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On a Roll
If the top of the desk reflects the condition of the mind behind the desk, I'll be lucky to squeeze out a few coherent thoughts after a dizzying few days of racing news. Here goes:
At Del Mar, the look on Tyler's face following the John C. Mabee Stakes told you everything you need to know about how a proud jock takes a tough loss. One week earlier, Baze came within a head of handing Zenyatta her first defeat in the Clement Hirsch Stakes with a horse whose name most people have now forgotten, or have at least until the next time Anabaa's Creation runs. Baze was crushed, with cause.
In the 9-furlong Mabee, Baze gave the proven miler Gotta Have Her a perfectly calibrated ride and hit the front with the wire in short sight. Then came Alex Solis with favored Magical Fantasy, sweeping past on the outside in the last few yards to win by a length. Tyler did everything but get off and pull his mare (think of Yosemite Sam), but again he ended up wearing what we'll call his Zenyatta face.
No one is riding better than Baze right now, and the standings show it. He was three back of Joel Rosario after the weekend's business was concluded. Baze may be facing days, though, when the stewards convene Wednesday, for his disqualification in Sunday's first race, in which he was flagged for coming in on horses ridden by Rosario and Joe Talamo in the stretch. In the meantime, Tyler's big horse, San Diego Handicap winner Informed, is still on track for a rematch with Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip in the Sept. 6 Pacific Classic.
A lot can happen over the next 12 weeks, but don't be surprised if the winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic and Breeders' Cup Turf were on display Tuesday in the Juddmonte International from York. Epsom Derby and 2,000 Guineas winner Sea the Stars beat St. James's Palace Stakes winner Mastercraftsman by a length over the mile and one-quarter. In a perfect world, Sea the Stars would have run next in the English St. Leger at Doncaster on Sept. 12. But he's not, according to trainer John Oxx, which means there will be no English Triple Crown winner again this year. The last one was Nijinsky, in 1970.
Fine. Oxx is Irish, the owners are Chinese, and who cares about British history anyway. They've got plenty to spare. Sea the Stars is the best horse in Europe. In Europe they say he's the best horse in the world, and that might be true. Running in the Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half at Santa Anita against defending champion Conduit is a good way to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Mastercraftsman, who suffered no shame in defeat, continues to look like Aidan O'Brien's best hope for the Classic. Back home in Ireland, the handsome gray colt will get all the synthetic surface exposure he needs over Ballydoyle's Polytrack gallop. He looks every bit the horse Raven's Pass was at this time last year.
And on a final note, let's hear nothing about how British racing beats the bejesus out of the American product at the top of the game. For a purse of just under a million bucks, York got four horses for the Juddmonte, and two of them were hopeless O'Brien-trained pacesetters for Mastercraftsman, as if he needed them. Both Sea the Stars and Mastercraftsman were already proven fighters from their wins earlier this year in large, snarling fields, and it was kind of cool watching it come down to just those two. But four horses for a million? Heck, we can do that.
Now from Old York to New York, where revenge is still a dish best served cold, with a side of fries. Two years ago, when the Breeders' Cup announced it would double-dip the Cup at Santa Anita in 2009, the list of shunned and disgruntled was topped by Belmont Park, whose management was still in the midst of their bankruptcy reorganization at the time. Now, the Cup will be going to a Santa Anita caught up in the bankruptcy of its Magna Entertainment corporate ownership.
This should have been good enough for the last laugh. But New York might get the next-to-last laugh as well if the Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra showdown in the Beldame Stakes can be arranged. Snaking the year's most hotly fantasized race away from the Breeders' Cup would be a coup to end all coups.
I have very little to say about the announcement from the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame that there will be a Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor attached in some way to the Hall, beginning next year sometime, with rules of induction to be announced sometime later, maybe, but not yet because the folks at the Hall of Fame thought it was important to get the announcement out there now, without details, rather than wait until they had everything thought through and been able to answer questions about the announcement when the announcement was made.
If anyone from the Hall of Fame had bothered to ask Hirsch while he was alive (apparently no one did), they would have learned that Joe was firmly opposed to the idea of turf writers being honored at the Hall of Fame level, alongside the people and horses who actually made the history of the sport. By comparison, writers don't make much more than deadlines.
Joe Hirsch belongs in the Hall of Fame as an Exemplar of Racing. Period. According to a Hall of Fame spokesman (who shall remain nameless, to save him from embarrassment, if that's okay Ed Bowen), Joe Hirsch won't even be a member of his own Honor Roll. I kid you not.
Anyway, the Joe Hirsch Media Roll sounds more like something on a sushi menu, and Joe Hirsch was a no-nonsense, steak and potatoes kind of guy. This is nonsense.
