Monday, November 24, 2014

With aptness of the season

The 30th-anniversary of the Breeders Crown approached with nostalgia and pride. There were many names to drop in the history of a series that many of us have espoused for three decades. Still, what went through my mind was how much of the 30th season appeared irrecoverable by fans and journalists.

So much had changed for so many horses and horsemen by November as the season stretched the limits of perceived time. By the Breeders Crown finals at the Meadowlands, it became evident that many insiders and fans had forgotten the characters that set this season afire at one time or another. Who knew at the beginning of January that such high-profiled people and equines were only to sparkle temporarily?

For instance, by November it was forgotten that Ake Svanstedt rose to superstardom and stayed in the limelight into deep summer. His transatlantic trotter Sebastian K became the fastest trotter of all time. Ake raced Centurion Atm to become the winter-book favorite for the 2015 Hambletonian. Your So Vain, another Ake star, came on the scene and won the initial Hambletonian Maturity.

Sebastian K didn’t supplement to the “Crown” because he couldn’t keep up the monstrous miles. Your So Vain went to the Crown but finished last in the Open Trot final. Centurion Atm didn’t make the frosh-colt-trot final and lost his status as winter-book favorite.

There were other trials that ended badly. In fact, there was one that began and ended badly—it’s the story of He’s Watching. The anticipated launch of his sophomore season disappointed all the forecasters of his glowing season when his first race on his home turf at Yonkers was a debacle. Then he showed promise and then he peaked with a Meadowlands Pace win that his supporters would not believe occurred because so much went wrong for the rest of the better colts in that field.

One of those was Always B Miki, who went on to win and earn respect but the the praise for Hes Watching ensued. Then, Hes Watching began watching all others leave him in the dust, losing and looking terrible losing. He rested and then faced a Crown elim. But by then, Always B Miki ruled and Hes Watching looked at the end of his season, unable to make the Crown final.

By Crown time, Always B Miki was being touted as the division winner and supplemented to the series. His Crown elim victory was a mere complement to already having beaten the best. Then, suffering a pastern fracture, he was scratched from the final. Earlier that day, Limelight Beach, who awoke to win the Little Brown Jug and also won his Crown elim, also bowed out.

As well, Colors A Virgin, who emerged from the Midwest to win the Jugette and came to the Crown supplemented, was looking to win the soph-filly pacer title but she couldn’t overcome a natty trip in the Crown final. It may turn up to be a blemish on her fine record.

What about Shake It Cerry? Sure, she was the Crown favorite but after she blew the Hambletonian Oaks, people stampeded to support Lifetime Dream, who defeated her in the “Oaks.” This abandonment was absurd. By Crown time, Shake It Cerry was finally getting the respect she never should have lost.

This leaves us with the most outrageous disregard of the season—turning away from Father Patrick. The sudden splurge of support for Nuncio is still a mystery. There should never have been such a turnaround, one that made the press shout “redemption” when Father Patrick won the Crown final. Father Patrick had nothing to redeem—he was always tons better than Nuncio before and after Takter got hold of him.

The public, however, forgot the rest of this season. It awarded Nuncio greatness, when two of the four races he won from Father Patrick were circumstantial because Father Patrick galloped instead of trotting. Let’s mention, too, who we have forgotten here—Trixton. He won the Hambletonian over Nuncio and as good as he got he never defeated Father Patrick.

All of that and plenty more contributes to the contents of harness racing’s 2014, a season that clouded the perspectives of many bettors and journalists. In Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” the queen suggests we have “aptness of the season,” a disposition that behaves with appropriateness. In 2014, too many bettors and journalists were apt to act through bias and betrayal, which is just plain dumb.

(photo by Ray Cotolo)

Thank you for following the major Breeders Crown hopefuls on their road to the November Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands by visiting the Breeders Crown Countdown blog and the TwinSpires harness blog weekly. Archived reports can be found at the Hambletonian Society web site.

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