12/04/2012 12:43PM

What Is a Breeders' Cup Win Worth?

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If Executiveprivilege wins Saturday’s Hollywood Starlet Stakes, and she will be heavily favored to do so, it will create an interesting dilemma for Eclipse Award voters:

With a win Saturday, Executiveprivilege would have three Grade 1 victories (the others being the Chandelier, and the Del Mar Debutante), more than any other 2-year-old filly. Do you vote for her to be champion of her division? Or do you vote for Beholder, whose only Grade 1 victory came in the biggest race for her age group, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, in which she defeated Executiveprivilege by one length?

If the Breeders’ Cup was the only time Beholder and Executiveprivilege raced against each other, or if it was obvious there was a considerable disparity of ability between these two, then this question wouldn’t be difficult. But these fillies met once before, in the Del Mar Debutante, and Executiveprivilege edged Beholder by a nose in that encounter.

Even then, to simply say Beholder and Executiveprivilege have split their two head-to-head meetings would be to ignore important extenuating circumstances that only further cloud the issue. When Beholder won the Juvenile Fillies, she did so in front-running fashion over a speed-biased track, a surface that must have compromised Executiveprivilege. But when Executiveprivilege got up in the Del Mar Debutante, she did so only after Beholder drifted toward what local observers insist was a dead rail, which had to compromise her to some extent.

If Executiveprivilege wins Saturday, then the subsequent Eclipse Award vote will be an interesting test of the real value of a Breeders’ Cup victory. If Executiveprivilege goes on to be voted divisional champion, then it reaffirms what we have always known, that three (in this case, Grade 1 wins) is greater than one. If Beholder is voted the title, it reaffirms something else we have always known, that not all Grade 1 races are of equal value, and that a Breeders’ Cup win is greater than three non-Breeders’ Cup Grade 1 scores.