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Golden Girl

All eyes were on our very own Zenyatta, but how can one ignore a champion such as Goldikova?? Her owners handled the mare, the way we could only dream that someone ever handled Zenyatta.

Goldikova has been allowed for three years to show the world how great she really is. She, not Zenyatta, is a world beater; one of, if not the very best miler the world has ever seen. Her historic Breeders Cup three peat looked easier this year than any of her previous years. At an age when most horses are winding down, she keeps getting better. She has defeated males eight times in her career. Surface doesn’t matter. Heck, even what country she races in doesn’t matter.

Bred in Ireland by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Goldikova was handled the way a horse of her caliber should be handled. She met every challenge in her 21 start career, and finished out of the money only once. It is hard to not see the parallel between her and Zenyatta. One has 20 starts, one has 21. Zenyatta holds more Grade I wins, but this year who did she beat? One will never ask that of Goldikova. There will never be questions of a soft campaign, or what ifs? She took on all comers.

The headlines today read “Zenyatta falls short”,” Zenyatta beaten by inches”, “Blame ends Zenyatta’s streak”. Most talk about how awesome Zenyatta was even in defeat. A loss is still a loss, and Zenyatta could have faced the likes of Blame all year. If she were owned by the Wertheimers you better believe she would have. A perfect record doesn’t mean a whole lot unless the horses you are beating are more than the same old glorified claimers.  Do you think thirty years from now anyone will be mentioning the name Peppers Pride in the same breath as Secretariat? Sure, Zenyatta in her career defeated some good ones, but one can argue that last year’s Classic was run on a surface most were unfamiliar with. Case in point, the second best horse in that race last year was a turf horse. And guess who beat him this year on his surface?? Yep, Goldikova.

One can throw out a whole host of names that Zenyatta never defeated. One cannot do that with Goldikova. She faced them all, and either scared them away, or soundly defeated them. In the case of rival Paco Boy, she defeated him over and over again. His connections stated they were tired of seeing her butt. We, here in America would never say that, and would love to see her once again over here next year. That probably won’t happen as she really has nothing left to prove to us, the world, or history.

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Blame Game

Zenyatta finally did what every ordinary horse eventually does. She lost. They all lose. Even the great ones lose. It doesn’t make her any less great. She faced the toughest field she ever faced, and raced outside of her comfort zone, finally. In the end the gallant mare lost to a deserving champion in his own right, and if Horse of the Year falls to him, it will certainly not be because of anything Zenyatta did.

John Shirreffs and Jerry and Ann Moss once again handled their champion with kid gloves, and although few will dispute how great she is, her racing career certainly left a lot to be desired. Like the immortal Ruffian before her, we will always wonder just how good she could have been. The sky was the limit for her this year and they, not she blew it. She could have come very close to dethroning the golden horse of the sport, Secretariat. Instead she ran her record to 19 straight wins. Who cares! Imagine if she raced in the Whitney, Stephen Foster, or the Jockey Club Gold Cup. She could have won them all, and then the fact that she lost by a head to Blame at Churchill Downs would not have mattered. She still could have finally had that coveted Horse of the Year trophy. Now it is not so easy to check her name off on the ballot. Blame has in fact done enough to win top honors. He, not she, has won when it mattered most. Zenyatta’s 19 prior wins were stunning, but they were run over three years. It doesn’t matter that she beat the boys last year. She didn’t beat them all this year. One bested her, and he also boasts wins in The Stephen Foster and Whitney. He finished a game second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Those are the races a champion as talented as Zenyatta should have been running in, but for the sake of a perfect record, she stayed out west, beating not even the best of the west. She never ventured outside her comfort zone, and faced the boys this year. The Mosses and Shirreffs put all their eggs in one basket once again, and prayed another Classic win would be theirs. If it had been, it would have been impossible not to vote for Zenyatta. Now, once again the biggest contest of the year will end in controversy.

Blame holds three Grade I wins this year, including his hard fought Classic win. Zenyatta holds five Grade I’s, but those five were in restricted company. She defeated fillies and mares, and that earns her another top mare award. Does it necessarily earn her Horse of the Year? She didn’t face very much competition this year, and although her fans will argue, she cannot help who shows up to run against her, her owners could have chosen more difficult spots for her- spots where males were allowed to ‘show up’.

