Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Commentator" - Risen from the Ashes

Edition #2 of the "Marcus in Seattle" Files.

He is listed on NTRA as "one of the most brilliant front runners in recent decades, he can simply blitz his competition off thir feet." He won the MassCap and the Whitney, both in stylish fashion. Every time he runs, I think of Trevor Denman calling a race right out of the gate.

"Annnnnddddd awayyyyy they go!

"That's emblematic of what I've come to know and expect from Commentator. Back to back wins in the Whitney. A nice Place in the Met Mile. Good racing, plain and simple. All of this seems amazingly surreal for a horse to accomplish at age 7 with all of his past problems. Health derails many careers. Zito took Commentator and allowed him to be great in time, instead of pushing him to fill pockets when he was younger. It seems to have panned out. The horse flys out of the gate, shows great speed and runs other horses into the ground. It seems like a sound method of running a horse; Hard Spun used the same tactic two years ago but didn't seem to have everything together in one race. On a side note, I've always admired Hard Spun. In other years, he would have been an elite horse. I won't dare say he had Triple Crown talent, but neither did Funny Cide and a few others. Hard Spun was just plain fun to watch. He had speed, could run all day and had a remarkable knack for being consistently in the race anywhere from 6 to 12 furlongs. From a trainer's standpoint, I'm sure Spunny was a dream horse. But all of that talent was retired too early. The potential not realized. Hard Spun might have been an excellent rival to Curlin this past year. We never will know.

But I digress, Commentator reminds me of Hard Spun in ways. Different in others. For one, Commentator was given the time to realize potential. He is 7 and yes I realize he is a gelding. When health issues showed up, they could have retired him. They didn't. I admire Nick Zito for that. In one year, I've seen an owner (Jess Jackson) race his colt for the good of racing and it's fans. Curlin not only raced for money but for legacy as well when he could have been in the shed. His place among the greats is secure. But now I've witnessed a trainer pull his horse from the ashes to try a campaign at age 7 that may put him in the company of Kelso and John Henry in the future. That's another man racing a horse for legacy. It's hard not to smile about that, right?

It's been a good year. Zenyatta is the best filly/mare out there. Curlin is now one of the immortals. The Europeans prove they can win on American Polytrack. Midnight Lute won back to back Sprint titles. And lastly, Commentator became a huge story not because he beat the best or made the most money. Rather, he displayed a dominance no one saw coming. He won big name races. It's that simple. I, personally, wish he would have been tested in the Dirt Mile but I'm alright with settling for the MassCap and Whitney performances. I hope he dominates in the Clark and then comes back next year. Maybe then some 3 year old will have our attention. Maybe Midshipman or Vineyard Haven romps in the Derby. Or maybe Commentator wins his third Whitney and takes the Classic wire to wire. It's a pipedream, I'm aware. But without Curlin, some of us have to find another horse to latch on to. I'm not sure I'll feel the same way about a 7 year old gelding as I did about Curlin but if Commentator can pull one more good year out of those achy joints and legs, 2009 might be just as good as 2008. If not better.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sport of Kings – This weekend summed up

