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Monday, August 10, 2009

Devil’s Advocate

Don’t hate me, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

“Wasn’t that something! I thought I had it,” [jockey Mike] Smith said. “But I’ve got to admit I underestimated the company we were keeping today. They made her run.”

If Smith meant that Zenyatta’s G1 Clement Hirsch competitors were better than he thought, well, he’s delusional.

Oh, they are fine enough creatures, as Lethal Heat won the G2 Hollywood Oaks last June and finished third in the G1 Del Mar Oaks last August. However, her 4-year-old “campaign” prior to this consisted of two races, a G3 turf sprint in January (third) and $100k optional claimer last out (fourth). Second-place Anabaa’s Creation raced on turf in Europe and, while G3-placed, has yet to win a stakes—in fact, prior to her allowance n2x win back in April, the last two races she won were in the fall of 2006 (a maiden and listed race). Other than Life Is Sweet who finished third (nearly 8 lengths back) to Rail Trip and Tres Borrachos in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup, all the others’ form is relative to Zenyatta or have no strong form: Dawn After Dawn’s 2009 wins were early (6.5f and 8f), and on turf; Champagne Eyes last out won an allowance for non-winners of two other than maiden; and Tidal Dance also last out won an allowance for non-winners in 2009.

The fractions were dawdling, and Smith made the now-patented “one-big-wide-move” (à la Stardom Bound) to just catch Anabaa’s Creation at the wire. Final time: 1:43.24, easily her slowest 8.5f race yet and nearly two full seconds slower than her track-record setting Clement Hirsch last year (1:41.48). Was the track slow? Well, in race 6, 2-year-old Champagne d’Oro nearly broke the track record (1:03.26) going 5.5f in 1:03.50, and Zenyatta went 22.49 in the final quarter, so the answer would appear to be “no.”

What really happened was Mike Smith gave a piss-poor, over-confident ride on Zenyatta, and he is damn lucky her pure class and talent got her to the wire in front. Does the man have no sense of timing? Okay, considering he blew the ride on Mine That Bird in the G2 West Virginia Derby, maybe it’s not surprising. He rode Zenyatta down to the level of her competition, which makes it even harder to gauge how good she really can be.

Oh, as for owner Jerry Moss telling TVG, “I've always said it would be great to have them run (against each other), but so far Rachel Alexandra has only raced against 3-year-olds, and we can't do that anymore.”:

Rachel may have “only” raced against 3-year-olds thus far, but, let’s see...she’s thoroughly-beaten the subsequent G1 Test victress Flashing, G1 Acorn victress Gabby’s Golden Gal, and G3 victress Just Jenda, not to mention G1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, the G1 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, the very-talented Musket Man, G2 WV Derby runner-up Big Drama, G2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, G2 Tom Fool winner Munnings...I think you get my point.

Don’t diss on Rachel when you are unwilling to run Zenyatta against males. It makes you appear overly-defensive.


leg said...

Agreed. Moss has no standing to make comments about Rachel racing in restricted company when Zenyatta's spent her entire career doing the same. I think Zenyatta is fabulous and probably the best horse on the West coast, possibly in the country. I would love to see her have the chance to prove it.

Anonymous said...

Hot Dog that was too close for comfort. I sure would have hated to see Zenyatta lose that race. I agree with Leg, about Moss making comments regarding Rachel Alexandra. I believe Moss is afraid Rachel will ruin Zenyatta's perfect record. Too bad Moss won't bring Zenyatta to the east coast & prove which is the better horse. I support Jess Jackson for not wanting to send Rachel to the Breeder's Cup. Rachel has already proven she can beat the colts!

Ghostsnapper said...

What a dumb statement for Jerry Moss to make. I had to rewind my DVR three times to confirm he really did say that stupid comment.

Sounds like they're trying to dig up any excuses they can think of now to keep Zenyatta away from Rachel Alexandra. Zenyatta is a sensational mare and deserves to face the very best competition, and she's not going to find it in California, at least not until the Breeders' Cup. And if she doesn't go into the Classic, she would've had the softest 5-year-old campaign ever. These are poor tests for a champion and are a disgrace to her legacy. She needs to face capable males, and only then can we see what she's really got inside of her.

