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Warning from Woodbine; Breeders' Cup Update
What is happening at Woodbine on Saturday is an embarassment to the North American racing and breeding industries.
Fifteen of the 28 horses entered to run in the three Grade 1 races on Woodbine's Canadian International Day card are trained in foreign countries. Worse, eight of the ten runners in the E.P. Taylor Stakes are trained in Europe. The other two, Miss Keller and Mekong Melody, are formerly trained in Europe.
What would have happened at Woodbine this weekend if the Europeans had decided to stay home? Very likely we would have had five-horse fields for all three races. The 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor and the 1 1/2-mile Canadian International are examples of what happens when national breeding industries like those in the United Staes and Canada decide to breed almost exclusively for speed: the number of horses that can compete at those distances simply disappears.
Just as embarassing, only six of the 28 horses in the three races- the 6-furlong Nearctic Stakes is the third- are trained in America. Three of those are in the Nearctic. The days when Kentucky could produce top class middle distance horses for the domestic market are long gone.
The Ontario Jockey Club owes the International Racing Bureau (IRB) a debt of gratitude. Headed by Alastair Donald, the IRB is the Newmarket, England based outfit that recruits European horses to run at Woodbine, as well as in the Breeders' Cup. Adrian Beaumont, the man in charge of the recruiting, should be given the keys to the City of Toronto and unlimited spending money this weekend. Without his efforts, Woodbine's big day would have been a gigantic bust.
*Some off the radar developments on the Breeders' Cup front emerged this week. Godolphin has the Juvenile Turf in mind for their Gran Criterium winner Biondetti. Trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, Biondetti is from the first crop of Preakness/Travers/Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Bernadini and is a half brother to Grade 3 Mint Julep and Locust Grove winner Delta Princess as well as to Grade 1 Garden City winner Indy Five Hundred. Undefeated after three starts, Biondetti traveled from Newmarket to San Siro in Milan to win the one-mile, Group 1 Gran Criterium on Oct. 9.
There is a Godolphin precedent for sending Biondetti to the Juvenile Turf as the race was won by their Gran Criterium runner-up of last year, Vale of York.
Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor is still eyeing the Filly & Mare Turf for his Yellow Ribbon winner Hibaayeb, although the Singspiel filly returned to Newmarket after her big win in California.
Keep an eye on Godolphin's Delegator in Saturday's Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. Last year's Breeders' Cup Mile fifth did not run again until Sept. 17 when he won the listed 7-furlong Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury. A good effort in the 7-furlong, Group 2 Challenge could earn the Dansili 4-year-old a second trip to the Mile, or to the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin on Dec. 12, or maybe both.
One should not rule out the possibility of the Australian-bred sprinter Starspangledbanner showing up for the Mile, either. A Group 1 winner going a mile in his native land when trained by Leon Corstens, he won 6-furlong Group 1's at Ascot and Newmarket this summer for Aidan O'Brien before finishing second in the 5-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes and fifth in the 6-furlong Haydock Park Sprint Cup. A return to a mile could be just what the doctor ordered for Starspangledbanner. Coolmore will be firming up thier Breeders' Cup plans during the next week.
Gilt Edge Girl is still under consideration for the Sprint or the Turf Sprint. The Clive Cox-trained daughter of Monsieur Bond held off Filly & Mare Sprint probable Lady of the Desert by a length to win the 5-furlong, Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp on Arc Day on a soft surface. Cox, who has Balthazaar's Gift in Woodbine's Nearctic Stakes on Saturday, is worried about firm ground, however, although Gilt Edge Girl did win a Bath listed race on that kind of surface in April shortly before landing the 6-furlong, Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at Leopardstown on good ground.
We applaud the decision of Breeders' Cup Ltd. to provide travel expenses for foreign runners in the Cup beginning in 2011. This puts the Breeders' Cup on a somewhat equal footing with Dubai World Cup Night in March, and especailly with Hong Kong International Race Day in December, and the big international races in Japan that run from November through December and include the Japan Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt. The Japanese and Hong Kong races are in competition for horses with the Breeders' Cup, and both the Japan Racing Association and the Hong Kong Jockey Club have been offering foreign raiders freebies for decades. Nice to finally catch up with the rest of the world.
