Across the Board: This Week in Thoroughbred Racing…

Detailing recent events and what’s to come in the world of thoroughbred horse racing.

Updated: Sept. 22, 2020 • 6:15 PM EST

One of horse racing's premier events, the Preakness Stakes, is less than two weeks away.

From industry news to connections to past performances and those yet to come, this is a weekly round-up of three happenings in the world of thoroughbred racing. Coverage includes some of the salient themes that make the sport go. Stay tuned…

Starship Trooper

Saturday’s Ricoh Woodbine Mile pitted eight salty foes against one another. A trio from the Mark Casse Barn, including Preakness champion War of Will, took on the likes of Chad Brown’s Value Proposition and Kevin Attard’s Starship Jubilee, who was last year’s Canadian Horse of the Year. Starship Jubilee, a $16,000 claimer that the Attards snagged a few years back was impressive in the stretch, and the 7-year-old mare put the value boys away in fine fashion. Attard was prideful in his post-race comments when he intimated that he was disappointed that his horse was not favored or even the second choice at 6-1. A tote board or betting public nolle prosequi of the talents of his horse? Proving them wrong, the mare’s record of 19 wins in 38 starts is not too shabby a winning percentage. Now, she’s on to an all-expense-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. Heady stuff, congrats Starship! 

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Last Rider

This past week, we learned of the death of jockey Pat Smullen, who was a 9-time Irish champion. Smullen rode the flat in almost every major race during his storied career that took him across the world. He won the Epsom Derby in 2016 and before that the Gold Cup during Royal Ascot in 2010. His attachment to trainer Dermot Weld made him a household name in the British Isles, but probably what was most impressive is that he did not come from a racing family. Bitten hard by the bug as a 15-year-old, he left school and started schooling as a jockey. Smullen labored and loved his profession, and approached each race with zeal and fortitude. That would serve him well when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early in 2018. He battled the disease for more than two years, and although he had to retire from riding, he and his wife, a former jockey in her own right, would raise millions of pounds in donations for what was known as the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland. He will be missed.

T-Minus Two Weeks...

The Preakness looms (begins October 3). It’s finally time for Pimlico in Baltimore, Md. to take the stage; albeit this year, it will be without the Civil War-era, pro-Confed ballad Maryland, My Maryland, which will not be played for the first time since 1909. Always threatened to be moved to more palatial Laurel Park, the beleaguered track’s showpiece remains the Preakness card, which will get a boost this year when the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (female version) moves from Friday to Saturday. As for the signature race, the field is moving from probable to possible. Authentic, the Derby winner, remains the presumptive favorite, for now, especially since Tiz the Law, winner of the Belmont and the Travers Stakes, has yet to commit. The field for the race will be capped at 14.

Other story lines abound: Will Todd Pletcher enter the fray with Dr. Post or Happy Saver? Will Authentic’s stablemate, Thousand Words, live up to his $1 million price tag, especially after his scary flare up in the Churchill paddock before the Derby?

More to come as Preakness week’s post draw nears. Preakness, My Preakness instead? An idea…

J.N. Campbell is a turf writer based in Houston, Texas.

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