Welcome back to the second round of Horse Madness 2016! We are through the play-in round, and an updated bracket is here: Horse Madness 2016
Sarava v. Dare and Go
This is a good one. The longest shot in Belmont history versus the horse that ended Cigar’s streak. 70/1 against 39/1. A classic Tom Durkin call up against a classic Trevor Denman call. I am not even sure where I would start if I were voting.
Sarava was a $250,000 yearling, a son of inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Wild Again and out of a Deputy Minister mare. He began his racing career in England, but flamed out there and returned stateside to break his maiden in November 2001. He then came in second in three consecutive outings before finding the winners’ circle again at Pimlico in the Sir Barton Stakes. The connections took that win and jumped right into the deep end of the pool, entering the Belmont Stakes against War Emblem, who was threatening to be the first Triple Crown winner in 23 years. War Emblem did not particularly scare anyone away, however, as 11 horses made the gate, including Medaglia d’Oro and Perfect Drift. Of those horses, Sarava actually was not the longest shot on the board – Artax Too was 71/1 – but those two were by far the outsiders as far as the betting public was concerned. The rest of the field was between 3/2 (War Emblem) and 25/1. But weird things happen over a mile and a half – especially when the heavy favorite stumbles badly at the start. The call of the race was also quintessential Durkin, building to the last quarter mile (War Emblem is toiling!) and culminating with a surprised exclamation of Sarava! at the line, even though Sarava took over from Medaglia d’Oro with a furlong to go, and ground him down to the finish. Incidentally, Artax Too ran to his 71/1 odds, coming in dead last. Sarava did not run again as a three year old, and ran just once at four, coming in 6th in an optional claiming contest. He had a decently long campaign as a five year old, but it was clear that his best day was that warm day in June 2002 in Jamaica, Queens – he would never win again.
Dare and Go broke my heart as a kid. As a 13 year old, I didn’t have a great concept of betting value – I just wanted to watch a dominant horse. And Cigar was just about as dominant a horse as possible, and he was ridden by my favorite jockey, Jerry Bailey. He had a 16 race win streak coming into the 1996 Pacific Classic, and did not show any signs of letting up. In 1996 he had won the Donn, the Dubai World Cup, the MassCap and a stake race at Arlington. He was the overwhelming 1/9 favorite at Del Mar for the Pacific Classic, and it did not seem like anyone in that field could touch him. Unlike Sarava, however, Dare and Go was not an unknown or unproven commodity. He was a Grade 1 winner, having won the Grade 1 Strub Stakes in 1995. He had also garnered the place spot in three Grade 1 Stakes in 1994 – the Secretariat Stakes, the Hollywood Derby, and the Hollywood Turf Cup. Dare and Go was a legit horse, and in hindsight, he may have been rounding into form with a second place finish in the Grade 2 Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood Park the month before the Pacific Classic. It’s that Cigar was just such a monster at that time that it was inconceivable that he would lose. But if you’ll forgive the cliché, that’s why they run the races. Cigar was taken wide by Siphon on the first turn, and Jerry Bailey had to contend with Siphon, with David Flores aboard, on his inside and Dramatic Gold, under Corey Nakatani, on the outside. Knowing how overmatched their horses were, both Flores and Nakatani utilized some race-riding strategies against Cigar, and those took their toll. As Cigar finally put Siphon and Dramatic Gold away, Dare and Go was coming like gangbusters, and went by Cigar to an unthinkable upset, to the great surprise of both Trevor Denman and the giant crowd at Del Mar.
Here are replays of both races.
2002 Belmont Stakes
1996 Pacific Classic
This is a great matchup, as it pits two different kinds of upsets against one another – an upset by a horse that seemed to not fit the race, and which featured unthinkable odds, against an upset by a good horse that just was up against one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time.
Please place your votes on Twitter by retweeting for Sarava, and favoriting for Dare and Go.
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