The Ups & Downs of Horse Racing
The weekend of racing started at Churchill downs as Einstein bested the field in the Clark Handicap, a race that the connections of Curlin most likely should have run him in. Never second guessing Jess Jackson, but the feeling I get in my heart of hearts is that either they felt it was too soon for him to come back from his last start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic or they felt it would be an incredibly daunting task to ask him to run down Commentator. Either way, I would have sent him to the Clark, but Curlin comes out looking ever so much better due to Einstein’s win against the speedy Commentator. As expected Commentator went straight to the lead and set legitimate fractions, 1st ¼ - 24.57 the ½ in 48.58 and he got ¾ in 1:12.64, if you know Commentator like I know Commentator you know one of two things is going to happen as they begin to turn for home. One, he’s going to turn it on and begin to bury his competition by 8, 10, or even 14 or 15 lengths. The second option is that he doesnt run his race and fades in the stretch. Basically, Commentator is an all or nothing horse, there is nothing wrong with that but he’s and older horse and he’s run the same way his whole career, for 2 or maybe 3 races he can hold his incredible form, putting down 119, 120, 121, or 122 beyers, but then there comes the inevitable bounce. Nick Zito knows it, Tracy Farmer (the horse’s owner) knows it, but that’s what makes Horse Racing so incredible, they still love Commentator for going out and trying hard every time. He shows the heart of a champion every time he steps out onto the track.
Einstein’s dominating victory against the Clark field adds even more validity to Curlin’s chances to garner 2008 Horse of the Year honors, as Einstein raced against Curlin earlier this year in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill and dispatched of that field easily. Its was a great ride that Julien R. Leparoux, he sat comfortably off the pace that Commentator set and flew by him in the stretch easily dispatching Commentator and holding off Delightful Kiss. This was a quality win in a Grade II race against a Grade I field.
On Saturday the focus of Horse racing was thrust on New York as Aqueduct became the center of the horse racing world with 2 races being run that would push the two victors forward towards the Kentucky Derby. The Demoiselle Stakes is a 1 1/8 mile race for 2 year old fillies, this race normally sets up the winner as one to consider come Kentucky Oaks day. And the winner Springside didn’t disappoint her connections, turning what seemed to be a hotly contested race into a romp. Springside broke slowly and was in the back of the pack as the favorite Sky Diva sat chilly through fractions of 24 & 48, which is a moderate pace, Sky Diva and Aint Love Grand hooked up at the top of the stretch, but as they turned for home Springside ran to the lead and absolutely had things her way winning with daylight. Sadly as Springside changed leads while galloping out Garrett Gomez said that he heard a pop, and at that point pulled her up as quickly as possible. Springside was shipped to the New Bolton Center the same location that Barbaro was treated. I am sure they will take good care of this beautiful girl and hopefully one day soon she will be able to get back onto the track.
The Grade II Remsen was to be a race that pointed one of the top 2 year old colts towards the Kentucky Derby next year. Quickly though Old Fashioned, the same connections of Hard Spun, and Eight Belles, took control of the race and galloped to a very impressive 7 ¼ length victory. Old Fashioned, a song of Unbridled Song, went straight to the lead while ridden by Ramon Dominguez. He was under a hard hold throughout the race, and with about a furlong to go Dominguez let him out a notch and allowed him to finish up strong. Dominguez is quoted as saying: “Once he made the lead, I took a peek back, hit him one time, and he took off,” Dominguez said. “It was pretty impressive. Judging by today, there is no telling how far he can go.” Thus far the undefeated 2 year old is 3 for 3 with a maiden win by a nose in his first start, and a 15 ½ length win in an allowance race at Delaware, and now his first black type win against a field that was well aware of his capabilities. To be able to win a race with a target on your back with ease like that says something about the horse and the training job that Larry Jones has done thus far with the horse. With the win Old Fashioned pushed his career earnings to $173,280 and with the $120,000 In graded earnings from this race he looks primed to move forward patiently towards the derby.
The big race on the Aqueduct race card was the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile. A nice field was assembled for this race, with the likes of Visionaire, Monterey Jazz, Arson Squad, Kodiak Kowboy Harlem Rocker and Tale of Ekati. With Monterey Jazz setting suicidal fractions of 22.87 for the 1st ¼ mile and the ½ mile @ 45, and ¾ in 1:09.42, Tale of Ekati sat patiently 4th in the field rating, as the field began to turn for home Tale of Ekati and Harlem Rocker hooked up but Harlem Rocker came over on Edgar Prado and Tale of Ekati. Prado changed course and Tale of Ekati made another run at Harlem Rocker, but it seemed at the line that he came up a nose short. Immediately after the race there was an inquiry and although the stewards took a few minutes to make a decision Harlem Rocker was DQ’d and put in second position giving the win to what looked like the best horse in the race. The euphoria that was felt by Barclay Tagg and Charles Fipke was absolutely tempered by the news that the ever so consistent Wanderin Boy, trained by Nick Zito suffered a fracture of the sesamoids in his left front leg and unfortunately the decision was made to euthanize Wanderin Boy. The news that he was put down was sickening due to the fact that he ran against the best older horses in his career, including Curlin, Lawyer Ron, Bernardini and Invasor. This horse had overcome so much in getting back to the track after sustaining a number of injuries early in his career. I for one will miss the presence of Wanderin Boy, he gave it his all every time he stepped out on the track. You will be missed Wanderin Boy. RIP..

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Farewell To The Champion – Horse of a LifeTime - Curlin

First. please allow me to say that I was again, touched by the expression made by "Marcus from Seattle", he is a extremely talented writer and I am very happy that he decided to join the AAFBlog.

Now to the subject at hand. The retirement of the 2007 & 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin sent ripples throughout the Horse Racing industry, and even more so through my home. I recall sitting there stunned that the announcement was actually made that verified what I had feared.

I must be honest when I say that I have been in awe of Curlin since he was shipped to my hometown of Hot Springs, AR, and had the opportunity to see him run in person in the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby. I tried to keep things in perspective though when it comes to Curlin, unfortunatley that is easier said than done. Everyone that knows me knows that I am not a bandwagon jumper, and that the horse that I looked to win my Kentucky Derby for me in 2007 was NobizlikeShobiz. After the Derby though B. Tagg decided that he would move Nobiz to the turf as he did Showing Up in 2006. So there was this thought in my mind, after watching his electrifying victory in the Rebel, and the ease in which he dispatched of a quality field in the Arkansas Derby it was important to watch the development of this imposing equine athlete. I watched his workouts and saw that Asmussen was very patient with Curlin and didn’t ask him to run his races while breezing. He showed up big-time for the Preakness. When you watched Curlin run the one thing you always recognized is that he always gave maximum effort, but that maximum effort continued to seem so effortless. After watching him dig in gamely and battle the super-filly Rags to Riches in the stretch of the Belmont, I realized that there was more to Curlin than most of the horses that have come and gone within the last few decades. And he totally proved me right. His win against Lawyer Ron in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was something of legends, beating the champion older horse and his overpowering victory in the Breeders Cup Classic on traditional dirt put you in a mindset that he had the ability to do some things that no other horse has done in the history of horse racing. The superlatives and the way that people described Curlin causes goose bumps, words like freak, superhorse unbeatable, makes you wonder just how incredible he really is.

