The terrible twos. If you’re a parent, you know what this means. That magical second year where your little ones begin to come into their own. In horse racing, there is nothing like a two year old. Most have been training all year, and now we get to see how these little ones have progressed. Two year old horses are unpredictable in what might be the understatement of the year. It’s not that they don’t run and run well, but it’s predicting their future that is most difficult.
It used to be that you had to run a colt or filly as a two year old to have any chance of success as a three year old, but lately, that hasn’t been the case. Street Sense was a great two year old, and he went on to win the Kentucky Derby and then lost a classic stretch duel in the Preakness to Curlin. Last year’s two year old star was Shanghai Bobby who was recently retired. Bobby did win a stakes race, but overall, as good as he was as a two year old, his three year campaign was a disappointment.
Two year old races are very hard to predict and even harder to wager on. Many dyed-in-the-wool bettors loathe the fact that these races are on the cards, but if you’re a fan of the sport, watching the two year olds is akin to watching JV basketball, or following Triple A baseball. In one year’s time, one of the two year olds is going to emerge as a star, or perhaps the star of the three year old season. One of these two year olds will go into the Kentucky Derby as the favorite, and one might even win the Triple Crown.
The other fascinating fact of watching two year olds is that it puts their parents in the spotlight. Because there isn’t a ton to go on when handicapping two year old races, pedigree does play a role. Sure, you can bet the trainer, the jockey, and look at past performances and workouts, but pedigree has to be accounted for. Of course, one has to recognize the parents to make a thoughtful analysis, but to me, pedigree, along with pace, are the major reasons why this sport so interests me.
The two year old season is in full swing with the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile races looming in less than a month. Belmont Park hosts two major races tomorrow, the Frizette for fillies and the Champagne for colts (and fillies, too, if so desired). These are both one mile races and will serve both as Breeder’s Cup preps and Triple Crown preps. Running at Belmont is vital if a horse wants to succeed as three year old. For some reason, getting a race in at Big Sandy is more important than getting one in at Churchill Downs. There are many reasons for this, but the uniqueness of the big canyon is perhaps the most important. Belmont isn’t big, it’s massive, and it may be the one track where the role of the jockey is most important.
There are 16 horses entered for both races, nine in the Champagne and seven in the Frizette, and the proudest parents have to be Harlan’s Holiday and A.P. Indy. In the Champagne, Grand Arrival and Intense Holiday are entered, both sired by the aforementioned Harlan’s Holiday. I tried to reach Harlan’s Holiday by phone the other day, but his mailbox was full. I’m sure he’s both nervous and excited to see two of “his boys,” running in such a great race with a great history.
A.P. Indy was a great horse, and he has two of his little ones going at it tomorrow. His son, Honor Code is running in the Champagne with daughter Divided Attention in the Frizette. They have different mothers, but dad will surely keep the peace come post time. Attempts to reach A.P. Indy were unsuccessful, but his voice mail did say that though he was unavailable to take your call, he was very proud and can’t wait until Saturday to see how his kids perform at Belmont Park. And, unlike Harlan’s Holiday, he doesn’t have to mute his preference as he has two kids running in two races, one son, one daughter.
If you look at the parents of the runners in both races, its big time and it’s why the big race can still garner big time attention. The proud parents offer a litany of graded stakes winners such as Curlin, Tiznow, Street Sense, Roman Ruler, Tale of the Cat, Pulpit, and Speightstown. And, those are just the fathers.
Two year olds can certainly run and run fast. They’re lighter and they will gain hundreds of pounds as they mature between now and next year. Tomorrow’s winners may hit their pinnacle, this might be the only race that they win. They may win tomorrow, and then keep winning. It’s likely that next year’s Belmont winner comes from this group, and it may also be true that one of the horses may finish well back, but will mature and be dominant as a four year old or five year old. Tiznow is the best example as he did his best running at the end of his third year and his fourth year, and he remains the only horse to win the Breeder’s Cup Classic twice, in 2000 and 2001.
The terrible twos…..in horse racing, more terrific than terrible.
Runner Father (Sire) Mother (Dam)
Casiquapo Sightseeing Emerald Buddha
Ride on Curlin Curlin Magical Ride
Havana Dunkirk Missy Turtle
Debt Ceiling Discreet Cat Top Marks
Honor Code AP Indy Serena’s Cat
Long on Value Value Plus Long Message
Strong Mandate Tiznow Clear Mandate
Grand Arrival Harlan’s Holiday Grandstone
Intense Holiday Harlan’s Holiday Intensify
Runner Father Mother
Sweet Reason Street Sense Livermore Leslie
Artemis Agrotera Roman Ruler Indy Glory
Tea Time Pulpit Asian Express
Stopchargingmaria Tale of the Cat Exotic Bloom
Ria Antonia Rockport Harbor Beer Baroness
Divided Attention AP Indy Contrive
Recepta Speightstown Honor Bestowed