03/14/2010 7:57PM



Arnold Zetcher said he couldn't hear the silence because the giddy bunch surrounding him at the Fair Grounds was making too much noise.

"It was kind of a strange feeling," Zetcher said. "I guess we did disappoint a lot of the fans who came to see Rachel Alexandra win. But wasn't our mare terrific?"

Yes, she was, Mr. Z. But don't look for Zardana to get the credit she deserves for being at the right track in the right place on Saturday to smack down the reigning Horse of the Year in the New Orleans Ladies. After all, the race was created to attract Rachel Alexandra, which means the Fair Grounds management did its job. And, as a proactive owner, Zetcher did his, pointing out to trainer John Shirreffs that he'd rather roll the dice on the road rather than stay home in California the same day and run against Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita.

The last time a house fell so deadly silent after a shocker like Saturday's in New Orleans was in August of 1996, when a sardined crowd of 44,181 at Del Mar stared in gap-jawed disbelief at the sight of Dare and Go racing past the "unbeatable" Cigar in the million-dollar Pacific Classic. Things were also pretty glum around Belmont Park that day in June of 2004 when Smarty Jones lost the Triple Crown to Birdstone before a packed house. And then there was the 2005 Kentucky Derby, also orchestrated by John Shirreffs, when Giacomo's 50-1 winning lunge at the wire had most of the 100,000 or so scrambling to check their programs.

At the very least, it is refreshing to be able to use the old "that's part of horse racing" cliche to describe a surprising result with no casualties--other than bruised egos and bankrolls--rather than some awful racetrack accident. Truly, anything can happen in a horse race, and it is always a mistake to operate under different assumptions. Zardana's theatrics did not rise to the level of Upset beating Man o' War, or Jim Dandy shocking Gallant Fox. But they did set the table for a fascinating season to follow, especially now that owner Jess Jackson has decided he will not run his filly against Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 9.

ZBC 2 copy The events of last Saturday at Santa Anita and the Fair Grounds were never going to be conclusive. Those still skeptical of Zenyatta's quality will admire the way she overcome a bit of tricky traffic, but they will point out that she is still doing business in Southern California on synthetic tracks, which for some reason has clouded the ability to assess the broader meaning of her 15-0 record. At the same time, those who were entertained but not wildly impressed by Rachel Alexandra's record last year against 3-year-olds and second tier older runners are not justified in thinking any less of the filly after her loss to Zardana. If she was, in fact, dead short for the race, only her next race will tell the true tale. And never forget, no matter how good they are, no matter what they've done, no matter what accolades they've won--Man o' War, Citation, Kelso, Dr. Fager, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Cigar--sooner or later they all get beat.

Well, almost all of them.

