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Letters to the Editor
Cup executive wishes to clarify foreign policy
I made remarks in the Santa Anita press box late in the day this past Saturday, and I guess I should have been clearer, because one in particular has been reported and interpreted in a way that is not consistent with what I meant to convey. In a wide-ranging discussion of the merits of synthetic surfaces with Andy Beyer, Bill Dwyre, and others, I made the point that "international stars are better than domestic stars," as quoted in Beyer's Oct. 29 column, "Synthetic impact deeper than surface."
Regrettably, some have taken that as a slight on American runners or a bias in favor or horses based in Europe. My point, which I believe is valid, is that using the Breeders' Cup to help create international stars - horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners who are known and admired both here and abroad - is one of our marketing goals, whether those stars are based here or abroad. Stated another way, I'd like the Breeders' Cup to have some of the flavor of the Ryder Cup. While the format of the events are clearly different, the rivalry between the U.S. and European players brings new levels of dynamic tension and rooting interest.
For example, Bob Baffert is already an international star in our sport, but the performances of Midnight Lute and Midshipman last Saturday only increased his international stature. Similarly, by winning the Classic, Frankie Dettori, a major star in Europe and Asia, took on a new dimension with U.S. fans.
The ultimate objective of the Breeders' Cup is to create an event of the size and stature significant enough to attract new fans to our game and new horse owners to our business. I believe the enhanced level of competition between the top U.S.-based horses and the top competition from others parts of the world can only help us accomplish these goals.
Greg Avioli, President and CEO, Breeders' Cup
2008 unveiled new world order
To say the 2008 Breeders' Cup results should act as a wake-up call for the American racing industry doesn't really cover it. In reality, the bugler was playing taps, not reveille.
The 2008 Breeders' Cup will be known as the dawning of the synthetic era, and the beginning of the end of the dirt-track era, in American racing. But it will also be known as the weekend that finally forced the American racing public to remove the rose-colored glasses and recognize how totally dominant Europeans have become in the world of Thoroughbred racing.
Just in case anyone really believed that decades of foreign interests buying up the cream of the crop at our yearling sales had little impact on the game, guess again. We have known for quite a while that the Europeans dominated us on the grass, despite our occasional victories in a Breeders' Cup grass race. But we've got 'em on the dirt, we always thought - they can't touch us there. And even though Tiznow needed every inch of his nose to fend off what otherwise would have been back-to-back European victories in the BC Classic in 2000 and 2001, we still believed we were superior, even dominant, over the Euros when it came to racing on the dirt.
Well here's the new paradigm, America. It's called Polytrack, or Pro-Ride, or Cushion Track, and the Euros kicked our butts on it. They have been pounding us for years on the turf, and now that the dirt track era is over, they have made it clear right from the get-go that they will pound us just as badly on artificial surfaces, too.
And if you thought it was bad this year, wait until next year. Now that they know for a fact their grass runners love the new artificial surfaces, European owners and trainers who took a wait-and-see attitude in 2008 won't be waiting next year. The California gold rush will be on for 2009. The time when we could take for granted winning the Breeders' Cup Classic and just about any other BC race run on the dirt is over. All that we knew is at an end.
John Corrington - Malibu, Calif.
Results owed more to class than surface
In the wake of this year's Breeders' Cup, it may be very tempting to believe that turf form translates 100 percent to synthetic surfaces, especially Pro-Ride. While the 1-2 finish of the Europeans in the Classic makes this case, I think it would be premature to draw this conclusion.
In the Marathon, the serious favorite was Sixties Icon - a turf performer with distance ability. And where did he finish? Fifth. When you look at the Euros and their amazing day, note that three of the five wins (Goldikova, Donativum, and Conduit) came on the turf. In the Juvenile, where recent import Square Eddie finished second, Bushranger - a more highly regarded European colt with fine turf form - finished next to last.
Also, let's look at Curlin's trip. He was beaten by 2 1/2 lengths at the wire - this after making a six-wide move on the turn. With a less-wide trip and a slightly later-timed move from jockey Robby Albarado, could Curlin have been closer or even won? While I think he would not have won, I do believe he could have been closer.
Sure, maybe the result would have been different on dirt - and maybe not. My theory is that turf form does not necessarily transfer 100 percent to synthetic - although it does sometimes - but that class transfers. And on this day, the two classiest horses with the best form in the Classic were from Europe. Not only did they beat Curlin, these horses beat our synthetic specialists: Go Between, Colonel John, and Student Council. Again, this suggests what we saw was class and the European racing program validated - look what the 3-year-old filly Goldikova do to our best older turf milers - not a simplistic equation between turf and synthetic form.
The Breeder's Cup has become a world event, and here in the USA we have a way to go in cleaning up our act - in the way we breed, medicate, and race - to catch up with the rest of the horse racing world.