Ted Grevelis said...

Can't argue with anything said so far. I would add that the big sweeping move from far back against Rachel Alexandra would leave her lengths back at the wire. Maybe this was the wake up call that Smith needs to make sure he's a bit closer to the pace and not take her big close for granted?

As I've said before, these days we have dirt racing, turf racing and synthetic racing and I fault no owner and trainer that want to keep their runners on the prefered surface. But Admit it, shut up and move on - this goes for both of them, though Jackson has said as much while Moss is sounding a wee bit hypocritical as leg has pointed out.

ESP said...

thanks for the post - it was my thoughts exactly. ugh, Sheriff's statement just set me off. I think the Sheriff's are doing a disservice to Zenyatta's legacy by their smack talk & for designing an easy schedule that makes it difficult to guage her greatness. This morning Haskin published a BH article stating that a perfect horse is extraordinary & that we should enjoy Zenyatta's 'greatness.' Although Z will probably surpass the 'win' meter of Personal Ensign, PE is still the greater horse in my opinion. You are as great as your competition & PE had a much more difficult campaign, faced several champions, & all did this with a repaired leg.

Erin said...

Quite simply, one horse has raced outside her division and one has not.

In fact, one horse barely scraped by to win against her own division on Sunday. Although I do attribute that fact to an atrocious ride.

Dumbass statement from Moss.

Kevin Stafford said...

Thank god folks have come to their senses. While I still love and respect Zenyatta - I felt like I took a bit of bashing over on Facebook when immediately after the race I proclaimed that "Rachel would destroy her on dirt."

As for the comment by her trainer...I don't know...he is only human and he is asked ad nauseum about Rachel this and Rachel that - I just chalk that up to a frustration response and don't really hold it against him. He's seemed a classy enough guy throughout the years, so I'd hate to get too bent out of shape over one comment.

Let's not forget he also stated that he's not fond of synthetics and that they are detrimental to a horse's stride - thus arming the Jackson camp with a perfect reason for skipping the BC.

I wouldn't read too much into it. He struck me as a guy who loves his horse and thinks she's the best in the world - not hard for me to imagine if I were in his shoes. He noted Rachel as being "brilliant" - but yes, part of that brilliance has been in beating males (something Zenyatta has not done), which is all the more surprising given that the older male division is about as weak and ripe-for-the-picking off as it's ever been.

Quite frankly, she (Z) should've been in the Saturday Classic last year rather than the Friday version - but admittedly I've never trained a horse and thus defer to the expertise of those who have her in their care.

Agree with you though - Rachel is flattered every time her competitors win. At one point I was worried that her 20 length demolitions would "ruin" the horses she had beaten, and thus "soften" her status with time - surprisingly the opposite is taking place. Flashing and Take the Points? Seriously? Wow...seems any horse beaten by 20 by Zenyatta is a "must use" next out. :-)

Anonymous said...

My point is simple, regardless of whether Zenyatta ever faces Rachel Alexandra or older males, in years to come, she will still be regarded as one of the finest mares of our generation. Zenyatta’s connections are campaigning their horse; they are not campaigning against the competition. Though I would love to see a matchup, I wouldn’t purposely go out of my way to make it happen, when it might not be in the best interest of my horse. Mr. Moss may have spoken foolishly, but give him some slack; he is hammered by the same questions every day. He and his wife epitomize sportsmanship and class.

tvnewsbadge said...

Anonymous said.. "Moss may have spoken foolishly, but give him some slack; he is hammered by the same questions every day. He and his wife epitomize sportsmanship and class."

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I tend to agree with this fella.
As great as RA may be, I just can't get over seeing her as a "commodity" bought by Jess Jackson simply to avenge himself for the fact that Curlin was handed his head in the BC last year.

I know that's stupid and unfair to the horse, but I just cannot get over that.