October 3 is a date that holds special significance to old-time New Yorkers for a specific reason. That is the date that New York Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson hit the famed "Shot Heard 'Round The World" off of Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. The homerun culminated a 13 1/2 game comeback by the Giants to win the National League pennant in 1951. There has been a litany of books, articles, documentaries, and other media put together regarding that pennant race, that playoff series, and that homerun. It just might be the most famous sports moment in this nation's history.
(Trivia question: Who was on deck when Thomson hit the homerun?) Answer later.
You might be wondering why a horse racing blog would be dedicating time to discussing Bobby Thomson's homerun. Well, the date is the clue to that wonderment. October 3 might be the most significant date on the calendar this fall other than the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on November 6-7. October 3 is the date that Belmont Park will be running five different Grade 1 races as important preps for many of the eastern horses interested in going on run in that Breeders' Cup a month later. Those five Grade 1 races are the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the $600,000 Beldame, the $400,000 Vosburgh on the main track and the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational.
The Gold Cup could feature many of the horses you might see in the Breeders' Cup Classic like Summer Bird, Kensei, and Quality Road. The Vosburgh promises to be the showcase for Sprint contenders like Fabulous Strike, Kodiak Kowboy, and Pyro. You might want to look for the likes of Gio Ponti and Court Vision in the Hirsch. The one race that will probably lack the cache it was supposed to have is the Beldame, which will likely not feature the anticipated matchup between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra, by most reports, wrapped up her three-year-old campaign (and maybe her career) with her narrow victory over Macho Again at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward on Saturday.
You know what, even without the fabulous fillies October 3 still promises to be an unbelievable day of racing at Belmont Park with five Grade 1 races and Breeders' Cup previews up and down the program. It is the kind of day that you will not be able to ignore if you are a racing fan and it is the kind of day you will not be able to ignore if you are a serious handicapper. Just 23 days away.
(Trivia answer: Willie Mays, considered by some to the greatest baseball player ever.)
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!