Whatever Happened to the Breeders' Cup?

Enough already.

It's a nice gesture for Betfair/TVG to step up and offer $400,000 to bring the Beldame Stakes purse up to $1 million in an attempt to get Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to square off. But we already have the forum for the match-up. It's called the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

There's a $2-million race Nov. 6 that would work just fine, and a $5-million race Nov. 7 if they really get bold. The event has worked well for 25 years. It was created to determine champions, so let it do so.

Zenyatta is one-for-one on dirt, and Rachel Alexandra is one-for-one on a synthetic surface, so they're even in that regard. Sure, Zenyatta would have home-field advantage, but Rachel Alexandra has given no indication she'd be at a disadvantage--even if she ran on glass or gravel at this point.

The Oct. 3 Beldame is 1 1/8 miles around one turn, the Nov. 6 Ladies Classic is 1 1/8 miles around two turns. Which would you rather see, and which would produce a truer result?

As for the purse money, I admit it annoys me. We have a racetrack in Kentucky trying to negotiate a $700,000 cut in purses for economic reasons, yet a company is willing to throw $400,000 at a purse that doesn't need to be increased and at owners who probably don't need the money.

Turfway Park and Kentucky horsemen have been TVG exclusive partners for about 10 years. Hey guys, maybe they'll lend a hand.

You get the picture. Things are out of whack.


Leave a Comment:


That company willing to throw the 400K on the table (for a race that may or may not happen) is getting a great return on their advertising dollar if the race happens or not.

31 Aug 2009 10:08 AM

RA has an allownence win on dirt, and she won it by three lengths. This is nothing compared to the grade one win on dirt Zenyatta has. This is the second year in a row the cup will be hosted in Zen's home field, which, as in any sport, homefield advantage is a big one. Also tell me why you would run your horse over a surface that has been unperdictable in terms of breakdowns since late last year. After the Cup you saw a series of fatal breakdowns at Turfway and SA. This year it's the poly at Delmar which has had ten breakdowns on the synthetic. Like heck i would run my horse on that or any other surface like it. Dirt has been around since the beginning of racing in America, and that is where the Cup should be held. Not on some wierd new two year old surface. For your question which race would produce the truer result, dirt would, which points to the Beldame.

31 Aug 2009 10:19 AM

Just to play devil's advocate, it's kind of hard to call the Breeders Cup a championship series when not all contenders show up, and when races such as the "Dirt Mile" aren't even run on dirt, at least for the past two years.  And to top it off, a horse can come over from Europe, win a race, and walk away with an eclipse award when they haven't even raced twice in this country. The latter is more of a personal gripe, however.  

31 Aug 2009 10:23 AM

I'm afraid in my opinion, the BC, just like that old gray mare "aint what she used to be."  Between the watering down of the fields by the addition of useless races that do not decide any championship, the ladies day format change, and the idea of holding dirt championships on a synthetic surface, the BC lacks the luster it once had.  

It would be different if all "dirt" races were held on synthetics, but as of now racing has three distinct surfaces and giving out awards based on the results of a "dirt" race not held on a dirt surface is unfair.

Rachel Alexandra's connections are not the only ones foregoing the BC.  (I distinctly remember the connections of Musket Man saying they wouldn't bother to try to bring the horse back this year because the horse disliked synthetics and with the BC at Santa Anita, there would be no fall target for him.  If Commentator had not been retired, his connections, like last year, would not have raced him at the BC.)  However, Rachel Alexandra's connections take all the heat.  

Also, RA's win on the synthetic was far from a championship event.  She is in a different class than the runners she beat that day on synthetics and probably would've beat them on anything.  That doesn't mean she is her best on the synthetic surface, and why give her the biggest challenge of her career so far on a surface that is not her best.

It was previously reported that one of the reason's Summer Bird ended up in Tim Ice's barn was because he didn't work well on Santa Anita's track.  I'm suprised that his connections are aiming him towards the BC to be honest, and while I think he is developing into a nice colt, he will be a bet against for me in that race for that reason.  

31 Aug 2009 10:33 AM

To say Rachel Alexandra is 1 for 1 on a synthetic track does not tell the whole story.  I'm sure you know just as well as anyone that every synthetic track is completely different and we've seen time and again that form often does not translate from Keeneland's Polytrack to Hollywood or Santa Anita.

