It’s a whirlwind trip, really, a two-day excursion that despite its brevity will take a special place in the library of memories his career has become. Gone Friday morning and back by Sunday a.m. to ride that afternoon’s card.
From Canterbury Park to Belmont Park in a 48-hour swing that places him in an opening act to horse racing’s biggest production of the day, surely the summer and conceivably even the last 36 years. Scott Stevens, the dean of Canterbury’s jockey colony, will ride in Saturday’s Grade I, $1.25 million Metropolitan Mile on the undercard to the Belmont Stakes, in which California Chrome is poised to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and thereby join a pantheon of racing deity comprised of a mere 11 horses.
It’s a lot to fathom in a single thought, every bit as hard to swallow in a single gulp and almost too much to hope for in a single wish _ a win in the Met Mile on the same day that racing immortality is struck?
“I’m excited,” said Stevens. “I really am.”
Why not. Stevens, 53, has never been to New York so that spectacle awaits him, but he is not going for the mere experience of participating in the richest race of his career. He has said emphatically that he plans on winning the race with Broadway Empire.
Yet he’s in tough and he knows it. The 13-horse field has drawn a few luminaries including the 8-5 favorite Palace Malice who provided trainer Todd Pletcher with a narrow win over this very same track one year ago at 13-1 odds in the Belmont Stakes and later added the Jim Dandy to his resume. He’s bargaining for more this summer, having romped in the May 17 Grade III Westchester Stakes and has been installed as high weight at 124 pounds.
The talented field (would you expect otherwise with $1.25 million at stake?) includes 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldencents, who also won the Santa Anita Derby last year.
Stevens, of course, is not the only Canterbury Park regular in New York for this race. Trainer Robertino Diodoro will be there as well to saddle his hopeful in the race. Broadway Empire is a 20-1 outside choice in the morning line. He won the Canadian Derby and the Oklahoma Derby last year and finished ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile
The horse left Canterbury Park for New York on Tuesday to begin acclimating himself to the Belmont track. Stevens was certain Broadway was on schedule the last time he worked him and has gotten positive reports on Broadway’s works in New York. “He’s doing real well there and is training good, too. He’s ready to roll.”
As for Stevens himself, he regards racing as racing, be it on the big oval in New York or the homier conditions in Shakopee. He will get an early chance to examine the Belmont surface for himself with a mount in the first race on the Belmont Stakes card.
That should provide him with what he needs to know about the surface and what to expect from it.
He has to forgo some mounts he considers winners on the Friday and Saturday cards at Canterbury, but considers the loss a fair exchange for the gain. “I’m not passing this (chance) up,” he said.
Diodoro has the utmost confidence in horse and rider. “The horse has been training really well,” he said. ‘And Scott? You couldn’t ask for a better veteran rider.”
If you believe in such things and are looking for a nugget of information, a longshot handicapping tip, a hidden gem of sorts, this tidbit might fit the bill:
Funny Cide ran on this very same track, trying to complete the Triple Crown in 2003, and was beaten by his archrival Empire Maker. Yup, Broadway Empire’s daddy.
by Jim Wells