Zenyatta has given the online racing community one heck of a ride, and it would almost have been easier to see her lose by a landslide, than the inches she actually lost by. She gave her all yet again, and the fact that she won nineteen straight races with her come from behind running style is a feat we may never see again. She will go down as one of the greats of the sport. But if she loses, and she probably will, that Horse of the Year trophy for the third time this year due largely to her soft schedule, her connections have only themselves to Blame.

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New Jersey Racing Faces Grim Future

By: Elizabeth Rancani

A racetrack is a piece of history, especially one that was built in 1870. A walk through the doors of Monmouth Park and one cannot help but notice the photographs featuring champions of years past lining the walls, and ceilings.  It takes one back to a long gone era where horse racing thrived. Monmouth attracted greats including Kelso, Ruffian, Bold Ruler, John Henry, Cozzene, Holy Bull, Alysheba, Carry Back and Spectacular Bid.

Still, today Monmouth isn’t some run down track that runs claimers day in and day out. Monmouth still has its share of stars that fill their stables.The reigning Horse of the Year just ran there and the Haskell should be one of the main battlegrounds for deciding the top three year old this year.  The 2007 Breeders Cup hosted the likes of Curlin, Hard Spun and Street Sense.

Now Governor Chris Christie plans to end the subsidy that Monmouth depends on, and still, will not approve slots at the track. If the failing Atlantic City casino industry is to hold a monopoly on slots and table games in the state, then why should they not have to continue to subsidize the racetracks? The fact that racing needs slots to thrive, is another matter, and racing should be very concerned about that fact. However, today’s market is not the same as years long gone. People have options now as to where they gamble. They can go to a racetrack, or a casino, or a combination of the two sometimes referred to as a racino. Racinos are the ‘in thing’ and the formula works; just ask any state but New Jersey. Their very existence is the bane of Atlantic City casinos.

A recent quote from the governor claims that Atlantic City should not have to subsidize failures. And according to NJSEA commissioner Armando Fontouro, New Jersey’s racing tracks are bleeding money. “It’s time to cut our losses. You can’t look at any crystal ball, and see in any shape or form they are going to be profitable again.” They live in a world where  Atlantic City can be saved, but New Jersey’s horse racing industry can not. The fact is both New Jersey’s horse racing industry and their beloved Atlantic City casinos are failing. Where Monmouth Park has a $13 million dollar deficit this year alone, the casino town has lost over a billion in the past four years. Atlantic City is never going to be the shore town that families with children under the age of 21 pick to spend their summer vacation. Ocean City is twenty minutes over the bridge, and you can let your children walk the boards at night alone over there. You don’t have bums and the poverty stricken begging for hand outs in front of the casinos. You don’t have drug dealers standing on their corners.  At best they can hope the blue haired ladies continue to board the buses, despite concerns for their safety, and that singles will want to flock there much the same way they flock to Las Vegas. Trips to Las Vegas are cheap, however, and  the New Jersey winters still may deter people for half the year, and really what else is there to do in Atlantic City in December? Neighboring shore towns are practically ghost towns after September and million dollar homes sit vacant until the following May.  At least in Las Vegas you have Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead and Mount Charleston. Yes, you have the beach and the ocean in Atlantic City, but there is endless competition from area shore towns, and if it is the beach and boards you crave, Atlantic City will lose out to every one of those other towns.

New Jersey’s history has not been very kind to the racing industry. Twenty years after Monmouth opened, the state decided to ban wagering throughout the state. The track closed until 1946, and stayed fairly profitable.   Even as recently as 2001, the track recorded its highest attendance ever, and its current abbreviated meet schedule, has been doing very well. Attendance and take are up, race cards are full, and the quality of the horses cannot be disputed. The 50 day, 50 million meet will not be possible without the subsidy from Atlantic City. The end of horse racing in New Jersey will put thousands out of work, and lose the state 780 million annually. The horse is the state animal, but they will be leaving the so called ‘garden state’ in droves.

