Between the unnecessary trolling of NFL holdouts, the roar of baseball pennant races screaming for desperation in September, and the slam dunk GIFs that come from lightning in the NBA summer league frying pan, these are really the dog days.
Horse racing is no exception. Just this week the news came that Mandaloun would be out at least until the end of September. A sore foot cost him the rest of the summer. What’s next – his next race, retirement, or seemingly inevitable promotion to victory in the Kentucky Derby? If only we could bet on it. Oh, did anyone open an early futures pool on August 28th Travers Stakes in Saratoga? Someone with the change to book it would make out like the banker on Deal or No Deal who just saw an attendee take out briefcases for $ 500,000 and $ 1 million too early opened. First, Preakness winner Rombauer was sent to a California farm to freshen up for the fall. So much for the Belmont Derby on the grass. Or the $ 1 million Haskell on the Jersey coast. Or the $ 1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Or the $ 1.25 million Travers. Then, nine days after being disqualified from his Haskell Stakes win for interference, Belmont Stakes runner-up Hot Rod Charlie was expelled from his hometown of the Pacific Classic and the Travers. How many briefcases do you have left to open, Howie? At least two, actually. And two big figures are still on the board: Essential Quality and Medina Spirit. Last but not least, Mandaloun’s cranky foot solved Brad Cox’s traversal dilemma. He wouldn’t have enjoyed pitting Belmont winner Essential Quality against stable mate Mandaloun – or choosing between them. One belongs to Godolphin, the other to Juddmonte. The Royal Family of Dubai vs. the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. It was one thing to match them in the Kentucky Derby. There was no point walking this tightrope again before the Breeders’ Cup. There is still the tempting opportunity to see Essential Quality get another chance at Medina Spirit. Now that coach Bob Baffert has this restraining order in his attorney’s pocket, he can ignore the cold shoulder of the New York Racing Association and send any horses he wants to Saratoga. When Illumination popped up from the Baffert Barn for the Grade 1 Test Stakes last weekend, the earth kept revolving around the sun. With 8-1 Fifth Picking Sixth, it wasn’t exactly a drop-all-you-do moment. Medina Spirit, however, would be an entirely different matter. He’s finally got back on the Del Mar labor register in the past few weeks, the last time he fired a 59.6 second bullet of 5 stages on Thursday. He had only worked once since his third place under the microscope in Preakness before he was given a break. It wasn’t uncommon for Baffert to throw a horse back into the deep end of the pool for the traverses. See how it worked out with Arrogate five years ago. The glare of the Kentucky Derby Contretemps would surely dazzle pedestrians if the name of Medina Spirit comes up among the traversing options. While the stallion quietly went about his business in Del Mar, his urine sample remains the source of amusing discussion in front of adults in robes. Perhaps one of these judges can decide in our lifetime whether Medina Spirit really won the Kentucky Derby – and whether a small shot of betamethasone constitutes constitutional fraud. If Medina Spirit and all of his luggage ended up in the Travers, many bettors would say they would refuse to give him a dollar just because of Baffert. They said the same thing together before Preakness. Then they made Medina Spirit a 2-1 favorite. And they steamed when he came third. “It must have been clean this time. No wonder he lost. ”Sure, it doesn’t matter that the early pace of Rock Your World was left at the Derby gate. That Medina Spirit didn’t have a loose head start in Baltimore. That Rombauer was there to close at an honest pace. Hey, it has to be the betamethasone. Now that the dog days are here, you can hear the vox populi of bettors rising again on various matters. “Aaron Rodgers? I knew he would be back all the time. ”“ The Lakers are 7-2? Come on. You’re too old. ”“ I don’t care if the Astros are 7-1. I won’t bet a dime on these scammers. ”Yes. That will show them. This kind of dog-day rumble plays straight into the script with the Travers – and every bookmaker shows the foresight to act now. If Baffert showed up with Medina Spirit, he would get the Astros treatment from the public. Orally at least. And it would still attract a lot of money. Too bad Life Is Good won’t be in the traverses. The former futures favorite for the derby was the winter favorite of the Baffert barn. Then in March I had an operation for an ankle chip. After the first urine sample from Medina Spirit was positive, racing power brokers Elliott Walden and Teo Ah Khing from Baffert took him to rival trainer Todd Pletcher. Now Life Is Good is geared towards Travers Day, but not Travers. Instead, Pletcher shared with Daily Racing Form that he was leaning on the 7-Tribe Jerkens Stakes. However, if someone had done a book on Travers Futures, Life Is Good might have piqued early betting interest before the Jerkens alternative was broached. For most players, bets on the Travers do not open until the morning of the race. By then, all of the value that could have come with a midsummer bet is gone. This is also how it works with futures, of course. This is how it works with the dog days. The holdouts are reported in the NFL. The pretenders are pushed aside in baseball. The dust will settle on the NBA free agency. And the field for the Travers will look more modest than it was when Saratoga opened. Wasn’t it a month ago when these words were written? The start of the Saratoga meeting takes place every year with the fantastically arrogant hope that the travers will be loaded, that all Triple Crown race winners will be there. If it happened this summer, it would be the first time since 2017. As the late Greg Lake wrote 48 years ago, welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Hey, when I think about it, didn’t Emerson, Lake and Palmer play Saratoga in the summer of ’72? In addition to this weekly report, Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday on VSiN.com. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available every Friday morning at VSiN.com/podcasts. The next episode will be from Arlington Park near Chicago, where the final Million Day this weekend precedes the route’s expected closure next month. Top coach Larry Rivelli, leading jockey Jareth Loveberry, Equibase chart caller Nicolle Neulist and Johnny Avello from DraftKings Sportsbook are the planned guests. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available as a free subscription from iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1 / ST BET.