Trainer Noel Daily on Explosive Matter via the Harness Edge.
“He was as good as he was going to be the other day,” Daley said. “Everything was in his favour to race as good as he could, and he did in the second (heat). He just can’t beat that other horse, that’s all.”
Daley refuses to contemplate what could have been if there was no Muscle Hill, or if Explosive Matter competed another year. Explosive Matter has won four of 11 races this season, including the $500,000 Colonial, and earned $1.08 million.
“It’s hard to compare from year to year,” Daley said. “You don’t know what would happen. This year, we’re second best. We know that.”
Noel can't but we can; so we will.
If Muscle Hill was born in another year, this year for the trotters would have been different. A good deal different.
First, Explosive Matter would have been undefeated last year, and a world champion. People would be comparing him to the greats. I would not doubt for a second he would win, or be right there in any web poll asking fans if he is better than Dewey, Donato and many of the good two year olds we have seen the past ten years. Expectations would be high.
Operation Hambletonian would not be about Muscle Hill, it would be about him.
He would start the year with a win in a PASS. Then he would move to the Dickerson and the Dancer. He would win both. This year he lost to Muscle Hill of course, but he broke, was 12 lengths off the big horse, yet still came second in a fast time. In the Hambo, he would have been 4-5. He probably would have won easily.
In the CTC, and the Futurity (he came a strong second to Muscle in those races), he would have swept them. In fact, I would submit his 26.4 last quarter and strong second to Muscle Hill in the Futurity final this year would have won many of the previous editions of that race.
In the Breeders Crown, he would have been 2-5.
Ron Pierce would have a microphone in his face after every big win asking him "is he the best trotter you have ever driven; is he better than Donato?" The press would be asking about stud deals, and sooner or later an eight figure deal would be announced. In the press release, he would be lauded. He would be protected and probably never have raced on any track other than a mile (he set a world record on a 5/8's this year at Chester). The superlatives on chat boards about him would be endless.
Instead, there are no microphones, no press releases, no eight figure deals. There are no fans calling him one of the best ever. In fact, it is just the opposite. They tend to say "yes, he seems like a good trotter".
What a difference competition makes. Everything is different when you win. If you win, even if you are beating up a bad crop, or what have you, you will get the dollar signs and praise. When you lose, even if you are losing to a World Champion trotter that many think we have never seen before, you are just "alright".
Every year horses have to win the classics. There are only so many sophomore colts born and the restricted races are there for them. We often tend to judge them if they win, not who they are. That's the way the horse racing game is played, but as handicappers we don't have to live with it. We can judge these horses for what they are. And when you do that, Explosive Matter deserves praise for being a very, very good colt, who would probably give any trotter this decade a good tussle (any trotter not named Muscle Hill, of course).
Explosive Matter was simply born in the wrong year. We should not hold that against him.