Atlantic City race track used to be profitable track. Then in the 1970′s the casinos came to its city. The track took a hit with attendance, and today operates live racing  just six days a year. It is not a huge leap to say that the casinos drove that racetrack out of business. Today neighboring states with racinos, just might spell the end of Atlantic City as we know it. The governor will not allow slots at racetracks, so revenue that could go to New Jersey, instead goes over to Philadelphia Park and Yonkers Raceway in New York. If the state of New Jersey cannot save the struggling casinos, even though they are going to effectively end thoroughbred racing in their attempt,  they will lose not only revenue, but a huge part of the history of their state. The end result could leave even more empty buildings in Atlantic City, more crime, more poverty, more out of work employees, less open space, no horses and perhaps, that will be poetic justice. The greed of the Atlantic City casino industry has long held an all or nothing approach in regards to other gambling avenues the state could possibly profit from. Sadly, politicians have for so long bowed to every demand the casinos make, that the all is no longer feasible, and the state may just wind up with the nothing it deserves.

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No Longer ‘Belle’ of the Ball

Rachel Alexandra lost again, this time to Unrivaled Belle. The superstar filly had no excuses today, although her trainer would like you to believe it is the amount of weight she is asked to carry. The fact is 124 (four more pounds than other horses in the field) is no handicap for a filly like Rachel. Heck it isn’t even a large amount of weight for a four year old filly.

Rachel is a champion. She is fast, and capable of winning at any time, but she is also not the same horse this year that she was last year. Hal Wiggins and his training methods are looking a whole lot better. Maybe Jackson could put in a call to him? Make no mistake, Wiggins made Rachel a champion, not Steve Asmussen. Rachel went on hiatus after the Woodward last year, and Asmussen has not been able to bring her back to the form she showed last year.

Maybe all the blame cannot rest on Asmussen’s shoulders. Fillies are temperamental and it is often very hard for them to string two winning races together, let alone two winning seasons. Yes, champions are made during one year of racing, but legends often race multiple seasons. They have that certain air about them that will not let them lose. It is not hard to think of Eclipse award winning fillies or even colts for that matter that could not return to form one year to the next. Stardom Bound, Meadow Star, Sweet Catomine, and Halfbridled jump out for starters, and that is just recent years.

There is a reason why Street Sense was the first two year old champion to win the Kentucky Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979. It is not the curse of the Breeders Cup Juvenile. It could be that an early bloomer at two is the same horse at three, but their peers over the winter catch up.

Throw in injury as reason for a rest, and a horse that can return to form following one becomes a real rarity.

It is for this reason that Ruffian will always be the benchmark against what all great fillies are measured by. She was lengths better than her rivals at two, suffered a hairline fracture and came back in April of 1975 as good, if not better than before. Even with the injury, she never lost a step until the fateful day. No matter how spectacular Rachel was last year, and she was spectacular, the fact that she has now lost two races against lesser fillies, highlights just how special Ruffian was. We may never see one like her again.

Zenyatta looks poised to string together yet another undefeated season. She is a deserving champion just like her rival, Rachel, but she only really runs the last part of her races. Ruffian ran fast the entire race, had stamina to get a mile and a half, natural speed and that same competitive fire Zenyatta shows time and time again. Where Zenyatta nips her competitors at the wire, often by small margins, Ruffian was lengths better than her peers, and she did it all so easy. There is also always going to be that lingering feeling of “we just never saw the absolute bottom of her.” She set records without even trying and it is hard to argue with superiority in times.

Will Rachel again run like the Rachel of 2009? Time will tell. For now thoughts of meeting Zenyatta seem to have lost their appeal. Zenyatta at this point would likely soar past Rachel in the final stages of any race. What once seemed like the match of the century, would likely be another easy victory in Zenyatta’s string of many. Chances are Rachel will be retired. Why ruin her reputation by letting filly after filly beat her to the wire?  Zenyatta finally just may have the coveted top prize that slipped through her hooves for the past two years.

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Don’t Discount The Devil

Fillies in the Derby are nothing unusual. Before the 60s fillies ran far more frequently in the race, despite having one lone winner, that being Regret all the way back in 1915.

In the 1980s several fillies took on the quest for the roses, and two actually wore them. One was a come from behind gritty competitor, and one was a front running monster who romped against boys right before the Derby. One was trained by D. Wayne Lukas who finally god his first Derby win with Winning Colors in 1988. Before that he was 0 for 12, including two filly entrants in 1984, Life’s Magic who finished 8th and Althea who finished 19th.

Cupecoy’s Joy also ran in the Kentucky Derby in 1982, but could finish no better than 10th.

In the 1990s champion Serena’s Song was the 1995 Derby favorite, but she tired in the long stretch, and was done after leading the boys for a mile. She finished 16th. Lukas was also her trainer. He trained Three Ring to a 19th place finish in the 1999 Kentucky Derby. That same year Excellent Meeting also ran and finished a far more respectable fifth. Excellent Meeting may have had a far better chance if she didn’t suffer such a terrible trip. It was a fantastic effort from her, and she was flying at the end.

