It’s been quite a year for the three year old male division. You’ve read our articles about the injuries sustained to the top horses from January up to now. Out of Bounds (Sham Stakes winner), Algorithms (Holy Bull Stakes winner), Thunder Moccasin (Hutcheson Stakes winner) and Secret Circle (Southwest and Rebel Stakes winner) were gone to injury early in the year, After the Kentucky Derby, the likes of El Padrino (Risen Star winner), Went the Day Well (Spiral Stakes winner), Take Charge Indy (Florida Derby winner), Gemologist (Wood Memorial winner) and Alpha (Withers winner) were injured with most of them not seen since. Gemologist returned after missing nearly three months to finish 6th and last in the Haskell Invitational. Dullahan bypassed the Preakness for the Belmont Stakes and ran a disappointing 7th. He too ran poorly in the Haskell. Alpha missed almost three months, but made a successful return to win the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.
We all know the well documented story of I’ll Have Another and his incredible three year old season that included big wins in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) only to miss his chance at winning the triple crown due to a career ending leg injury. We thought Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister would be the horse to fill his void and be the leader of the division, only to have him be sidelined since his back to back misses in the Derby and Preakness. He hasn’t returned and is unlikely to return in the near future.
We thought it would be Union Rags, runner-up for two year old horse of the year behind Hansen after scores in the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. His three year old season did not go accordingly with defeats in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, but his thrilling win in the Belmont Stakes showed he was still more than capable of being a top three year old. Shortly after his win, he was retired after a lesion was discovered in his suspensory ligament. Speaking of Hansen, his three year old campaign has gone much as expected with losses at the longer distances. The connections have side stepped the mainstream races to capitalize on weaker competition. It worked in the 1 1/16 miles Iowa Derby (G3) at Prairie Meadows where he destroyed a field of four other horses. His attempt in the 1 1/8 miles West Virginia Derby (G2) at Mountaineer Park showed exactly what we thought all along. He is not a long distance runner! After dueling on the lead he faded down the stretch to finish 4th beaten 2 1/4 lengths by horses who would never get respect in races such as the Travers. Now word is coming out that Hansen will run in the Travers. Are you kidding me? Now they want to run this colt at 1 1/4 miles. My goodness. I guess with the lack of star power, they feel this horse can miraculously run an additional 1/8 mile and do well. I’m going to pass.
So who is next?
Well, another Bob Baffert colt made his mark after finishing a close 2nd to Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes. He followed it up with an easy 3 3/4 lengths win in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park. We might actually have a legitimate leader for the male division. Not so fast. A couple of days after the race, he was diagnosed with a severe fever and was shipped to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center. He was there for 10 days, released and shipped to Belmont Park where he has not yet participated in any morning workouts. On August 13, it was confirmed that the Awesome Again colt would not take part in the Grade 1 Travers on August 28. He will rest and hopefully return to action at a later date. Let’s hope so as this division is a complete mess with no clear cut favorite.
At this time, with Paynter’s future on temporary hold, all eyes are on Alpha. Only due to the lack of participants. Sure, he’s won 4 of 8 career starts and only missed the money twice, but in his two encounters on center stage he has failed miserably. He ran 11th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last November and 12th in the Kentucky Derby.
With the lack of star power remaining in the three year old male division, I’m looking elsewhere to get my racing fix. The older male division is as competitive as ever with the likes of 2012 undefeated Acclamation and Game on Dude, as well as, Alternation, Ron the Greek, Wise Dan, the streaking Fort Larned. Any one of these horses could end up winning the division.
The older female division should be a battle as the Summer wears on too with three year old champion Royal Delta returning to form since her trip to Dubai. The Bill Mott trained filly has won back to back races including the Delaware Handicap (G2) at Delaware Park and Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs. She has stiff competition from rivals It’s Tricky, who has won all three of her starts in 2012 including the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park, Distaff Handicap (G2) and Top Flight Handicap (G2) both at Aqueduct and Include Me Out from the west coast. The Ron Ellis trained filly has won 4 of 5 starts this season with the lone loss a second. Her wins have come in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, Vanity Handicap (G1) and Marjorie L. Everett Handicap (G2) at Betfair Hollywood Park, as well as, the Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes (G1) and La Canada Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.
The current state of the three year old male division is certainly disappointing. I know I won’t be too interested in watching the Travers Stakes this time around with the potential lackluster field. My time will be spent watching other divisions that can still live up to the billing. Let us know what horses or division you are most interested in.
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