racing needs its stars on the track, and I'm often skeptical about whether a few returning horses can move the dial. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, both certain Racing Hall of Fame inductees even before either of them raced in 2010, both returned off Eclipse Award seasons, but without them racing each other there was not much excitement on a national level until the Breeders' Cup, which Rachel Alexandra didn't even make.

    It will be extremely difficult for all of the above horses to avoid each other as well as some other heavies such as Stay Thirsty, Mucho Macho Man, and To Honor And Serve all coming back as well.

    I've already argued for Brilliant Speed over Mr. Commons in a mythical (for now) 1 1/4-mile matchup on turf, but even if that doesn't pan out surely we'll get to see To Honor And Serve, Caleb's Posse, and The Factor all duke it out in the Met Mile, or the Classic winners back for the Stephen Foster, or Havre de Grace against Royal Delta at Saratoga, right?

    And all of these names are just in the U.S. The biggest name of all is Frankel, and he's racing this year, too, and might even do so in the Breeders' Cup! 


    Stephanie lambert said...

    And you did not even once mention Awesome Feather who is 8-0 already an Eclipse Award winner and finally back on the track with two consecutive wins after coming back off an 11 month layoff due to an injury....TSS Tsss on you.....I guarantee you she will be kicking major horse butt out there this year.

    Unknown said...

    She's definitely an omission. Thanks for adding her to the list!

    Chicago Guy said...

    Ed, I agree. This year looks much better on paper. I am looking forward to the return of Toby's Corner.

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