Racing just needs racing

June, 10, 2007
Every year, about three minutes after two minutes or so worth of Kentucky Derby, the false contention is uttered by a legion of media members once more that if so and so (Street Sense, this time) can prevail in the Preakness and then in the Belmont, horse racing just might be saved.

If that's what it takes it's preferential, at least, to slot machines or bingo or whatever it is the tracks are being granted lately to raise revenue. But as it turns out, there was no Triple Crown winner again at the conclusion of Saturday's stirring Belmont Stakes, but again Belmont and other race tracks managed to re-open for business.

The owners and trainers of Street Sense took criticism because they chose not to enter their animal in the mile and a half Belmont. In that view they weren't doing enough to save the game either. Just as it's easy to spend other people's money, it's easy also to make deployment decisions for another. But it's also wrong. Street Sense is their property. The horse came out sound from the grueling run against Curlin in the Preakness, so the opinion was that a healthy horse more or less compelled them to enter against Curlin in the Belmont for the rubber match (Keep in mind, had Street Sense entered the Belmont, Todd Pletcher would not have entered Rags to Riches and we would have missed out on that -- unless you believe all three of them would have run to the wire together).

Street Sense is being pointed for something even greater than a mile and a half at Belmont, in a series that could not yield a Triple Crown. It's called the Breeders' Cup Classic, the championship event in horse racing (if only that could be fully understood).

It was determined by those who are actually in charge of making the call that the mile and half at Belmont wasn't the best medicine for Street Sense to get race ready for the fall. Some rest and key placements in the summer will serve as that instead.

What did happen at Belmont on Saturday was racing's best cure, if in fact it is in need of one.

What I saw was a great mix of people coming out to see what turned out to be as big a race as any well-intentioned savior of the game could write up.

The last superstar standing from the first two legs of the Triple Crown Series squared off in the final quarter mile with a new face, a girl at that.

Rags to Riches had run out of other girls to beat, so Todd Pletcher put her in a place that seemed over her head.

Instead, she won by a head in the most thrilling (and maybe more thrilling given the battle of the genders appeal) finish since Victory Gallop stopped Real Quiet's Triple Crown bid by a nose.

So in total, what we got without a Triple Crown winner again, was the birth of a star in the Derby and then back-to-back drives to the wire in both the Preakness and the Belmont. Two horses, all out to the finish, separated by inches.

That's what racing needs to be saved, if indeed it needs to be saved.

Racing needs racing.

And attention to what we just witnessed.



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