Sunday, July 5, 2009

Munnings fleet in winning un-Fabulous Tom Fool

Looks like the connections of Fabulous Strike had reason to fear Munnings.

The 3-year-old Speightstown colt got a dream trip up the rail -- not all that difficult in a four-horse field -- to win the Tom Fool H.-G2 in 1:21.08. Thoroughbred Daily News reported his margin of victory over second-place Riley Tucker as four lengths, while the Equibase chart for the race places the margin at just 2 1/4, an interesting discrepancy.

Either way, it's perhaps likely that Fabulous Strike wouldn't have beaten Munnings today. Fabulous Strike, apparently a three-quarters specialist, has twice this year been second in seven-furlong races, the Carter H.-G1 to Kodiak Kowboy and the General George H.-G2 to True Quality. Those races were both run in times above 1:22, so Munnings' running the Tom Fool in nearly 1:21-flat was probably more than Fabulous Strike could handle.

Ducking him, however, still shows a lack of fortitude, not discretion.

What Belmont fans were left with was an easy win by what was clearly the superior horse in a four-entry field, with Riley Tucker some distance behind (2 1/4 or four lengths, depending), a tiring Driven By Success in arrears by about five and a half, and overmatched The Last Wave straggling home beaten better than 20.

In other words, not much of a race.

With Equibase statistics showing that wagering continues to decline in the United States -- certainly much of that attributable to the recession -- it doesn't help for the tracks and horsemen to stage non-races in what are billed as graded events. A total of $283,261 was wagered in the win-place-show pool on the Tom Fool, while $334,298 was wagered on the $25K, NW2L claimer just prior on the card. In fact, all four of the undercard races leading up to the "feature" topped $320,000 in the WPS pool.

That's because those races were actually interesting. Difficult to handicap. Not obvious who would win. Worth watching.

Those of us who love racing and wish to widen its appeal -- as racing once was popular among all segments of society -- realize that you need an exciting product to sell to the masses.

Four-horse races in what are supposed to be "featured," graded, marquee events, just don't cut it. And it's everyone's responsibility -- track management, owners, trainers, jockeys, everyone -- not to let down the fans who expect and deserve better.

If you entered the horse and he isn't hurt or sick on race-day and the track comes up fast, run him for the good of the sport. It's hardly too much to ask.

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