Monday, November 18, 2013

Poor Clark… Poor Cigar…Poor Natonal Racing Schedule

The Breeders’ Cup is over, yet still we roll on.

Listen: For the past 30 years, especially in the past 10 years, the Breeders’ Cup is the unofficial end of the horse racing year. It should be the official end.

Ten complete months of horse racing culminate in the world championships where, largely, the best dirt and some of the best turf horses meet in the relatively climate-controlled locale of Southern California.

Two things should happen: Either the horse racing year must end and take a two-month vacation before racing picks up again in January, or the Breeders’ Cup, if it stays in SoCal permanently, should be moved to December and thus truly end the year.

The running of great races, namely the Clark Handicap and the Cigar Mile, after the Breeders’ Cup is a disservice to the races.

It’s also like a scene in a movie that plays out after the credits have run. Most of the people have left the theater, they’ve already seen Iron Man totally waste a bunch of super soldiers, yet there’s still more after all that emotional investment.

Imagine after the World Series, Detroit and St. Louis decide to play in the hopes that they have a chance to supplant Boston as the best team in the land.

Game On Dude, the spirited big fish in a small pond, may run in the Clark at Churchill Downs, the site of his near-Breeders’ Cup Classic win over, ugh, Drosselmeyer. Game On Dude needs a win in this spot to be remotely considered for Horse of the Year. His effort in the Classic should be proof alone that he’s not as good as his record says he is.

Bill Parcells, owner of a few horses and known most for his coaching of the football, said, “You are what your record says you are.” Game On Dude, winner of five of six starts in 2013, is worse than his record says he is, yet he’s going to be seriously considered by the voters for the big cheese in January.

As the Bowl Championship Series is being squeezed out for a better playoff system in college football, I can’t help but think how a formulaic system of this sort can help people see who the best horses in the country are.

Handicappers already do this. They already evaluate a race by saying, "Who did he beat? Who came out of that race and won, thus validating a previous win?"

Every horse should be fed into a computer and spat out a number that evaluates the efforts of the races. A few criteria:

The race’s grade.

The records of the other horses in the field.

Final time.

Distance with the emphasis give to longer races.

Winning margin.

Successive performances of horses in said race.

Field size.

A unified speed figure, say, for this argument’s sake, the Beyer.

That’s eight variables worth considering—there could be more—that can give a true value to a horse’s performance over the course of a long year.

If Game On Dude wins the Clark, I’d argue it would his best win if horse’s like Bourbon Courage and Golden Ticket join the fray with Will Take Charge.

This Horse Racing Championship Series would answer the question in the Three-Year-Old Filly Division with Beholder and Princess of Sylmar. Beholder won the Distaff over Sylmar and Royal Delta, but Sylmar won the Oaks, Alabama and Beldame. Beholder gets a big bump for the Distaff win, Sylmar’s prior efforts may rank her higher.

But, really, with all this racing after the Breeders’ Cup it all seems to be disorganized and devoid of focus. It devalues the World Championships and trivializes it as just another big weekend of racing where it should be the big weekend in racing that allows us to contextualized the entire year as we get ready for 2014.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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