Thanks for the respone Jay. I am not saying Zenyatta is better than Rachel. Frankly I think if they met 4 times it would be two wins each. But I truly think the surface has more to do with them not being matched up than the ego's. Moss really has no reason to go east for a dirt fest and Jess Jackson wins two more on dirt back east he does not need to run Rachel on plastic. Tough for us. But I can only hope for a big controversial years end. I really want Zenyatta to end the year without a loss. With the finale being the Breeders Cup Classic. How could you vote against Zenyatta if she wins the Classic and ends up without a loss? George in Tampa
Jay, if NYRA were to "tweak" their own detention barn rule, protocol would be set and the detention barn would disappear. Not that that is a bad thing. The industry is shooting itself in the foot creating rules for perception when in fact these rules cause the public to become skeptical about the corruption, existing or not.
George -- Here's another scenario: Zenyatta goes East to run in the Beldame Stakes, but Rachel does not run. Zenyatta wins. Does Rachel now need to run in the Breeders' Cup to have a chance for HOY?
To Bob Hoberg When did horse of the year start being announced in mid August? Let Zenyatta win two more one being the Breeders cup classic and Rachel win the walkover that they call the Pennsylvania Derby. Not saying Zenyatta is better just saying let her win the classic and voters might hedge. George In Tampa
I agree with you Jay. I mean who will be nominated Kenny Mayne? How many racing writers would be on the first ballot seriously? It is another example of racing totally being out of touch. Off of the inane subject how about this. Rachel stays east and wins two more races, say the Travers and Gold Cup. Then Zenyatta stays home wins one more prep and wins the Breeders Cup Classic. Now who do you like for HOY? The Moss's are smart enough to know that if Zenyatta has any chance she must run in and win the Classic. Maybe they are smarter than we think. Because if they win their last two, one being the classic and Rachel does not show? Well stranger things have happened. Maybe we should let all the Hall of Fame writers on the first ballot vote HOY. George in Tampa
I support Jay's account of Joe Hirsch's firm wishes about exclusively leaving the Hall of Fame to the jockeys, trainers and horses who competed in actual competition. . .Frankly, this new move to include writers obfuscates the Hall's overdue need for a complete overahaul of its antiquated and unfair eligibility rules, that restrict membership to one jockey, one trainer, one horse per year (other than old timers). At the bottom line, the present rules are set up to exclude many worthy of induction. Moreover, the Hall of Fame Committee refuses to really examine ways to reform its stated purpose as cited earlier: To honor the BEST Horses, Jockeys and Trainers who have competed in the sport. There is no need for a wing in the Hall for Racing Writers and if there really was such a desire to honor noted writers, handicappers and other media members, it should be set up by the media itself, not by the industry it covers. Lord knows we do not need another area where racing coverage is compromised by overt conflicts of interest. Steve Davidowitz
Something happened in the Juddemonte on Tuesday that all of the arm chair trainers and handicapers who work with a slide rule and a calculator missed. Actually Gary Stevens saw it but he is a horsemen. When the two colts were in the lane moving at full chat and Mastercraftsman started to open up Sea the Stars hit another level and charged to the lead. The tempo in this race was sharp right from the gate.Both horses were driving right thru the wire. When RA, the anointed, puts on a performane like that against a live Grade 1 winner we can start thinking about great.She is really good but has some really sketchy connections so lets not break out the bubbly yet. Her trainer was last years top conditioner based soley on numbers and he will probably win again this year. If the public got to vote the winner would be the Mind That Bird fellow or the guy who trained Peppers Pride.
BobBright, You win 3 of 5, what, fantasy horse races where surfaces are picked from a hat? How are we going to determine that, coin flips? The vast majority of Euro turf horses lose at least a few steps on dirt. Giant's Causeway and Sakhee could've both taken down the BC Turf in 2000 and 2001. Yet, on dirt, neither Euro turfer could hold off Tiznow, who was certainly not the world-class talent the runners-up were. And, no, that's not sour grapes, as I bet Tiznow... but this is the horse that got soundly drubbed by Freedom Crest and Wooden Phone and wasn't even consistent in G2 company. We already knew Sea The Stars was talented. Mastercraftsman is good too... assuming Sea The Stars isn't running against him. Nothing about the race was very surprising, including the ineptitude of the other 2 runners. I'm still not sure how/why that would automatically make RA a cut below, particularly on dirt.
Sea The Stars already beat Conduit, in the Eclipse at Sandown. Personally, I'd like to see him in the Turf against Conduit, Mastercraftsmen and Gio Ponti.
Bernard -- Yes, it was a cheap shot. I try to avoid them but I am, after all, human. Never mind all that, though. Just glad to hear you're out of the hospital.