A perfect weather day, and a crowd of over 45,000 at Monmouth for the Haskell. It was less than the 50K that was hoped for, but it was a big crowd for the track nonetheless. And I have to say that I can't imagine any track anywhere doing a better job of accommodating it. With the exception of the poor women standing on line for the bathrooms, unfortunately a common sight at any crowded venue not progressive in potty equality, I personally didn't notice any customer hardship whatsoever. There were betting windows, food, and drink aplenty - even a bar set up within the paddock! I've never seen that before at any track. I imagine that somewhere there are those who may complain of being shut out of wagering, but he/she has only themselves to blame. I did most of my wagering on the second floor clubhouse, and enjoyed walk-up service to the betting machines all day long, no matter how many MTP. I find it funny how horseplayers in NJ don't use the self-service machines; I find that to be the case at the Meadowlands as well. Big days in NY are the only times I find I ever have to use the manned windows, but it's exactly the opposite across the river.
So, huge kudos to the management and workers at Monmouth for doing an excellent job!!
Despite the crowd, I was able to get right up the railing staring into the saddling area before the Haskell. Here's Dutrow soon after Big Brown was led into the paddock. Don't know what the scene was after the race, as I was soon heading out to the parking lot. But I never saw him and Iavarone together beforehand, and the trainer cut a strangely isolated, and obviously tense figure. Here's a few more shots of trainer and horse before the race.
Our initial reaction after the race was similar to that of some of the comments I've read here - one of being quite underwhelmed. Between the urgency shown by Desormeaux before they even turned for home, the full out stretch drive to collar a horse with relatively modest credentials, and the bearing out in the stretch, when one person in our box said that Big Brown will never run again, I nodded in agreement. However, upon further review, I've come around on his effort.
We know that virtually any horse who's lone speed on that surface is going to take some catching. Coal Play, as erratic as he's been, is a colt that has shown some ability when able to have his own way on the lead; he'd earned a 102 Beyer on the Monmouth track two races back. In fact, throw out his non-two turn races, and he has a pretty impressive record overall. He may have gone quickly early, but he was able to maintain a steady pace - after getting the half in 46.59, he put in subsequent quarters of 24.46 and 24.35 taking him to the eighth pole. So, at a point where 98% of the time, the front-runner would be slowing down after going 1:10.4 to three-quarters, Coal Play actually picked up the pace. No surprise then, that he and Joe Bravo were able to lengthen their lead on Big Brown at that point.
So, I think it was no mean feat that Big Brown was able to run this horse down, even though he understandably tired to a final furlong of 13.11. We often wonder how a horse who's shown considerable ability - enough in Big Brown's case to overwhelm the Derby and Preakness fields - will do when confronted with adversity. Big Brown, in his first such test (forgetting the Belmont if you will), responded admirably, showing persistence and fortitude in getting the job done.
As far as the drifting out goes, it obviously raises alarms considering his well-documented foot problems. Desormeaux said that that's the horse's tendency, and that, in this case, he didn't fight him as long as he was moving forward. But if the race raised questions, it answered some too. There didn't seem to be any carryover from the Belmont fiasco; and the horse showed that he can dig down for extra when he needs to. Whether he's "way better than Curlin," as a suddenly once-again brash Dutrow asserted after the race, is certainly up for debate. But at least now perhaps we'll have a chance to find out.
- Those who devote time and energy in their pitiful lives to wishing me ill will in my betting endeavors can raise a glass and toast in celebration - I had a miserable betting day start to finish. I lost the races I bet, and didn't bet the races I should have, and I'll just leave it at that for now. In fact, I feel like I should cease and desist from betting on horse races until we finally make it to Saratoga for the Alabama.
However, my futility certainly did not cast a pall on a nearly perfect racing day. Whatsmore, if you still think there's no recession, how about ZERO traffic (other than a brief backup for The Police concert at the arts center off the Parkway) driving up from the Jersey Shore on a summer Sunday evening? I think it took me more time to get down there in the morning. And, just to top off the day, there was an absolutely stunning full-arc rainbow lording over Staten Island as I passed through. Hoping that's a sign of some more fruitful wagering days ahead!
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Posted by alan at 10:15 PM