The Brock Talk

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeders' Cup Classic Seperates The Debate

Back in early August I wrote on this blog that if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would go undefeated for the remainder of the year, that Zenyatta would have a half-game lead in the race for Horse of the Year.

I'm sticking to my guns.

Strong arguements can be made by both camps about the quality of those left in the wakes of the two greats, but for me the bottom line is Zenyatta showed up for the Breeders' Cup and Rachel stayed home.

One of the biggest marketing challenges we have as a sport, is that our Breeders' Cup World Championship is just slightly less definitive than the Bowl Championship Series in college football at determining our respective champions. Americans don't like champions with no playoff in other words. So if horse racing is going to bill the Breeders' Cup as a championship, it should at least have enough impact to act as the breaker to this apparent and future ties.

I also have to discount the "synthetics" issue. With synthetic tracks in California, Kentucky, Illionois, Canada and Europe, they are now a part of the game. Like domed stadiums, synthetic turf and night games in football and baseball - Polytrack and Pro-Ride are "unnatural". And all can affect the outcome of a game.

Everybody else plays on with no regard (other than wagering) to who won or lost on natural grass, synthetic turf or at night. So should horse racing.

I also discount the "travel" arguement. Zenyatta races in the only state where racing stays at a consistent level year around. Races, purses and weather in Kentucky, New York and Florida all force the top horses to move along with their top trainers.

Which means Rachel was in her home stall when she raced in Arkansas, Kentucky and New York. She shipped about nine hours by van from Hot Springs, Ark., to New Orleans to win the grade 2 Fairgrounds Oaks and about four hours by van from Saratoga, NY., to Monmouth Park for her grade 1 Haskell romp over Summer Bird. That doesn't exactly make Rachel a road warrior when Zenyatta twice made the three-hour van ride from her stall at Hollywood Park to Del Mar.

Rachel did race against the boys three times in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward while Zenyatta only raced against males in the Breeders' Cup. But the Breeders' Cup was at a 1-1/4 miles, the classic distance that Rachel never attempted.

The arguements for both are strong and my intention is to no way dispare Rachel Alexandra. I just have to go back to what I said in August. All things being equal, and the debate over these two mares is about as close as you can get, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner gets the nod.


Anonymous said...

I believe that this decision rests squarely on race performances this year. Diversity of the campaign has also been considered, even muting a BC Classic win- unbeaten, in that year, Awesome Again took the Classic and lost HOY to Skip Away. Same thing with unbeaten Zenyatta last year, she lost to Curlin's more diverse and multiple classic race performances. These past standards that have been used, applied this year, will make Rachel the winner. She had four classic races, for larger than life wins- a 20 length historic win in THE race for three year old fillies - the Kentucky Oaks. With no urging. She won the Preakness, on a track she struggled with, with the Kentucky Derby winner barrelling down on her- enduring the time constraints of the grueling Triple Crown series. She took the Haskell by 6 lengths, leaving the leading three year old colt and Belmont winner not even in her shadow. She led older males on a thrill ride of speed in the Woodward, holding on from wire to wire. Tested at the wire, and - as some TBA bloggers have claimed - rebreaking after crossing it, again leaving Macho Again behind- I personally cannot confirm this one.

I tried to be fair. Based on race performance, stature, diversity and quantity Rachel wins. Using logic, fairness, NO emotion, and previous precedent on how these decisions have been made in the past. Forget the long lists of every scrap of evidence being presented, they are a waste of our time in the next few months. Zenyatta is my favorite of the two, although I am fond of Rachel as well. But, those voters who would deny Rachel this award, are either lacking in analytical skills, or they are THIEVES. Logic demands that Rachel wins. Sad, I would much rather send Zenyatta out of racing with top honors all around. Rachel still has next year to shine and take the prize. But I'm not a thief.

And this post in no way is calling Brock such a thing. That term is reserved for knowing Eclipse voters using their hearts instead of their heads.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brock, for introducing me to a new word: "dispare" -- let's contact Webster's and see if they can't add that one to the dictionary!