11/12/2010 1:19PM

Goldikova rules the world


Goldikova’s electrifying run through the Churchill Downs stretch last Saturday confirmed the belief that there is no other Thoroughbred in training quite like her. This was the third time in three years she had set the Breeders’ Cup alight, and each time she did it her way, displaying a turn of foot not seen since Miesque captured two consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile titles in 1987 and 1988. A year from now, Goldikova will pursue a fourth Mile title long before any other horse can attempt to match her achievement of three Cup titles, barring the return of Zenyatta.

And it is Zenyatta, of course, to whom Goldikova is being compared. But in fact, there is little comparison between the two, save in the total number of Group or Grade 1 victories each of them has corralled. In the matter of Group/Grade 1 competition, Goldikova holds a decided edge where it counts most, against males (8 wins vs. 1 for Zenyatta) and in foreign countries (5-0).

But there is more to Goldikova’s superiority than Breeders’ Cup or Group 1 victories. The quality of the competition the two mares have faced this year illustrates the reason that Goldikova must be considered the best horse in the world in terms of overall achievement.

Both Goldikova and Zenyatta won five Group or Grade 1 races in 2010, but there is little resemblance in the quality of the fields the two were beating in those races.

In her four Group 1 victories in Europe and her Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile triumph, Goldikova was beating 16 winners of 37 Group or Grade 1 races. The overall Group/Grade 1 record of her competition in those five races is 157-37-25-19.

In her five Grade 1 victories this year, Zenyatta was beating not a single Grade 1 winner. The overall Group/Grade 1 record of her competition in those five races is 28-0-1-2. Moreover, Zenyatta beat just two Grade 2 winners in those five races, St Trinians in the Vanity Handicap and Switch in the Lady's Secret.

In fact, while Zenyatta’s five victories this year were all technically Grade 1’s, the quality of the competition indicates that they were no better than Grade 3’s.

When whittled down to the precise conditions of their respective Breeders’ Cup races, Goldikova again comes out as clearly superior. In the Mile, she was beating four winners of nine Group or Grade 1 races at a mile on turf. In the Classic, Zenyatta was facing a single winner of a Grade 1 race going 1 1/4 miles on dirt, that being Haynesfield.

One of the finest fillies or mares to grace the American turf in history, Zenyatta falls well short of ranking as one of the all-time greats. In the Classic, she failed to run the full race and it cost her dearly. The two little hopping steps she made passing the stands the first time around made one think that she was about to pull a Life At Ten. No credence can be given to the complaint that she had to angle out to avoid a weakening Quality Road midway through the stretch. Goldikova had to check behind a drifting out Courageous Cat much later in the stretch in last year’s Mile and still got the job done.

It is Goldikova’s extraordinary acceleration that enables her to overcome trouble when it finds her, and breeze to victory when it doesn’t. Her trainer, Freddie Head, a man who should know, as he rode Miesque to her two Breeders’ Cup Mile triumphs, changed his mind after Goldikova’s third Mile success and admitted that she was Miesque’s superior. The vagaries of the voting and rating systems for determining champions in both North America and Europe mitigate against her being named the Horse of the Year in America or the highweight on the World Thoroughbred Ratings, but anyone who rates performance over sentiment-driven publicity knows that Goldikova was the world’s most accomplished Thoroughbred in 2010.

Looking ahead to 2011, Goldikova will, according to Head, have her first race of the year later than normal. Head is considering a summer campaign, and while he has not named any specific races, it is a safe guess that she will reappear in the one-mile Prix Rothschild at Deauville on July 31. After that it should be Deauville’s Prix Jacques Le Marois on Aug. 14 and/or the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on Sept. 4, both at a Mile. Her BC Mile prep is very likely to be the same race she has used these two past years, the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret on Arc Weekend. All four of those races are Group 1’s, and she has won all of them at least once already, the Rothschild three times.