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Monday, August 12, 2013

Compelling Rivalries

Contributor Joe F., offers his thoughts on some compelling rivalries....

The case for compelling rivalries driving interest in the sport is a given, so which horses are providing us with head to head match-ups that make old fans and new take notice?

Most agree that the Captain stands apart from the rest in his division, but after Vegas Vacation’s overland WR :48.3 performance in the EBC at Tioga on Sunday, many, including driver Brian Sears and trainer Casie Coleman, would like to see him get a few more cracks at the seemingly invincible star of Team Treacherous. Next week’s Battle Of Brandywine at Pocono would have provided an ideal opportunity, however, Vegas Vacation isn’t staked to the Battle, so Coleman is giving her charge the week off. Sunshine Beach, who was a well vanquished second to Vegas in the EBC, and saw his stock take a hit, is staked to the Battle, but Takter said he’s avoiding The Captain so he probably won’t enter him. Odds On Equuleus finished fourth in the EBC. His second place finish in the Pace is beginning to look more and more like a fluke. Equuleus remains winless in 2013. His connections might want to go the Doctor Butch route and stick to the NYSS. 

Unfortunately, the Battle Of Brandywine is beginning to look like a walkover for Captaintreacherous. The Valley Forge, with Nitelife, Shebestingin, Rainbow, Charisma Hanover and Jerseylicious all eligible, looks like a much better race, from a distance anyway. And overall, that sophomore pacing filly division is infinitely more compelling than the boys are. 

Coleman said she’ll start Vegas in the Cane, which holds eliminations at Tioga in two weeks. The final is on Labor Day—Monday, Sept 2. The Captain has been nominated to the Cane. Will he be entered? Vegas has never beaten The Captain, so I can’t call it a rivalry, but it could develop into one. Still, that can’t happen if they don’t meet on the track. 

The Captain and Vegas are both staked to the Simcoe, which will take place Sept 7, five days after the Cane final. Coleman probably won’t start Vegas back in the Simcoe so quickly. Will The Captain start in the Simcoe or the Cane? 

The Bluegrass is nine days after the Jug and the Tattersalls Pace the week after that. The Captain and Vegas have been nominated to those races. The BC is a week earlier than last year and the eliminations take place a week after the Tattersalls Pace. The two starts in Lexington and the BC final, and possibly an elimination, are a likely settings for a face-off between this pair. Can’t see Team Treacherous bothering with the Matron, Progress, Am-Nat—the post BC junk. The TVG final wouldn’t play into this discussion.
Bee A Magician is on an island and has no compelling rival. But let’s not get carried away with her. As the field approached the gate in Saturday’s OSS Mid-Summer Challenge, announcer Ken Middleton said in part about Bee, “who many in the industry feel is one of the greatest ever and possibly the greatest ever. . . .” She beat Motown Muscle a head and would have lost if the race was six inches longer. The greatest ever ekes out a win in the Ontario Sire Stakes. Bee has seven open stakes wins on her resume. Armbro Flight won twenty opens at two and three, including the Kentucky Futurity—not the filly version—just to pick one great trotting filly from the past. Bee isn’t staked to anything in Lexington, by the way, not the Bluegrass or the Filly Futurity. Maybe they’ll buy into those races, maybe not. Regardless, there’s a lot more work to be done to earn that title.
We need a rival for Jimmy Takter’s Cantab Hall colt, Father Patrick, who stole the show on Hambo Day. Lifetime Pursuit doesn’t seem to be up to the task. Wednesday, in the fourth 67K split of the PASS at Pocono, the good Father takes on Uva Hanover, another formidable son of Cantab Hall. 

Check it out.


Anonymous said...

What are some recent examples of "compelling rivalries driving interest in the sport", and what type of statistics (increased handle, attendance, etc.) are there to show that this is true? The way I see it, this past Meadowlands meet proves what I have believed all along, specifically that players' willingness to wager is based primarily on large, competitive fields rather than mythical "rivalries" (that don't seem to create any additional handle or attendance). But again, if I'm mistaken, please offer some concrete examples to show where I've missed something.

Joe F said...

Good point. When it comes to handle and attendance, I agree with you. PG has long pounded home the fact that full fields of cheaper horses generate better business than short fields of stakes horses. However, the PR leg of the sport, consisting of,Standardbred Canada,Harnesslink etc. as well as the twitter and message board sectors needs something to write about. How much can one say about a field of cheap claimers--as full as it may be? Some of last year's rivalries, ones that provided fuel for these media entities, were Herbie vs Chapter Seven, Bee vs To Dream On and Goo vs Market Share. Did any of them drive up handle and attendance figures? Probably not. But they drove the clicks and views that keep the media leg of the sport alive. Because so many of these so called top tier tracks stay alive through subsidies, this is a funny "sport." Gural lives on handle and attendance at M1 but Yonkers, Harrah' in a fantasy world where a card full of lower level SS races, be they Grassroots, Excelsior or All Stars are just part of the game.