Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Reflections of 2009: Part Two

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 11, 2009

 

Rachel Alexandra winning the Haskell

Zenyatta wins the Clement L. Hirsch

Summer Bird winning the Belmont Stakes

June heralds the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes & Belmont Stakes) and the only race of the three not run during May. After Rachel Alexandra’s magnificent Preakness Stakes win the first question everyone wanted answered was whether or not she would return to contest the Belmont Stakes. Her connections opted out of the Belmont, leaving Derby winner Mine that Bird as the main contender. Charitable Man was returning to action in the Belmont after having won the Peter Pan Stakes earlier in the year. Undefeated as a two year old, he was largely unproven against the best three year old colts in the nation and his connections believed he was good enough to run with the best in the Belmont. Dunkirk, the Florida Derby favorite defeated by Quality Road was also returning to action in the Belmont. On June 6, the “other bird” emerged from the shadows and pulled the upset at Belmont in electrifying style. Coming from far off the pace, Summer Bird sloshed through the mud, passing Mine that Bird and Dunkirk to win going away.  Summer Bird and Mine that Bird share the same sire in Birdstone, the horse who upset Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. Earlier in the day Gio Ponti dashed his way into major prominence by winning the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont for his second consecutive grade 1 score. June 27 was a ladies’ day extravaganza. Arguably the two best female horses in thoroughbred racing squared off against hopelessly overmatched fields on separate coasts. In New York Rachel Alexandra destroyed the

Rachel Alexandra

Mother Goose field in stakes record time by 19 ¾ lengths, the largest margin in history. Less than half an hour later in California, Zenyatta carried 129 pounds to yet another easy repeat victory in the Vanity Handicap. Before we leave the month of June I also need to mention that my brother got married on June 6, Belmont Stakes day. I asked him to change the date the week before the wedding so that I could at least watch the race live, but to no avail. (:

Informed Decision

July, the independence month, and Informed Decision kept the ball rolling with her fifth consecutive victory in the Chicago Handicap. After her third consecutive victory people began watching, after the fourth everyone was watching, after the fifth she cemented her position as frontrunner for champion female sprinter. Zensational took center stage the next day in his stakes debut, leading gate to wire to win the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, and making a bold statement in the California sprint division stakes. Bob Baffert found himself with yet another promising sprinter less than one year after saying goodbye to 2007 champion sprinter and two time winner of the Breeders Cup Sprint, Midnight Lute. July 11 and it was back to Gio Ponti and a star-studded field of runners in the Man O’ War Stakes.  Making a strong case for older male championship and entering the horse of the year picture, Gio Ponti stormed to victory, winning his third consecutive grade one race of the year. The same day trainer Bob Baffert sent out promising two year old colt

Lookin at Lucky

Lookin At Lucky to an impressive debut maiden victory at Hollywood Park. On July 18 a gorgeous gray filly by the name of Careless Jewel came flying onto the national racing scene, winning the Delaware Oaks by more than 7 lengths at odds of 10-1 in her stakes race debut. The very next day on July 19 one of the greatest moments in horse racing history occurred, I turned 21. Alright, maybe not one of the greatest, but I was thrilled nonetheless. In case anyone is interested, I asked for Curlin for my birthday.

August, the month when racing turns up the heat. Only two days into the month Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird and newly returned Quality Road faced off against each other in the Haskell Invitational at Monouth Park. Quality Road was coming off a victory in the Amsterdam Stakes, a race which he won in record time after being on the sidelines since before May. Rachel Alexandra continued her path of unequaled brilliance, winning by more than 6 lengths on a

Gio Ponti

sloppy track over Summer Bird in second, becoming just the second filly in more than 40 years to win the prestigious race. August 8 Gio Ponti extended his incredible grade one winning streak to four in the Arlington Million. Back in California Zensational

Zensational

defeated older horses in his first try and sprinted to victory in the Bing Crosby Stakes. Zenyatta picked things up the following day with a heart-pounding repeat victory in the Clement L. Hirsch, just squeaking into the winners circle by a mere nose, the smallest margin of victory in the undefeated mares career. Bob Baffert unleashed maiden winner Lookin At Lucky to lay waste to the Best Pal Stakes earlier the same day. On the 22nd, Careless Jewel returned to the racing scene with an eye-opening 11 length romp in the Alabama Stakes. It was her fourth consecutive win, and were it not for Rachel Alexandra, she would

Careless Jewel

certainly have made a strong case for 3 year old filly honors. The August 29th Travers Stakes headlined the continued ascendency of Summer Bird as the leading 3 year old colt in the nation. Fighting back a stubborn Quality Road the length of the Saratoga stretch, Summer Bird splashed to victory with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard.

Summer Bird

As I was writing this second part, I kept finding more and more major horses I’d left out so guess what? It’s going to be a three-parter now! Please bear with me, and if I’ve forgotten any of your favorites please share anything that comes to mind.

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10 Responses to “Reflections of 2009: Part Two”

  1. Kelley A. said

    Great post, Brian! Thanks to your blog, you’re keeping me updated on everything-horse racing, even though I’m out of state for a while. 🙂

  2. PEM said

    One again well written–and yeah I think the subject is worthy of a 3-part summary.

    Best,
    PEM

  3. Brian wrote:

    I also need to mention that my brother got married on June 6, Belmont Stakes day. I asked him to change the date the week before the wedding so that I could at least watch the race live, but to no avail.

    A travesty! I know the feeling.
    I missed the Sunday Silence-Easy Goer duel in The Preakness because of a wedding.

    Bro owes you big time! So does sis-in-law.
    You can get them to mow your lawn one day. 😀

    • As soon as I get my own place I’ll tell them they must come mow my lawn…thanks for the tip! (:
      I was not quite one years old when Sunday Silence and Easy Goer had their Preakness Stakes battle, but I have a huge signed head-on photo of them charging down the stretch in my room. I love watching that race, one for the ages.

      • Kelley A. said

        Thank you, The Knight Sky, for making such a suggestion (sis-in-law, here).
        Brian, you know how we love having you over, well, it’s all just been payback for us getting married on such a big horse day. By the way, you did get to watch all the races after the wedding, didn’t you????? 🙂 Hee, hee….. Just Kidding! 🙂

      • Hi Kelley A.

        Families that support each other blogs.
        Now there a revolutionary concept ! 😀

        My folks don’t even know what I have.
        My sis does but she’s not a horse racing fan.
        So I go it alone.

        What I need is one of those Christian bridesmaids from your wedding if they’re still available.
        Preferably one who understands horses and/or racing. 😉

        Good day and God Bless.

  4. Carla Ruth said

    I actually cried when Sunday Silence lost the Belmont, but I was hormonal at the time. I had just had my daughter in May and I was really excited about the thought of a possible Triple Crown win taking place the year of her birth.

    • Easy Goer has always been my favorite of the two. It’s great when two such talented horses come along in the same year. I’m kind of a sucker for chestnuts too (Curlin!) I love the copper look when the sun hits their coats just the right way.

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