Friday, November 08, 2013
Separate dirt and turf Eclipses and other thoughts
Thoughts on the Breeders' Cup linger. One suggestion worth consideration is separate Eclipse Awards for best older dirt and turf horses. If nothing else, it would solve the Wise Dan controversy. Also, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint should be reinstated.
MIAMI, Nov. 8, 2013--All things Breedersâ€™ Cup and their ramifications remain hot topics. So before we move on to pondering the Triple Crown, there are still thoughts to be shared.
A comment on my most recent column suggested separate Eclipse awards for outstanding older dirt horse and turf horse. On one hand, this would solve the Wise Dan conundrum. On the other, there would still be debates on who deserves each prize. This year the dirt prize would come down to five-for-six Game on Dude or two-for-five Mucho Macho Man.
Every year the candidates would be different but the arguments would be just as passionate.
I still like the idea. Turf and dirt are different worlds. Without getting into this seasonâ€™s particulars, the floor is open for opposing views on the bigger picture.
Secret Circle showed up the Breedersâ€™ Cup decision-making process when he added the Sprint championship to the 2011 Juvenile Sprint title on his resume. The Juvenile Sprint was axed after only five showed up last year. But that was as much a product of the first time Lasix ban as lack of interest.
Meanwhile, the long running joke (pun intended) Marathon, which has produced no one of merit and hasnâ€™t encouraged a meaningful increase in long distance races during the year, remains a part of the program.
The Marathon does no harm as a program-opening novelty but the Juvenile Sprint should be given another chance. There are more juvenile sprint specialists in November than there are 2-year-olds ready for two turns. Also, Lasix is no longer an issue.
Mizdirection won the Turf Sprint for the second time. Another filly, Reneesgotzip, hit the board for the second time against colts. The great female Goldikova won the Turf Mile three straight years and Miesque won it twice. The Fugue just missed in the Turf, defeating all of the best American males. Letâ€™s not forget Treve winning the Arc against the worldâ€™s best.
Isnâ€™t it time North America rethinks its gender classifications. In Europe, top females are expected to race against males once they turn 4. In America, itâ€™s such a rarity that we give Horse of the Year Awards to distaffers who beat males even once or, in the case of Zenyatta, come close.
Iâ€™m not arguing for an end to gender specific races on a day-in, day-out basis but there should be a severe reduction of Grade 1 races restricted to females. Such stakes, especially in the second half of the year, should be no more than Grade 2 and I wouldnâ€™t object to dropping one grade lower.
Countless theories have been offered as to why Euros are so superior to North American horses on grass. The obvious one is this is the surface on which they race almost exclusively, so when they rise to the top, they have really accomplished something. On our side of the Atlantic (hasnâ€™t â€śacross the pondâ€ť become one of the most over-used clichĂ©s in all of sports?) a lot of horses arenâ€™t tried on grass until they are proven wanting on dirt. Some of our best never set foot on the infield course.
It should not be discounted that we breed and buy for speed, they do it for stamina and most major turf races are contested at distances beyond a mile and an eighth, which seems to be the breaking point for all but a handful of our horses. Euro horses are not superior to ours, they are just superior at longer distances. Mizdirection and Wise Dan prove we are right there with them up to a mile.
Et tu Breeders Cup? Some things never change at Santa Anita, even when the Breedersâ€™ Cup has taken over the facility. On Saturday, the standings of the BC handicapping contest, of interest to almost no one, were posted on TV monitors before the will-pays of multiple-race wagers, which were important to almost everyone.
Some things never change at any track. In the middle of the Dirt Mile Friday, as the horses went down the backstretch, TV monitors at Calder switched away from the channel the Breedersâ€™ Cup had been on all day to the Golden Gate signal. It was marginally better Saturday at Gulfstream where the same situation occurred but with the Breedersâ€™ Cup horses still in the paddock.
This has happened at every track or simulcast facility I have visited, including Las Vegas race books. I understand room has to be found for later in the day tracks, but those at the switch should be more sensitive to when they hit the button. A warning several minutes out isnâ€™t asking too much, is it?
Dave Johnson sent a note about the lucky coup for the Sirius radio Breeders' Cup crew, which included Bill Finley and Peter Kleinhans. The latter is friendly with the connections of Ria Antonia, so they did a pre-race interview even though the filly was 32-1 and given little chance. The Racing Form had her at the bottom of its graded entries.
When Ria Antonia got into a photo with Sheâ€™s a Tiger, they reconnected by cell phone. Finley astutely asked if they could get jockey Javier Castellano to the phone. While the stewards were deliberating, Castellano was offering his version of what happened. They still had the Ria Antonia people on the phone when Sheâ€™s a Tiger was taken down.
This goes to show luck comes in many forms at the race track.
The New York Times is relentless. On racingâ€™s most glorious occasion, the paperâ€™s Breedersâ€™ Cup advance was an extensive story on the drug violations of Americaâ€™s top 20 trainers along with a rehash of its exposes of a year ago, most of which were at third tier and outlaw tracks.
Missing was context, such as how many of the violations were for relatively minor, legal pharmaceuticals lingering in a horseâ€™s system beyond the time they were supposed to, whether they were trace samples so minute that they wouldnâ€™t affect the performance of a gnat or were a product of a stablehand snorting coke and getting the residue on a horseâ€™s bridle.
This would have interfered with The Times agenda to slime racing.
Racing's audience might be gray but I've got a couple of bucks that say the sport will be around long after The Gray Lady ceases to exist as a newspaper.