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Monday, December 01, 2008

Encore Encore!!



- The three horse, around ten seconds into the above video, is the great Somebeachsomewhere, on the track Saturday night prior to what, at least we thought at the time, was to be his final career race before taking up at stud at Hanover Shoe Farm next season. Us thoroughbred folks have had the word "great" shoved down our throats this year with respect to a certain horse who really did little to earn it, at least since last March. I know that it's hard to compare the two sports given the more forgiving nature of gaited racing which permits standardbreds to race with far more regularity than flat horses. But this pacer has done everything that was asked of him, and more. He crushed high quality horses with ease in spectacular times, and did so while not always in peak physical condition, and despite challenging weather and track conditions and adverse pace scenarios. The one time he lost, he actually furthered his legend, absolutely dazzling in defeat.

His Breeders Crown victory was defining and decisive. No fooling around here; Paul MacDonnell took the champ right to the front, with ease, as Shadow Play felt the whip early. The rest was a mere formality - splits of 27, 27.3, 27.2, and rolling home on his own initiative in 26.3 for a final time of 1:48.3, while Dave Miller pressed the valiant Shadow Play fruitlessly. Even the cynical Handride, making his harness debut (and fresh off his crushing loss in the Cigar), was duly impressed. Simply amazing.

Overhearing snippets of conversations on the grandstand apron afterwards, I heard names such as "Niatross," "Cam Fella" and "Nihilator," as fans discussed some of the other greatest-of-all-timers they'd ever seen. Meanwhile, Somebeachsomewhere was headed back to the barn for what we thought was the final time. I found it a rather poignant scene - this historic animal walking away quietly into the night, with a handful of around 25 people on the grandstand apron applauding lightly. And when I walked inside, the glow of the event had already long passed, and bettors were directing their attention towards the small TV screens presenting the races from Pompano Park, Woodbine, Retama, and others. While the winners circle scene was crowded and festive, this aftermath was a far truer commentary on the current status of the sport. The Meadowlands was more crowded than for a typical Saturday night; but still, a prime grandstand seat right on the finish line was there for the taking throughout the evening. A long ways from Nevele Pride and Stanley Dancer on the cover of Sports Illustrated to be sure.

However, the scene seems not quite as poignant now, given the fact that Somebeachsomewhere will race again after all. Not often in the world of horse racing these days that a star horse answers the curtain call, as muted as it may have been at the track in this case. Trainer Brent MacGrath said:

"I feel badly that I didn't say anything before now, but if he'd shown the least little bit of tiredness tonight, it would have been his last race....But we decided to show him off a little bit more. [Toronto Globe and Mail]
Somebeachsomewhere will race in the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs on Dec 15 (elimination a week before if necessary), his first appearance on a 5/8ths mile track. And so The Beach goes on, at least for now.

- Not a happy ending for Deweycheatumnhowe, who obviously was not at his best following his throat abscess last week. Ray Schnittker, classy in defeat, claimed there was "no excuse," but we know that there was.

3 Comments:

Pull the Pocket said...

Hey A,

Did you get any footage of the race from down at that spot? I would love to hear the stretch drive. Imo, we do a terrible job with sound in racing.

Great post. I did not make it this year unfortunately but that 30 second snippet you posted made me feel like I was there.

Handride said...

It was a great night, especially hitting some bets made it even better after the bitter pill that was the Big A. Definitely count me in for next year. Gotta double down on my boy Muscle Hill.

Anonymous said...

Golly Alan, is this evolving into a harness race site? Hardly any commentary on one of the best/most tragic races of the year? (the Cigar Mile) What gives?