At the beginning of the year, I posed five questions about racing in Michigan to consider for the following year. Now that the year is almost over, it is time to look back at those questions and see how they were answered.
#1 – Who will be the breakout sire of 2009?
The Answer: In the original post, I singled out The Deputy (Ire) as a sire who could make some noise when his first crop as a Michigan-based stallion hit the track. As it turns out, I was right and wrong. The Deputy was the leading national earner among all Michigan sires who fit my criteria as a breakout candidate – sires considered “new”, “unproven” or in The Deputy’s case “new to Michigan”. However, he made most of his money in West Virginia.
The Petardia (GB) stallion ranked eighth in West Virginia by juvenile earnings with $62,178, highlighted by Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes runner-up Kid Kearny Gabe. The Deputy only sent three juvenile starters to the gates in Michigan to finish 29th in juvenile earnings, with no Michigan-bred stakes starters. However, the West Virginia contingent did show up to represent The Deputy in the Sire Stakes. Kid Kearny Gabe stepped up once again to finish second in the two-year-old males division of the fall classic.
When considering Michigan sires with success in Michigan, the label “breakout sire of ’09” would probably best fit Secret Romeo. The Service Stripe horse sired his first stakes winner when Romeo Again won the three-year-old males division of the Sire Stakes on his way to earning a share of the division’s top honors.
Secret Romeo ranked seventh in general earnings for Michigan-breds in 2009 with $159,612. His second crop hit the track in 2009.
#2 – How will Mr. Conclusive follow up on his dominant 2008 campaign?
The Answer: Not so hot. After a tumultuous winter and a long layoff, Mr. Conclusive missed the board in three starts during his 2009 campaign. Hopefully he can get it turned around for 2010.
#3 – Whose Sire Stakes streak will stay alive – Valley Loot or Meadow Vespers?
The Answer: At the beginning of the year, I predicted that Valley Loot would have a smoother road to a third consecutive Sire Stakes win based on the strength of her division and the quality of graduating three-year-olds she would face in 2009.
After an amazing four year streak that spanned two racetracks and two divisions, Meadow Vespers’ signature closing kick came up empty in the older males division to snap his run. Meadow Vespers, a seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding, finished fifth in that race to Bipolar Express, one of the previously mentioned newcomers to the division.
Valley Loot, on the other hand, kept her streak alive with a 1 1/2 length score in the older mares division. The five-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare also tallied her third straight Michigan Horse of the Year honors in 2009. Can she keep that streak going? That will be a question for 2010.
#4 – What will be new at Pinnacle Race Course?
The Answer: In terms of planned Phase Two developments, nothing much. The economic situation of the state, the track and the racing industry understandably made it difficult to expand at this time.
However, the track did make a small, but significant addition that made a day at the races much more enjoyable. The festival tent in in the grandstand area was a big step up from the temporary bleachers that occupied the space in 2008. Aside from providing some much-needed shade and protection from the elements, the additional tables, TV screens and mutuel windows it provided made it much more worthwhile to watch the races from that end of the track. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea.
#5 – How much of a difference will a few extra weeks of pre-meet training make?
The Answer: One of the issues many attributed to the field sizes in 2008 was that Pinnacle did not open up for training until a few days before opening day. A constant stream of heavy rains kept Pinnacle from opening the track, which lowered the number of race-ready horses when the meet began. This year, there were no delays.
The effect this extra time had on the field sizes at Pinnacle is hard to determine. In 2008, it seemed as though the fields were either really big or really small. In 2009, the number was more consistent, but it meant more six or seven horse fields – enough to play most exotics, but not enough to give them the kind of payoffs that make them lucrative. We’ll call this one a push.
Look for the Burning Questions for 2010 in the coming weeks.