As the 2008 season began, I basically began to follow every move that Curlin made, from his works that were emailed to my phone every Monday, to hearing about and listening to his connections and the people around him talk about his race-week routine. And in the aftermath of the tragedy that occurred in this year’s Derby with Eight Belles, it’s very difficult to follow your favorite horse so closely and not realize that things happen, you worry about injury each time they take the track, and with the example of the Super Mare Nashoba’s Key and her incident in her stall, it’s easy to see that things could happen at any time. The difference is the confidence that Curlin instills in everyone that he comes into contact with. From the owner to the fans Curlin made you feel that he was royalty, so composed and professional and patient with regards to everything that he does. Curlin is something very very special, elite, magnificent, all of these words applied. So when you mention Curlin with the greats like Secretariat, and Cigar, which he totally deserves, it makes me think about the way that I had to begin to prepare myself mentally for each of his races. See there is a message board at msnbc that I am a member of, some of us there respect Curlin and all of his accomplishments and others don’t. I chime in feverishly and make sure to show Curlin and the connections the respect that they deserve, because we all know he could be at a stud farm right now making million dollar babies. I love talking about how incredible he is and how I never felt Big Brown would beat him and after watching how he trained on the Turf and Pro-ride I didn’t think he was beatable. But come race week or a bit before that, all of that stops, I don’t say anything about Curlin's upcoming race, I don’t feel its necessary to tell people about what I think he can or will do, I dont want to jinx him by saying he's unbeatable. (I.e. Rick Dutrow-Belmont) I don’t talk about margin of victory or anything of the sort. What I focus on is hoping he has the same pre-race week routine that he's always had. I've spoken with Steve Asmussen at Oaklawn and he told me about how the week before the race goes, how Curlin knows when a race is coming up, how professional he is in the paddock and how he's focused on the task at hand. As the race starts I hope that he leaves the gate evenly, he gets a clear lane with little traffic, and he makes that move coming off the turn for home. How he hits the wire, (Yes, I want him in front at the wire) but I’d much rather see him gallop out well and pull up, turn around and jog back to be unsaddled safely. That’s the extent of it, but its so consuming, I watch how he looks down the backside, if he looks comfortable, and if he seems to be going easy or having to assert himself too much early. I always want him to finish the race strong and be able to come back and unsaddle and go cool out.

Now as for the Man O' War & the Classic, both times I was with family while watching the race, and they know that my love of Curlin had me disappointed and that I was doing all that I could to fight back the tears. It hurt to watch him not be able to make up the ground on Red Rocks, but there was a reason why, he is a dirt horse and when running in turf races there can be issues. It was strange watching him get passed in the stretch by the Euro's, 1 because in his brilliant career Curlin has never given up ground in the stretch and 2. Because in his brilliant career Curlin has never finished off the board. So to me that was a throw out totally I mean a Dirt race run on rubber and carpet and silicone, I could care less about. To be totally honest I wish they would have never even entertained the idea of running him on that surface, but kudos to Mr. Jackson and Mr. Asmussen for trying, it showed an incredible amount of confidence in Curlin (something that cant be said about the connections of others in the game). But as I said with these athletes you have an expectation for them and you want them to show up and win every time, but remember we have to understand how lucky we are just to witness the greatness of a Eight Belles and a Curlin, and be sure to soak up every moment of their brilliance, because this is not something we may ever see again. The retirement announcement was so conflicting, it choked me up bad, as I sit here now and talk about my feelings for this wonderful animal it brings tears to my eyes. I can let go of these emotions because I am alone to myself, and I would guess that the finality of the words: “Curlin has been retired” is finally setting in. I was so conflicted due to the stress that I felt when he stepped out on the track, it was nerve wracking and now that worry is over. I will always recall the feelings that welled up inside me when Curlin trotted onto the track, I recall his public workout at Santa Anita Park in October, and I recall what it felt like to see him become the first horse to ever win $10 million In earnings. These memories will always be there for us as his fans to remember and there is a chance that in the future people will wonder how much better he would have been as a 5 year old, but not me for one, I enjoyed his career as he spoiled us with his consistency and as Asmussen says "Curlin spoils us with who he is". But Curlin’s connections made the wonderful decision to retire him 100% sound, and that decision is such a wonderful change from what we’re accustomed to. We are used to people either retiring their horse after their sophomore season or running them until they can’t run anymore. Kudos to you Mr. Jackson for this incredible year of allowing us as fans to be blessed with Curlin’s magnificent presence. I have only wonderful thoughts and memories of this incredible Champion, and as we say goodbye, let me last say to you Curlin:
***“Thank you for being you, Thank you for the memories, Thank you for all you have done for the industry & now relax & enjoy your Retirement”***

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"King of Kings"

