This weekend we saw some fireworks from stars in both sports, and it proves, once again, what we all go through when trying to handicap to win at this game.
In spring I fell in love with Dullahan. Off a layoff he flew home, happy as a clam, on the turf at Gulfstream Park. He looked like he loved the green stuff, and I could not wait to watch him later on that surface. Fast forward to Saturday, where he was making a start on grass at Belmont. He didn't fly anything, but the coop. The horse had no fire whatsoever and looked like he'd rather be anywhere - on a tour of the Empire State Building, kicking back with a beer and a plate full of hay watching a football game, studying the Arc past performances, anywhere - other than where he was. Trainer Dale Romans reported today that he was spinning his wheels on the soft turf.
Maybe that's true. Maybe it was something else. But Dullahan certainly was not Dullahan. He's done this before, like in the Belmont where he was asked to run before the mile pole and he looked like he wanted to stop for a snow cone.
Yesterday at the Red Mile, Check Me Out - arguably the best filly we've seen since Snow White in 2007 - was in the first heat of the Kentucky Futurity. She was 1-9 and was sure to be a slam dunk. I noted on twitter that she looked a teeny bit off scoring down, but also said "she could race on three legs and win". She did race well, but she lost. She looked like she had no snap at the 3/8's pole, and could not run down the leader.
Later on Maven also lost, this time at 1-5. Not coincidentally, she was in that slugfest with Check Me Out last weekend. That might have taken just a wee bit out of her. She, like Check Me Out, raced well, but not quite at her best.
All it takes with horse's is one small thing. A little tweak of a tendon or ankle, some bad racing luck, a bad surface, or simply having a bad day. It's why there is no such thing as a sure thing.
It's also why I hold horses like Black Caviar, Somebeachsomewhere and Zenyatta to such high esteem. To do what they did week in and week out or month in and month out, no matter what the competition, surface or where or what country or state the horse raced, is truly magical. Our four hooved friends are a finicky beast and only the very special, reserved for the Hall of Fame's in this sport, don't let the capricious get in their way.