An Early Christmas for Horse Racing Fans

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Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker

If you play horses long enough you know it will happen. Unbeatable favorites adored by the public crashing to defeat on a major stage. Although the public was terribly disappointed in the defeat of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes the result of that race reminds us of something far more important that Saratoga being the graveyard of favorites. It reminds us that at anytime, anywhere, the very best can go down to defeat.
But racing can also do the opposite. A race may result in a possible champion emerging, or a result that propels a serious challenger forward.
This August has provided both scenarios. First was the defeat of the invincible American Pharoah, in a race restricted to his own generation. The others came earlier in the month.

 

A female watched and waited to pounce on a grouper of older males, representatives of the toughest division in the game. Beholder not only defeated a group of older men, but she embarrassed the hell out of them. And the field included the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion. All Beholder did was crush her opponents in the Grade One Pacific Classic at Del Mar by eight lengths and did little more than let out a yawn. When this year is reviewed and one uses the words “dominate performance” they better have the reel running of Beholder at Del Mar.

The other race was actually the earliest in the month and it didn’t confirm a horse as a champion – even though it may play a major role in determining the champ of the male handicap division. Honor Code, who put on a clinic of how to run others down in the Met Mile, showed that he is a true closing machine in the Grade One Whitney. What else would one expect from a horse with blood bluer than B.B. King’s Greatest Hits Album?

 

Two years ago Honor Code showed us what he could do as a baby in New York. I prayed that he would stay healthy for the Derby – I was one that wanted him to win since the Derby was one of the few marquee races left unclaimed by the get of the great A.P. Indy. Honor Code missed most of his three year old year but has come back and demonstrated what a great horse he really is. Shug McGaughey has done a terrific job at getting this one back into racing and orchestrating what may be a championship year. If there has been a heart pounding, thrilling race this year it was the Whitney. Honor Code, who is a terrific stallion prospect, showed what a great sustained runner he is.

So the table is set. I hope these three go in the Breeder’s Classic. I feel safe in saying that American Pharoah and Honor Code will be there if they are both healthy. Beholder has a spot locked up because of her win at Del Mar, but The Breeders' Cup at Keenelandtrainer Dick Mandella hasn’t decided what he will do with his champion mare. Just imagine a Classic with American Pharoah showing the way with Beholder getting closer at the top of the stretch, and both of them hear the ground shake when Honor Code turns on the afterburners. Who will win? The fans of racing, that’s who. I just can’t imagine a better Classic.

 

It’s closer than you think. This year I hope it comes October 31st, just the way I envision it.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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