And then no filly showed up until Eight Belles, and we all know how well that ended.

So, when we hear that only three fillies have won the Derby, the number sounds a lot worse than it actually is.  Only nine fillies have tried since 1980, and two have won, one finished second.  That isn’t too shabby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher for all his wins, only has one win in a Triple Crown series, and that is with a filly. Rags to Riches seemed far superior at this point in time to Devil May Care but stranger things have happened at the Kentucky Derby. In a race with 20 horses, position is everything and her post position is perfect. If she can get a clean trip, she just may be the fourth filly to wear the roses Saturday.

Lookin at Lucky has done nothing wrong, and tries hard every single time. Garrett Gomez stuck him on the rail in the Santa Anita Derby and he lost all chance of winning. It was not the first time that bad luck cost Lucky a win. Now he will face a stampede of horses and he is stuck on the rail again, this time not by choice. He is a deserving favorite, but he has a lot to overcome, and since he didn’t do it three other times, will he do it when it matters most? Traffic problems and pace have cost many Derby favorites a win at Churchill Downs.

Many handicappers are eliminating horses. As Giacomo and Mine That Bird have taught us, there are no throw outs on Derby Day. Twenty horses, a fast pace and now a muddy track, and the door is open for anyone to stand in the winner’s circle. Certainly there are some that deserve it more. The lore of The Derby Gods choosing the winner is something else that is always written about, unless of course you are an agnostic. Everything from a horse’s color, to their name, to their trainer or jockey can point to an obvious win.

The fact is this. The Kentucky Derby is a crap shoot. Pick a number out of a hat and bet on it. Just don’t bet the mortgage money.

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Year of the Fillies

by: Elizabeth Rancani

And the award goes to…..

A month ago, I would have said Rachel Alexandra deserves Horse of the Year no matter what happens in the Classic. Now I may just have to eat those words.

I just read Bill Finley’s take on the situation, and he is firmly for Rachel Alexandra. If one views the numbers, Rachel clearly does have the advantage. She has won eight this year, five grade ones to Zenyatta’s five wins, four grade ones. Rachel defeated males three times, and Zenyatta only once. I have been one of Rachel and Jess Jackson’s biggest supporters, often hailing the Moss/Shireff camp as wimps, afraid of the big filly, taking the easy road with their undefeated champ, simply to let Zenyatta stay undefeated. And what really did undefeated mean, if she was beating the same horses over and over?

Saturday changed all that. Zenyatta was denied Horse of the Year last year even with a perfect record. This year for her to be denied again, with a perfect record still would be a travesty. No, one race does not a champion make, but one has to look at the quality of the competition and think realistically what horse would win if they were to face each other? Who is the better racehorse? What an enviable spot for thoroughbred racing that both its stars are so talented that a strong case can be made for either one.

Rachel has defeated males three times, but only once did she face older horses. And Zenyatta made light work of the three year olds in the Classic. Mine That Bird almost caught Rachel in the Preakness. He was nowhere to be found in the Classic. Rachel defeated the winners of the Stephen Foster, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Acorn and Test. Zenyatta, on the other hand defeated winners of two Travers, Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Man o’ War, Arlington Million, Group I Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the Ladies Classic winner three times, as well as the probable turf champ. Life is Sweet made Zenyatta look very, very good in defeating Careless Jewel, Cocoa Beach and Music Note (winners of the Alabama and Beldame).

Summer Bird could do no better than fourth in the Classic contest, suggesting that Rachel may have had her hooves full with Twice Over and Gio Ponti as well. Zenyatta also didn’t really seem to be in overdrive. She finished the race well within herself, answered the classic distance question, taking down the top males in the process. The older ‘top’ males Rachel faced consist of Macho Again and Bullsbay, hardly first tier males. Does anyone really believe Macho Again would have fared any better in the Classic against Zenyatta? And to date he is the best older male Rachel defeated this year. He finished a close second to her, and at a mile and quarter may have caught her. He would not have caught Zenyatta. It is not a stretch to say he probably would not have caught Gio Ponti, Twice Over, Summer Bird or Colonel John. So maybe his best performance in the Woodward put him in second, but put him in the Classic and he runs maybe fifth or sixth. And Bullsbay finished third to Rachel but finished far back in the Dirt Mile. His finish hardly flattered Rachel. Which filly now faced softer competition this year?