Also, let's remember Zenyatta ran one of her best races on dirt (the G1 Apple Blossom), while Rachel won an easy 6 furlong n1x allowance on Polytrack.  And furthermore, if anything, Belmont's sweeping turns should only help Zenyatta, who often has to go 6 or 7 wide in California turning for home.

I agree, it's a sad fact, but this year the Beldame DOES present a more even playing field than the Breeders' Cup.

31 Aug 2009 10:38 AM

Agree 100%

31 Aug 2009 10:49 AM

What’s out of whack is anyone complaining about promoting a potential meeting of arguably the two most exciting horses racing in America wherever it may occur, or quashing any hype that is generated about a sport that, outside of the industry itself, has an ever-dwindling number of fans who even give a damn.

So, enough already to shoving the Breeders’ Cup down everyone’s throat as the “world championships.” It may have been around for 25 years, but that ship is sinking—the event through poorly thought-out changes, and the sport overall. Besides, haven’t the lines been drawn in the sand: the Mosses won’t take Zenyatta out of California, nor run her against males, as longer as the goal is Personal Ensign’s unbeaten record; Jess Jackson doesn’t have to risk his champion on California Pro-Ride.

31 Aug 2009 10:49 AM

This is the exact reason that the Breeders Cup should not be run on synthetics ever, let alone two years in a row. The only ones to blame here are the ones who scheduled this.

31 Aug 2009 10:55 AM

I thought everyone has already beat this topic down! RA is absolutely not going to the BC and Zenyatta is taking the EASY route around RA to the BC. Both of their owners say their game to race each other on a neutral track. Yada Yada Yada... Enough talking about it, let see it happen for us fans!!!!

31 Aug 2009 10:56 AM

Agree about the synthetics. One year every couple is OK. 2 years back to back is not.

31 Aug 2009 11:12 AM
Bill Daly

Have to agree with Valerie. The BC has not done anything to broaden the appeal of racing. It has also diminished the importance of formerly significant championship caliber races.

31 Aug 2009 11:13 AM

Clarification from the author: One, I fully support owners' rights to run their horses wherever they want, and two, I fully support a company's right to spend its money where it wants. The point here is there is a $2-million race sitting out there, and quite frankly, when it's run, where it's run, and what it's run on will never suit everyone. There is a new dynamic in Thoroughbred racing now, and we all have to deal with it--whether we like it or not.

31 Aug 2009 11:14 AM

LDP, you can't possibly be arguing that synthetics are worse than dirt? I see them as about the same -- with synthetics not quite living up to their hype. They take a risk running RA anywhere. I don't think synth ups her risk. Hell, they ran Curlin in that quagmire at Monmouth at the end of the day.

That said, if they don't want to go, then they don't. It's their horse.

31 Aug 2009 11:15 AM
mike rullo

breeders cup got exactly what is deserves!

having the race at turfway is a joke.

going east to west for rachel is harder than going west to east for zenyatta.

31 Aug 2009 11:21 AM

I agree. The BC is the place where championships are (or should be) decided.  Champions don't look for excuses not to run.  A champion should be good on synthetic and dirt.  And no horse should be named Horse of the Year after purposely ducking the BC.

31 Aug 2009 11:29 AM
El Angelo

I would like to know why everyone thinks Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra would be a good race.  This year, Zenyatta has run 3 times against horrible fields, and barely won her last race.  Rachel Alexandra has been annihilating fields left and right.  If you put all the female horses in training together at the moment in the same race at 9 furlongs, Zenyatta, based on this year's performances, would deserve to be the 3rd or 4th choice at best.

31 Aug 2009 11:56 AM

Rachel has no business running on synthetic. She has not trained on it or run on it in a year. Some of the posters who think she should no nothing about the soft tissue injuries and rear end soreness some horses suffer racing on this surface. She needs to be train up to the race to try to avoid it. And she may still have problems. Several trainers noticed these problems shortly after Keeneland installed their track. And Sher, you want to tell me all the female HOY's that ran on all three surfaces to get HOY? Also, why does Jess jackson have to be the one, AGAIN, to give in and run his horse in CA? Let the Moss's come out their comfort zone. And lastly, Zenyatta beating Personal Ensign's record, lets not forget, Personal also beat the boys. Until Zenyatta adds that to her wins she will NOT be on the same level as that great mare.  

