2014 Fall Racing Season Preview

Yesterday was the end of summer.  Del Mar closed for the season.  It has already been a few days now without Tom Durkin, and tomorrow will be no different.  At least a familiar voice will be on the calls in New York until Larry Collmus takes the reins in the Spring.  But for now, we will hear John Imbriale telling the New York crowd what the action on the track is.  The Belmont Park seen won’t have the same luster, but will still have a lot of impact heading into the Breeders Cup.  After Saratoga, the quest of the Classic went from being heavily on Palace Malice’s shoulders to being very cloudy.  Moreno and VE Day came out of Saratoga winning the meets to biggest races.  Itsmyluckyday got lucky and returned to his 3yo form (if not better) in winning the Woodward.  The top three finishes from the Travers, VE Day, Tonalist, and Wicked Strong, along with Palace Malice, Will Take Charge, and the Whitney winner and Woodward runner up Moreno are all targeting the Jockey Club Gold Cup, hoping to use it as a prep for the Breeders Cup.  As with the fillies, Princess of Sylmar is trying to repeat as Beldame champion, after a not so stellar performance in the Personal Ensign due to illness.  Close Hatches will not be facing off with her however, as the likely champion filly/mare is going to the Spinster at Keeneland.  Competitive Edge, the winner of the Hopeful is targeting the Champagne.  The 2yo division out East isn’t as clear as over in the West where Doug O’Neill is holding strong with his youngsters.  Staying East for one more race, California Chrome is making his return in the Pennsylvania Derby.  Also, Churchill Downs will be opening up soon, so how will the fans favor the Twin Spires now in its second meet since the major pool changes and controversy.  CD struggles with field sizes in June, where the races looked more like the Los Alamitos night-time 4 1/2 furlong thoroughbred race fields, ones that often have 3-4 horses that actually make it to the gate.  Speaking of Los Alamitos, the racing action in Southern California switches to the QH track, hosting its second of three daytime thoroughbred meets.  The summer one was well received, capped by now Pacific Classic winner Shared Belief capturing the inaugural Los Al Derby. However, one thing that plauged the track was having the nighttime QH racing still happening, which not only put quite a strain on track announcer (and one of my person favorite announcers), Ed Burgart, who recently announced through Twitter that he is handing the daytime announcing duties to the California Racing Fair announcer, Frank Mirahmodi, but also made the races end a little too late for most players of the Quarters.  Not a huge fan with this substitution, as I like to keep the fair circuit separate from the Southern California circuit, but after Mirahmodi’s stint at Santa Anita in place of the vacationing Trevor Denman, he seems to fit in.  Denman will take a break from the calls in preparation for the fall Santa Anita (and fall Del Mar) action.  And opening day of the daytime Thoroughbred meet also means no Pick 6 at night, as they will only have 5 races, or rather 4 races and an Arabian race.  I may not know much about Arabian races, but I do know this, Cheryl Charlton is amazing around the small bend, so I’ll pick her to win, except she isn’t riding in this race, or at night; the Los Alamitos nighttime rider is moving to the daytime and will be riding in the first race on Youonlyliveonce, a horse she has done very well on during the nighttime, although they finished in 7th during the daytime.  Los Alamitos moved up the Los Al Mile in hoping that California Chrome would decide to go for that race, but the purse money (or race status, or the hatred Steve Coburn has for California tracks since the Triple Crown) wasn’t enticing enough to bring him in for his first race at his home track (something that Los Alamitos continues to emphasize, as it was the first thing to come out of Ed Burgart’s mouth the first race of the Summer meet).  Nonetheless, it will be interesting if Drayden Van Dyke can go for his second straight Los Al riding title, or if anyone can break Peter Miller’s win record during the meet, of 3 wins.  Of course Santa Anita will open up a few weeks later, and will feature one heck of a rode to the Breeders Cup, it’s third straight year hosting.  The big race outside of the Championship is the Awesome Again, where Pacific Classic winner Shared Belief will be headed. He will be facing off against Gold Cup winner Majestic Harbor and Big Casanova, who hasn’t found his form since coming in from Argentina.  After all is said and done, the Breeders Cup would be the next big thing on the radar for the track, but that will be talked about a little later on in the fall, once everything starts to fall in place.  Finally, the fall wouldn’t be complete without the big races from overseas.  The undefeated German sensation Sea The Moon, son of Sea The Stars, is targeting not only the Groser Preis von Baden, but also the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the biggest race of the European Fall racing seen.  Also going for the l’Arc is last years winner Treve, Epsom/Irish Derby and Juddmonte International winner Australia, and Epsom Oaks winner Taghrooda are all targeting Longchamp’s premier race.  Elsewhere in Europe, the Champion Stakes at Ascot is bringing in the best horses around, including Taghrooda and Australia (both of which would most likely need to choose either his or the l’Arc), last years runner-up Cirrus Des Aigles, Arlington Million runner-up and Breeders Cup Turf contender Magician, and a whole lot of other Aidan O’Brien contenders.  The Fall is already looking like a great racing season, and will be even better as the future stars of the sport begin to make a name for themselves in the 2yo races.  I am hoping to see my favorite 2yo right now, Bustin It, to step up and how the Belmont 2yos what he is made of.  Enjoy opening day tomorrow at Belmont and Los Alamitos, and let’s get going towards the Breeders Cup!


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