No Love for Triple Crown Winner

Despite this, Top Flight Angel equals track record

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

Imagine the Preakness winner coming to Finger Lakes to run in a $100,000 Grade III stakes race in the middle of their three-year old campaign?  It’s more than improbable, in fact, it’s impossible.  But, on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 that’s kind of what you saw at Batavia as the winner of the $500,000 Yonkers Trot showed up to race at the 71-year old Batavia Downs.

Before we dismiss it, it must be known that Top Flight Angel was participating in the lucrative New York Sire Stakes for three-year old trotters.  The race had a purse of $60,200, so this wasn’t your normal $10,000 allowance race.  Sire Stakes are a series, a buildup, each race offering good purses until the big money October 14 final is contested at Yonkers Raceway.

The Trotting Triple Crown consists of the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity, and last year, Marion Marauder captured all three affairs.  With Perfect Spirit prevailing in a controversial Hambletonian and then skipping the Yonkers Trot, the chance for back-to-back crowns went away faster than hot dogs on a July 4 picnic.

Be that as it may, the fans at Batavia Downs were treated to a little bit of harness racing royalty, as Top Flight Angel was made the 4/5 favorite in a solid field of seven colts and geldings. The son of Archangel did not disappoint, cutting fractions of 29, 29.2, 28 and 28.1 en route to a 1:54.3 on the half mile track, which oh, by the way tied the track record that was held by his father.  Finishing second was Guardian Angel As who was sired by—you guessed it—Archangel.

In thoroughbred racing, if a Triple Crown race winner was heading to the local track, there’d be some coverage of it, but unless you’re a harness racing diehard (like me), you’d have a better chance of getting hit by a bus than reading about “TFA’s” invasion of the little track in Genesee County.

This is the world we live in of course.  Life is not always just or fair.  But, I still believe that we’re about to hit a sports crossroads.  Week one of the NFL was filled with boring, listless, penalty filled games that took over three hours to play.  The Cowboys and Giants, two Super Bowl contenders, played a game that featured five field goals in a 19-3 Dallas victory.  As attention spans continue to diminish, how much longer before the ratings for these marathon affairs dip for good?  When I was kid, NFL games began at 1 pm and 4 pm; now they go off at 1 and 4:25 and some even start at 4:40 pm.  Monday Night Football is no longer special as Americans divide their time between other things and other interests.

Baseball has also fallen off.  Yes, it remains strong regionally and right now, if you’re living near Cleveland, you’re more than fired up for the playoffs, but when the Saturday Game of the Week is nothing but your father’s memory.

This is what frustrates me.  With less time to watch hours of baseball and football games, events have become bigger and bigger in America.  We like the Super Bowl, as well as the Kentucky Derby.  Batavia had a nice little event to showcase with a Triple Crown race winner not only in the house, but racing on its very own track and it passed like two ships in the night.

Somebody should have noticed.  Life might not be fair or just, but this was an event that deserved a little attention if not all-out love.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  The good thing was that Top Flight Angel went about his business and those who saw it, certainly went away impressed.

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