Rachel easily disposed of every filly she faced this year, winning by daylight. It is interesting to count how many times she was hit with the whip in the stretch against the boys though. Then count how many times Mike Smith hit Zenyatta. Look at Rachel Alexandra’s sweat soaked body after the Preakness, and look at Zenyatta, ears pricked, prancing and pawing the ground after the Classic. Zenyatta looked as though she were saying, ‘let’s do it again, I had a good time.” As silly as that sounds, to decide Horse of the Year between two top fillies that never faced each other, that all matters. Who is really the best racehorse in North America this year? Not just who won more races, but who would win against the other?

It is hard to make a case for Zenyatta without bashing Rachel Alexandra, and that is the last thing this turf writer wants to do. Rachel Alexandra is a deserving champion in her own right, and if she wins Horse of the Year, it will be no sad day for horse racing. Rachel’s campaign was ambitious, breathtaking, and record setting. She raced into the history books, and will forever be included with the very best fillies and mares of all time. She was nothing short of fabulous. But she didn’t defeat Zenyatta. No one did. No one ever has- not the very best fillies and mares, not the very best males and not even the world’s best. Mike Smith said unequivocally that Zenyatta is the horse of the year, the horse of the decade. He just may be right.

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Zenyatta became the first filly to capture the Breeders Cup Classic, and what a performance! After being a little fractious entering the gate, and then having to unload because of Quality Road’s antics, the five year old mare proved what a pro she is, as she powered down the stretch and passed a gritty Gio Ponti.

Now fourteen for fourteen, she has answered the question of just how good she is. The Classic field was a tough bunch, and Zenyatta won with ease. She deserves every accolade thrown her way. Watching her before the race, she knows she is a champion, pawing at the ground like she is ready to devour whomever happens to have the misfortune of running against her.

Her running style is not flashy, but she gets the job done, much like another great undefeated female, Personal Ensign. Although, the sheer size and beauty of her reminds an old historian more of Forego. He was a monster that loved to run down his opponents and towered over them all. His campaign, while not undefeated netted him three Horse of the Year crowns. Many doubted Zenyatta before the race saying her numbers were slower than the best entered, but that is what is so beautiful and awe inspiring about her. She runs just as fast as she needs to, and only really runs the last quarter mile or so. Her speed numbers, therefore are not going to be flashy either. Mike Smith said she never was out of third gear the whole race. Just how fast is this mare? Smith certainly wasn’t working her very hard in the stretch. He was rubbing her neck a little because she was trying to ham it up down the lane.

After several casualty filled years, Zenyatta is what fans needed the most. Watching her walk onto the track, one can’t help but notice a happy, confident athlete that loves what she does. She dances before the crowd, obviously pleased with herself, and after today even the naysayers know why.

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Here come the comparisons….

Rachel Alexandra added the Woodward to her list of achievements yesterday, and if the comparisons to Ruffian weren’t plentiful before, they are now. Randy Moss even put Rachel ahead of Ruffian in his own greatest fillies of all time list. That is certainly valid. Rachel’s campaign includes accomplishments the ill fated Ruffian never attempted.

But, back in 1986 I distinctly remember horse racing giants like Woody Stephens, among other columnists, saying that they thought Ruffian was the best until they saw Lady’s Secret. “She is the best of the best.” Now, no one is mentioning the gray little mare that also won Horse of the Year. Ruffian is the only filly the vast majority of writers can think of to adequately compare to Rachel Alexandra.

Certainly the two fillies are similar. One could argue, that what Ruffian did with ease, Borel does by beating his filly down the stretch, thus ensuring wide win margins. Jacinto Vasquez rarely ever touched his beautiful, black filly, who ran like the wind every time she set foot on the track, and left clockers marveling at what just happened, because it was just too easy for her to shatter one record after another. Often Vasquez would plead with his filly to slow down, and his arms would ache from the effort of holding her back. No matter what Rachel does, Ruffian will always be the measuring stick by which all great fillies are measured. Perhaps, it is because no one will ever know just how great she was. It is not far-fetched to say we never say the best of Ruffian, and yet, she still broke records that had previously stood for decades! One record in particular, was that she ran the fastest  5 1/2 furlong by a two year old at the historied Spa – and the list of two year olds that ran there included Secretariat and the great Man o’ War! Her legend grew to a proportion that may or may not be deserved, but it looms over all great fillies nonetheless.