It is also good to hear that Breeders' Cup Ltd. is thinking of switching the Marathon to turf, although lengthening the race from 1 3/4 miles to 2 miles would all but eliminate American competition. And if Cup officials are uneasy with the name Marathon, how about calling the race the Breeders' Cup Stayers?
Roger, California is not worth the bettors time. Woodbine is the place to play ? You like the highest take-out on the continent ? Thats good for the players ? Interesting that California Fair tracks equal Woodbines handle routinely. It takes Woodbine a week to equal a Socal tracks daily handle. It appears that the money disagrees with you. You like Remington ? You like itsy bitsy pools do you ? You like S. Korea ? Why not move there ? It might save Californians a couple of bucks supporting the rest of this country with our taxes. I'm not wealthy. Me and my Ca. brethren have been paying to much in taxes supporting all the midwest and southern welfare recipients and farm subsidy suckers for our entire lives to get wealthy. Where do you think the money comes from to keep the trash trucks running in New York ? It sure ain't Oklahoma or the Rust Belt. The California bashing from the clueless biting the hand that feeds them gets a little tiresome. IMO.
Great post, The destruction of long-distance racing merits serious discussion as it coincides with many other disturbing trends. I've always felt the synthetic revolution attracted inordinate criticism. What is so great about 'dirt racing' if the typical race card consists of 6F sprints with one or two 8.5F races thrown in for good measure. Often times the horses don't even make it that far, and we're stuck with races held at a mile or a mile and 70 yards. Yet the prominent analysts and pundits bemoan the death of 'dirt racing.' When it was revealed that Santa Anita would revert back to dirt, several analysts were just giddy, convinced it was only a matter of time before CA racing was restored to respectability. Of course, there are myriad other tracks with with synthetic surfaces, but that's beside the point. I'm convinced that CA racing and North American racing in general will only be restored to respectability when we demand a sound breed that is capable of navigating classic and marathon distances. The Breeder's Cup Marathon is perhaps the most visible example of our low regard for long-distance racing. Every race at the Breeder's Cup features a purse of at least one million dollars, with one notable exception. The Grade 3 Marathon (which was run at 12 furlongs in 2008 and now has been extended to 14 furlongs) features a purse of $500,000. The problem is one of economics. Horses are traded like Blue Chip Stocks. Investors want a quick return on their investment. Furthermore, there is a hyperfocus on winning the Triple Crown races, especially the Kentucky Derby. Hence, there is an unreal zeal for horses that demonstrate speed and precocity. There is little room for sportsmanship; these delicate animals are carefully managed so they take the path of least resistance, which enables them to enhance their future breeding value while assuming minimal risk.
As long as we give the purses for sprints and shorter than classic distance races that we now give, we will breed into these races and train into these races. And as long as we get the occasional runner bred for speed or a mile that sqeezes out a classic win like some of the recent Kentucy Derbies, we will continue to get what we now have. By the way doesn't it seem most of those trainers that are right on the edge as far as performance enhancement tend to be dirt / sprint orientated? If we had a reward system that is strongly tilted toward classic distances regardless of surface, I bet we'd see less dependence on drugs. How many times does the Belmont winner have sub-par speed figures? Often. How many times do you see the hot shot 30+% trainers that come from nowhere do it with distance and distance turf runners? Not often. I see US writers drool about a runner that tosses a big speed figure and ignore a campaigner that puts a long, solid season together. ( Remember the love affair our writers had with Bellamy Road after his 117 in the Wood in April? ) We reward and admire "the big number" or the " big event" and not the campaign. Want to change behavior whether it is how we breed, train or race... change the reward system.
I admire you Alan. Hopefully Goldi does not lose to Gio Ponti and Zenyatta does not do a sub 2 min mile. You would rival Wally Pyrah's "Zenyatta a throwaway in the 2009 classic". Good Luck! :)
Thanks for championing the cause of American breeding follies. Although I'm not a breeder, I do not understand the obsession Americans have with speed. I cringe when I see those commercials and advertisements for 2 year olds in training going as fast and as hard as they can at such a young age. It seems foolish. Whatever happened to wanting to have a stayer, which used to be the standard among desirable traits for a racehorse?
