Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's A Wonder We Don't Eat Our Young

[NOTE: This space wasn't only dedicated to our own exploits.  Sometimes I got so worked up I had to blow up a little bit like during the Rachel/Zenyatta debate from March 2010]

"Dear Jess Jackson, You are a complete wuss!! Thank you for, yet again crushing the hopes of racing fans everywhere. Please grow some testicles and run your horse against me like you promised America you would. Thanks!!- Z"

- Status of "Zenyatta" on her Facebook fan page after the decision not to run Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom

"Rachel is overrated....a horse racing exemplification of an air-ball....overrated....chonk chonk ch-chon-cha-chonk-adonk-overrated tw*t..."

- Comment on a Yahoo! Sports article on the Apple Blossom

I was searching for the nasty comments regarding Zenyatta, but they were too far back for me to dig up. But make no mistake - they were there. That she was a 'false' champion for never leaving home. That the Moss' were scared to run her on dirt or way from home. That she was simply the marvel of the synthetic surface and weak home state competition. It went on and on as well.

This should be a time that we look at the racing industry and think "Damn, are we lucky!" Instead, the blessing we have received by having two of the greatest distaffers of all time racing during the same time period has turned into a degrading and disgusting attempt to try and discredit and belittle each other's camp.

My choice for Horse of the Year last year was Rachel Alexandra. I simply thought her campaign criss-crossing half the country, beating not only her class, but 3-year old colts and older colts as well, was a better body of work than Zenyatta. My clear choice for moment of the year was Zenyatta's win in the Breeder's Cup Classic. I still don't think that I have ever seen a greater performance in my life. Secretariat in the Belmont may be close, but it was different: it was clear domination. Zenyatta's win was surreal.

The more I read, the sadder I get. Instead of being appreciative of what we were - and hopefully will continue to - able to witness last year it has become imperative for "fans" to tear down the other side. Right now it's Rachel and her connections' turn to be lambasted for being "afraid". Last year it was Zenyatta and her connections' turn for the very same reasons.

How about we admit, first of all, that these are racehorses, not machines? They do have to be fit and ready. They do have preferred surfaces. They may not fire every time out on the track. It is a very real possibility that Steve Asmussen may be right (horrors!) that Rachel was not fit and ready to go. Is it THAT important to be committed to the April 9 date or is it MORE important that the athlete is at her best and ready to go? I would think that Asmussen and John Shirreffs know more about their horses than we do. I'm willing to take them at their word.

Secondly, shut the hell up with the bashing already. I made my case for horse of the year last year in this space and on the radio show. I also prefaced every comment with, "I think that Zenyatta is amazing and it would not break my heart if she won". In my opinion, the important thing - the overwhelmingly important thing - is that I was lucky enough to be able to see the two of them run. Some of the greatest performances in racing occurred last year and were provided by these two. We are tremendously blessed to be graced by BOTH of these racehorses. It's time each "side" recognized the attributes of the other.

Finally, I want these two to meet - preferably more than once. I would like to see them go three or four times over dirt, synthetic and maybe even a romp over the grass. I do NOT want to see them in a match race. I also want both to be sharp, sound and at their best. At the end of the day, our sport is about winning. That is why we run the races. It's commendable to be passionate about your favorite horses. But be passionate about YOUR favorite horses, not against a competitor.

As racing fans we've had a lot to moan about the last few years: lower handle, dismal sales numbers, higher takeouts, bankruptcies and the closing of landmark racetracks to name a few. We have the opportunity to enjoy two of the greatest to ever step on a track. Don't lose sight of the beauty in front of you and get dragged down into the mire. There is no shame in admiring them both. In fact, it may be a bit helpful for the sport if we did. Racing could use this to bring more appeal to the masses and showcase two great champions. Let's take all that energy and channel it into something positive for the sport, not yet another self-inflicted black eye.

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