This was not surprising. the Beach defeated Art a few times before, in stunning fashion and lost the Meadowlands Pace Final after a brutal trip. However, handicappers I would submit thought differently. Art seemed to be a horse learning how to cajole his speed, and he finally learned to capitalize on that. In yesterdays Cane Pace elimination he showed he is all business, as he paced a track record at Freehold.
We saw some of the differences in what the public thinks about Art in the early betting. Moon Beam opened the favourite, and Art had trouble busting through even money. Contrast this to the Beach who opens his races at 1-9 and stays there. In a match race between the two, I would say the public makes Beach a pretty overwhelming favourite. But I think the value would lie with Art. He is a marvelous horse, and his fast Meadowlands Pace win was no fluke, just like his 52 back half in May in the Burlington stakes was no fluke.
The thing with Art vs. Beach that sticks with some is the post parade appearance. Beach is a big strong, strapping horse. Art does not look the part. He has those knee boots, or maybe it is tape, he is a little smaller and less of a presence. But one thing we all learn in racing is appearance is for losing handicappers. Some of the best looking 300k yearlings could not hold a candle in a race to some others who are somewhat infirm. This has happened throughout history.
So where should they meet? Most want them to meet in the Jug. I understand that, but to me this would be pointless in terms of looking for a fair battle. If AO wins his elim, and Beach the other, we are left to a post draw to decide who gets the rail. If Art gets the rail, Beach will either be 1) hung the mile by Pierce or 2) In behind him, boxed. If Beach gets the rail the opposite happens. It is luck.
I think the Red Mile should be the place, if they both stay sharp. It would be fair and it would be exciting.
Although I am a fan of both horses, in fact I think in my betting this year on the blog I bet Art in both the Cup and the Meadowlands Pace, and you know how I feel about Beach, but I think Beach is a slightly better horse. People are still arguing who had the tougher go of it in the Meadowlands Pace. Sometimes we look at things too deeply when analyzing a race, when all we need is the racelines. Who went the tougher trip? Well here are the two lines. If you owned a horse, any horse, which trip do you hope your horse gets?
Clearly I would want the horse who had rail control and the two hole trip just past the half.
So here we have the tale of the tape; I would make Beach 4-5 and Art about 7-5. They are two extremely fast three year olds. Probably the two best three year olds we have seen in a generation. I hope they meet again, and I hope it is at Lexington.