08/18/2009 3:45PM

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.

See Stars

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.