31 Aug 2009 12:09 PM

RA has not run against anything you can call grade 1 caliber animal. The owner picks and chooses the perfect scenario for her. He makes sure nothing will be beyond a 1 and 1/8 mile, pace scenario is not to fast, and he prays for MUD. He is dodging the BC because he understands that nobody will beat Zenyatta on the synthetics. He understands that Curlin would have lost to Zenyatta last year.  RA and Zenyatta should have a 2 race competition. The first race should be the Beldame, and the second race should be the BC.  

El Angelo--if you saw Zenyatta's last race, you would understand why she is the current Champion.

31 Aug 2009 12:12 PM

When a writer ignores or doesn't understand simple economics it kind of makes everything else they write not worth reading.  

My 5 year old has the same point of view, but he doesn't get space on a national website dedicated to horse racing.  

I wonder why the Bloodhorse which is run by the BC people would publish this childish blog.  

31 Aug 2009 12:18 PM
twin c stables

El Angelo, with all due respect, you need to re-think that statement.  I think you have gone a bit too far overboard on the 3rd or 4th choice thing with Zenyatta. the bottom line is she doesn't lose and rallies furiously in her races.  Have you ever bothered to check her final quarter times??  Perhaps you should do so. The mares she beat last time out were not coming back to her at all.  Just ask the opposing  jocks.

31 Aug 2009 12:21 PM

From the author: Greg, thank you for your very kind words. ... If you ever want to discuss industry economics, feel free to call me anytime. My number is on the Web site.

31 Aug 2009 12:24 PM
twin c stables

R Howard hit it on the head.  If Moss and Jackson were such great sportsman they would have made a deal.  2 races, one on dirt at Belmont and then against each other in the ladies distaff.  In that case one of the ladies would most likely be undefeated and would be horse of the year by a mile.  None of the colts would even be considered.

31 Aug 2009 12:24 PM
CB man

This horse biz is one big mix. Owners seem to do what they want with there horses (it's there right). I don't think RA and Zenyatta will meet at any point regardless of how much money is thrown at it.

My opinion is that JJ is still bitter over Curlin losing in the 2008 BC Classic. For that reason he is unwilling to send RA to the BC this year. He wants to be firm in his stance against Plastics as he calls it. To be honest no two synthetic surfaces play alike, some horses would love one and hate another. He doesn't want to take the chance and have her lose. I respect JJ though, He is willing to put her in against the top competition time after time, and has said he wants to bring her back next year. If I were in his position I might do the same.

At this point there is not much for her to prove. She is already horse of the year. he doesn't need to bring her to the BC.

Zenyatta on the other hand, she is probably the best horse we've seen in a while. Her connections though are not at all ready. They are trying to protect this no loss record, and refuse to run her against any real competition. There is no way they will run her against RA. They could have run her in the Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, the Goodwood, just to name a few. The will hide behind the excuse of doing whats best for the horse  if only she could tell them "have a little faith"). They won't run her in the Classic either, and it's just sad.

We can dream and suggest all we want but I'm willing to bet that even if by some miracle RA showed up for the BC, they still wouldn't face each other.    

31 Aug 2009 12:31 PM

how come you dont support what i do with my money. some of us will not accept just deal with it. i dont bet synthetic. my local track is not dirt and has no turf but i will go to support dirt racing in ny, florida. ky, la. when they run a live race i go out and watch but dont bet or care who wins. just watch. usually not surprised that a horse that dont figure wins. cant wait til next years bc

31 Aug 2009 12:34 PM
Mel Graeff


At least acknowledge how stupid it is to have the BC at Santa Anita two years in a row - especially with their previous Cushion Track issues.  Jess Jackson was a good sport last year with Curlin.  He will not and should not make the same mistake this year with Rachel.    

31 Aug 2009 12:43 PM

Maybe the Breeder's Cup should have thought about the problems it would cause before it agreed to have the "World thoroughbred Championships" on synthetic 2 years in a row. If I was Jess Jackson I wouldn't send Rachel either.

31 Aug 2009 12:52 PM

This is a bit off topic, but Lawduck07 brings up a good point that the Breeder's Cup clearly has their head up their ***, because the Ladies Day format change was stupid as well.