I want to take a moment to welcome a Brand New Blogger to the AfleetAlexForever BlogSpot. His name is Marcus Schmidli and he will be sharing a great deal of his Horse Racing knowledge with us. So without further ado, here is the first edition of the
"Marcus in Seattle" Files.
King of Kings
By Marcus Schmidli
"Curlin has proven himself across two continents with 16 starts, the honor of 2007 Horse of the Year and the greatest North American money-earner in racing history."
-Jess Jackson.
His racing career was over in a flash. Passed by two European horses in the final furlongs of the Breeders Cup Classic. His defeat was a polarizing moment in horse racing. For some, it allowed them to cash in on a big pay day. For a few, it allowed them to fist pump at the notion of "their" Zenyatta becoming horse of the year. And for others, namely me, that defeat was the one of the most painful moments of my young life.
You see, I'm 22. I'm immune to fear. I have very little worries aside from the normal day to day inconveniences. And very rarely, if ever, have I been troubled or saddened deeply by the loss of a loved one. But when I saw that Curlin hadn't managed to hit the board in his final race, I wept. That might be an odd way of dealing with the emotion surrounding the race. I could have rejoiced in Curlin's triumphs of the past, I know. But the past wasn't of any significance to me. Only the future. In the moments after the race, it hit me as it hit many for the first time, that the race I had just witnessed was most certainly Curlin's last. There was no future.
And with that powerful knowledge came the horrific feeling I had rarely felt. I felt as if I had lost a family member. Call it silly. Call it crazy. Call me what you will. I've never had a hard time saying goodbye to a horse, simply, because I've never been attached to one before. That very reason is why I was hit so hard and rocked to the core when I saw how all of this would play out. Underneath all of the speculation that Curlin would return for a 5 year old campaign, I secretly knew all that was too good to be true. Why would someone in this day and age allow an animal to do that? Why risk it? Why not go the way of Street Sense and Hard Spun, two horses who dazzled us and then left the sport as quickly as they entered it? Why even get your hopes up? Those lingering questions are rhetorical in some sense. We all know the answers before we ask, sometimes even if we don't want to hear them. Curlin racing at five was a pipe dream. And to be blunt, so was Curlin racing at four.
And so, in 16 starts, I got to witness 11 thrilling victories, one memorable loss to a filly who was out of this world, and many other races against top competition. Of the new decade, I have a hard time finding better statistics to build a colt's legacy. Tiznow winning back to back Classics is right there. But other than him, who really stood out? I saw Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Barbaro, Big Brown, Funny Cide and many others just as you have. I saw many horses fail in their attempt to becoming a Triple Crown winner. I saw one horse fail to fight off an infection and I saw a few horses who were wildly overrated in some sense. But what I witnessed these last two years with Curlin, was more than memorable. It was a religious experience to some degree. It brought a collective pool of race fans together to cheer for a horse who wasn't running for a Triple Crown but rather, immortality. And isn't that what the sport is about? Legacies. History. Tradition.
After watching Curlin win the Dubai World Cup this last year, I wrote this about the horse:"...No horse ever instilled more confidence in bettors, owners, trainers, fans and his jockey than Curlin. There hasn't been a race where he looks out matched or out classed. There hasn't been a race where he looked annoyed or rattled. I haven't seen him make a mistake in a race aside from maybe going too wide in the final turn at Belmont. All he does is win. And he wins big. Every time he takes the track he reminds me, with his elegance and superiority, that horse racing might still have a very bright future ahead."
I stand by that quote to this day. Curlin might not have won every race. But anyone who got to see him run felt privileged regardless of the outcome. I'm sure in the future, his records will be surpassed and people won't acknowledge what he gave to the sport these last few years. But I'm 22, I'm young and I haven't been witness to Spectacular Bid or Seattle Slew. I don't know Alysheba or Sunday Silence. All I know is what I'm able to see. What I've always been taught by my father was that horse racing is "The Sport of Kings." Maybe each era of racing has it's own king. THIS era belongs to Curlin. Farewell and thank you for the memories.
Long live the King!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eight Belles - A Magnificent Lady, we will never forget you!

I have a story about Eight Belles that I want to tell. The story begins late on Jan 21st, I came home and looked at the news the sports reporter talked about Eight Belles and Larry Jones, she had just won an allowance race by 15 lengths. I looked at my wife and said "she won an allowance race like that". I wonder what that's about, so I did some research and found out about her pedigree, and what possibly could be with that type of raw talent. I went to work the next day and I told a friend of mine that we had ourselves a horse that needed to be on our Oaks radar. The worry I had was where she would go next, the possibilities were Fairgrounds or Oaklawn, which is in my hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Well as luck and good horse sense would have it Jones decided to split his two best fillies up and send 1 to Oaklawn and Proud Spell he left at fair grounds. Eight Belles next race was on my radar, I knew I wanted to watch up close and in person so I made the trek back home to watch her run in the Second Division of the Martha Washington Stakes, this was a Sunday and she had the day all to her own to impress and what an impression she made, as I watched her run from mid pack and make her move on the turn I thought to myself, will I see that same turn of foot or is that a 1 time fluke, and her turn of foot was so explosive that the first thing I said is they need to change jockeys because Terry Thompson should not have been asking her for run at the end, I was so shocked by the video when i got home that I apologized to Mr. Thompson the next time I was at Oaklawn, he never really even shook the reins at her, and she put 10 lengths on the field in about 4 jumps. The next race I went and saw in person was the HoneyBee on March 16th, and Ramon Dominguez was brought in to ride Eight Belles, they wanted a East Coast rider who could deal with the pressure of the big ones, because she was becoming a monster, but I knew her challenge was going to be much stiffer as she was dealing with Pure Clan an undefeated filly that closed like a freight train and before you know it she's 4 lengths out front and Dominguez is gearing her down and conserving energy for the next race with a hand ride, that is when I knew that she was legit.
I thought to myself, I'm sure Mr. Porter and Mr. Jones thought wow what are we really looking at here in this filly. The Fantasy was a race where she had to dig down and find a way to gut out a victory as Steve Asmussen's Alina made a bold move and fought gamely only to lose to Eight Belles by 3/4 length. Then came the Derby, which basically broke my heart. See sometimes we get too close to horses and we regret becoming so emotionally involved, but normally that's from a far, not a great deal of people had the opportunity to watch her run in person and see what an amazing presence she had on the track. She knew she was special and she will go down in history as my favorite filly, I would have loved to see what she developed into later in the year and possibly on into her 4 year old campaign. She is and always will be a true champion. We all Miss you Eight Belles!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking an early look @ Kentucky Derby 2009

