Before I talk about the Futurity, I just want to mention the Kentucky Filly Futurity. Clearly the Filly Futurity was the more competitive race with the win by Seaside. Seaside was a horse I looked at early this year as a possible Hambo horse but then Windsong Soprano and Margarita Momma got my attention. Anyway, this has been one the strongest group of 3yo trotting fillies I have seen in a long time; hopefully many of them return to the racing wars next year. It is a shame that the filly division gets treated as an afterthought when compared to the colts.
With regards to the Kentucky Futurity, it was, as expected, all about Muscle Hill and he did not disappoint. Why we did not get a world record today, we were given a trotting exhibition by the greatest 3yo trotter ever.
In the first division of the first heat, Big Bikkies won as expected with little effort winning in 1:53.2 My pick in the race Neighsay Hanover had a horrible start trailing the field most of the way but was able to pick off all but the race winner to finish second. Dr McDreamy finished 3rd with Tom Cango who made a move at the race winner past the half holding on for fourth. Airzoom Lindy finished 5th. With the scratch of Windshear, all the horses in the first division were guaranteed to race in the second heat.
With the second division of the first heat, we saw something which has not occurred often this year; while no one committed to a suicide speed duel, with Muscle Hill drawing the outside, both Russell Hill and Explosive Matter made an attempt to sting Muscle Hill the first quarter mile. It looked like Sears wanted the lead from the start but with Explosive Matter and Russell Hill going for the lead he was forced to take back and as they passed the quarter actually used the whip once to get Muscle Hill to move to the front. From that point on, it was the same story as it has been all year, Muscle Hill leading the way being followed by Explosive Matter resulting in very small exacta. As usual, it was a race just to watch. Finishing third was Broadway Bistro with Russell Hill finishing fourth and Hot Shot Blue Chip minding his manners to finish fifth.
With the result of the post draw for the second heat, the second heat was basically over before it started as Muscle Hill drew the rail. The most notable thing regarding the post draw for the second elimination were the defections of Russell Hill and Airzoom Lindy who scratched out of the second heat after drawing the eight and ten holes respectively. The fact these two horses were allowed to scratch is a flaw in the conditions of the race. I understand the need to eliminate the old 'best in summary' method of distributing the purse, but a trainer should not be allowed to scratch out of subsequent heats without penalty. The conditions should be changed to indicate any horse that does not start in subsequent heats they are entitled to race in will forfeit their purse earnings unless it was a veterinarian scratch; the purse should be redistributed the same way it would have been in the event of a post race medication positive. While in the case of the first division it did not matter since there were only five starters, Russell Hill's racing in the second division cost Even Better Odds the chance to compete in the second heat. Granted the chance of Even Better Odds being able to win the second heat would have been extremely slim, it was a chance denied to him by an entry that decided not to race the second heat. In a year of more evenly matched horses, it could have been a lost opportunity. Bottom line is if you are not committed to race two heats, then stay home.
The second heat was truly a trotting exhibition by Muscle Hill. After making sure he did not yield the front, it was Muscle Hill on cruise control winning in 1:51.1. If someone looks at the chart they will think the race was closer than it actually was. Actually it was a tough race for second place. For the first time I remember, Explosive Matter was not chasing Muscle Hill the whole way. Explosive Matter had to race hard to get second place. Not only was the second heat a great trotting exhibition, it sealed the Horse of the Year bid for Muscle Hill.
It is highly unlikely we will see a sub 1:50 mile from Muscle Hill. After the race, trainer Greg Peck revealed that Muscle Hill's last race will be the Breeder's Crown, skipping the Matron stakes at Dover Downs. With the Crown being raced in Canada, it is virtually impossible for the weather to be warm enough to allow for a serious attempt at a 1:50 mile.
Is Muscle Hill the greatest trotter ever? As previously mentioned, there is no doubt in my mind he is the greatest three year old trotter we have seen. Being trotters really blossom after their three year old campaign (more so than pacers), being denied the opportunity to see Muscle Hill race as an older horse we will not be able to see how he compares against the great older trotters. I also must admit, I am disappointed we have not seen him race this year on the 5/8 oval. I would think breeders would be interested to see how he races on smaller ovals.
Unfortunately, the day was marred for NJAW customers as they were unable to bet on the second heat of the Futurity. According to a representative from NJAW, The Red Mile did not disseminate the information quick enough for them to get the race set up in the system in time (though according to others, YouBet did not have the same problem). In fact, according the NJAW, they received the post position information watching the simulcast feed. As such, NJAW customers were shut out. Maybe in the future the Red Mile can schedule the second heat a little later in the program so account wagering firms can get the race set up in time for wagering. After all, I am sure The Red Mile would have preferred to have as much wagering as possible on the second heat.
After an exciting day of racing, there is a couple of days off before racing resumes on Tuesday for the final week of Grand Circuit racing at the Red Mile. There is plenty of great racing next week. Don't miss it if you have the chance.