So The Red Mile meet comes to an end. With the exception of the Breeder's Crown, the major stakes have come to an end (the Matron remains for the few hardy horses and horsemen still around). The best horses will soon be heading off to stud or taking a well deserved vacation to get ready for next year's campaign.
The Red Mile meet is the proving ground of champions. Champions are crowned and impostors are exposed. Muscle Hill leaves Lexington as the greatest three year old trotter ever and leaves us wondering what would have been if he continued racing as an older horse. Well Said, who some (myself included) considered a lock for Horse of the Year if not for Muscle Hill, has been exposed to be merely the best three year old pacer of the crop, who if he does not turn out to be successful as a stud will quickly be forgotten. Holiday Road, who many had already anointed as next year's Hambletonian winner, failed at The Red Mile twice (once in the Simpson before the Grand Circuit came in) leaving people to wonder if we may have already seem the best from him. The meet gives hope to others, not only for two year old trotters Lucky Chucky and Winning Fireworks in their quest for Hambletonian gold, but winners of late closing events; late bloomers who in victory give their owners hope for next year's racing campaign.
With the Allerage stakes, we see what racing can be if we would be able to get successful horses racing past their three year old campaign. Buck I St Pat has been reaffirmed as queen of her division and with the decision to return to the racing wars next year, a return engagement to Sweden may be in the cards. Mister Big caps a successful career with a win in the Allerage showing us what a great FFA horse he has been; hopefully he will be successful in his new career as a stallion; perhaps encouraging others to defer retirement. With Mister Big departing the racing wars we learn Vintage Master will return, perhaps to fill the void Mister Big will leave.
Another wonderful thing about Grand Circuit racing at The Red Mile is it is an un-official festival of racing for horsemen, a two week period where they get to enjoy racing the way it ought to be. For two weeks, all of racing's problems go away. However, as Andrew Cohen reports, the storm clouds are gathering as the various stakeholder groups for some reason are unwilling or unable to tackle the ills which face racing. Unless racing attends to the serious challenges facing it, there may be no sport to celebrate. You don't want to miss Cohen's column; make sure to read it.