Rachel Alexandra does have a resume unequaled by modern day fillies and one thing Ruffian never had, durability. It is her durability that in today’s day and age is so desperately needed. She has also been given the opportunity that Ruffian never had. Oh, to imagine if Jess Jackson owned Ruffian, and not Stuart Janney! Ruffian, could very possibly have been the second filly to wear the roses at Churchill.

The what ifs are what makes for such interesting debate among horse racing fans. The biggest debate today is oddly enough still between the Zenyatta and Rachel fans. Rachel has transcended another realm, and the debate between who is better between the two of them is just silly. Yes, Zenyatta is undefeated as one fan wrote on, but she has only won three races this year. She can’t win Horse of the Year off of a perfect record, no matter how many races she has won, unless of course, they were all run in the year of the vote, no? Her record this year stands at three for three. Rachel is eight for eight. And the fact that Zenyatta won’t travel, makes is so easy to criticize her and have a valid arguemnet. No matter how perfect Zenyatta is, this writer thinks that Rachel would have to travel back in time to 1975 to find a filly equal to her. What dream match ups would you like to see?

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In Defense of Jackson and Other News

It seems like the ESPN writers just love to pick on Jackson, and we aren’t talking Michael! Now, I have taken shots at his decision to run Rachel off little rest in the Preakness, but for the most part, I see him for what he is…a sportsman.

He is not ducking Zenyatta by choosing to bypass the Breeders Cup. Period. He has proven that he does not duck anyone, and if Rachel’s races are any indication, she would have little trouble dispensing the reigning queen. She ran lights out in the Kentucky Oaks and came back two weeks later to take on the top three year old boys under new ownership. Zenyatta has yet to face the boys, even the glorified claimers of California’s circuit. Rachel embarrasses her inferior opponents in breathtaking displays. Zenyatta does not.

So Jess Jackson does not like ‘plastics.’ So what! The Breeders Cup races should not ever be races that define an entire year of work, which is exactly what has happened every year since its inception. The good old days used to focus on a horse’s whole body of work, not just one race that last weekend of October. Add to that the muddled picture synthetic surfaces brings to the table. There are horses that are superior on synthetics, and should they have the advantage since the Breeders Cup was ridiculously placed on that surface for two years in a row? Rachel has run on it once. Yes, she did well but she wasn’t facing a mare two years her senior, that runs primarily over it.

If anyone should be blamed it is Moss for choosing to duck competition, not once, but numerous times, maybe as many as nine! He wants to get his horse to the end of her career undefeated obviously and as Jeremy Plonk says that is more important than any Horse of the Year trophy. Is it? He points to Personal Ensign as an example, but seems to forget that Personal Ensign traveled, beat the boys and ran in the most heart-stopping Distaff in history against a Kentucky Derby winning darling and champion in her own right, Winning Colors. Sometimes in racing champions are judged by the company they keep and run against. Zenyatta defeated Ginger Punch and that may be the best horse she ever faced. That being said where is Cocoa Beach?

While I agree it is ridiculous to compare Zenyatta to Peppers Pride, her connections do leave open debate on just how fantastic she is. It has grown beyond tiresome seeing her fly past the same rivals over and over, the best recently being her own stablemate.

If the two ladies never meet, it will be ok. If Zenyatta were a turf darling, no one would be clamoring for a meeting between the two. So may be the same with dirt and synthetics in the years to come. They are different surfaces even though some in the industry will say they are not. It used to be horses ran over two surfaces and most were either a dirt horse or a turf horse. Now horses are asked to be a little of both also and run over synthetics. Until there are synthetics and turf (no dirt), the prejudices California horses face will continue to grow. If I were Jackson, I would not rush back to Santa Anita. Zenyatta has the advantage with her age, so I certainly would not give her the home court advantage. I would continue racing on the East coast, face the very best fillies and mares and beat the boys again in the Travers and maybe face them in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I might even announce that the last race of Rachel’s season will be the Clark Handicap and if Zenyatta wants to challenge her there, so be it. At this point Rachel has won six of six so far at five different tracks, including three Grade Is and one against boys. Zenyatta has run just twice, one Grade I both at Hollywood Park. Anyone saying that Rachel has to beat Zenyatta, at this point is delusional. Now if she is to win the Breeders Cup Classic (and not the Ladies Classic), the game changes since thoroughbred racing loves to give awards out based on Breeders Cup results.