Taking an early look @ ***Kentucky Derby 2009***

There are 172 days until the running of the 135th edition of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby this year will be quite intriguing because there has not been a true monster that has established himself yet, although two prospect had began to show signs that they could be the horse. I am speaking of Midshipman and Vineyard Haven, these two are winners of four Grade 1 races between them. Midshipman the Del Mar futurity and the Breeders Cup Juvenile, and Vineyard Haven the winner of the Champagne and the Hopeful Stakes. Godolphin now owns both of these equine athletes and as usual has announced that they will take the Dubai route in trying to win the Derby. This has never worked before and I don’t have any reason to believe that anything different will occur with these horses due to being shipped half way across the world to prep for the hardest race in the world to win. The question is who are the real contenders for the taking of the roses on May 2nd of 2009. The list would have to include some horses that ran in the Breeders Cup Juvi race including 2nd place finisher, Square Eddie, 3rd place finisher Street Hero, and a few others including West Side Bernie, Gallant Son, Silent Valor, Azul Leon, Munnings and Terrain. For those horses whose connections want to keep them out west or running at Keeneland, the real question is will the form from the synthetics transfer to the Dirt at Churchill. The next question is which horse has the running style fitted for a race of this nature with such a large field of horses. The fact is there are a number of horses that haven’t even seen the starting gate yet that will make a large splash in the Triple Crown races, as did the Curlin’s and Big Browns of the world who either only had 1 start or no starts at all as a 2 year old. As we dig deeper into the upcoming prep races that will start up late in January and in February we will break down the list of contenders a bit closer and find out exactly who they are.

The next topic that will be included in Thursday edition of the AAF Blog will be the synthetics and what would happen to horse racing if it were mandated in areas where the Triple Crown Races are run or at Traditional Dirt tracks like Belmont, Monmouth, and Saratoga.


Our Horses Against Theirs - I aint talking about the Euros- Im talking the World

Our Horses Against Theirs
I ain't talking about the Euros- I'm talking the World

We have got to face it folks, the World is now going to be aiming for The Breeders Cup Classic, a race mostly dominated by American Dirt Horses. At $5 million dollars this race is one of the most prestigious races in the world and you can be sure that the connections of any dangerous turf horses that run well will be looking to complete the Arc - Classic double now that its known that our dirt horses don't run as well on the synthetics, they know the playing field is much more level and will be looking to take advantage of that from now up until the B.C. is run in a traditional manner at a location where there is dirt racing. Someone mentioned that there is a chance that one of the T.C. races could be or possibly would be run on synthetics, this is possible, it would be a sad day for racing if it happened but very few people can control this. What we have to hope for is that our connections will circle the wagons and learn to deal with the surface it seems inevitable that this is the path that we are being taken down, and although many of us dont like it we may have to get used to it. I'm hoping that we will learn from the B.C. weekend and next year have our top horses ready and send the world back home packing with their tails between their legs.

Any comments.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Breeders Cup's, Pro-Ride, & some other stuff?

First off let me give a shout out to one of my favorite people Afleet Treet, oh and don't let me for get SOTO. These are two of my favorite horse racing peeps on the msnbc messaging board. These ladies were there front and center at the Breeders Cup this year at Santa Anita and were able to see how things went down both days. They gave the Pro-Ride a thumbs up due to the fact that all of our racers came back safely on both days. No accidents, that is the most important thing, but i'll get to that in a moment. I wanted to also give a shout out to Afleet Treet's message board located @ Make sure to go register yourself at her website and drop her and the other posters a line. This is a legitimate board that gives everyone the ability to post their thoughts and comments without being judged. I hope that you'll all take the time to go look at the different threads that are set up to discuss very important issues that pertain to Horse Racing.

Now back to the issue at hand. The Pro-Ride surface that is being used at Santa Anita is what is in question at this time. The questions are abundant and they vary. The first question that i personally have is why would the Breeders Cup put so much emphasis on making the playing field more level when it comes to the Europeans coming over here to race on our biggest days. In my opinion the fact that the dirt races which are tradition were taking off of the dirt and put onto a new synthetic surface that not many of our horses are used to is sad and demeaning to horse racing and shows that certain people have no idea what the sport of kings traditionally means.

It doesnt mean taking world class athletes and making them run on surfaces that are not traditional. Consider for a moment asking Usain Bolt to instead of running the 100 or 200 meter dash on the normal surface, to run these sprints on a Poly-mixed, rubber blend. The idea seems incredibly stupid, almost insane. The same thing can be said sadly for the Breeders Cup who felt it necessary to even the playing field for the Europeans so that the horses they bring over have a chance against the U.S. best dirt horses. Is this tradition, you might ask. Well for 24 straight years the Breeders Cup dirt races were run on well - "traditional dirt". Fair and Square, if the europeans wanted to run their turf horses against the U.S's best dirt horses on dirt so be it. Thats the way it goes. Here's a question, do you think the europeans will take their biggest race the Arc De' Trioumph and put it on dirt for the U.S. to possibly have a better chance against their best horses. Not a chance in the world, sadly the poor and seemingly amateur mismanagement of such a huge event as the Breeders Cup would lead to the dirt races being put on a synthetic surface. It was not fair in any way shape form or fashion, why because it breaks tradition. Traditions are the basis by which we live, the Kentucky Derby on synthetics would be a bust, the Preakness or Belmont stakes on synthetics would be an even bigger bust.

