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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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Friday, November 29, 2013


Be thankful for another great weekend of racing


Thoroughbred racing is the never-ending season. Four weeks after the nominal championship at the Breeders' Cup, a terrific Thanksgiving weekend of racing all over the map could shake up the rankings in several divisions.

MIAMI, Nov. 29, 2013--Thoroughbred racing is unique in many ways. Not the least is it has a never-ending season. Viva la difference!

When the final official at the Breeders’ Cup was posted, media group think established several givens. Will Take Charge had overtaken Orb as top 3-year-old. Groupie Doll had defended her female sprint title. New Year’s Day and She’s a Tiger have the inside track to the juvenile championships. Mucho Macho Man might have surpassed Game on Dude as the leading contender for the Eclipse for older horses.

Only four weeks later, it’s, “Wait a minute. Not so fast.” There’s still a terrific Thanksgiving weekend of racing that could shake up the picture.

Game on Dude can move back to the head of the older class with a winning performance in the Clark at Churchill Downs. Why this is even necessary is an interesting argument. Not to take anything away from Mucho Macho Man but how a horse with two wins from five starts could be in the conversation with a winner of three Grade 1’s during a five-for-six season, is mystifying.

The Clark also gives Will Take Charge an opportunity to state his case as outstanding 3-year-old. Or weaken it. There’s no disputing D. Wayne Lukas has the “now” 3-year-old. But aren’t Eclipses supposed to be for a body of work over the entire year? A win in the Clark would give him his second Grade 1 to go with a pair of Grade 2’s as well as a near miss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against older horses. The latter seems to be his strongest talking point.

Not to be overlooked is Goldencents, who is taking on the big boys (and girl) in the Cigar Mile. His credentials compare favorably to Will Take Charge. The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (against older) was his second Grade 1. (He also won the Santa Anita Derby in the spring.) If he gets the job done at Aqueduct Saturday, he will be the only 3-year-old with three Grade 1’s on his resume. He also had a second in a Grade 1.

Anything less than wins or photo finish losses by Will Take Charge and Goldencents and the ball is back in Orb’s court.

Orb will not have won since May but neither did last season’s champion, I’ll Have Another. Orb still has the big kahuna, the Kentucky Derby, on his credit sheet as well as the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

As disappointing as his Preakness and Belmont were, it should not be overlooked that Will Take Charge was well up the track behind him in all three Triple Crown races and Goldencents trailed him home in the Derby and Preakness.

If Mucho Macho Man is an outlier candidate as top older horse, it is totally baffling how Groupie Doll can be considered the leader for best female sprinter. Have we time-traveled back to 2012? In 2013, she had only a weak win at Presque Isle Downs before her encore in the BC Distaff Sprint. If she can back that up with a win over males in the Cigar Mile, I withdraw my objections. If not, I can’t understand how anyone could offer her for championship consideration.

Dance To Bristol won seven of 10 starts, including a Grade 1. She competed from January through November, the epitome of a season-long body of work.

For that matter, why not Mizdirection? Her repeat in the Turf Sprint (against males) was her fourth win in five starts. All were on grass but where does it say outstanding female MAIN TRACK sprinter? One of Groupie Doll’s two wins was on kitty litter, which more resembles turf than dirt.

Honor Code (my fix) might have run the most impressive race of the Saratoga meeting in breaking his maiden. He followed it up with a troubled second in the Champagne. He has every right to be considered for top juvenile colt if he can put in another big one in the Remsen.

I don’t like the idea of She’s a Tiger backing into the juvenile filly title off two non-winning races but I can’t see anything in the Demoiselle or Golden Rod to overtake her. But you never know.

College football is one year away from making horse racing a lone wolf. The first genuine NCAA playoff will isolate horse racing as the only major sport whose championships are decided at the ballot box rather than on the field of competition.

Maybe it’s time for racing to join the mainstream. Instead of subjective votes for the various categories, a point system-- say 10-7-5 for Grades 1, 2 and 3 with lesser awards for lesser placings—should be instituted to settle titles in the various categories. Horse of the Year could still be decided by a vote among the various champions; the best of both worlds.

If nothing else, this would encourage the stars to show up more often. What could be bad about that?


Written by Tom Jicha

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