Can't say I'm all that hepped up for the Belmont Stakes. I'm psyched for the day of course; the event, the excitement of having a bunch of people in the place no matter where the crowd figure falls on the scale of NYRA's hopes and expectations; and hopefully a bunch of excellent betting races. But, Animal Kingdom vs Shackleford? Always a certain amount of interest in a matchup of the Derby and Preakness winners in the Belmont. But, I wouldn't call this one compelling. And when I see a headline like this, I'm thinking it doesn't really qualify as a "showdown," and the only "sizzle" around here is likely to be the temperature the next couple of days. I'd rate the excitement level at around 5.5 out of 9 on Jay Hovdey's scale.
But you gotta work with what you got, and it's the only angle the race has to offer, given the lack of any other horse of any real particular interest scheduled to line up (unless you're particularly interested in a horse who's finished second three time in a row, and which is eligible for entry-level allowance company). And, it's certainly better than if one or both didn't show up. So NYRA's gotta try and build it up, and nice to see the press at least try to.
It's surely no rivalry though, at least not yet. As I've often said, you can't manufacture a rivalry in the press or through promotion; it grows naturally as horses encounter each other on numerous (or at least a few) occasions over a period of time. (Or maybe I should phrase that in the past tense.) The two colts haven't as much as made eye contact in either of the (only) two races in which they've both run, unless Animal Kingdom shot him a disdainful glare as he blew by him in the Derby.
Now, finally getting back to what I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, when DiscreetPicks and steve in nc, two of my oldest (not agewise I don't think) and most loyal readers, took issue with my contention, made without my usual cautious qualifiers in this case, that Animal Kingdom is a turf horse. My point there was not that he's not a capable horse on the dirt. However, when I look at his breeding, I'm thinking turf horse, a conclusion which was surely supported by his first four races, one on grass, the others on Poly. Then he switches to dirt, and I'm thinking he's gotta show me that he can handle it (which is why I never for a second considered betting him in the Derby).
OK, he handled it pretty fine. But, as has been pointed out, it was a strangely-run race as far as Derbies go, and one which closely simulated the pacing of a grass race. In analyzing the pace after the race, noting that Animal Kingdom was able to keep contact while not having to exert himself too much early, I wrote:
But we can't assume that a quicker pace in the Preakness will automatically make things easier for him. Might not show such a keen closing kick if he has to run 24 second splits just to keep up.Didn't go exactly that way; but, after running the first half in 49.1, slightly quicker than he did in the Derby, his third quarter was a sprightly 23.1 as Johnny V sought to get back in the race. And there's no question in my mind that Animal Kingdom hung in the Preakness stretch; he had no excuse as far as I'm concerned for not catching the tiring Shackleford. The past performance line is deceptive; makes it seem like he closed gangbusters, but it doesn't look that way to be visually. There was no guarantee he'd have passed him in the proverbial 'nuther time around' the track.
So, unlike some other folks, I personally don't see his futile rally in losing to Shackleford as an indication that he will necessarily benefit from the added distance, nor go on to win the Classic, as Joe Drape tweeted in what to me is another example of why Twitter has added absolutely nothing worthwhile or positive to American culture (we'll get to another shortly). I mean, at this very point in time, Animal Kingdom has accomplished not one iota more than had Mine That Bird - beating a flawed Derby field under ideal conditions and racing luck, and rallying for second in the Preakness. In fact, as much as I liked to dis Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird's Preakness gets the nod over Animal Kingdom's in the respect of their respective competition. And we know how Mine That Bird turned out. So, hold your horses with this horse, in my opinion anyway. He may very well win the Belmont - a capable horse as I said - but I hardly think he's a lock and will play the odds accordingly once I get to see the pp's.
As for Shackleford, I originally came to bury, not to praise him; but I have to say that he's grown on me. Personally, I think he's a more likely winner of the race than Animal Kingdom. (I agree with Dale Romans; it was a dumb, if jovial, remark by Barry Irwin to say he's more worried about Mucho Macho Man, who should be resting up for the late summer and fall at this point.) I counted this horse out after seeing him blow the Florida Derby to that dog Dialed In (easy for me to say now, but I did correctly toss him in both Triple Crown legs, one of the few things I got right about either race). But Shackleford held fairly well in the Derby; his slow pace was a double-edged sword, allowing others to stay close yet save their closing kicks. And sure, he slowed down considerably in the second half of the Preakness. But he showed the ability to stalk the pace and win, continued his improvement on the Beyer scale (though I'm a bit skeptical of the Preakness figs), and hey, he didn't get caught, did he?
- And sure, I'll talk about Anthony Weiner. I actually live in his district, so I've (surprise!) voted for him for each of his Congressional terms. And I've always loved the guy. The Democrats need people like him who are willing and unafraid to address the lies and hypocrisy of the Republican party in the incredulous and caustic tones which they rightly deserve. Now, it turns out that Weiner is a liar too. Well,for one thing, at least he's not a hypocrite. I imagine his wife would disagree with that remark; but I'm referring to the Republicans caught in similar, or worse, situations who had previously tried to impose their idea of family values on the electorate even as they had none themselves.
But I suppose that's a minor distinction. Stupidity is a bipartisan trait. Weiner is supposed to be a 'technophile,' yet he really thought he wouldn't at some be exposed (in his underwear or not)? And, as is usually the case, the coverup was worse than the crime, whether there was one in the technical sense, or not. I could care less what he does with his Twitter account; and, contrary to the spirit of some of the comments I've gotten, I don't really much care about comparable personal indiscretions of any political stripe. While I've called them idiots, I've never demanded they resign no matter what the party. And in fact, I wrote the following in the case of the Republican Chris Lee, which also sums up my feelings about the reaction of the press and public to this current affair as well.
What an idiot. However, on the other hand, I find the current environment in which everyone and anyone's private affairs are subject, at the slightest slip, to this kind of viral hysteria to be chilling and disturbing. A site like Gawker could just have easily told the woman who sent the photo and emails, thanks, but no thanks, it's really none of anyone's business. And it's not news. Because it's really not...It's just cheap titillation for a society with seemingly nothing better to do but spend mindless hours sitting in front of computers and smartphones texting and twittering about absolutely nothing. They should try going to the track.Hopefully, enough people will be able to put this matter aside and focus on a big day at the races on Saturday.
(And yes, though I do not think that Weiner will survive this, I would, under certain circumstances surely consider voting for him again.)