Chris McGrath podcast

Desert Turns Up Heat On Parched Calendar

In the end, things work because they work. We try stuff, often if not always with the best intentions, and see whether it gains our trust. Lived experience, among horsemen and fans, will eventually tell us whether an experiment has failed or whether, once every generation or so, we might have struck a game-changing seam of gold. The Breeders' Cup was one such; and, who knows, maybe a similar hostility from vested interests will ultimately prove the furnace in which HISA can be forged into another.

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Past Specters, Present Ghosts

How poignant that, in this of all weeks, the two most breathtaking winners on Belmont day should both have prompted comparisons with Ghostzapper, whose GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park in 2004 was surely the greatest Thoroughbred performance ever on Texan soil. Because while the whole racing world came to Dallas that day, it appears that there will be no reciprocal embrace when it comes to the standards sought—not just federally, but internationally—to give American horseracing credibility in the contest for public engagement in the 21st Century.

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This Side Up: Ready for Our Close-Up?

"Wait a minute, haven't I seen you before? I know your face... You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big." "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." That, unforgettably, is how we meet Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; and that, you fear, is rather how we meet the faded star of Memorial Day Weekend. Aptly, the first name carved onto the Hollywood Gold Cup has itself become that of an Oscar nominee. Seabiscuit was followed by some of the icons of...

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The Tough Get Going

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This Side Up: The Tough Get Going

I'm pinning my faith in Happy Jack. Not to win, obviously, even after a Derby so outlandish that it still confounds the handicapper's genius for rationalizing the most unaccountable events with the invincible benefit of hindsight. As a Calumet homebred by Oxbow, however, you can certainly envisage this fellow proceeding to the GI Belmont S. and so ensuring that at least one horse has contested each leg of the Triple Crown--which would, dismally, be one more than was managed last year even by a crop containing Oxbow's outstanding son to...

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This Side Up: Don't Make Them Like That Anymore

Well, I guess it's precisely because the protagonists aren't used to the limelight that everybody has so enjoyed their arrival at center stage. But they have quickly learned that once there, with everyone hanging on your every word, you had better know your script. In the excitement of his success, under one of the most remarkable rides in GI Kentucky Derby history, connections of Rich Strike (Keen Ice) told everyone that they had the previous morning been reconciled to instead contesting the GIII Peter Pan S. at Belmont this weekend....

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A Loss That Takes Us to the Epicenter

"The Derby gods." It's a device that tells us rather more about us than them. We know there's no such thing, really; and that if they did exist, they would find sadistic satisfaction in stringing us along in the delusion that they will ultimately even out their torments and benedictions, only to let the ground fall away beneath us just as we reach for the stars.

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A Wrong Turn Onto the Right Road

They call it "pilot error." It's just that you have all the correction of perspective, right there, that anyone could possibly require. If a jockey makes a mistake, the consequences obviously tend to be a good deal less drastic than for a guy flying a plane.

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This Side Up: The Cap of Good Hope

As somebody remarked at the time, on seeing B. Wayne Hughes and M.V. Magnier deep in conversation one morning before the 2019 Breeders' Cup: "I'll give you 140 guesses what they're talking about."

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