In other news glad to see that Mine That Bird’s connections finally bounced Borel. After his waffling during the Triple Crown it was long overdue. It is mind boggling how little respect this Kentucky Derby winner gets. After speaking with someone more in the know than me, I see it is more about jockeys wanting to ride for an entire stable instead of one particular horse. Mine That Bird does not come from a large racing operation, and therefore gets passed on more for loyalty purposes to larger stables, and not for lack of talent or promise. That being said his connections need to find a jockey who can make Mine That Bird their big classic horse. Mike Smith has Zenyatta running in the Classic so he is out for that, and Julien Leparoux (who has the right type of riding style for this fast late closing gelding) has Einstein as his big horse being possibly pointed to the Classic. At least both these riders would be able to commit to Bird until that point, and won’t make the mistake of bypassing his races in favor of an unproven colt like Warrior’s Reward. Why the connections of Warrior would want a jockey who will dump him in favor of Rachel should she run in either the Travers or Haskell is beyond me anyway. Granted, he may be a very nice colt, but Borel should have more loyalty to a horse and owner that netted him his second Kentucky Derby. It is understandable that Rachel would come first, but it is also understandable that Chip Wooley wants Mine That Bird to come before Warrior’s Reward, large stable or not. At this point he is the top three year old male in the country, and as a gelding the racing world could have him for years to come.

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A Tale of Two Fillies

Saturday featured cakewalks for two of the best fillies of our time, but it was a mere blip on the radar screen. It seems pointless that these two greats keep beating up on some poor lesser fillies and mares. Rachel faced just two horses and they were brave indeed. Apparently the Preakness did not take anything out of the superstar as she just crushed her rivals.

Zenyatta bested her rivals without even trying very hard, but set no stake record and did not appear as dazzling. It isn’t every day we are treated to seeing a horse romp home 19 lengths the winner.

After the Preakness a fellow coworker was talking about Rachel Alexandra. He likes the horses, and bets when he is at area casinos. He was praising the Preakness winner, and I said “well there is one that may be even better.” I then mentioned Zenyatta’s name and he said…”never heard of her.”. Now that is sad! But it is also a testament to her schedule and the poor promoting thoroughbred racing does of its stars.

Instead of watching Hank Goldberg run through his money and squander the contents of his piggy bank on race day as he goes about not choosing one winner, why not highlight the horses that are currently at the top of their game? Introduce the public that just turns out during the Triple Crown races to a horse like Zenyatta. Wet their appetites of the upcoming states races, and the horses that the Triple Crown stars will be taking on later in the year. Watching Goldberg, an ‘expert horse handicapper’ lose money all the time, does not make gamblers want to run to the track with their hard earned cash. He makes them think they would be better off sticking a twenty in a slot machine.

As far as the two females meeting, a match race would be the dumbest thing that could happen. That is not Zenyatta’s running style and altering it for one race would not be a worthy indicator of her talent. Jess Jackson also cannot be blamed for not rushing back to the scene of Curlin’s defeat last year. If he doesn’t like synthetics, he doesn’t like synthetics. No big deal. Santa Anita should have known many East Coast stars would not be flocking to their doors simply because they put the Breeders Cup there. For many owners and trainers it is an unproven track that sometimes runs a little quirky. They aren’t used to it, and why make Rachel Alexandra try and topple Zenyatta (two years her senior so she has the advantage there anyway) at a track she has never run on? The fact that it is not proven to reduce breakdowns is another issue entirely.

It is understandable that Zenyatta runs in the state she is based, but why must she face mares all the time, the best being her very own stablemate? She isn’t facing the best fillies and mares, so at least make it a little more interesting and have her face some second tier boys.

It does appear that by staying on the East Coast Rachel will have the tougher schedule and therefore become the front runner for Horse of the Year especially if she topples males again in either the Haskell or Travers. If she does that and adds a few more Grade I races against females to her resume, she won’t need the Breeders Cup, especially if Zenyatta’s clan opts for the Ladies Classic again. Beating another bunch of fillies and mares that does not include Rachel Alexandra will not amount to the trophy they seek most this year. Staying perfect may not be enough especially when the darling of the racing world makes winning look so impossibly easy.

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