What will they do for an encore?
This was the Triple Crown that gave us pretty much everything but a Triple Crown winner. There was Street Sense in the Derby, brilliant in victory after a daring rail-skimming ride by Calvin Borel. There was Curlin in the Preakness, game and determined on the day he proved the hype was justified. Then there was Rags to Riches in the Belmont, the tough filly who overcome 102 years of history to give Todd Pletcher his first win in a Triple Crown race after 28 misses.
It was a great show. Now comes this question: Will there be any encores?
To get Street Sense, Curlin and Rags to Riches in the same starting gate on the same afternoon would generate the type of electricity that sport rarely gets on non-Triple Crown days. It's the race everyone wants to see.
It's rare that these kind of races, the much-anticipated showdowns, ever come to be. Someone always gets hurt. Someone always picks an easier spot. Someone always decides that the best way to succeed in the long run is to run as little as possible. Perhaps, though, this time the sport will get lucky.
There are several scenarios in which the three could meet. All of them, though, depend on whether or not trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith decide to take on the boys again with Rags to Riches.
Pletcher was non-committal the day after the Belmont Stakes about Rags to Riches' upcoming schedule. He said the July 21 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, a race restricted to fillies, will most likely be Rags to Riches' next start, but added, "there's no urgency to make a decision."
For Rags to Riches, the Coaching Club makes sense. She could probably run around the track backwards and beat fillies at a mile and a half. But what then? A day earlier, the Rags to Riches team wouldn't close the door on another start versus males.
"I would say it's more than possible," Tabor said when asked about the possibility of another race against males.
What does Rags to Riches have to prove by winning the Alabama, the Coaching Club or any other race against fillies? Everyone knows she's the best 3-year-old filly in the country and has no rivals for the top spot. Hopefully, Tabor, Smith and Pletcher will decide the best course of action will be to map out a schedule where the primary purpose is to prove just how great Rags to Riches is. With Invasor still looming out there, that might be the only route that leads them to the Horse-of-the-Year title.
Should they adopt that line of thinking, Rags to Riches may well have a date with the boys in the Aug. 25 Travers at Saratoga.
Fortunately, for once, the breeding market doesn't necessarily factor into the equation. If Rags to Riches were a colt, they wouldn't be able to get her off to a breeding shed fast enough, not taking any chances with what would be left of her racing career. But, with a filly, you can only cash in once a year when it comes to breeding. She can actually make more money for her owners on the racetrack -- in races like the $1 million Travers.
That's apparently where Street Sense is headed.
"That's our plan, going to the Travers," trainer Carl Nafzger said. "To get there, we'll use either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell."
Because the Breeders' Cup Classic will be run this year at Monmouth Park, the Haskell could have the edge over the Jim Dandy in recruiting top 3-year-olds.
With Curlin, trainer Steve Asmussen might have to wrestle with the same decision, whether to go to the Haskell or the Jim Dandy next. But there's little doubt the Travers is his primary goal for the summer.
Might the Travers be the race of the decade? Rags to Riches vs. the two best 3-year-olds in the country? The sport can only hope.
Great race, disappointing day
On a great day of racing, that produced one of the most dramatic and exciting Belmont Stakes in years, there was some bad news for the New York Racing Association. The crowd was a huge disappointment. Only 47,860 showed up Saturday, down more than 13,000 from a year before when Jazil defeated one of the worst Belmont fields in years.
What happened? Obviously, Street Sense's defection didn't help. But the poor crowd was more a matter of NYRA's recent decisions to raise admission and seating prices and to ban fans from bringing alcohol into the track.
The Belmont had always been the best bargain in sports. NYRA didn't jack up its prices for the big day like Churchill Downs and Pimlico always had and a fan could get into the track for $2 and get a good seat for an equally reasonable price.
Not anymore. Now, it costs $5 to get into the grandstand $10 to get into the clubhouse this one day only. Now, a good Belmont seat will set you back $110 and even a lousy one goes for $20.
As for alcohol, they no longer let you bring it into the track. No one wants a bunch of drunks getting into their cars after getting tanked at the races all day, but the decision has clearly cost NYRA a lot of customers.
There are a lot of cheap people out there who like to drink. Guess they're not going to the Belmont anymore.
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THE TRIPLE CROWN
June 9, 2007
• Belmont champ Rags to Riches eyes Travers
• Gomez's loss proves Velazquez's gain
• Pletcher, Velazquez end Triple Crown droughts
• Hard Spun was all done in the Belmont
• Pletcher deserves 'Riches' after Belmont
• Rags to Riches beats Curlin in Belmont
• Street Sense to skip Belmont
• Curlin denies Street Sense in Preakness
• Street Sense wins Kentucky Derby
• Mayne: Racing needs racing
• Finley: What about an encore?
• Cronley: Triple Crown Q&A
• Cronley: My Belmont Day
• Finley: The Belmont horse by horse
• Moss: Street Sense just didn't finish