Eric Singer - San Francisco
Two days offered look into the future
This year's Breeders' Cup was a picture-perfect display put on by Santa Anita not only of what horse racing once was and could be again, but also of what it might become. What it once was and could be again: throngs of people rocking in the stands and partying on the apron. What it might become: a celebration of turf horses dominated by Europeans, some running on the green turf and some on the brown turf.
Curlin made the classic American dirt move of a champion in the turn for home. Unfortunately, he was a fish out of water. He wasn't running on dirt, he was running on brown turf, and so he moved too soon, overtaken in deeper stretch by the quick-footed turf milers from Europe who now find themselves better suited at the classic American distance on synthetic surfaces than U. S.-bred horses.
He was not alone. Take a look at how the other top dirt-only horses did on both days. Abysmally. The most reliable handicapping rule at this year's Breeders' Cup was to toss any horse who had not shown form on synthetics. The exception was Midnight Lute, yet even he had a prior win on the stuff.
American racing will become in the future either a sport that follows California into synthetics, essentially unifying the breed as turf runners, or a sport whose classics as a practical matter are oddities, catering only to a dwindling number of high cruising speed runners who cannot win outside of western Kentucky and New York.
John Rogitz - San Diego
Filly still short of racing zenith
Now all of the debate will begin about whether Zenyatta should be named Horse of the Year, as noted in the Oct. 29 article "Top honor may be close call."
I would offer the following reasons as argument against Zenyatta being awarded racing's top equine honor:
1. She has never faced open company. Nine for nine is a fine record, but she has never faced world-class, open company. In a year when we had a 3-year-old filly win the Arc de Triomphe and a 3-year-old filly win the Breeders' Cup Mile, both against open company, I find it hard to accept that Zenyatta is somehow the best horse to race this year. Both Lady's Secret and Serena's Song traveled the country and faced open company on more than one occasion in their illustrious careers.
2. She has raced outside of California only one time in her nine starts. Had she been racing on the East Coast or even the Kentucky circuit, there is good reason to believe she would not be undefeated.
3. She has raced only one time at a distance beyond 1 1/16 miles - not a true measure of the best horse to race all year, in any year.
4. Other than Hystericalady and Ginger Punch, who has she really beaten? Most of the names in her company lines are uninspiring also-rans.
Not that I don't think she is a nice horse, but there are a lot of nice horses who were never named Horse of the Year. If they really wanted Zenyatta to be considered for top honors, perhaps her connections should have run her in the BC Classic. Had she done so and won that race, we could then consider her a serious candidate for Horse of the Year.
Carson Horton - Portland, Ore.
Home bettors had poor view
Every year the same thing. The television coverage of the Breeders' Cup does not focus on the needs of the bettor. After all, it is about the handle, isn't it? Without the betting, would there be a Breeders' Cup?
Sure, take care to show the pageantry. But I would bet most people watching were involved financially. These people should be catered to first, or at least simultaneously.
Can't they keep the saddlecloths color-coordinated by number even with the fancy "Breeders' Cup" stitching?
Can't the fancy camera shots from the moon be kept for replay only?
The coverage did a better job this year keeping odds updated before the race, but results should be up immediately when known. First, let's see the horses in order of finish with final odds, then parimutuel info as soon as official.
Ray Davis - Hudson, N.H.
Everyday fans got priced out
In this day of a shaky economy, when the Oak Tree Racing Association is looking for innovative means of attracting new clientele to its meeting at Santa Anita while keeping its regular customers, the Breeders' Cup came to town.
Instead of attracting regular patrons (aka the small-dollar bettor) who support the track year in and year out, the Breeders' Cup decided to snub them. How? By jacking up prices to ridiculous levels - e.g., general parking, $10; general admission, $20; grandstand seats, $100 per day; infield lawn seats, $50 a day; and infield picnic seats, $125 each day.
Plus, the first of the Breeders' Cup racing days fell on a Friday, when working folk are doing just that . . . working.
Track faithful looked forward to seeing the best compete against the best but found themselves shut out by the prices. Most of us have limited money for entertainment. We are neither wealthy nor inveterate gamblers. We are hardworking common folk who enjoy honing our handicapping skills and watching these magnificent athletes known as Thoroughbreds strut their stuff. We are, simply, fans.
Thank you, Breeders' Cup powers that be, for remembering those of us who attend the track on a regular basis. Thank you for acknowledging us as loyal track patrons and racing aficionados by raising prices to put the Breeders' Cup out of reach of our limited budgets. Thank you for extending the schedule to include Friday, when we working folks are unable to attend.
It will probably make no difference to you, but keep in mind that we will not forget how you have treated us.
Bobbie DeWeese - Glendale, Calif.