The Heart of Racing is Still Beating

The numbers have been crunched, the winners crowned, and the dust has settled. But far be it from over. Racing still has plenty to offer for handicappers. Yep, the big weekend has come and gone but the heart of the game is still beating.

Long before I saw my first Breeders’ Cup I can remember making cold treks out to Latonia Race Course. This track would be renamed some years later to Turfway Park, but it was home to Thoroughbred action for me. My dad and I would saddle up and jet out for the last four or five races on the card. We would park in a jammed packed lot and jog in together. I guess it was much more than a little exercise. It was our time together sharing what we loved.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, this past weekend provided many exciting moments. Baffert gets shut-out, the Euros loved the turf, and we saw a maiden win for the “Coach” D. Wayne Lukas in the opener. I studied, read, watched workouts, and made my plans. For me, it was time well spent. Handicappers love the work involved no matter the outcome. We put our nose to the grindstone and get down to business. But the dust has settled, as some will go to the sales ring, and others will get time off to prepare for 2013.

But I digress. Racing is far from over this time of year. New York shifts to Aqueduct, Hawthorne is kicking up its heels, and it won’t be long before Hollywood throws open the doors. That is racing. No matter what happens today, the game goes on, and that is what we love. And don’t settle in for a long winter’s nap. The Fair Grounds, and Gulfstream will be right around the corner and we start the entire circuit again.

Final thoughts for the big weekend. This fan loves the game, and speaking from the heart is not a bad thing. I loved seeing Santa Anita, but keep it at Churchill Downs or Belmont. They hold two of the biggest races of the year, and the handle decline can be easily measured. The Twin Spires and Big Sandy have great turf courses and traditional dirt courses.  The award for “riding the storm out” goes to Bob Baffert. I used to see him toss flowers in the winner’s circle and have quip statements that made the media smile. But this past year Baffert battled a heart attack in Dubai, and then suffered the loss of his father Bill ” The Chief” Baffert. I think we will see a trainer who will keep bringing the best runners with a quieter demeanor. No, he hasn’t lost a step. But he will be even more focused than ever. I can’t wait until the man brings his California swagger to the paddock with bigger and better monsters that live in his barn.  Final congratulations goes out to Mike Smith for winning the coveted Bill Shoemaker Award. The 47-year-old athlete was aboard Royal Delta, Mizdirection, and had a tough beat with Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It is a an honor that is sought by many, as he joins an illustrious list of riders. He also gets the quote of the weekend for winning the award, “Bill Shoemaker was to our sport what Babe Ruth was to baseball.”

So keep checking back for the best in handicapping. We have the red-hot E-Z Win Forms, blogs, free selections, and be sure to join John Engelhardt each and every Thursday as he brings the world of racing into focus with the Winning Ponies Radio Show. Yep, the big weekend is in the books, but who said the action has stopped? Step back, draw a breath, and lets get handicapping!