Fort Erie Race Track just can't seem to catch a break. Trainer Nick Gonzalez announced that Midnight Aria will miss the Prince Of Wales Stakes. Taking a potential Triple Crown winner out of US Triple Crown run is pretty devastating to handle and overall interest, take one out of the Canadian Triple Crown run and it means that outside of local interest, it is just now just a run of the mill Stake Race.
Midnight Aria's Queen's Plate victory was something close to a Cinderella Story. He was a good looking yearling, with very good breeding and wound up being purchased for $80,000 at Keeneland. However, late last year, he made is first lifetime start at Calder as a two year old for a claiming tag of half his yearling purchase price. His running line in the 5 and a half furlong event said he was outrun.
He next started in January after a 2 month layoff. This time at Gulfstream Park going a route. It was a $35,000 claiming race and he ran for a $30,000 tag. He ran game and kept coming, running a very good third.
20 days later, he came back to the same identical maiden claiming race, this time though he ran for $35,000. He ran a huge race, troubled start and going four wide, he finished 2nd beaten a neck. Tucci Stables had claimed the horse that race. In hindsight, knowing how rare it is to find Canadian bred horses who like running two turns, let alone 3 year olds at the beginning of the year, this claim was a no-brainer. One thing, and probably a big thing, is why was he in for a tag for his first three races. There are three possible answers. 1. He looked like just a horse in training.
2. He wasn't coming around fast enough. This could be driven by a possible combination of finances, trainer's input, and/or owner's impatience. 3. Some physical problems that the horse may have developed since being purchased. Very few horses are 100% sound. But some need help to get to get to the races. Today's drug culture helps get them to the track, but it also takes its toll on horses as well.
Midnight Lute, Midnight Aria's sire, was supposed to be route horse, but developed major breathing problems which were well documented at the time, and turned into a sprint champion. He could turn out to be one the finest route sires since Lasix was made legal.
Anyway, just like with what really happened with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, we will probably never know for sure why Midnight Aria was pretty much given away. But we can speculate.
I'm not blaming Gonzalez at all for missing the Prince of Wales: “He's kind of worn out. The Queen's Plate took a lot out of him physically. It's just the strain and the stress, being training and racing for like a year. It was just going to be too much for him, and he wouldn't be 100 percent going in, so we're going to err on the side of caution."
But I can't help but blame today's drug culture for draining horses. Going back in history, thoroughbreds ran heats (2 races in a day, usually long distances). Nowadays, a horse like Midnight Aria, who has had 8 route races in 6 months is considered over-raced needing a break. Again, this is all too common in horse racing today, and it is either one of two things, horses are more frail today and/or the amount of drugs (tested for and not tested for) horses receive just drain horses way too much.
Where are the Sea Biscuits of today?