Triple Crown produces 3 different winners, likely no closure

Watch Belmont Stakes 2021: Live stream online, TV channel, start time
Michael Karas/Northjersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

BALTIMORE — More than two months after Tiz the Law blew away the field in the Belmont, Authentic fended off his charge and won the Kentucky Derby. Four weeks later, filly Swiss Skydiver challenged and beat Authentic in the Preakness.

The Triple Crown races run out of order and later in the year produced three different winners and quite the competition for 3-year-old horse of the year. But it might be a long time – if ever – until Tiz the Law, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver all run against each other in the same race.

“It sure made it interesting to have a great debate: Which of the three winners would do it again if they, all three, were head to head?” said NBC Sports analyst Kenny Rice, one of the few people to witness all three 2020 Triple Crown races in person. “I would love to see all three of them be able to run against each other again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”

Tiz the Law and Authentic should get their Derby rematch in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7, and Swiss Skydiver is eligible for that race. But trainer Kenny McPeek is more likely to enter her against other fillies and mares in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff that same day.

“We can look at both races, I suppose,” McPeek said after Swiss Skydiver won the Preakness. “But I would say right now we would probably lean towards the older fillies and mares. But nothing set in stone.”

A head-to-head-to-head showdown with older stars like Improbable and Maximum Security and promising 3-year-old colt Art Collector also in the field would make the Classic the race of the year. But after McPeek said he would’ve avoided running Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness had Tiz the Law been entered, she’s probably going to take on a different kind of challenge in the Distaff.

The Classic with or without Skydiver is shaping up to feature tons of talent. Trainer Barclay Tagg said Friday things are going well with Tiz the Law, and Authentic will prepare to join Bob Baffert’s Improbable and Maximum Security in the race as long as he continues to train properly out of the Preakness.

“It should be a really good Breeders’ Cup, as it usually is, but the Classic could really be something special this year,” Rice said. “This could be one of the better Classics, and while people will want to see how the 3-year-olds match up, I think it’s going to be awful tough to beat Improbable or Maximum Security.”

Swiss Skydiver beat favored Authentic at 11-1 in the Preakness, completing the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:53.28 – 28 tenths of a second slower than Secretariat’s winning time in 1973 and faster than Curlin’s in 2007, also with Robby Albarado aboard.

McPeek likes the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Classic for Swiss Skydiver but said Sunday he and owner Peter Callahan wouldn’t make a rash decision. That doesn’t mean he doubts her abilities after she became the sixth filly and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009 to win the Preakness.

“She’s entertained coast to coast: north, south, east, west,” McPeek said. “She’s amazing. She’s not even tired today. She’s a throwback horse.”

This unique Triple Crown season, with the races run out of order for the first time since the 1930s and in the summer and fall rather than the spring, produced rivalries reminiscent of the legendary Affirmed and Alydar and some of strong competition. There wasn’t one dominant champion horse, but even after injuries knocked Nadal, Charlatan and Maxfield off the trail, this 3-year-old crop showed it’s one of the deepest in recent history.

That’s perhaps a silver lining of an unusual year in horse racing.

“I can’t recall when we’ve had this many good 3-year-olds,” Rice said. “We got to see most of the good 3- year-olds still in training run in the Triple Crown races. That to me was the upside to it. We got three winners that all turned in impressive performances, what they had to to win the races and at least a great discussion as to who’s the best of the three.”

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
Getty Images
0 Comments

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

Getty Images
0 Comments

Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.