31 Aug 2009 12:56 PM

Ugh, I dunno what to think anymore..

31 Aug 2009 1:01 PM

I've got to say a few things to the uninformed. Del Mar's breakdowns have nothing to do with the surface, but everything to do with the Bute they run on. I've owned and raced horses on both coast and there's no comparisons with CA and NY. A quarter of the CA horses couldn't get past the raceday vets in NY. Jackson needs to come to terms with Curlin getting beat, and get RA out to CA. She'll likely smoke Zenyatta anyway.

31 Aug 2009 1:04 PM


   I never said they are worse, but if they are no better than dirt, why keep them. The problems i point out are because synthetics were suppose to save racing, and they haven't, so why are they here. Also, yes they would up RA chances of injury. Horses use differnet muscles on dirt than they do on synthetics, so to take her from running on dirt the whole year, then put her on synthetics for one race is absurd. You don't ask a Gio Ponti to come race RA on dirt, or visa versa. The same should go with synthetics, for as long as they are around. Some horses love them, some horses don't, just like with dirt and turf. If you want synthetics to stay, make another space for them, but don't lie and call them dirt, when they are far from it.

31 Aug 2009 1:08 PM

From the author: Mel, my guess is if they had to do it all again ... the event wouldn't be in California this year. I don't believe you'll see a similar schedule again in the future. ... Does Churchill look good right now? It sure does. ... But this is the way it is this year, and that's really my point.

31 Aug 2009 1:12 PM

By the way, Curlin ran a pretty fine race last year in the Classic beaten a little more than 2 lengths after a strong move. I think that gets lost in the shuffle in the whole discussion.

31 Aug 2009 1:15 PM

RHoward has been hitting up the special brownies today I think.  "RA has not run against anything you can call grade 1 caliber animal."  I'm pretty sure she beat Summer Bird who is a darned good horse.  Just take a look back at what he's done so far since he first started in March.  He's got the Belmont and now the Travers on his list. He ran a 110 Beyer in the Travers.  When was the last time Zenyatta's competition ran a 110 Beyer?  Just curious.  Making crazy statements doesn't help your case.

31 Aug 2009 1:27 PM
Matt M.

Do I like synthetics?.....No

Do I bet synthetics?...rarely

Should Jackson run RA at SA? ....absolutely.

He has a no lose proposition....3 yr. old vs. older mare on her home course. Victory would cement her as the best filly ever....period. A loss is barely held against her.... noble decision to seek out Zenyatta and force the confrontation vs. complaining about the surface.

31 Aug 2009 1:28 PM
Jerry B.

Just because something is named something, "doesn't make it that", or "doesn't make it so." Although The Breeder's Cup is also known as "The World Thoroughbred Championships" it was originally an American idea, run under American conditions. Until it truly goes global (and I am not talking about one year at Woodbine), dirt races should be run on dirt. You are correct in that "it worked" for many years, but that was before the abberation that is synthetic racetracks. As Nick Zito says, "let's put the money that they are putting into the installation of synthetic tracks into the existing dirt tracks to see what can be done to make them safer than they already are." Synthetic tracks put American racehorses, including our champions, at a disadvantage while giving an advantage to "turf" horses. While this has worked wonderfully for the Europeans, it has often worked against American horses, i.e. Curlin. I have only heard 2 things that are unchallenged when it comes to synthetics; it is likely to help turf horses in venturing against top quality dirt horses (see last years Breeders' Cup results) and dirt horses either like it, or they don't like it. Why put horses into this unknown on the biggest day in racing. Whatever gave the committee the idea to run 2 years in a row at the same track, and a synthetic track yet, I'll probably never know (I'm sure somewhere the almighty dollar or Euro, has something to do with it.)

Why do we want to put American horses at this disadvantage? Is it to draw more Europeans to come over? If that is the case, well, mission accomplished, but in closing I ask, "Isn't that why we have the John Deere Turf? To determine the best grass horse in the world?" We already have second-rate turf horses jumping up and winning California's most prestigious Grade I dirt races. Why would we want to continue having second-rate turf horses winning the world's biggest "dirt" race?

Bottom line, the Breeder's Cup is now a flawed entity with the advent of synthetic tracks. IT PROVES NOTHING!!! Let grass horses run on grass and dirt horses run on dirt.