ClockerDan More than 1 year ago
Seabass -- thanks for the research, but I also agree with what you've already said, that "18 races do not a valid statistical study make". The odds aren't a factor since many handicappers like me shied away from dirt-only horses running in the SA BCs thereby inflating their odds, especially after watching Curlin lose to two European grass milers & Tiago in 2008. BTW, I also loved dirt horse Indian Blessing in 2008 who lost to turf miler/syn Ventura, a great filly in her own right. And last year I really liked D'Funnybone but threw him out, and was glad I did as he ended up going off as an inflated 4th choice at almost 7-1 and then finished dead last. I also really liked Bullsbay and especially Pyro in last year's "dirt" mile only to have them finish last and next-to-last as the 3rd and 4th choices. Glad I threw them out. But again, the odds were irrelevant. Thanks for the examples of horses who have won going from dirt-to-syn including Gayego, Zenyatta, and Einstein, but these three had ALREADY proven themselves on synthetic and/or grass BEFORE they accomplished the surface switch success. IMHO betting a dirt horse who, unlike your examples has yet to run on synthetic is very risky (don't know about the FPX horse). I really don't care what Andy Beyer thinks, I just found his 0-for-43 stat compelling since from my own observation over the years, IN GENERAL (not always), turf-to-syn SEEMS to be a much more solid bet than dirt-to-syn. Likewise, I personally have done much better betting on turf-to-dirt or syn-to-dirt (e.g. Colonel John in 2008 Travers) than dirt-to-turf or dirt-to-syn. I don't know why that's the case, it's just my personal experience. Has nothing to do with anything Andy Beyer or anyone else wrote. Unless like Gayego, Einstein, and Zenyatta as you point out, the horse has ALREADY shown an affinity for synthetic or at least turf, I no longer bet dirt horses on the stuff. That stategy seems to be working pretty well for me. It certainly did at last year's BC. And that's my only point.
Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Seabass, R U done "figuring" yet ? I could have saved U an awful lot of time & wasted energy. & $$$$$. What part of the following sentence don't U understand ? "Of all the horse's who had their last start on DIRT, in the '08 & '09 BC's, were a combined 0 for 43..." U can "figure" it, anyway U wish, & until the cows come home. When U come up w/ a system, that tops 100% in accuracy, I suggest U bottle it, & publish it.
C More than 1 year ago
blackseabass, Who am I parroting? Look, it doesn't matter who you declare had a chance. And, again, odds prove absolutely nothing. According to your logic, only favorites are allowed to win and the order of finish must coincide with the odds. That's obviously not true and, of course, didn't happen. So how does your reasoning (ie, the odds) hold any water?
Jay H More than 1 year ago
Mark -- You make a very good point. It can happen to any horse any time.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Just for fun I'd like to add that Gayego went SAR- SA won on both surfaces. Caracortado went FPX to Synth winning on both.Zenyatta went SA-OP-HOL won all three. Einstien went GP-SA and won the Big Cap. I could go on and on but why bother. Andy said horses can't go dirt to synthetic and win so it MUST be true. He would never devise a rant around circumstantial evidence, as we all know. Jay if Andy would have told me to break my lap-top I would have obliged him. Right over top of his shiney head. Thats a joke.I really would have laughed and told him to go back down his weasel hole.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
C and ClockerDan, It doesn't surprise me that you don't want to do the research to back your thesis or contradict mine. Its so much easier to just PARROT. I'll help you out. The 9 board horses were Indian Blessing top 3,Cocoa Beach top 3,Midshipman top 3, Zaftig top 3, Sky Diva top 3, Music Note top 3 in '09, 4th choice in '08, Ready's Echo 20-1(nice pick Jay), Two-Step Salsa 22-1. The remainder of the 0/43 crowd that I could find were D'funnybone 5/2, Nite Lite 4-1, Intangaroo 6-1 4th choice, Munnings 6-1 co 4th/5th choice,Pyro 11-1 '08 5-1 '09, Summer Bird 5-1, Ginger Punch 10-1 5th choice, Eskendererya 11-1, Gallant Son 16-1, Bulls Bay 17-1, Aspire 20-1, Giralamo 20-1,Persistently 20-1,My pal Charlie 20-1,Mambo Miester over 20-1 (can't read own writing),Doremefasolatido 28-1, Awesome Gem 30-1,Join in the dance 30-1, Miraculous Miss 37-1, Regal Ransom 40-1, booyah 49-1. That accounts for 31 of the 43, which of these would you like to argue was the "seemingly superior" horse in their respective fields in the last 2 Cups. Some of these numbers were taken from charts of '08. the others were hand written in my form and may have changed slightly in the charts. they are accurate enough to prove my point.
zen More than 1 year ago
I can't believe these people. So,zenyatta is bred for synthetic? lol.Mr. jackson is a selfish dude, not good for horseracing.He is the floyd mayweather(boxer) of horseracing,he cherry picked ra's opponents.
Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Seabass, I had a very productive '09 Breeders Cup. Even had UR mighty Zen & the trifecta. Believe it or not. What gave me the edge ? DIRT horses. I learned that the 0/43{2 yrs}{last time on DIRT} is no menagerie. I simply disregarded all of the said DIRT horses, who met that criteria. If U don't think throwing out around 25 horses out of an estimated 100 total is a statistically viable advantage, then UR in the wrong ball game...U can't get better than 100%..or vise/versa; ZERO %...
Mark Racimo More than 1 year ago
Regarding your article about Mr. Zamora's horse the broke down on Santa Margarita HDC day. I liked the article, was a tear jerker. I thought that you could have left out the part that mentioned something like: thats what happens when the under card is cheap. Although true, lets not forget that ALL horses can break down. Ruffian or more recently Barbaro. My condolences to Mr. Zamora and his family.
Jeff T. More than 1 year ago
Thanks “Blackseabass”… I get it now. It’s funny that the debate about Rachel vs. Zenyatta for 2009 HOY and Dirt vs. Synthetic continues. On Steve’s blog the other day, a poster by the name of Englishchannel suggested that Steve and Dan (other highly watched and anticipated DRF blogs) were tiring of all of the 2009 HOY debate that is running into this new year. With regard to the statement about all the Rachel vs. Zenyatta remarks and how Steve and Dan must be tiring of them... think again, Brother and Sisters. Steve (as the big dog alpha male editor), and many, if not most of his DRF compadres... STARTED all of this intense debate late last year. Even "Andrew the Great Big Beyer" cast his remarks on the front page of DRF in support of his choice of Rachel for HOY; which to me was the final nail in the Zenyatta coffin. Whether anyone wants to admit it at DRF, most Zenyatta supporters felt that the DRF was as biased as FOX News. Up until Beyer’s last minute “Hail Rachel,” I had felt that this was handled as objectively as Steve could have… on the most intense debate of modern equine times. My only speculation was whether Steve and DRF were selling the ad space for fees that were relative to the intensity of the debate. After AB’s edict in the week/s before the EA’s, I never expected Zenyatta to win HOY, despite having no doubt about “who would beat who” in a race in 2010. These "blogs" don't just get "turned off" because certain people no longer want to hear or discuss certain topics previously "blogged." Like it or not, this debate is full of venom... to the same degree that the GOP is fueling anti DEM/Obama rhetoric. Like it or not, no one can "un-do" the election of 2008 or 2009 and I wouldn’t realistically advise anyone to think “another four years” will end this debate. Remember Sunday Silence and Easy Goer? Vendors to the DRF shouldn’t be allowed to vote, especially vendors who sell data that most handicappers religiously rely upon. Earlier in the year and prior to the HOY debate of 2009 (dirt vs. Polytrack), these “Beyer” statistics were re-evaluated by Beyer himself and found to be less accurate than previously thought and/or represented. It is nice to meet others (like Blackseabass) who feel that the synthetic data from certain vendors to the DRF is "suspect" at best.