Monday, August 3, 2009

You've Got to Say SOMETHING!

I had really no intention of writing a Rachel Alexandra post. None. What I saw on Saturday really spoke for itself. To rate like she did relatively close to a quick early pace and simply find another gear to win going away was one of the most impressive efforts I have seen in years. But as I was rousting myself at no o'clock this morning for a quick trip to Battle Creek, MI (and no o'clock tomorrow morning to go home), I found myself with some random thoughts and felt that I had to say something!

- A friend mentioned to me that this must have been what it was like to watch Secretariat. I can't vouch for that as I was only 8 when he was blazing his Triple Crown. But the buzz around her races and the clinical precision in which she wins is very reminiscent of the replays that I have seen and the period pieces I have read. She was discussed on the ESPN show PTI for crying out loud. THAT is good for racing.

- Frank Vespe makes the case on why Rachel should go West and meet Zenyatta in the Breeder's Cup. I think his case has merit. I have come to the conclusion that horse racing is a three surface sport now: dirt, grass and synthetics (and then you have the various incarnations of THAT for crying out loud). They play different. I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of synthetic and dirt, I will say that horses have preferences now for that type of surface just as they do for dirt and turf and I wouldn't want to run my filly in the biggest race of her career over her non-preferred surface. I think there is a big difference between allowance company at Keeneland (where Rachel won over the synthetic) and the Breeder's Cup Distaff (Ladies Classic?) - especially against an opponent who clearly prefers that surface. Same in reverse, by the way, regarding taking Zenyatta East to the dirt.

- How do you choose Horse of the Year if they don't meet? Well...if the season ended today, how do you NOT choose Rachel? She ran HUGE out of her division in racetracks all over the East and nailed down a Triple Crown Race as well as the Haskell. I don't really give a rat's ass about girls versus the boys - a big, talented filly or mare can give the boys all they can handle anywhere in the world. We saw that in last year's Breeder's Cup. I did see a Facebook comment who said they couldn't give it to Rachel unless she beat older males. I'm not sure that is fair or not as I'm sure we have had a male HOTY or two that have won big 3-year old races and not raced, or at least faltered, against older. (I could look this up, but see paragraph one...I'm WAY too bleary). Besides, the season ISN'T over yet and the possibility exists that Quality Road could face and beat both of these females and we'll be singing a different tune come December (possible...not probable, in my humble opinion). Besides, how can you give HOTY to a 'homer', if you will, as opposed to an opponent with an equally impressive record but has done it in several states rather than in just one?

- Back to buzz. Love her or not, this kind of buzz is great for racing. We need a horse that can capture the public imagination in a positive way. She's not a panacea and racing's ills are too long to get into here, but anything that promotes a healthy discussion about our sport from those 'outside' of it, is welcome and should be cultivated. Maybe we can start watching some racing on weekends on one of the myriad of ESPN stations rather than non-stop reruns of the 2008 World Series of Poker...

While this is the kind of exposure our sport needs in the black nothingness (to the rest of the non-racing sports world) that is the time between the Triple Crown and the Breeder's Cup unfortunately it will end in letdown when these two leading ladies of the American turf don't square off in the Breeder's Cup. I understand the reason why, but the (hopefully) millions of Americans that have come to follow Rachel since the Preakness and are just being exposed to racing will be left scratching their heads and saying, "Some championship. The best horses don't even run in it." Could this end up being a public example of how racing can't get out of it's own way when virtually handed what it claims it wants most - the chance to earn new fans to reinvigorate the sport?


malcer said...

Agree with everything but "equally impressive record" - Zenyatta has beaten Life Is Sweet, that's it. Everything else was style but little substance. RA has won with even more style, and achieved substantially more.

Frank said...

Thanks for the plug, Ted!

Bottom line -- the biggest stars have to shine on the biggest stage -- the sporting thing to do is to try Rachel on the Pro-ride at SA. If she takes to it, run her in the BC; if not, no harm done. There's no reason in the world not to try.

Sandra Warren said...

What a tragedy for racing that she did not run in the Kentucky Derby. She surely would have won, and then they would have gone onto the Triple Crown. We would have not only a TC winner, but a filly TC winner, and what a gift that would have been to our struggling sport.

A few weeks ago I was saying to myself that Zenyatta would beat Rachel in the Breeders Cup, because a good older horse beats a good 3yo most of the time. It's a shame that the Mosses have managed Zenyatta so conservatively. She might have won the Classic last year, and then we would be having a debate. But right now, I think the credit has to go to Rachel for taking on all 3yo comers. Maybe she'll run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

As big a proponent as I am about racehorse safety, I can't help but think that CA rushed to judgment about the artificial surfaces. We should have taken just one more year to study the installation and long-term use of the surfaces, if for no other reason than to make the horsemen comfortable with it. The Breeders Cup erred in scheduling the Cup at SA two years in a row just to please the Europeans, when horsemen in our own country hadn't accepted the surface yet. The East Coast horses are severely disadvantaged, and I can't blame Jess Jackson for saying that Rachel won't come west. But c'mon, Jess, you've got to believe. She can do it. Great horses win no matter what the surface. That's what defines them as great.

Ted Grevelis said...

Thanks, all! I appreciate the comments and especially for reading.