Two Weeks of Heaven
By: Jay Bergman for the Daily Racing Form
Racing related activity shifts to the Bluegrass State for the next two weeks. The arrival of Grand Circuit racing at Lexington’s famed Red Mile at the beginning of autumn signals a chance for owners of current two and three-year-olds to solidify claims of supremacy. It also brings hope for those who breed standardbreds and those looking for future champions.
It’s a rare mix in the fall in Lexington. The chance to visit breeding farms and inspect the next generation of race horses can be exhausting work. At the same time, Lexington offers many in the sport a chance to cross paths with people only seen on the road. Two weeks is necessary to have the opportunity to see yearlings in the field, watch and bid on future stars, and catch today’s greatest horses on the track, a surface that has produced some of the greatest moments the sport has seen.
The two-week Grand Circuit meet at the Red Mile commences with three nightprograms—Thursday (Sept. 25), Friday and Saturday, with a Sunday matinee on Sept. 28.
The schedule is absolutely perfect. Though at points in the past Grand Circuit racing was reserved for the afternoon. Given the need for owners and trainers to have a chance to inspect horses at various locations, offering night racing during the first three days is ideal.
There’s always excitement in the air in Kentucky. Horse lovers are horse lovers, and there are many that feel they have come home when they venture to Lexington in the fall. Generations have come and generations will come, and each year the Red Mile will represent something new and captivating.
On the racing schedule, the key races will be the Kentucky Futurity, the sport’s oldest stakes event on October 5. Again adjusting to modern times, the Red Mile will make it’s last afternoon of Grand Circuit racing its best. Not only will it feature the best three-year-old male and female trotters, it will highlight the best aged performers of both sexes and gaits in the Allerage finals.
The Kentucky Futurity and the Allerage will give fans of the breed a chance to likely see Father Patrick capture a leg of the Triple Crown he seems to deserving of, but to witness it on the same stage that Sebastian K and company battle for the Allerage. While Father Patrick has more than secured his lofty position atop the three-year-old crop, Sebastian K’s disappointing performance at Hoosier Park this past Saturday adds a bit of mystery to what at many times this year appeared a foregone conclusion.
Yet one day does not a race-meet make and for my money, the races that matter most during this two-week affair will be the events for juveniles of both gaits. If it hasn’t become clear by now, it should be that the fall is reserved for two-year-olds from all regions to arrive in Kentucky and vie for superiority.
The racing calendar and the enormous money available in Sire Stakes races throughout North America, has limited the travel of many of our potentially bright Grand Circuit stars of the future. At the same time, more and more owners and trainers have become convinced that it is in their horses best interest to travel less, race less often, and wait until horses have matured more before going into battle.
That is why Lexington’s races have more significance than any others for the juveniles. We get a first chance to see what will happen when horses with impressive credentials in regional action, take on horses they have not raced against or been on the same tracks with.
Two of the brightest stars in the juvenile pacing ranks come into the Red Mile with unblemished records. J K She’salady kept her string of perfection intact, managing to race from off the pace and stare that long Hoosier Park homestretch in the eye and get on by. At many moments during her victory in a stakes races that needs a shorter name, J K She’salady appeared vulnerable. The daughter of Art Major responded willingly to the magic in Yannick Gingras’ hands and easily held sway.
For many the Gingras 2014 season has been a confluence of factors, most importantly driving the best horses for the leading trainers. But make no mistake about it, Gingras’ accomplishments have a lot more to do with making an incredible number of correct decisions in the heat of battle. No matter how many good horses one gets placed behind, the mystery of a horserace unfolds before your eyes and reaction time is limited. Gingras, through his own hard work of sitting behind so many horses and understanding specific characteristics, has made winning major races look easy.
It is not.
J K She’salady, despite her record and apparent high level of talent, needs to be handled a certain way to succeed, and Gingras appears to understand that.
Artspeak breezed through the competition in Ontario this summer and should get a chance to meet up with a different group of colts in Lexington. The Tony Alagna-trained freshman appears to have an impressive disposition and the will to win. We don’t yet know what caliber of horses he’ll race against at the Red Mile, but we do know by the end of the two weeks of racing we should have more answers about his immediate future.
The first week of Grand Circuit racing at The Red Mile is an exciting time for breeders and buyers alike. Race callers through the ages have happily announced to those assembled at the track, and now throughout the simulcast universe that, “A full brother to So & So sells as Hip No. 35 on Tuesday night.” The practice of racing in Late Closers with young inexperienced horses that just happen to have their yearling brothers or sisters selling at auction only a few days later, is just the type of appetite whetting needed to stir the soul and loosen the purse strings.