With the stakes season upon us the hype, excitement and dreams of owners and fans is at a fever pitch. The headlines of 3yo's qualifying seems to point to some good talent out there, so it is not unexpected.
But it is time to step back. These are qualifiers or first starts, nothing more.
When I started university I got placed in a mandatory calculus class. The class was a weeder class to trim enrollment in the business program and the old cliche surfaced. "Look to your left, and look to your right. One of you will not be here in six months." Unfortunately, history has shown that this is the same in harness racing. It is a tough sport now, and extremely tough on horses. The speed they have to go is mind-boggling. They have to dodge sickness, they have to dodge allergies, they have to dodge lameness. When Cam Fella, a horse I grew up on won 28 in a row, all with tough trips, I thought that is what harness racing was about and what it always would be. It clearly is not.
When No Pan Intended started his 3yo campaign, he was in non-winners of 2. He had no shot against those 1:50 pacers who had been demanding all of the hype, so people said. 17 wins later, while all of the early season monsters faltered, he was your 3yo horse of the year. He won that award, and the Jug, and all the rest without having to take a mark faster than 151.3.
Later that year, in a tightly fought Breeders Crown final, Dave Miller with NPI looked over his shoulder and who was coming? Escape the Wind with Roger Mayotte. When the early season 152 qualifiers were going on, Escape the Wind was going 2:20. Roger did not have him qualified for his first start lifetime until June.
Each year it is the same thing. Many of the horses ready early do not last. Sometimes they do not go on and drop time for the rest of their careers. It is harness racing in the 21st century. It is much more like thoroughbred racing now.
As far as I am concerned we have last year to go on,and last year only. There is one horse, and one horse only that appears he can whether this storm, Somebeachsomewhere. He has won on different size tracks, with different trips and he has not been headed. His qualifier only shows one thing, that he wintered well. But if history is any indication, he is no lead pipe cinch to last the year. It is so tough, and it is a long, long road.
There is no need to be jumping the gun like fans in thoroughbred racing did betting Pyro to 5-1 in the first future pool, based on one race. It should be a fun ride, filled with twists and turns. But we have not even begun. Perhaps the 2008 Breeders Crown winner does not even possess a charted line yet.
Welcome to harness racing in the 21st century.
Notes: I watched NA Cup eligible Real Tough race last night. Trevor seems to be pointing this horse perfectly. He was stalled behind dead cover, sneaked up the inside and closed with a flourish, like good horses do. He did it under no stress. A perfect prep. I believe that this horse is being handled magnificently.
The Diplomat Pacing Series Final goes tonight at Mohawk. In a blink moment last week, Red Star Catch caught my eye. I think he has a good shot to upset the apple cart in that final tonight. He looks like he is some stock.