Being a horse racing fan is exciting, exhilarating, and rewarding. Few things make me happier than following a horse, seeing how their races and their career go, and seeing them turn up in places where they have a shot. That is not to say that I always want to see horses I like turn up in easy spots for them — take, for example, Whisper to Curlin taking a swing against older as well as trying first-time turf all in one fell swoop back in August. It was a huge jump to try a three-year-old state-bred stakes winner against older open stakes company, but it ended up being okay: he was eighth, but it was not a well-beaten eighth. Even more importantly, they did not keep trying him in races that were over his head. He is now taking time off and munching grass, and he will return at four. All in all, even though he did not win the race, it looks like his connections did it prudently.
This brings me to another horse crush…Trouncer. Trouncer is a five-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by Denouncer, out of the Notebook mare Trademark. He is a horse I started following earlier this year, and he means something to me because he brought me a watershed moment in my handicapping confidence. He went off as one of the longer shots in a state-bred maiden special weight at Hawthorne back in April. Though he was five years old, first off an eight-month lay, and had not quite been able to seal the deal at Fairmount (all things that are usually strikes against a horse)…I liked how he looked in the paddock, and used him in my exacta play.
He ran well that day. He did not graduate, but he finished a respectable second…and I cashed a nice little exacta. I will always associate him with that first time of having the confidence to stick with my paddock opinions despite there being so little interest from anyone else I bantered with. As a handicapper and a horseplayer, that feeling is priceless.
Trouncer did finally break his maiden. He stayed up in Chicagoland for a few more races, never finishing better third in four more local starts. He shipped back downstate to Fairmount, and finally lived up to his name. He trounced a state-bred maiden special field there by eleven and a half lengths. Two starts later, he ran off with an allowance by open lengths: again, at Fairmount. Aside from that, though? He has started five other times since joining the ranks of the winners, and beaten a total of two horses. That’s it: the poor guy has been dead last four times. Last out, he was sixth of eight, in $25,000 conditioned claiming company at Hawthorne. It seems that he either needs to try softer company at Hawthorne, or go munch on some grass at the farm until racing starts back up at Fairmount again.
Friday, he has turned up in a state-bred N1X. Sure, it turned up an easier race than the open N1X in which he started two starts back. In fact, Trouncer may not be even the most sadly in-over-his-head runner in the race, with the presence of Bigtime Mac, a horse last seen finishing a distance last against $5,000 beaten company. Still, it looks a taller order than he is up for given his recent performance. There are plenty in that field who are just tougher horses: like Jazzy Sun, who won the open N1X two starts back in which Trouncer went off at 147/1 and finished last; like Flashdance Road, who has found his form again; like Superstar Leo who may well woken up with that crack at $25,000 company last out.
Maybe Trouncer will prove me wrong on Friday. Maybe he will look amazing in the paddock, run up to that, and surprise everyone. I will be there, and I will be taking copious amounts of pictures.
Still, I am just afraid he will be in over his head…and the last thing I want is to see Trouncer’s heart broken from being repeatedly run over his head, when that afternoon in the paddock back in April did so much to build my confidence up.