31 Aug 2009 1:30 PM

"Personal Ensign beat the boys": well, she beat exactly two of them, at a distance farther than King's Swan really preferred.

JJ seems to be pouting over last year's loss by Curlin, though he was happy enough about the 2007 slop at Monmouth that other fine horses like Street Sense couldn't handle. Frankly, I thought that the results from last year's BC Classic would have been the same on dirt, given the improvement by Raven's Pass, the consistency by Henrythenavigator, and Curlin's being a bit past his best.

31 Aug 2009 1:41 PM
twin c stables

Just curious,  is that Jerry B as in Bailey?  

31 Aug 2009 1:51 PM

From the author: Ace, I also fully support horseplayers' rights to play whatever races they choose. I've been betting the same group of tracks for many years now, and when a few of them went to plastic several years ago, I watched for a while and then adjusted my handicapping accordingly. ... Bet what you know.

31 Aug 2009 2:02 PM

Jerry B- "Why would we want to continue having second-rate turf horses winning the world's biggest "dirt" race?"

Um because that's NOT what happened last year at the BC.

Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator were actually the BEST MALE HORSES IN EUROPE!!!  DING DING DING!

The Breeder's Cup has not lost it's luster because of synthetics.  It ENHANCES its luster as a true international competition.

Dirt horses like it, they just get beat by better horses.  Trainers and owners are the ones who don't like it, especially on the East Coast.  

Curlin got smoked cuz he was never a fast closer.  That's Grade 1 racing on ALL surfaces.  In tactically run races, Curlin got beat on ALL surfaces.

Jess Jackson is a spoiled sport LOSER!  Keep making excuses, old windbag...

If Curlin had won the BC Classic, Rachel would be at Santa Anita...

You don't get a Gold Medal if you boycott the Olympics.  You shouldn't get Horse of the Year if you dodge everyone at the Breeders' Cup!  Wake up East Coast!

31 Aug 2009 2:12 PM

rhoward, you're either willfully ignorant or blind:

"RA has not run against anything you can call grade 1 caliber animal. The owner picks and chooses the perfect scenario for her. He makes sure nothing will be beyond a 1 and 1/8 mile, pace scenario is not to fast, and he prays for MUD. He is dodging the BC because he understands that nobody will beat Zenyatta on the synthetics."

Rachel has beaten 2 classic winners, one of whom came back and soundly thumped another star filled field in the Travers.  She's won the Preakness, which is over the 9 furlongs you claim her owners limit her to.

She's won on how many different tracks this year?  Seven?  Won in the slop, won when its dry.  She's run far more often than Zenyatta, and not ducked opponents nor remained on one or two tracks.

Rachel has beaten far more horses this year, unlike Zenyatta who runs against the same retreads and just barely gets it done the last two times.

The LAST thing the Mosses want to do, after having avoided nearly every challenge, is to face the monster that is Rachel Alexandra.

No, Zenyatta won't ship for the Beldame.  Her owners would rather have her be undefeated even if it means ducking the best.

And for anyone who chooses to call Mr. Jess Jackson a loser, I recommend a look in the mirror.  He's a winner, and one who faces challenges.  

Zenyatta's connections should just be happy that Rachel is only 3, or they'd be without any hope of an Eclipse award this year.

31 Aug 2009 2:43 PM


Your bias or your lack of knowledge are showing. (Perhaps both.)

First, the very first race that Rachel's new owners ran her in was further than 1 1/8 miles. How many times has Zenyatta run further than 9 furlongs? Answer: never. Rachel has now run 9+ furlongs more times than Zenyatta.

Second, in her last race Rachel crushed the colt who is now the leading contender for the three-year-old male championship. No Grade 1 caliber horses? Puh-lease.

31 Aug 2009 2:46 PM

More from the author: I think we're getting sidetracked here. ... I think it's pretty well-established, by the filly herself, that Rachel Alexandra is exceptional. All you have to do is watch her in action. ...

31 Aug 2009 2:53 PM

bijjjoux, how can you call it "everybody" if the top horse isn't there?

A runner who wins the World Championship is the World Championship.  The Olympics is NOT the same event as the World Championships in track & field.

When the top athletes boycott an event it diminishes the win by those who go.  Who did they beat?

