But 2010, now we’re talking. We bought ourselves a deep fryer and we’re not messing around anymore, even if it means burning the house down in a grease fire that Satan would be proud to call his own.
Churchill Downs promises to be a Renaissance, a rebirth of a Breeders’ Cup mired by a medieval serfdom with an inept monarch. Dirt is the Word and along with it will come an enlightened climax.
For older horses, the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes, won by eventual Whitney winner, Bulls Bay, will be a proving ground for any number of horses. Possibly Bulls Bay will defend, though he is already proven. For soon-to-be four year olds, we could see Quality Road, Musket Man, Papa Clem and Summer Bird, though for Summer Bird the 1 1/16 will be too short.
The Grade 2 Louisville Distaff — which happened to have Zenyatta entered until the track proved too sloppy — will feature any number of top-rated mares. Alabama winner Careless Jewel and Personal Ensign winner Icon Project, just to name a couple.
Zenyatta was primed to make her 2009 debut in this race, so maybe another champion horse may as well. This is, of course, Rachel Alexandra. She obviously loves Churchill Downs and her rider, Calvin Borel, is the landlord. The beauty of being a dominant female athlete is that there is always the option of running in the female class or male class. Male horses don’t have this luxury, though I’d recommend it to Mine That Bird. At least he has more in common with Rachel than Summer Bird does. You do the math.
The sprint division should have lively entries for the girls and boys. Let’s hope that the classiest front-running sprinter of our time, Fabulous Strike, will be primed for the Churchill Downs Stakes, though seven furlongs is not his strength. This could lure Kodiak Kowboy, Munnings, Vineyard Haven, Capt. Candyman Can, Pyro, or Go Go Shoot.
Sara Louise and Game Face will be viable female sprinters for the Humana Distaff.
And who knows? Perhaps Barbara Banke’s Hot Dixie Chick will win the Kentucky Oaks and be a contender for the BC Ladies’ Classic. Maybe Rachel wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic for her husband, Jess Jackson, and we’ll have the best wedding cake topper this side Life Is Sweet and Zenyatta (hey, it’s California!).
The turf races seem somewhat irrelevant to elaborate on here since the Euro’s will forever be competitive without needing a race over the surface. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Goldikova again? To quote The Simpson’s Groundskeeper Willie, “Goldikova, if it weren’t against God’s law, I’d make ya my wife.”
What all this means is that horse racing will have its names back. North American horse racing is dirt racing and whoever should win important races at Churchill, Saratoga, Belmont, and Gulfstream will not be compromised and will not have excuses for skipping the Breeders’ Cup.
Since the synthetics will be taken out of the equation, many of the traditional dirt tracks — not just Churchill — will benefit. Saratoga lost some good horses to Presque Isle so that horseman could prep a horse over a synthetic to see if they could run in the BC at Santa Anita. Save the fake stuff for inclement and brisk locales like Turfway or Woodbine. Keep it out of southern California, Texas, Kentucky, and, yes, Dubai.
But like a bad opening act, Santa Anita bored the crowd and ran over a puppy — a cute one too — so it will be up to the headliner riding its coat tails to do something about it. Ladies and Gentlemen … Churchill Downs.
Nick Zito won’t have to lay his horses up after Saratoga and North America will have its horse racing back.
Now get off the couch and make yourself a leftover-turkey sandwich. You’ve earned it, sport.