Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Nomination Is In: March 18, 2009 - Kempton, UK: Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes

Wednesday afternoon, 3:50 Eastern Time, a race will go to post in Kempton, UK, about eighteen miles southwest of Central London. On the line is a chance for the 3 year old winner to compete in the Kentucky Derby, earning $100,000 just for showing up.

Sound like the Breeders Cup "Win and Your In" race series? I reckon it is, except those races are contested by horses with legitimate Breeders Cup credentials. This group, I can't tell. I can say that the 14 horses that will compete have earned a cumulative $21,000 in earnings in 2009. The Turk was bemused by quotes attributed to Tom Aronson of Churchill Downs Inc while in England promoting the race. Mr. Aronson said, presumably with a straight face, that "The excitement provided by Bold Arrangement, Arazi and Johannesburg when they ran in the Derby was palpable." Palpable? Mr. Aronson went on to explain that this race was leveling the field for European horses who can't get enough graded stakes earnings to win a spot in the Derby. Why is it OK that one of these horses will take the place of some fine colt who did earn the 21st highest earnings but was bumped so we could feel good about leveling the playing field for our European cousins?

Isn't that the role of the Breeders Cup, to be inclusive? I'm all for a Euro coming to the States in November with a 2 year old and then running in the grade III and II grinds in December, January and February like all the other Derby contenders in order to accumulate earnings. The Kentucky Derby is here; our rules, our dirt. This just smells like marketing folks who instead of getting slapped down, got AIG style bonuses.

All that said, I like the idea of a European series of events, and granting a spot in the Kentucky Derby to a horse that has won the right after excelling in a European Derby Trail and winning at least one American prep.

Anyways, I never hold it against the horses. It's the humans that have screwed up our fine sport, who come up with these lunacies. Whatever horse wins has the right, not the obligation, to enter the race on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. I will take a look at the runners because maybe one of them will be among the deep class of 2009.

I broke out Alan Shuback's excellent DRF Press Global Racing tome tonight to read up about Kempton. The course is a level, right handed polytrack oval, 1 1/4 miles in length. Kempton Park opened for business in July 1878.

The stalls (gates) will be in front of the stands close to the first turn, making ground loss significant for those who start from a wide draw. (On right-handed tracks in the UK, the highest-numbered stall is next to the inside rail.)

Race 3: Kempton Park- The Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes (Class 2): 1 1/8 miles on poly for 3 YOs.

It was a goal of mine to handicap more European Racing. I want to spot this year's Spirit One before I get to Arlington in July. I guess this race is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks to Kate in Japan www.keiblog.net for her feedback on the concept of the Derby play in race. I tempered my negative initial reaction after I took a walk in her shoes and thought about it from an overseas race fan perspective.

1 comment:

G. Rarick said...

Hey Turk - I just flew over from Paris and am about to walk my little feet from my hotel over to Kempton for the race in question. Personally, I think that whatever happens tonight, I'll lay odds that the winner never gets on a plane for Kentucky, so maybe it's a moot point. Most of these horses have only run once or twice, with the exception of Shampagne, who I'll have to bet just on principle. There does seem to be a LOT of hostility from the American media about the concept. Will be interesting to follow. In any case, I'll have a story on it in the Sunday New York Times. A suivre, as they say in my country...