As usual, you are right on target with your criticisms of US breeding. Thanks for keeping us up to date on Europeans' BC plans. Is there any way you could give us a run-down on the preferred going for these horses, at least for those who are pretty definite to come? And I am soooooo looking forward to Goldikova's record 3rd Mile win!!! Yes, she is the superstar (and I am a Zenyatta fan).
Zenyatta has defeated the winners of at least 196 stakes. I'm pretty sure there is more. You're right she's a bum. Like Babe Ruth just a local wonder. Now the Babe could have been World Class if he would have played cricket in England or crouquet in france or maybe bacci ball in Italy. If he would have been a beer keg roller at Oktoberfest or a Camel wrestler in Saudi Arabia then he wouldn't have been so provincial. You're right, Zenyatta is something of a garage rock star like Elvis, now Elvis might have got some accolades if he would have played Albert Hall. LOL. Zenyatta's just like Ali beating up on the bum of the month club. Joe Montana and the 49ers never really proved themselves good football players 'cause they were ducking Manchester United. LOL Jesse Owens could have been good if he would have got a curling medal. LOL (Your provincial attitude precedes you.) AS
Great article - As a horseplayer here in North America I can only get excited about races like Arlington Million Day, Breeder's Cup Day, the Arc (but it is only shown rarely because tracks here don't know it is a huge race), and the Dubai World Cup. Reading the past performances and the breeding on such days is awe inspiring. Horse racing is on the decline in North America as evidenced by the short fields especially for the longer races and it is rampant with "drug" trainers with no shame any more to serve a suspension. And I loathe that they call the Beeders Cup Distaff the "Ladies Classic." 1 1/8 is NOT a classic distance. JG
While the lack of participants from North America in Saturday's Woodbine stakes might very well be an embarrassment don't expect for a minute that any will be embarrassed. It's way past that. Your previous blog entry regarding the jump races in Paris should also cause some people in the US racing community to rue decisions they have made over the last few decades that have increasingly marginalized the steeplechase game at US racetracks. When I made my first trip to Saratoga on an August Thursday in 1974 there were two jump races on a nine race card, and I remember being mesmerized by something I'd never seen before. Now they've been all but vanquished from the scene as a succession of New York state breds run repetitive 5 1/2 F turf sprints. I must say my take on the Breeders Cup Marathon is somewhat different than yours. Rather than a distance or surface change they should just forget the whole idea. It goes against the realities of the game in this country. This should come as no surprise when the people who run the organization exist in neat little self created bell jar. Please keep us posted with any additional European information relating to the Breeders Cup.
Excellent update Alan...I enjoy the International side of this game immensely. Thankyou!
IMO the racing at Woodbine is better than just about every track in North American from a betting standpoint and this is primarily because of the size of the fields. Other than at Remington Park or the Kentucky Derby you seldom see a 14 horse field anymore. Sadly racing here may go the way of Australia where we have 5 races from 2 different tracks........second thought: they already do that in Ohio. I find it very odd that when I watch and bet on racing from South America I see more horses closer together in the stretch run than any track in the US. It could be they run slower and honestly from a betting standpoint.........who cares. I went to the races in Seoul Korea and saw large fields and competitive races in November and December when it was 30 degrees and snowing. Racing however in the US is now more a novelty for the wealthy........California is a lackluster example of that and tracks not worth the bettors time because of the field sizes.
look at woodbines undercard and try not to throw up. the euro's love our 1 1/2 mile grass with long sweeping turns. at 1 1/4. it's uphill for the first 1/4 and then downhill for 5/8th and finishes with a flat 1/4 mile stretch run. just like in europe and england. at 1 1/2 , the first 1/2 is uphill. plus the weather. always a give to the ground in the fall. good for the horses. the breeders cup turf races should ALL be at woodbine and the dirt/poly should alternate east coast/west coast. belmont turf is nice, but it's not woodbine. also, let's face reality, what country in the whole world is safer than canada? none. why? because every terrorist group and terror cell leader has family in canada. they love our banks, our welfare money, and our health care. their kids get a great FREE education and with a canadian passport, the world is theirs to travel. they will never do anything stupid to kill the bird that lays the golden egg.