The Triple Crown is in the books. Sadly it was not a stellar year. It was one of those years which, just a couple of years from now, you will really struggle to remember who won any of the races. It happens, though, and there is no reason to be depressed about it. We are heading into the summer, and that means that we are nearing perhaps the greatest stretch for a sport that has few down times. Across the country through July and August there are some great meets and some stellar races. We'll see enough epic racing this summer to forget that the Triple Crown ever happened.
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Three year old redemption
We have made it through the Triple Crown without a star in the three year old class. Will one of the three winners emerge as the clear top horse? Will Classic Empire get healthy and realize his potential, or will another Triple Crown also-ran mature in a hurry? Will a horse who skipped the Triple Crown, like American Anthem who won very impressively on the Belmont undercard, flex their muscles?. Remember, at this time last year no one knew who Arrogate was and now he is an all-time great, so anything is possible. There are two huge races on the horizon for three year olds. The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth is in early August, and the Travers, which Arrogate won last year to announce his presence, is at Saratoga at the end of the month. Winning either of those races will make the horse a star - and a big Breeders' Cup Classic contender. The third big race - though the least important of the three - is the Jim Dandy, which is at Saratoga in late July. It has been a Travers prep in the past but can also stand alone for some horses in their campaign.
The jewel of the West Coast
The Del Mar meet in San Diego is, in my eyes, the nation's second best each year. It is far more relevant now that they have again returned to a dirt surface after a misguided flirtation with synthetics in California. This year the meet should have added significance because Del Mar is hosting the Breeders' Cup for the first time, so some trainers could look to get their top charges some experience on the surface before the most important two days in racing. This meet will also be significant because it is where Arrogate is scheduled to make his first return to the track since his dominance at the Dubai World Cup. That alone makes this a great meet. The Pacific Classic is the big jewel of the meet, and it draws older horses for a huge purse. Bob Baffert has a past of success in the race, and a ridiculously deep stable right now, so he alone could fill the race and it would be the highlight of the summer. Songbird could show up at the Del Mar meet as well, and that would be another can't-miss event.
The greatest meet in the world
Saratoga is the epicenter of racing, and the best month the sport has. It's an idyllic setting, and it draws the very best of the East Coast for a tour de force meet. It's better than Del Mar just because of the depth of racing. Every week features massively-important races that shape the whole season for the division involved. The Travers is the biggest race, but there are a ridiculous 15 Grade 1 races on the menu, and countless other graded stakes, so there is something for you no matter what you like. Highlights include the Hopeful for top two year olds, which has been won by three Triple Crown winners, the King's Bishop for top sprinters, the Alabama for the best of the three year old fillies, and the Whitney for older horses - which has produced three Breeders' Cup Classic winners. I get excited just writing about it, and I have only scratched the surface of what makes it so great. If you love horse racing then you need to get to Saratoga, though be warned that it will spoil every other racing experience for you.
On the grass
The summer is also significant because it is when turf racing is at the peak both in terms of volume and quality. The biggest turf day of the summer occurs at Arlington Park in Chicago - literally the only day of the year that anyone cares about racing in Illinois. The Arlington Million is primarily for male horses, and the Beverly D. is the equivalent for female runners. Both races often factor heavily into the Breeders' Cup. So does the Secretariat at times, which is the third Grade 1 run on the same day at Arlington. It is for three year olds. Saratoga and Del Mar both have major turf races on their calendar, and others like the United Nations at Monmouth rarely disappoint.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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