Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013


BC Distaff deserves Saturday stage


The Classic is the nominal headliner of the two-day Breeders' Cup festival. However, the most anticipated showdown this year is in the Distaff. Two-time champion Royal Delta, last season's juvenile champion Beholder and champion-in-waiting Princess of Sylmar will face off with even Horse of the Year possibly on the line. An extraordinary race such as this deserves to be on the big day, Saturday, not at the tail end of Friday's lesser card.



MIAMI, Oct. 25, 2013--Breeders’ Cup customarily doesn’t finalize the order of races until the quality and field sizes have been determined. By any reasonable standard, BC should jump out of the box and move the Distaff from Friday to Saturday.

Moreover, it should be the lead-in to the Classic. Less than two weeks out, it looms as the most anticipated race of the two days. At least two reigning Eclipse champions, Royal Delta and Beholder, and an almost certain third, Princess of Sylmar, are expected to run.

Beyond the big three, I have even seen opinions that Close Hatches could overcome Princess of Sylmar for 3-year-old honors with a victory. Not on my ballot, not if she wins by a pole.

They might have split two meetings so far but Close Hatches enjoyed an unchallenged stroll on the front in the Gazelle while Princess of Sylmar was three-wide almost all the way and still finished second. Without an easy lead, Close Hatches ran seventh in the Kentucky Oaks as Princess of Sylmar came from behind her to upset the best of her generation. She hasn’t lost and hasn't ducked anyone since.

I have the same attitude toward Beholder, runnerup in the Kentucky Oaks. A Distaff triumph would be her fourth Grade 1 of the season, equal to Princess of Sylmar, but all will have been at Santa Anita, where Beholder captured the BC Juvenile Fillies to end her 2-year-old campaign.

This is another argument against anchoring the Breeders’ Cup at one track. If she were to steal the title from Princess of Sylmar, Beholder will have captured back-to-back Eclipses, with a potential third next year, without ever winning a graded stakes outside Arcadia.

What’s more, all Grade 1’s are not created equal. The Las Virgenes, Santa Anita Oaks and Zenyatta (beating horses who shipped west to avoid facing Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame) aren’t on the same planet in importance as the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama and Beldame.

No matter what happens in the Distaff, Princess of Sylmar should be the champion. You don’t win the three biggest races of your generation then run contemptuously past an older, two-time champion and not win at least divisional honors.

I say at least because if the Princess outshines the constellation of stars she will face and Game on Dude doesn’t win the Classic, she could--arguably should-- be Horse of the Year. Wise Dan, with an encore in the Turf Mile, would be the only other contender for whom a case could be made.

It’s too bad there isn’t an Eclipse Award for sportsmanship. Ed Stanco, owner of Princess of Sylmar, would be a lock. If he kept his filly in the barn, there would be no question she would win the 3-year-old filly Eclipse. He’s risking that title (although not by me) in shipping cross-country to face Beholder on her home course, which is generally kind to horses with her front-running style, especially on big days, and works against closers like Princess of Sylmar.

The Distaff’s quality stacked field deserves a better stage than the tail end of Friday, the less well attended and less watched on TV workday populated by recently invented stakes, some of which make a mockery of the term “world championships.” If the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t appreciate this, NBC should intercede and demand it.

TV routinely dictates changes in event times to suit its needs. This would be one time a network would deserve a pat on the back for pushing an event into a time slot where it can be seen by the maximum audience.

Question of the day

Which do you suppose has a higher enrollment rate, Obamacare or the new Racing Form Plus?

In spite of the well reported glitches, my money is on Obamacare. The content in Racing Form Plus is first rate but overpriced: a nickel less than $100 if you sign up at once for a full year; about $12 more for a quarterly subscription and $20 more if you buy by the month.

I’m one of those who became accustomed to reading every piece on the Racing Form website. Almost a month into the pay wall, I’ve gotten used to not having access and don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. A big reason is the amount of racing information on the web for free. This includes Horse Race Insider, of course, the Blood Horse, the Paulick Report and equidaily.com, horse racing’s version of the Drudge Report.

That so much information of all sorts is free on the web is the reason so few newspapers have made a success of pay walls. Many have had to revert and drop them and hope to recoup what they can from more hits on their site, which drives ad dollars.

At the same time, I understand the downsizing of the print edition but not its price. The two biggest expenses of any newspaper are the employees and the actual paper, called newsprint. Everyone I know who works for the Form multi-tasks, so it would be difficult to cut staff and maintain quality.

This left newsprint as the only area for meaningful savings. I don’t like the smaller version but I understand its necessity and expect to eventually get used to it. What I never could get used to is a day at the track without the Racing Form.


Written by Tom Jicha

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