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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 27 — It might not have been an El Grande Event Day but there were some great performances from around the country Saturday to consider. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase.

Everybody loves to talk about super trainers but I want to talk about super owners, super owners like owner-breeder Godolphin LLC, or whatever the applicable trademark.

It’s great for Godolphin that on one day they can win a signature spring race at Churchill Downs not named Derby or Oaks. And it’s not every day you win the Irish Derby and Stephen Foster on two continents at once.

And all that while, the 2021 powerhouse awaits Belmont Park’s Suburban Handicap on July 4th weekend with America’s #1 ranked older horse, Mystic Guide.

Let’s see, I know I’m forgetting… no, wait, that three year old colt, Essential Quality, yeah, that’s the one.

So there it is, The stage has been set for a three-horse Breeders’ Cup Classic, Mystic Guide vs Maxfield vs Essential Quality.

Of course, this is hyperbole. However, let me ask: If you had a top class Grade 1 male, or female, would you run against that triumvirate?

I hope not to read or hear apologies about all this good fortune was due them because of all the money they put into the game, and how they give their horses all the time they need.

Both rationales have the benefit of being true. Then what would you all do with your petro dollars?

The only reason any of this came up was the devastating turn of foot displayed by Maxfield on the far turn at Churchill Downs, a race contested at the American classic distance of a mile and an eighth.

I know; the accepted classic distance in America is a mile and a quarter but as often as that distance is contested in this country, equine competition boils down to a handful of races each year.

After the Foster, and after Brendan Walsh said he’d like to find a race between now and Breeders’ Cup, before adding maybe a race in five or six-weeks time, that would put the Whitney in Maxfield’s crosshairs.

Then I started thinking about whether these two horses would meet each other before the Breeders’ Cup–that would be a no, But if so, would Michael Stidham really want to turn Mystic Guide back from 10 furlongs for the Whitney with or without Maxfield in the lineup? That’s highly unlikely, too.

It’s been widely believed that Mystic Guide would be a certain Suburban starter, then I saw it listed somewhere online that the Dubai World Cup winner was a “possible” starter, as opposed to Happy Saver, listed as “probable.”

It’s good to have options.

Unless, of course, you’re a Thoroughbred racing fan who can no longer get excited by a sport that gets more business-ier, and less sporty, by the day.

this is a live column; it will be updated periodically


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6 Responses

  1. JP,
    I think the horses most capable of winning the Whitney are the Met Mile’s first two finishers, Silver State and By My Standards.

    Despite Maxfield’s visually impressive win, the Stephen Foster is now only a G2 for a reason, and the field reflected its lowered status.

    Did Mystic Guide face typical world-class competition in Dubai? Not only does Pletcher have Mystic Guide’s JCGC conqueror, the undefeated Happy Saver in his barn, he now has Hollywood Gold Cup winner, Country Grammer, as well.

  2. Excellent points all, I. While the stronger Midwest horses might have been absent, neither has demonstrated the turn of foot on display Saturday, and I am a Silver State fan, riding his current win streak along the way. I believe Maxfield finally demonstrated he’s next level.

    Yes, Happy Saver is a good horse and might be the equal of these two at 10 furlongs; at 9F my guess is that no competitor can match ‘Max’s’ brilliance on display Saturday. For fans, a good problem to solve!

  3. JP,

    Very good points…the more top horses are concentrated with a small number of owners and trainers the more this “problem” will occur.


  4. Makes sense Peter, right? If you tower over a supporting cast with a preponderance of numbers, owners and trainers of lesser will not subject their runners to overly stressful situations, and the way today’s game is played, no owner can afford to waste any starts…

    1. “the way today’s game is played, no owner can afford to waste any starts”

      Consider the winner of the 1951 Whitney, One Hitter. He went on to run an incredible 88 lifetime starts and the Whitney was 1 1/4 miles in those days.

      Kelso won the Whitney 3 times and had 63 lifetime starts.

      There’s no chance of a horse having that type of durability today. The racing establishment wonders why bringing in new fans is so difficult. Perhaps if the best horses had longer careers that would help to establish horse name recognition among the general public.

  5. Not a new argument but still one that needs to continue to be made; the durability just isn’t there. As stated often here, now it’s about racing to breed, and that is not the way it was intended…

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