Is it just me, or do the skies have an unerring tendency to open up just before a big stakes race?
The first raindrops on Saturday fell with about 15 minutes to post before the Beldame. It rained off and on through the late afternoon, actually ceasing for a bit at times, but just as we headed to the paddock for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, near-apocalyptic downpours descended; undeterred, even foolish people like me, who had forgotten raincoats and umbrellas, braved the elements to see the big boys parade.
The rain took a toll on not only my hair and my clothes (one considerate soul commented that I looked like a “drowned rat”), but also on my photos; without the benefit of a flash, the darkness and the rain made most picture-taking an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, I was able to pull off a few shots between the raindrops.
The pregnant Unbridled Belle (left) kept things interesting in the Beldame for a while, and she was the sentimental favorite of quite a few in the crowd. We keep thinking that we’ve seen the last of this soon-to-be-mother, but as someone remarked today, better to see her go out with a second by a couple of lengths in the Beldame than with an eighth by 42 in the
Alabama Personal Ensign (thanks to the reader who wrote with that correction. Careless!). If, indeed, she’s going out after this.
Brava, Music Note (below). She proved last year that she’s relatively undeterred by a synthetic surface, so off she heads to Santa Anita for a return engagement in the Breeders’ Cup
Distaff Ladies’ Classic Filly and Mare Classic Distaff (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).
In the 2006 Just A Game Handicap at Belmont, a four-horse field improbably staged one of the most exciting races I’ve seen; after Gorella had won it, we knew that we’d seen the race of the day. This year’s renewal of the Vosburgh showed again that even a small field can produce a terrific race.
Yesterday Kodiak Kowboy didn’t win quite as impressively as Gorella did that day, and because his victory came over the clear favorite on the board and in the stands, Fabulous Strike, it felt a little anti-climactic. The race was run in a nearly impenetrable rain and fog, Fabulous Strike getting beaten at the wire in this race for the second consecutive year. That said, at the age of four, Kodiak Kowboy has run 22 races and hit the board in 17 of them, and you’ve got admire his heart. I wish that Fabulous Strike had won, but as long as he didn’t, I’m glad that Kodiak Kowboy did.
No photos of the Flower Bowl entrants; the rain kept me inside, as did the few minutes between the post time for this race and that for the Cotillion. Criticism is a Backstretch fave and I’d have liked to see her hang on (has a race ever been run more slowly? 26.81, 53.81, 1:20.43!); Dynaforce didn’t turn in her usual bravura performance over soft ground; and kudos to Pure Clan.
Within minutes, Careless Jewel showed just how good she is, winning the Cotillion while seemingly doing everything she could do to lose it. Breaking from the rail, she was six wide going into the first turn, stayed in the middle of the track, went wider coming in the stretch, and was distracted out of her mind coming to the wire…and she still won by three and a half. This is the same filly who bucked and kicked her way out of the paddock before crushing in the Alabama, and if she ever figures out how to behave, she’s going to be scary, scary, scary good.
Back at Belmont, the venerable Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, recently won by such standouts as Grand Couturier, English Channel, Shakespeare, and Kitten’s Joy, had its party crashed by rank outside Interpatation (left) at 43-1. I’ve long stood against this horse simply for the spelling of his name—I hate having to spell words wrong in order to spell equine names right—but I started to like him a little this summer, when trainer Robert Barbara talked about how hard he tries in every race. He is frequently ambitiously spotted and frequently finishes up the track, but he came into this race with lifetime earnings of $792,231, and now he’s a millionaire. As might be anyone who bet on him. (Not I.)
Who could ask for a better Jockey Club Gold Cup? Two local favorites battling to the wire, the two three-year-olds leaving their elders behind…and the Belmont and Travers winner prevails, becoming the first horse since Easy Goer in 1989 to win all three historic New York races.
Quality Road proved that he’s more than a sprinter, and Summer Bird likely sealed his bid for three-year-old champion with this win as he splashed home (again) a length in front of his classmate. Drenched to the skin, I, along with 6,999 other fans (not a bad number, considering the short fields and the weather), thrilled at the finish.
But what a difference a race makes. A bit more than 30 minutes after the son of Birdstone added another Grade I victory to his resume, another Birdstone three-year-old, Pappy’s Double H, took the track in the finale. Making his third start after being beaten a combined 54 lengths in his first two races, Pappy’s Double H fell gruesomely in the stretch; he somersaulted, throwing his rider, who crawled under the rail and out of further harm’s way.
Jesiere Medina got up; we knew that she was OK as her mount convulsed, struggled, and lay still on the track. Along the rail, dozens watched as horse and jockey were assessed; Medina was taken to the hospital to tend to, we were told, an injured shoulder. Pappy’s Double H either died in the fall or was euthanized. Despite the encroaching gloaming, the penetrating dampness, and the puddles in which they were standing, the spectators didn’t leave the rail until he was in the horse ambulance and driven away.
Check out The Bug Boys for another look at Gold Cup day, including a terrific photo of Music Note after the Beldame.