01/22/2010 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Work by Wiggins shouldn't be thankless task

How quickly we forget.

For the entire first third of the 2009 racing season, Rachel Alexandra's safety, stakes preparation, and general development were under the watchful eye of horseman/trainer Hal Wiggins. To ignore this significant contribution was (and is) an oversight. In the Eclipse Awards ceremony acceptance speeches, Wiggins's name was never mentioned.

As a racing fan and as a member of the National Turf Writers Association, I would like to take the personal and professional opportunity to acknowledge the quiet contribution that Wiggins made to the early foundation and progress of the Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.

Gary McMillen - New Orleans

Championships not one-shot deals

I believe Zenyatta should have been elected Horse of the Year, but have no quarrel with those voters who chose the magnificent Rachel Alexandra. Many of them have declared that a single race (in this case the Breeders' Cup Classic) shouldn't supercede a yearlong performance.

That's a reasonable position. What I find strange, though, is that they voted an Eclipse to Goldikova based on, guess what, a single race. So much for a consistent approach.

It should be noted that a horse racing only once in Canada is not eligible for their Sovereign Award. Maybe it's time to institute a similar rule here.

Al Montella - South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Cup Day only part of the equation

Kudos to the Eclipse Award voters who got it right and named Rachel Alexandra as Horse of the Year. No horse has dominated his or her division as much since Secretariat's 3-year-old season. The dissenters will keep whining that Rachel skipped the Breeders' Cup, racing's so-called championship day. They might have a case if the Breeders' Cup were a true championship. Thanks to the current regime, though, the Breeders' Cup has been watered down with too many races in too many divisions and has two years in a row had its premier races for dirt horses on a glorified turf course.

The Eclipse Awards ought to reflect a season of performances. As spectacular as Zenyatta's Classic win on pseudo-dirt was, it isn't enough to negate a 20-length win in the Kentucky Oaks, a Preakness win, and gutty victories in the Haskell and Woodward. If the Breeders' Cup truly wants to be the preemptive day that crowns all champions, forget the Eclipse Awards and cut the Cup back to eight legitimate races run on grass and dirt, not a mystery surface that doesn't even play like other synthetic tracks.

The voters got it right. Perhaps the Breeders' Cup board will take notice.

Mark Belling - Milwaukee

Rival owners two sides of a coin

As a fan of both Zenyatta and a Rachel Alexandra, I was hoping there would somehow be a tie for Horse of the Year honors. Both were deserving.

As it turned out, only one owner was deserving. I could not believe what I saw as a look of bitterness - not just disappointment - on the face of Zenyatta's co-owner Jerry Moss when the winner was announced. Mr. Moss followed that up with bitter words in an interview with TVG following the event.

In contrast, Rachel Alexandra's principal owner, Jess Jackson, heaped praise on Zenyatta and her connections both before the final announcement and during his acceptance speech. Mr. Jackson showed Grade 1 class.

Allan Johnson - Prescott, Ariz.

No-show at Classic a serious slight

My problem with Rachel Alexandra winning Horse of the Year had nothing to do with her accomplishments on the racetrack vs. those of Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra is a great filly, with tremendous talent and unquestionable heart. My problem was having to watch owner Jess Jackson accept and forever possess the trophy for this great award.

Mr. Jackson's attitude became painfully clear after Curlin was defeated in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic. Jackson intimated that Curlin was too good to lose to any horse unless there was an excuse, and the convenient excuse on that day was the synthetic racing surface.

The Breeders' Cup is horse racing's Super Bowl. Outside of the Kentucky Derby, it's easily the biggest day of the year in the sport. It's the day when champions from around the world are crowned before horse racing's biggest audience. It's the day when horse racing becomes relevant on a national scale.

And on this glorious afternoon at Santa Anita in 2009, when a sport that is struggling and all its fans were crying for the ultimate showdown between two great females, where was Rachel Alexandra? She was in some stall far from California simply because her owner evidently couldn't stand the thought of one of his horses getting beaten for the second year in a row on horse racing's biggest stage.

Was Rachel injured? No. Have synthetic tracks been proven to be unsafe for training and/or racing? No. Had Rachel ever exhibited a dislike for synthetics? No. In fact, just the opposite. In her only career start on a synthetic surface, she won easily at Keeneland. For all we know, synthetics could be her favorite surface.

Yet, with a sound horse, and the chance to race over a safe surface that Rachel had basically already proven to like, Jess Jackson turned his back on the fans, on the Breeders' Cup, on the sport.

Bill Heib - San Francisco