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Friday, June 26, 2009

Cruel Twist of Fate

Count me among those who applaud Jess Jackson’s decision to pass on this year Breeders’ Cup with Rachel Alexandra.

As easy as it may seem to do so, I don’t see this simply as a vilification of synthetic surfaces, as Jackson implies in his media comments regarding “plastics.” Nor do I totally disagree with Steven Crist’s belief that if “his [Jackson’s] decision prompts a more thoughtful debate about the place of synthetic tracks at the highest level of racing, he will have improved rather than spoiled the sport in the long run.”

What does pleases me about Jackson stating in late June that he won’t send the promising filly westward in early November is maybe, just maybe, other owners will follow suit, and the Breeders’ Cup will be put back into proper perspective—rather than the “end-all, be-all” it should be nothing more than the cherry on top of a serious campaign of races.

In recent years, horse racing has suffered from small or weak fields for graded stakes, as trainers develop conservative paths to what is touted as the “World Championships.” Some of the best horses barely run and yet, if they win one race on one day, somehow they are considered champions.

Perfect example: 2007 Female Turf Eclipse winner Lahudood. Over the course of that season Citronnade, Nashoba’s Key and Honey Ryder all put forth far more impressive campaigns, yet two wins—in the G1 Flower Bowl (where she was a huge longshot) and the G1 BC Filly & Mare Turf—somehow made Lahudood the champion? I couldn’t loath that result more.

So, even though Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra may never meet, if the latter continues a campaign which matches her up against males, such as in the G1 Travers, Rachel clearly deserves serious consideration for Horse of the Year. And I refuse to emotionally-invest myself in venting about Zenyatta’s connections opting for a conservative itinerary (particularly as I highly suspect she will be upset this weekend)—if they can live with their choice, so can I.

What does upset me is the cruel twist of fate.

On June 14, a beautiful chestnut 2-year-old colt named Olredlgetcha—a Florida-bred son of Limehouse, out of the Cobra King mare Mystical Beauty—made his racing debut, impressively winning the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine. As a damside descendent of Foolish Pleasure, I was thrilled to see yet another example of his bloodline race successfully.

Just one short week later, Olredlgetcha was euthanized due to the ravages of a staph infection in his right hock, apparently caused by a minute puncture wound he received during the race. All that promise, gone.

6 comments:

malcer said...

"maybe, just maybe, other owners will follow suit, and the Breeders’ Cup will be put back into proper perspective—rather than the “end-all, be-all” it should be nothing more than the cherry on top of a serious campaign of races." -

I guess that’s wishful thinking. Between this weekend and early October, connections of the few really good older horses in training will have the Hollywood Gold Cup, Hawthorne Gold Cup, Meadowlands Cup, Woodward, Whitney, Pacific Classic, Goodwood, JC Gold Cup, San Diego, Suburban and Kentucky Cup Classic to chose from (chances are I forgot one or two).

More likely than not, they won’t have to face any 3yo’s until late September, as the sophomores have the Swaps, Penn Derby, Travers, Haskell, Jim Dandy, WV Derby, Cotillion and Super Derby to pick from. That is, unless they show hints of a turf pedigree, in which case you can add 7 or 8 races more.

Older turf horses have a separate set of a dozen or more, and F&M’s are treated as another breed. They won’t have to compete in open company ever, and it won’t hurt their income.

My point is that in every category, there are so many races to choose from that even if they don’t do it on purpose, connections of the top horses might never face each other pre-BC.

I agree that awarding Championships based on the merits of little more than one race isn’t a very good system, but it’s still better than not having the best compete against each other at all.

The only effective way to make American racing’s typical "summer slump" (June to September) disappear is to create a system like the Japanese one, where the number of contenders is higher than the number of opportunities to choose from.

tvnewsbadge said...

"rather than the “end-all, be-all” it should be nothing more than the cherry on top of a serious campaign of races."
But isn't that really the case today? After all, Curlin and Jackson had their heads handed to them in the Breeders Cup last year and still came away with Horse of the Year (not to mention, IFHA co-top horse in the world, a crown far more important than any regional HoY).
And there's no question that RA is going to be HoY this year (which is the REAL reason Jackson is skipping the BC where she will clearly lose to the Euros and hurt her chances).

Anonymous said...

I REFUSE TO EMOTIONALLY INVEST IN JACKSON'S MASSIVE EGO AND SORRY IT IS SO SIMILAR TO HOW HE DID IT LAST YEAR--NOT GOING DON'T LIKE PLASTIC OH OKAY WILL GO SINCE PUBLIC IS BEGGING FOR IT BS OF HIS. JACKSON POUTS WHEN HIS HORSES JUST GET BEAT-JOCKEY CONSPIRACY IS WHY RAGS BEAT CURLIN ETC ETC. JESS IS FOR JESS PERIOD. ONE WOULD THINK HE THINKS HE IS THE HORSE OR THAT HE HAS FORGOTTEN HOW EASILY RACHEL ONE ON PLASTIC AT KEENELAND-IF HE EVER KNEW IT.

Anonymous said...

nothing negitive here--with all the deaths human // equine. I was Damned blown away by your news I didn't know? How could I not? Was I under a rock? Sad & I'm Sorry.

Nice piece.

tvnewsbadge said...

This just in

Latest IFHA rankings has Zenyatta #5 in the world, Rachel and Mine That Bird dropping to 15th.
Check here for current rankings

Anonymous said...

Ooo, I'm really impressed by international rankings from June 21st which list Rachel's last race as the Ky Oaks, and her trainer as Hal Wiggins. Looking down the list it's clear their US data is spotty.