Off to a promising start

January, 27, 2014

Already the first month in 2014 is nearing an end and while January will never be confused with August on a racing calendar, well soon have a hint or two about what type of year awaits us.

Some Triple Crown preps have been already been contested and Kentucky Derby points awarded. Cairo Prince, in winning Saturdays Holy Bull, looked quite impressive in a victory that also flattered Honor Code, the highly touted rival that defeated him by a nose last November in their stirring stretch duel in the Remsen.

Once the Super Bowl fades from the scene, more will be known on Feb. 9 when Will Take Charge is expected to embark on his 4-year-old campaign in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Wise Dan may be the sports reigning two-time Horse of the Year, but in terms of sheer excitement, its Will Take Charge who could provide the biggest bolt of electricity in the coming year.

As delightful as it may turn out to be to watch a horse bid for a third straight crown, if Wise Dans connections follow last years path to the Eclipse Awards, we might only see a string of odds-on victories against overmatched foes.

Sorry, but in the U.S. of A., turf milers are not a marquee division.

In 2013, Will Take Charge was the champion 3-year-old colt and a better showing in the Triple Crown would have made him more of a magnet for Horse of the Year votes.

Perhaps last years 2-year-old champion Shared Belief can put hoof problems behind him and make it an extraordinary year.

Hes trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who rarely misses a major race when he has a worthy contender in his barn, and Will Take Charges impending presence in the Donn is an indication that if all goes well hell perhaps be a familiar figure in the years biggest races, such as the Stephen Foster, Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup, en route to a return trip to the Breeders Cup Classic.

If he, or any other horse for that matter, can string together wins in races like those it would pump up the volume of excitement in 2014 like a pair of Beats from Dr. Dre.

At the same time, perhaps last years 2-year-old champion Shared Belief can put hoof problems behind him and make it an extraordinary year. The unbeaten gelding was scheduled to run next in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Feb. 8, which would have served as his highly anticipated debut on dirt, until a persistent abscess altered those plans.

That type of ailment injects an added element of doubt into Shared Beliefs ability to dominate his class in the spring, but his talent is indisputable and his charisma figures to grow with each step closer he takes to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Given the time of year, Honor Code, Cairo Prince, or just about anyone else, might emerge as the star of the Triple Crown and perhaps one of those 3-year-olds might even provide the thrill of a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes.

Lets not even broach what an actually Triple Crown sweep might mean to the sport, some 36 years after the last one.

So as the opening acts in 2014 unfold, there are some superb prospects to consider. We have a two-time Horse of the Year who might find stiff competition for another title, even if he matches last years mark of 6 wins in seven starts.

All in all, its hardly a bad way to start a new year.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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