We should have seen this coming.
Here at the Gazette, we take the approach in the Triple Crown that history repeats itself frequently. That's why Big Brown's Derby win was a shocker...but it's also not going to lead to a cavalcade of horses winning the Derby in their fourth start. Big Brown took advantage of one of the worst classes of three year olds in ages to win a pair of big races and fool us into thinking he was Seattle Slew. (Well, most of us. There's a lot of us, myself included, who weren't buying the hype, but still thought he was really talented.)
The thing is, we've seen this exact same scenario play out twice in the last ten years. 1999 presented us with a Derby crop that could most charitably be described as mediocre, with absolutely nobody standing out come Derby Day. The class was so weak, two fillies entered the Derby, and one of them was co-favored with a gelding that looked like he was over the top. Come Derby day, Charismatic makes a small leap forward off his unheralded Lexington win, and then romps in the Preakness over many of the same horses. But the Belmont was a different story--the horse, while injured during the race, wasn't winning anyway, and delivered a subpar performance in the Belmont while improving longshots Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse dueled to the wire. It was pretty clear leading up to the race that Charismatic was vulnerable, it just wan't clear who would take advantage.
We had this again in 2002, where War Emblem rode a speed bias to win the Derby over a hideous class of three year olds (the Derby favorite was a whopping 5-1) and barely held on in the Preakness to beat a 43-1 shot. When he stumbled out of the gate in the Belmont, it opened the race to chaos, as nobody else had proven they were any good. And chaos we got, in the form of 70-1 shot Sarava winning it all.
The difference this year was that Big Brown looked dominant because his 5 wins were effortless. But the signs that the Belmont would be different were there. The breeding issues. The quartercrack. The oppressive heat yesterday. The tight schedule of racing. It wasn't hard to see that he was going to lose yesterday. Hell, we picked it.
What was tough to see was Da'Tara coming up with the blanket of carnations. But the same damn thing that happened in 1999 and 2002 happened again: the rest of the horses were so sub-par that chaos determined the race. This time, the chaos was lone speed with a horse with decent breeding. If Denis of Cork was really a good horse, he should have won. But he didn't. And that's why those who played Da'Tara yesterday were dead-on: they knew that because of Casino Drive's scratch, after Big Brown, the race was a total toss-up. Why not take a stab on a horse that at least ran competitively in his last, rather than a boring horse like Tale of Ekati?
Welcome to the hall of Triple Crown winners, Da'Tara. But don't think that this makes you the next Point Given. More likely, he's in the basement level with Commendable, Sarava and Editor's Note. We may see him again in the Travers and Breeders Cup, but it's possible this will be his first and only big race win.
And that does it for our conventional horse racing coverage until Saratoga, where we'll pop in and out with some minor notes on the meet or racing in general. Back to fantasy baseball.