Tradition means the Triple Crown is difficult to win. the KyDerby, 2 weeks later the Preakness, 3 weeks later the Belmont, changing tradition would mean adding a week between theDerby and the Preakness and at this point, asterisks would have to go up after any horse won the Triple Crown. The same would have to be said of the results that came from this weekend of grand champions losing races and struggling to find their way home in the stretch. The prime examples are Curlin & Ginger Punch, Curlin finishing fourth, and Ginger Punch finishing an amazingly frustrating 6th, totally floundering in the mire of the rubber bands and tires that she was running on. If there is anyone that can tell me without a question that Ginger Punch the defending Ladies Classic champion and 3 time Grade 1 winner this year was outclassed by 5 others, then please stand up, because its not going to happen. The chart notes for Ginger Punch read, "GINGER PUNCH failed to mount a serious rally" that has never happened before, ever in her career, why would it happen now, well the synthetic rubber band surface would have a great deal to do with it. The sad thing is more owners and trainers didnt make the decision that Bobby Frankel and Nick Zito and Barclay Tagg made with their charges to keep them off of this pitiful surface that gives no credence to true race horses. I feel that the likes of Curlin, Ginger Punch, Munnings, and others that ran poorly due to the surface should have been left at home to allow the B.C. and Santa Anita Park to suffer the dismal effects of a B.C. without a buzz horse. I hope in the future this will be the case also, I for one will not contemplate attending the B.C. if and when the dirt races are run over that silly surface. I will gladly be there in 2010 for Churchill but as for synthetics and the likes there of, they do not diminish the Legacy of the Great Champions that we have come to know.

Does the level of competition affect H.O.Y voting?

Does the level of competition have an effect on Horse of the Year voting?

There has been a great deal of debate about the level of competition that both Horse of the Year candidates faced. The body of work is very important when trying to understand the criteria that a voter should use to place a vote for Horse of the Year. Lets Break down the level of competition for each of the candidates:
Zenyatta raced 7 times this year. 3 times in Grade 2 races, and 4 times in Grade 1 level races. In the El Elcino Stakes, a Grade 2 race, she faced 1 Grade 1 horse, Tough Tiz’s Sis. The rest of the field was made up of Romance is Diane, Dawn after Dawn, Indescribable, and Fleet Caroline. In the Apple Blossom she faced 1 Grade 1 horse, Ginger Punch. The rest of the field was made up of Brownie Points, Lemon Drop Mom, Clever Strike, and Kettleoneup. In the Milady H, Zenyatta raced against Santa Teresita, Kris’ Sis, Romance is Diane & Double Trouble. In this Grade 2 race there were no grade 1 stakes winners. In the Vanity H, she faced 1 Grade 1 horse again in Tough Tiz’s Sis. The rest of the field was made up of Silver Swallow Silver Z, Sealy Hill, Fleetheart and andmoreagain. In the Clement L. Hirsch Zenyatta faced 1 Grade 1 winner again in Tough Tiz’s Sis. The rest of the field was made up of Model, Romance is Diane West Coast Swing, Silver Swallow, Silver Z, and Dawn after Dawn. In the Lady’s Secret, Zenyatta faced 1 Grade 1 winner in Hystericalady. The rest of the field included Santa Teresita and Super Freaky. And in the Ladies Classic, Zenyatta faced 5 Grade 1 winners, Cocoa Beach, Music Note, Carriage Trail, Hystericalady and Ginger Punch. The rest of the field included Santa Teresita and Bear now. So in 7 races Zenyatta faced 37 other mares of which 6 were grade 1 winners.
Curlin raced 7 times this year. 6 Times in Grade 1 level races. In the Jaguar Trophy he faced no grade 1 winners. In the Dubai World Cup Curlin faced 5 Grade 1 winners in Great Hunter, Happy Boy, Premium Tap, Vermillion and Well Armed. The rest of the field included Gloria De Campeao, Sway Yed, Lucky Find, Jalil and Kocab. In the Stephen Foster Curlin faced 2 Grade 1 winners in Einstein and Brass Hat. The rest of the field included Barcola, Grasshopper, Jonesboro, Delightful Kiss, Sam P High Blues and Red Rock Creek. In the Man O’ War Curlin faced 3 Grade 1 winners in Red Rocks, Better Talk Now and Grand Couturier. The other starters were Mission Approved, True Cause, and Sudan. In the Woodward Curlin faced 1 Grade 1 winner in Divine Park, the rest of the field included Past the Point, Wandering Boy, A.P.Arrow, Loose Leaf, and Out of Control. In the JCGC he faced no Grade 1 winners in a field that included 7 others. And in the B.C. Classic Curlin faced 7 Grade 1 winners. The other starters were Smooth Air, Fairbanks and Casino Drive. Curlin faced 55 horses this year of which 18 of these horses were Grade 1 quality. So to keep it quite short, if the body of work does have anything to do with Horse of the year voting and I believe it does this category goes directly to Curlin, hands down, he faced far better competition. Just a point to keep in mind.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did Zenyatta Do enough to Garner H.O.Y.

