Welcome to this week’s edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each Tuesday in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past week, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.
Looking ahead, if you believe there’s a story this week that should be featured in next Tuesday’s edition of the Main Track, let us know by tweeting it to @ABRLive using the hashtag #ABRMainTrack.
As for this week, we’ll reflect on the joys of an extra week of quality racing.
After becoming fixtures during Thanksgiving weekend at Aqueduct, the trio was moved back a week, into December. New York Racing Association Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Martin Panza devised the change with the thought of lengthening and improving the stakes calendar and attracting more horses who ran in the Breeders’ Cup during the first weekend in November.
As it turned out, Panza was right on both counts.
With the new schedule in place, Aqueduct offered 10 stakes during Thanksgiving weekend and then offered its final its final four graded stakes of the year on Dec. 2, with the Cigar, Remsen, and Demoiselle joining the Go for Wand.
With the help of pleasant weather in New York this past Saturday, the new format certainly gave New York racing fans one more week of top notch racing before Mother Nature has a say in the matter.
The results of the four stakes also underscored that racing does not have to pack its bags and call it a year after the Breeders’ Cup, even in the chilly East.
The Pegasus World Cup with its $12 million purse changed the dynamics of the racing season nearly a year ago and the four-week gap between the Breeders’ Cup and the NYRA stakes gave horsemen enough time to prepare for another big race with horses who acquitted themselves quite well at the Breeders’ Cup.
Last Saturday, there were six horses who ran in the four NYRA stakes and the Breeders’ Cup. The results were compelling:
- Sharp Azteca (second in the Dirt Mile), Mind Your Biscuits (third in the Sprint) and Practical Joke (fourth in the Dirt Mile) ran 1-2-3 in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
- Catholic Boy (fourth in the Juvenile Turf) won the Grade 2 Remsen.
- Wonder Gadot (sixth in the Juvenile Fillies) won the Grade 2 Demoiselle.
- Highway Star (11th in the Filly and Mare Sprint) was second in the Go for Wand.
There’s little doubt horsemen will take note of what happened last weekend, and with the Breeders’ Cup scheduled to be held in the East next year at Churchill Downs, where the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile will be contested at the same one-turn setup as the Cigar, there might be a bigger and better crop of horses for next year’s stakes.
All in all, with the Grade 1 Clark on Thanksgiving weekend at Churchill and NYRA’s stakes the following weekend, it simply adds to the length and fun of a year-round sport.
And for racing fans, that just might be an early present from Santa.
The Also-Eligible List
Here are some of the other stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry: