Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rachel Alexandra and the Mother Goose

I have read several opinions on Rachel Alexandra running at Belmont in next Saturday's Mother Goose S.(GI). The majority of them are decidedly against the idea. The last two blog mentions I read were were over at Equispace, and his link over to John at Not to the Swift, two blogs I enjoy (both 6/18 entries). However, on this issue I have to disagree with them.

I think it's a great spot for her to run. First I don't think any Grade I is a gimme. Although I, along with every race fan, would be absolutely shocked if she lost, anything can happen in racing. I don't think it is beneath any horse to win Grade I's. If she does lose and then runs the board the remainder of the year, or even wins most of them if they are very tough spots, the loss will be considered an anomaly and disregarded.

As for HOY I think June is just too early to think about handing that award to a horse. And too early to be sitting on one's accomplishments. There's a half a year (okay 5 months) of racing left and that accolade needs to be earned. To my thinking one race does not earn that award. Unfortunately, the BC events often have the effect of crowning a champion because of one race result; perhaps the worst aspect of the BC. To be HOY a horse has to dance the dances and that means running. Also as far as HOY discussions go lets not forget a mare named Zenyatta or perhaps one of the two other triple crown winners will go on to become dominant. I have high hopes for Summer Bird.

To become legendary a horse has to run and has to win the big races - most of the time. They have to prove they are a legendary type of horse on the track by giving legendary performances. It's not her fault if her competition is not able to challenge her. But she still has to go out and prove that is the case. Secretariat lost five times and his mythical status was not marred. As race fans we wait and wait for great horses to come along and the best thing for racing is to be able to let the fans see them run. I think the most likely outcome is that she wins easily and adds to her heir of superiority, especially over the three-year-old crop.

Also her campaign has to be taken into consideration. Should she just run against the boys because she's already proven she can beat them? I don't think so. Perhaps they do have the Travers in mind. With Jess Jackson I'd say it's a foregone conclusion. But, they still have to get her ready for that day. Sure, Steve Asmussen is capable of training her up to a big spot but does that mean she should run the Haskel and the Travers? Again, I don't think so. I believe a horse has only so many top performances in them each year. The Mother Goose is a race she should win without giving her "A+" effort. But racing fitness is better than training. Running gets another race into her, likely gets her more black type and, most importantly, gives the fans a chance to see her. In a sport where the fans don't get to see the stars often enough this is a treat. Regardless of the outcome of the race I think this is a win-win situation for Rachel Alexandra and racing.

I feel certain that Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen will put her in the big races but you can't win every big race. You have to pick your spots and prepare for them. I fully expect to see her in the Travers. I don't think this is a case of connections ducking a big race but rather preparing for a bigger one. Let's remember it wasn't Jess Jackson and Curlin that didn't show up for last years Woodward S. Regardless if you're a fan or dislike Jess Jackson he does what's best for racing and his horses by running them and caring for them.

I for one am going to be thrilled to get to see her run again. If she wins by 32 lengths I suppose I will be even more thrilled!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Return from across the Pond

I'm back from a several weeks across the pond. It is always difficult to get caught up with the industry results and news after a trip. So even though I was hoping to put up handicapping post for Saturday I won't as I'm just not yet up to speed.

It never fails that I feel woefully distraught over the state of racing in the U.S. upon my return. Returning from this trip I feel this emotion perhaps more poignantly than ever. The reasons are manifold and each deserves to be considered on it's own and I hope to address each in this space in the future. However, the main intention of this post is to let those few that read my blog know that I am back.

I had decided not to post a notice that I would be away because I was considering ending the blog and wanted the three weeks to mull over that decision. When I started this blog it was a way of keeping in contact with a sport/business that I am passionate about. Having gone from a very late blooming fan to working in several aspects of the industry (breeding/breaking-training center/track) and now out of the industry again I felt I could offer a unique perspective. I thought, perhaps, my words/opinions when added to others that also care deeply for the sport would have some power to move the industry in a better direction. But as time goes by the awareness that this was a flawed hope became more and more evident. This realization left me with a sense of ennui and sapped my appetite to continue. It seems even in the blogosphere fans are more self-interested than bent on effecting positive change. My conclusion is that I had started this blog just for the satisfaction of expressing my ideas with the hopes I already expressed. And that has to be enough to continue and it is. I am also grateful for the contacts and friendships that have resulted from interaction with fellow bloggers and I find them payment enough.

In the last 8-9 months I had cut back to basically just handicapping posts and usually only once a week. That has been a result of an increased workload, the blogging ennui I mentioned and that I had agreed to do the weekly handicapping piece for Thorofan. While I was away there has been a huge shakeup at TF and I am no longer associated with them. I will be posting more about this as soon as I learn more and sort out the facts. Lamentable but not unexpected occurrences. More so because they did not put up my final post in which I picked Summer Bird in the Belmont. In any event I think I will continue to do some handicapping posts as I have grown to enjoy them. But that aspect was not the genesis of my blog. In fact I don't think I did a handicapping post until I agreed to do so for TF.I am hoping to recoup some of fire in the belly that I had started with. This trip was good fodder for that hope. Nothing makes vision clearer than comparison.

Before ending I'd like to say what a wonderful job the BBC does with racing telecasts! We in the U.S. can learn a lot from watching. Sure the entire telecast wasn't "all" about the racing but it doesn't have to be. In their Royal Ascot coverage thay had a lot of fashion spots. That's not my cup of tea but I'm sure it kept it interesting enough for some that weren't just race fans to continue watching, my wife for one. She enjoys the races and will often watch them with me but it made the overall experience more fun for her. And it is another aspect that belongs to racing. Unfortunately with the easing of dress codes at the big meets like Saratoga, it is another custom/aspect of racing that is being lost. Nonetheless, their plethora of interviews with jocks, owners, trainers etc. was both interesting, informative and fun. The commentary was also usually informative and insightful. Their entire handicapping system doesn't make a whole lot of sense to a "Yank" but it's fun trying to figure the whole thing out. The entire event is treated as an event that belongs to everyone and should be seen and digestible for everyone; not just 'hard-core' race fans.

Upon my return we have the NYRA / Nassau County OTB fiasco. I'm quickly reminded that I can't watch racing on network TV let alone get to to see many of the races I would like watch on my cable system. I remember way back to the beginning of my blog I wrote a post entitled "Greed." And that is still what this all come down to: Greed, on all sides. While that post was more specifically about ADW's it needn't have been.

In any case it's nice to be back. Now that I have a little less on my plate I hope to be able to up my contribution when compared to the past several months and hope you will come back and visit.