Did Zenyatta Do enough to Garner H.O.Y.
This is the question, did she do enough? In the last year the super filly Zenyatta has impressed all of those that have been able to witness her domination of the Older filly and mare division. The first thing that I want to say with regards to Horse of the Year voting with regards to Zenyatta's record is that (in my opinion) I do not feel that at any point in time during a filly or mare's schedule she would need to run against and beat a field of colts to be in consideration for Horse of the Year honors.
With that being said, I do believe that the Horse of the Year award should go to the horse that has raced against the highest level of competition all year long and has in no way ducked anyone at any time and proven him or herself consistent at the Grade 1 level. Did the connections of Zenyatta do that, to respectfully put it in a word, -NO-!!! I have the utmost respect for Mr. Moss and Mr. Sheriffs, and I believe that they did the best they could to have their mare ready to give her best efforts in the few Grade 1 races that she ran in and that includes the Ladies Classic. Please for a moment, indulge me with regards to how the connections of the other top mares in the country planned out their schedules. It would be quite easy to assume that the highest level of racing would be where you want to race your filly or mare to prove that she is the best in her division and still have a fresh and ready horse that would run huge in at the Breeders Cup. Where though would you run your horse to be able to prove herself against the best of the best. The debate will run its course when trying to define which coast has the highest quality or runners, the east or the West, but there is not much debate as to which races are traditionally considered the most prestigious.
East - Ogden Phipps - June 14th @ Belmont Park, a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Milady H. - May 31, 2008 @ Hollywood Park a Grade 2 race for older f&m.
East - Go for Wand - July 26, 2008 @ Saratoga a Grade 1 race for older f&m.West - Vanity H - July 5, 2008 @ Hollywood Park a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
East - Personal Ensign - August 22, 2008 @ Saratoga a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Clement L. Hirsch - August 2, 2008 @ Del Mar a Grade 2 race for older f&m.
East - Beldame S. - Sept 27, 2008 @ Belmont Park a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Lady's Secret S. - Sept 27, 2008 @ Oak Tree a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
Looking at these two schedules and comparing where Ginger Punch and Zenyatta prepared for the Breeders Cup gives an indication that 1 horse's connections went out and wanted to win the best races and travelled to the places where the highest level of racing in the older filly and mare division took place, that would be Ginger Punch, now if Ginger Punch runs the table that would have been 8 for 8 in 6 grade 1's, 1 grade 2, and 1 non graded race in the Sunshine Millions. No doubt she didn't win out but in comparison Zenyatta ran in 7 races this year, 4 Grade 1's and 3 grade 2's. From the view of the information presented even though Ginger Punch didn't win out her record of 3 Grade 1 wins 1 second and 1 third and 1 ungraded win would mean that if u calculated using the point system of 5 pts for grade 1 wins and 3 points for grade 1 runner up and 1 point for grade 1 3rd place up would give her, 19 points. Zenyatta would score 20 points.
Only 1 point more why, the answer is because her connections didnt or maybe wouldnt ship out to run in the highest class of racing, they were not ambitous nor did they go all out to possibly win H.O.Y. votes. The issue at hand is that the ease of the Grade 2 races would lead to her or honestly most horses being able to come back and continue to win the few grade 1 races that she won. A horse that didn't win a lot of races but who ran at the top level of competition all year long and who's connections didn't mind shipping her to these locations is Hystericalady, she ran at Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Churchill, Delaware, Monmouth, and Oak Tree. Had Hystericalady won all of her races except for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, she would in all likelihood get a number of votes for older f&m and possibly Horse of the Year. A horse though like Zenyatta, that is running in a number of Grade 2 races and at the horse's home track does not give an indication that the connections are looking to garner Horse of the Year votes, it seems to those of us that follow horse racing closely, that the connections were picking and choosing the easiest possible spots for the horse to run in (Grade 2 races) and this proves what exactly, well it proves that at the Grade 2 level Zenyatta can beat allowance horses, thats not saying alot about the horse and for those people that think that this is deserving of HOY honors it says alot about the state of horse racing, or even the ability of some people to understand the sport of Kings.
This is no knock on Zenyatta, as she did all she was asked, but this would tend to lead to a knock on the connections who now realize she can get Horse of the Year votes, for a undefeated record running in Grade 2 events against some of the weakest competition in recent memory. The only Grade 1 horse that Zenyatta beat out west was Tough Tiz's Sis, who ended up winning that Grade 1 race on dirt not the synthetics. The connections therefore understand that honestly, they didn't allow Zenyatta to go out and take the Horse of the Year award, but they feel, I would assume that they can back into the award, and it just doesn't work that way. This is an issue that will be debated from this point up until the award is announced in January, and will likely be debated for a long time afterward. Why, because the 1 time that she did face a full field of Graded horses she won a race that in many people's opinion really holds no merit. Again why u might ask, well the synthetics worked out very well for Zenyatta, but if you look at the race that Ginger Punch ran that would easily give u indication that the surfact had a great deal to do with the way that many of the better horses performed that day, again that includes champions like Ginger Punch and Curlin, so please dont act as if the Ladies Classic ran on a synthetic rubber and carpet blended surface is a true measure of these horses form, as Ginger punch and Curlin finished off the board for the first time in their careers, im sure that you would have an excuse for this profound occurance that took place 2 days apart for both of these champions.
But there is no excuse that can be used like they were off form or just got beat, these horses dont get beat like that, if you put the ladies classic on traditional dirt this year at Belmont your order of finish would be quite different. With all due respect to Zenyatta she may have actually lost a race. Someone mentioned her race at the Oaklawn Park meet, she ran against a nice field in the Apple Blossom. What I would ask that you keep in mind is that in early April there arent going to be many horses in tip top condition at this time of the year, but see things as you may.
So for those out there whose standards basically state that you can become Horse of the Year if you run at your home track all year long and win Grade 2 races against mostly small allowance fields of 3 and 4 horses, then more power to you, but please go back and see the standard set by other HOY candidates. A Grade 2 resume of races doesnt even come close to qualifying for being under consideration to be considered the best horse in your own division, less known garnering Horse of the Year votes. But it will come down to the voters who will give Curlin his second Horse of the Year award.
Good Luck to the connections of Zenyatta. Next year actually be a bit more ambitious and really look to go after and win the award, please dont try to win the award because the competiton loses a race or two. Thats not very good sportsmanship and takes away from true champions!

Monday, November 3, 2008

2008 Horse of the Year - Curlin Vs Zenyatta

2008 Horse of the Year - Curlin Vs Zenyatta
Does anyone have any thoughts about this race. It would be great to see on the track. Although both have their advantages. Curlin's dirt and Zenyatta's synthetics. I for one would not be disappointed either way. But there are some fundamental truths that have to be acknowledged before you cast your vote.

