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 Breedersâ€™ 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 Yearâ€™s Day and Sheâ€™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, itâ€™s, â€śWait a minute. Not so fast.â€ť Thereâ€™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 1â€™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. Thereâ€™s no disputing D. Wayne Lukas has the â€śnowâ€ť 3-year-old. But arenâ€™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 2â€™s as well as a near miss in the Breedersâ€™ 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 Breedersâ€™ 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 1â€™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 Orbâ€™s court.
Orb will not have won since May but neither did last seasonâ€™s champion, Iâ€™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 canâ€™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 Dollâ€™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 donâ€™t like the idea of Sheâ€™s a Tiger backing into the juvenile filly title off two non-winning races but I canâ€™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 itâ€™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 placingsâ€”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?