Pardon my cynicism/sarcasm and deviating from my writing focus on qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship, but as a fan who wants the thoroughbred sport to thrive, today's unveiling of the field for Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational made my stomach churn and got me thinking -- where can I sign up for a 1-in-6 shot at winning $600k?!
Six horses are in Sunday's Haskell, including two Grade 1 stakes winners (Dullahan and Gemologist), a Grade 3 winner (Nonios) and three others who've yet to win outside of allowance company, including one, Handsome Mike, who has yet to win since breaking his maiden in October 2011.
I consider the latter (the same connections as Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another) akin to billing tickets for a Michael Jackson concert, only to show up and find Tito is performing solo instead.
|Jermaine to our Haskell thoughts
Of course the glut of high-purse, small-fielded stakes races plays right into any connections' interests, and I am uncertain (outside of money) of the motivations of owners. But how else could you explain:
- Hansen, arguably the best three-year-old left standing in this year's injury-riddled crop, taking the easy money, winning such prestigious races as the Iowa Derby and pointing to the West Virginia Derby.
- Four of the six in Sunday's Haskell (Nonios, Paynter, Gemologist and Handsome Mike) have California connections and scant ties to New Jersey racing, while a fifth (Steelcase) has Canadian connections and maiden and allowance-optional claiming wins on his less-than-stellar Grade 1 resume, and Handsome Mike hasn't won in 5-6 tries since breaking his maiden.
- A middling field of eight, count 'em, eight, running for $600k in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy...oh, by the way, a day before what should be considered a significant Grade 1 event but clearly is not. Yeah, I know the Jim Dandy is a major prep for the Travers Stakes and NYRA is a competitor, but still...Grade 2 isn't Grade 1, IMO. Opting for Jim Dandy (and a 20-to-1 line) is vexing.
It's becoming clearer that there are just too many races and not big enough fields to merit much interest from the serious (NJ Horseplayer not among them) horseplayer let alone the casual track visitor. Maybe one of the two big longshots (8-to-1 Steelcase and 15-to-1 Handsome Mike) will shock the world, but really there's not much juice in this year's Haskell on 4 horses with odds of 3-to-1 or less.
It's sort of a depressing state, but then again, at least I can cover my eyes with my new hat.