Fact Curlin Ran 7 times - 6 Grade 1's - 5 wins, second place.
Face Zenyatta ran 7 times - 4 Grade 1 - 3 Grade 2's
Curlin faced over 20 Grade 1 winning horses this year
Zenyatta faced 5 Grade 1 winning horses this year
Curlin won $5 million in earnings
Zenyatta won $2 million in earnings.
These are just a few facts that a person wants to keep in mind when thinking about Horse of the Year voting. There are no kinks in either horses armor just food for thought. We will post a poll later today to see where everyone stands.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fasig-Tipton Sale

The November edition of the Fasig-Tipton Sale began today with some gaudy numbers being put up. There was the world record setting $14 million purchase for Better Than Honour’s the broodmare of the year and also the $5.7 million purchase of the likely to be crowned 2008 Juvenile Filly Champion Stardom Bound offered.
There is no indication who purchased Better Than Honour at this point but we have learned that IEAH has been on record as saying that they purchased Stardom Bound. This could be another situation in my opinion where Rick (the big mouth) Dutrow, ruins the horse, and any chance that she would have at winning the 2009 Kentucky Oaks and possibly making another big run on the synthetics at Santa Anita in November next year at the Breeders Cup. This horse has no physical issues and seems to be thriving since her win in the Juvi Fillies. In my opinion Rick Dutrow is a lower tier trainer, who basically is working for an operation with plenty of capital and has the ability to go out and get the very best horses offered at the different sales and give him the opportunity to allow, and I do mean allow these horses to win. Sadly you can expect that if Stardom Bound does not live up to her potential then rumors and excuses will fly from the camp and you can be assured that her schedule up to the Kentucky Oaks and possibly the Breeders Cup will be just as imaginative as Big Brown's schedule, therefore allowing for the connections to be able to throw legitimate excuses out there for the public to make decisions on.

Farewell to Big Brown

*Farewell to Big Brown*

I just wanted to stop for a moment and acknowledge the incredible accomplishments of this years Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. This magnificent Equine athlete showed he was truly something special by first breaking his maiden at first asking by 12 lengths and then going straight to the highest level of racing and winning as if it was an after thought, in the Florida Derby. His subsequent romp in the Derby followed by a dazzling display of his uncanny turn of foot in the stretch of the Preakness gave all an indication that he was quite a special horse. The great stretch run and the grit and determination that he showed in the Haskell proved that not only could he win by daylight but he could run down a pace setter who was able to go out and run some easy fractions and continue running in the lane. Tactical speed and stamina is something that set Big Brown aside and will allow him to easily, in my opinion garner a mountain of Eclipse Award votes for the top 3 year old of 2008.

NEW YORK (Reuters)Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:47pm EDT "The top three-year-old in the U.S. hurt his right front hoof in a six-furlong gallop on the turf at the Aqueduct track in New York.

Michael Iavarone, co-owner of IEAH Stables, said the injury was "a tremendous blow."

"There wasn't a lot we could do to prevent this," he told a teleconference. "It was just a complete fluke.

"We hadn't had issues with his feet. To have this come up like this is a shock to all of us especially since he worked fantastically today."

Big Brown had been due to take on Horse of the Year Curlin in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on October 25 in one of the most highly anticipated races of the year.

The Kentucky-bred Big Brown, winner of seven out of eight career races and $3.6 million in prize money, hurt his hoof while working out with stablemate and Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville.

"They both worked very well," said Iavarone. "Everything seemed to go according to plan.

"They finished up together. They galloped out together. We were all excited."

It was later discovered Big Brown had taken off a "three-inch piece of flesh" from the back of his hoof."

Curlin - as dominant at 4 as he was at 3?

Was Curlin a different horse this year compared to his 3 year old season, some people think that he wasn't the same horse especially after coming back from Dubai. This is a point that has to be taken into consideration because its common knowledge that most if not all horses after traveling 12,000 miles regress quite a bit after making the D.W.C. trip. If comparing Beyer numbers there is a great deal to be said about the fact that Steve Asmussen was able to keep Curlin in tip-top shape all year long. Here is a quote from an article by Handicapping Guru Gary West about his view of Curlin this year compared to last.
"From several sources, I’ve heard and read suggestions that Curlin lost the Classic because he isn’t quite the same horse he was last year, meaning not quite as good, and, further, that he’s not quite as good because he’s no longer on steroids. But I can’t find much to support the first part of that argument, which seems based largely on visual impressions.
I make my own speed figures and pace figures, but the Beyer numbers, since they’ve become common coin in handicapping, would probably serve better to make the point that Curlin was at least as good this year as last. I don’t mean to suggest that speed figures are definitive, but they do, I think, provide a useful measure of performance. And by that measure, in his graded stakes last year – and that’s tossing out only his maiden win – Curlin’s Beyer speed figures averaged 107.25.
In his graded stakes this year – and that’s tossing out only his first outing in Dubai – Curlin’s speed figures for the season averaged 110. (I’m giving him a 117 for the World Cup, which seems a solid, although conservative, number based on what we know about Well Armed and A.P. Arrow, who finished third and fourth in the race.) And in graded stakes on dirt – that’s tossing out the Man o’ War on turf and the Classic on Pro-ride – Curlin’s speed figures this year averaged 112.25. (Zenyatta, by the way, averaged 102.4 this year.) Curlin lost three races on dirt last year; none this year."