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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf

For me, 2010 will always be a year of missed opportunities, tinged with a sense of unease. It didn’t help my mood when I saw that—once again—a Rick Dutrow horse has tested positive for a banned substance in New York. I thought, here we go again, folks! And then I read Ryan Goldberg’s DRF piece on trainer Graham Motion, and the scales tipped back into balance, with rationality and a sense of hope restored.

In the real world, truly, I’m notoriously optimistic and jovial, so I feel like a piece of my soul is eaten each time I sit down and spew negativity and pessimism. And, boy, looking back, it seems like I did my fair share of that this year. Plus, dear readers, I’m sure you are sick of hearing perpetual bitching and moaning emanating from these quarters as well, so let me start 2011 with a promise to you: a more positive attitude in general, and only one (or two) bitchy posts per month. I’m not going to back down from criticism when and where it’s needed, but I promise to express the love I feel for the sport and its participants in a more overt manner as well.

With that in mind, I want to make special note of the good things that did happen this year, beginning with Zenyatta. Surprised that in spite of my clear East Coast bias and on-the-record displeasure with her campaign this year that she merits mention by me? Don’t be. Her charisma and fan appeal was just about the only good thing to come out of racing this year. It wasn’t the movie “Secretariat” that saved racing from falling into utter irrelevancy—it was a dark brown 6-year-old mare that pranced her way into the mainstream media spotlight, from Oprah to “60 Minutes.”

Too many personal favorites didn’t race in 2010, raced for far too short a period, or (most frustrating of all) didn’t quite live up to their potential. Of those, I most miss Odysseus, who died in August from complications from laminitis. Scenic Blast was G1-placed (Bing Crosby), but didn’t win in five American starts, and is now on his way back to Australia. Fabulous Strike hasn’t been seen on the track since his narrow second-place finish to Kodiak Kowboy in the G1 Vosburgh back in October 2009, but after stem cell therapy this past year, he’s back in training for 2011, having posted a series of works at Penn National over the past several months. Boy, wouldn’t it be a great story to see him back in G1 form, at the ripe old age of eight?

Reportedly, Shannon Ritter-trained Endorsement will be back in 2011 too. This is a colt I really liked and hit for a nice price ($25.40) in the Sunland Derby, but I’m even more excited to see what Ms. Ritter has in store for us this year. Dare we hope another Derby contender?

I’m also looking forward to Oaklawn opening in January, as Larry Jones is returning to training there. Here’s another good guy who’s got a particular knack with fillies, and while his wife Cindy did an outstanding job with No Such Word, it’s going to be fun watching him campaign Havre de Grace and whatever 3-year-olds he has yet to reveal. Good luck, Mr. Jones!

I’m also looking forward to seeing Twelve Pack Shelly rise to the top of the sprinting ranks in 2011. She may not be another Xtra Heat, but she’s damn close.

Best wishes to Foolish Pleasure descendent Grand Couturier as he stands his first season at stud in 2011, at Haras de la Croix Sonnet near Deauville, France.

If ever a story touched the heart, it was that of owner/trainer Tim Snyder and Lisa’s Booby Trap. Unbeaten in three starts at Finger Lakes—and miles better than her competition there—she comes to Saratoga and wins the Loudonville Stakes by six lengths. Unfortunately, the fairy tale story didn’t end with a run in the Breeders’ Cup or even a graded stakes race, but the blind-in-one-eye, clubfoot filly looks to return in 2011. We need to tell more stories like Lisa’s Booby Trap—they are the heart and soul of what makes horse racing so thrilling and human.

Good luck to all the fillies and mares—underappreciated in American racing, but continuing to prove themselves worthy against open company wherever they race. In fact, a big shout-out to Miss Raggedy Ann, a 5-year-old mare who became the first G1 winning female in open company in 2011, when she upset the Railway Stakes in New Zealand today. As always, you can follow the progress of such talented females via the spreadsheet I maintain over at Fillies First.

As the New Year rings in, I also want to thank a few folks in particular:

Ray Paulick, for including me as one of a select few who weekly chart the Derby Index, and for linking to a number of my posts (and thus explaining any significant upticks in visitors to this site).

My esteemed colleagues over at Hello Race Fans (HRF), for including me in such a worthy endeavor, and for indulging my sometimes over-the-top fascination with pedigree analysis. The Derby Prep Alert will be starting soon (!) so if you haven’t done so already, sign up now. Also, looking forward to many exciting projects this year, there and for Raceday360.

Peter Rotondo at the Breeders’ Cup, for giving me the opportunity to be involved with the “Win and You’re In” (WAYI) campaign, by tweeting and maintaining the Facebook page in regards to those races (and, of course, for the BC tickets!).

Here's hoping 2011 brings each of you, dear readers, good health, good fortune and peace.


sid fernando said...

i had no idea you were at the BC. Peter is a friend of mine, too. And please, do not stop the bitching! :)

suebroux said...

Happy New Year, Val! Thanks for sharing some poignant reflections about last year ... but don't give up the bitching and/or critical thinking; there's plenty of on-going shenanigans in the industry and your examination/opinions are considered required reading. And they're kind of fun, too.