Many people have said this year's handicap division is weak, watered down and does not compare to the past. While the older horses aren't the strongest group, i would not go so far as to call them weak. Many of our top horses, like the three year old group have been injured. Some are coming off layoffs and are just begining their assent among the ranks.
Let's start off by evaluating the east in competition. In the sprint division i see that we have the blazing Fabulous Strike, who appears unbeatable this year. Yes, he is in the sprint division, but who said that an accomplished sprinter can't do enough to become a top older horse. We have Macho Again, the winner of the Grade one Stephen Foster, and though he is not always the most consistent horse he has proved that when he is on he is not an easy horse to beat. Next we have the Whitney winner in Bullsbay. Not a very good synthetic horse, but normally a very honest horse who can sneak up and snatch a win right out from under the favorite if given the chance. Another horse that can really run when he's on form is Asiatic Boy, who has been having a case of seconditis this year.
The west coast presents us with Rail Trip. For a while he was regarded as the next superstar, after being unbeaten in five tries. Soon though he faded into the background when he recorded a pair of second places this year. In his next race however he finally learned how to sit back and stalk, which produced a dominant victory in the Grade one Hollywood Gold Cup. Lets now look at Informed. This horse just beat a fruntrunning Mast Track in the San Diago Handicap showing some grit. Another horse that is looking to make a splash, if his last race wasn't enough of one already, is Colonel John. After a seven month layoff, this versatile four year old made his turf debut and won with style, setting a track record. This classy colt now owns a stakes win on dirt, turf, and synthetics, and is now pointing towards the Pacific Classic, and potentially a show down with brilliant Rail Trip.
I know that the top turf horse is not normally a top older horse champion, but this year we might just have one with the potential to get the eclipes for turf and for champion older male. Give it up for the star, Gio Ponti. This horse is as versitle as they come, he can handle any type of distance from a mile to 11 furlongs. He can handle any conditions, whether they be firm, good, yielding, or soft. He can also run on synthetics to, leaving him a lot of options come Breeders Cup day. He can run in the Mile or synthetic Mile, or he could go against Coduit in the Breeders Cup turf. Lastly he can choose to run in the biggest of them all, the Classic.
Looking at all these horses I don't see how anyone can call this years older division weak. Is it as good as in past years, no, but we can't always have a perfect year for each division. This year's handicap division is far from weak, and come Breeders Cup day we will be ready.