Harsh Realities and What Could Have Been


By Brady Stiff

You all know I’m an avid horse racing fan.  Part of the fun of the summer includes following the best two-year old horses as they make their debuts, and touting the different horses we’ve seen dominate fields at our respective racetracks.

Horses are just starting out their racing careers when they’re two, and when they’re three, they’re eligible for the Triple Crown.  This time of year is full of hope and daydreams of Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May.

The unfortunate injury to Kantharos reminds us how brutal this game can be.

Then there’s the harsh reality of the sport of kings.  Last week, a very promising two-year old colt was injured during a training run and had to be retired.  I’m going to take you back  to how I discovered this colt by Tarantino-ing this post.  Let’s go back…

It’s June 4th at Arlington Park, and 2-year-old maidens are in the gate, ready to go 4.5 furlongs.  By the end of the quick race, a colt named Thewayitusedtobe had left the rest of the field way behind, seemingly effortlessly.  I thought it was quite impressive, so I decided to put him in my virtual stable to be able to keep track of his workouts and future races.  Hell, it wasn’t too long ago that a pretty good colt broke his maiden at Arlington.

Thewayitusedtobe’s next race came a month later in the Gr. 3 Bashford Manor Stakes for two-year-olds at Churchill Downs.  He and the rest of the field were absolutely annihilated by Kantharos.  I mean this horse looked like the absolute real deal.  Next up for Kantharos was the Saratoga Special at Saratoga.  He dominated again.  He wasn’t facing big fields, but he was making it look like he could have won on three legs.

Everyone following racing was just raving about Kantharos’ ability, and how excited they were to see him run again.  Unfortunately, we won’t get that chance.  Kantharos was injured while training for the Gr. 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.  It serves as a reminder that while these animals are fast and strong, one bad step can end a career, if not a life.  You might wonder why race horses if they’re just going to get hurt?  Some might think it’s about the money, and I’m sure to some owners it is, but a lot will tell you it’s about the joy these animals bring.  It’s worth all the hardships.

With all this in mind now, let’s take a look at some of the top remaining two-year-olds.

Boys at Tosconova

After winning two of his first three starts, including the Hopeful, Boys at Tosconova has established himself as the horse to beat for the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.  While the final margin of victory for the Hopeful was just a length and 3/4, it could have been much, much more.  Words can’t describe how easily this horse won that race.  Ramon Dominguez smartly used only what he had to in order to get by all the others for first place money.  This colt is lightly raced, having taken 66 days off between breaking his maiden and the Hopeful.  Wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t race again until the Breeder’s Cup.  But since the BC Juvenile has been around, only one horse, Street Sense, has won it and gone on to win the Kentucky Derby

Lou Brissie

The only horse to beat Boys at Tosconova thus far is Lou Brissie.  That was in the Kentucky Juvenile back in April.  “Lou” also finished second to Kantharos in the Bashford Manor, and 4th in the Gr. 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga.  His latest race, the With Anticipation, was run this past weekend at Saratoga.  The race was 1 and 1/16th miles over the turf course, and he ran 10th.  Maybe he didn’t like two turns, maybe he didn’t like the grass.  Either way, he certainly deserves another chance at it.

Soldat

May not even end up on the Triple Crown trail after this weekend.  After failing in two maiden special weight sprints on dirt, he moved to the turf and stretched out in the With Anticipation.  He won by two or three lengths.  He’s got turf in his pedigree, so it will be interesting to see what they do with this horse.  Maybe it was the grass, maybe it was the two turns, but this horse woke up in his latest effort.  If he can transfer his two-turn form back to the dirt, he could be a major player next Spring.  Maybe he could even follow in Paddy O’Prado’s footsteps, chasing the Triple Crown then returning to the grass.

Bail Out the Cat

If there’s been a hard-luck two year old this summer, it’s been Bail Out the Cat.  An impressive winner first out (beating Soldat in the process), jockey Alan Garcia slipped out of the irons at the start of the Gr. 2 Sanford, giving him no chance to catch Maybesomaybenot (who was impressive in his own right).  Given another chance, he finished a game second to Kantharos in the Saratoga Special.  No idea what might be next for him, but he’s obviously got some talent.  We shall see.

Who knows…maybe there’s a horse that hasn’t even raced yet that’s even better than all of these.  That’s the nature of horse racing.  Tomorrow there’s another Gr. 1 for two-year-olds out in California, the Del Mar Futurity.  There’s some nice looking horses there, so maybe one of those can challenge Boys at Tosconova.

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