Belmont Fall Meet The Portal To Greatness


A fortnight ago, a speed demon named Haynesfield beat America’s “now” handicap male, Blame.

It wasn’t so much that Haynesfield stole the Jockey Club Gold Cup. It was more like Haynesfield could have beaten any horse on the planet that afternoon. It was the kind of dominant speed performance that only a historical event could provide.

Earlier that afternoon, a filly named Life At Ten gained redemption. She had came into her own this spring, looking like the class of the Eastern-based mares until she got dusted in Saratoga by Rachel Alexandra.

But the 2009 Horse of the Year lost the Personal Ensign, too, but only after ensuring that Life At Ten wouldn’t win either. But then Life At Ten won the Beldame, again looking like the class of Eastern-based females.

Girolamo was supposed to be all that, given his earlier notices, but never really proved it until he won the Vosburgh with courage, class and speed, the kind of win that only special horses deliver. Whether he truly is special is for another upcoming fall afternoon to determine.

But last Saturday at Belmont was just as special because it was about the future. Today’s babies are next year’s classicists and just maybe you could see something special. Like in 1962, when Cain Hoy’s Never Bend won the first Champagne I witnessed live. A real black beauty, he was faster than fast.

Then, three years later, it was Buckpasser, and then Riva Ridge came along. And after that came the great Seattle Slew and Alydar and Spectacular Bid in rat tat tat succession. Then Devil’s Bag, then Easy Goer.

Colts such as these are the Champagne. No race for two year olds, not even the Juvenile, can match the drama of this one-mile sprint around Belmont‘s massive oval.

Even if the New York stewards beat two of the best juveniles that ever lived; Hoist the Flag, who won by 10 in 1970, and the great Secretariat two years later.

Every year fans goes to see the Champagne, hoping that a performance will bring them back to a time when life was slow, horses were fast, and the future held promise, not trepidation.

So it was a special race run last Saturday at Belmont Park, one that’s been renewed since 1867. Eighteen Sixty Seven! And one colt’s performance took you back to all the great ones of modern history.

In candor, Uncle Mo might not even be the equal of a rival named Boys At Tosconova. That will be decided next month in Louisville.

But from the moment he exited his stall, walking to and fro in front of his rivals, then around Belmont’s massive walking ring, the Indian Charlie colt, from the Arch mare, Playa Maya, was a cool customer.

Inquisitive without being antsy, he looked around as he slowly made the circumference, stopping briefly every so often, presumably to get a closer look before his rider would get a leg up.

I’m no Monte Roberts when it comes to equine bodies and souls, but Uncle Mo seems built just right, scopey but closely coupled enough to assume that if he could run at all, he would be fast. Now he’s proved it twice.

Having scope means there’s room to grow, and Uncle Mo’s very likely to grow in all the right places. He walks the way he runs, as if going downhill. He’s fast, but he’s no blocky sprinter. He fools you.

With the rider sitting up on him, his walk is deliberate with a relaxed and confident bearing. Even his trainer seems impressed that he’s so unflappable, before and after race. If allowed one word to describe him, it would be cool.

After running as fast as Seattle Slew did winning his Champagne, Uncle Mo wasn’t blowing all that hard as he waited to be led into the winners’ circle. He rendered seeing a bit disbelieving.

He handled the mob scene exceedingly well, which will come in handy a little over three weeks from now, and the speedy cut he suffered when he grabbed himself during the running is a non issue.

More than the running time, his style, demeanor and authority was eerily reminiscent of Slew.

How many times do you attend a concert, a ballgame, a horse race, and see performers live up to the hype? That wasn’t the case on Saturday, when expectations were exceeded. That’s the great thing about sports. Especially this one.

by John Pricci

On the New York worktab

Over the fast main track at Belmont Park on Wednesday, Grade 1 winner MISS WORLD (Bernstein) toured three furlongs in :37 1/5. She was last seen running second in a July 17 allowance.

BALETTI (Gulch), unplaced three times since taking the Fort Marcy S. (G3), covered four furlongs in :48 4/5.

Stakes winner and Test S. (G1) third BELLE OF THE HALL (Graeme Hall) finished in :51 2/5. She trailed in the Charles Town Oaks most recently.

JERSEY TOWN (Speightstown), third in the Kelso H. (G2) and second in the Longacres Mile (G3) in his last two, traveled in :48.

Multiple stakes winner BARRIER REEF (Mizzen Mast), a very dull last of six in his September 29 allowance comeback, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 over the fast training track.

Grade 2 winner ACTING HAPPY (Empire Maker), third in the Alabama S. (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in her last two, worked in 1:01 over the fast main track at Aqueduct.

On the New Jersey worktab

Grade 2 veteran NOWNOWNOW (Whywhywhy), a near-miss second in the recent Red Bank S. (G3), breezed five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 over Monmouth's fast track on Sunday.

Multiple stakes hero VIOLON SACRE (Stravinsky), a smashing winner of the P.T.H.A. President's Cup S. last out, traveled a half-mile in :48 3/5. The Patrick Biancone charge is likely for next Sunday's Knickerbocker H. (G3) at Belmont.

Grade 3 queen EYE OF TAURUS (Aldebaran), winner of the Revidere S. most recently, clocked :48 2/5 in advance of Saturday's Athenia S. (G3).

Matchmaker S. (G3) victress UNBRIDLED ESSENCE (Essence of Dubai), fifth in the Revidere and also Athenia-bound, strolled five panels in 1:04.

Rounding out the Athenia candidates, Brookmeade S. winner GIANT MOVER (Giant's Causeway), second in the Revidere and fifth by just 1 1/2 lengths in the Matchmaker in her last two, worked four furlongs in :49.

Grade 3 scorer SWEETER STILL (Ire) (Rock of Gibraltar [Ire]), triumphant in the Light Hearted S. two back, negotiated five-eighths in 1:03, putting her participation in Monday's first division of the Rosenna S. at Delaware Park in some doubt.

Grade 3-winning millionaire JOEY P. (Close Up), runner-up when seeking his fourth John J. Reilly H. title on May 29 in his latest, sizzled three panels in a bullet :34 4/5 from the gate.



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