Zenyatta will have to run in the male's classic, and win by an impressive margin to even be considered in the running for HOY if Rachel beats older males in the Woodward, even if by a nostril.

But if merely naming something makes it true, then the World Champion for 2009 was named back in March when they raced for the World Cup on the Dubai Track.  Well Armed blew away an international field.  But does anyone honestly consider him the best in the USA, let alone the world?

31 Aug 2009 2:57 PM

"Dirt horses like it, they just get beat by better horses.  Trainers and owners are the ones who don't like it, especially on the East Coast."

Not evening bringing in the Curlin debate, because I think he got beat because as the favorite he had a big "x" on his back and the rest of the horses waited for him to move before they moved, etc., which is fine because that is racing.

But not all dirt horses run as well on synthetics and to say that they do is ludicrous.  Synethitc races tend to shape up like turf races, which play out very different from traditional U.S. dirt races.  Saying that there is no differnce between synthetics and dirt is like saying there is no difference between dirt and turf.  Tell that one to Cigar.

31 Aug 2009 2:58 PM

"The point here is there is a $2-million race sitting out there, and quite frankly, when it's run, where it's run, and what it's run on will never suit everyone."

Agreed on this point, but this is no small difference.  This isn't a "oh the sweeping turns of Balmont are better/ not better for my horse" or "this track is too deep or not deep enough" or even the 'this track is in a place where the weather is likely to be bad and my horse doesn't like mud" excuse.  

This is fundamentally a different surface that doesn't function like traditional dirt.  Perhaps in the future all tracks will be synthetic, then the BC would be the premier "dirt" championship event again.

BC was never a world thoroughbred championship.  The timing with the Arc normally stinks and nine out of ten (and a likely higher percentage than that) of European owners would pick the Arc of the BC Turf or BC Classic any day.

31 Aug 2009 3:04 PM

rachelsatterfield-If you new anything about synthetics, if a horse received a beyer of 110, that translates to about a dirt beyer of 123. Beyers on synthetics do not jusify how fast the race really is. How RA run this fast? Probably not.

Summer Bird had a horrible ride in the Haskell, but come on MUD is not a deciding factor on how good an animal is.

31 Aug 2009 3:07 PM

LDP, I think you and I simply disagree about the risk. I don't think running her on synth increases her chance for injury any more than going from dirt track to dirt track where surfaces also vary. Several horses are shipping from the east for the Pac Classic. Obviously their owners don't feel it's a problem injury wise.

He is taking a political stand, IMO, not a fear of injury stand. His horse, his right. He's in the catbird's seat anyway as far as HOTY.

31 Aug 2009 3:20 PM

I haven't seen where Jess Jackson has complained over and over about the synthetic surface. He said once he did not like it he would not run on it.

Nick Zito will not run on it and we do here you people whining about that.

Zenyatta's last race there was not a grade 1 winner in. How many did Rachel run against the last time she ran?

People let the owners do as they wish. The Breeder Cup thing is stupid and has been since the beginning. There never have been the top horses all together to run against each other. So forget it!!!!

31 Aug 2009 3:28 PM

The Breeders Cup is a victim of the people who run it and dont know how to market it.  Ive called for uniformity in the sport.  Ive called for the best horses to show up on championship day save for the ones injured, Ive stated many times that the Breeders Cup should not be held on the same host site for two years in a row.  Why is Florida or Maryland being overlooked by the Breeders Cup, Even Louisiana and Chicago or Canada.  If Magna wanted it again, why not Pimlico or Laurel or Gulfstream.  Oklahoma wouldve been better even, I mean they did Lone Star already.  All in all, Rachel Alexandra should run in the Breeders Cup, I stated many times she has a better pedigree than Zenyatta for turf and synthetics. Even if she loses the Breeders Cup, she should win Horse of the Year if she wins the Woodward and Beldame.  I dont know why its a big deal.  The track surface are not the big problem, the problem all along and i have said it many times is the drugs, that is the biggest factor when a horse gets injured or breaksdown.  

31 Aug 2009 3:32 PM

Ok, since you dave said SS didn't handle the slop at Monmouth may i remind you of the huge move he made, with Curlin on the far turn. Curlin did the same thing in last year's Classic as SS did in the 07 Classic, make a huge run then flatten out. My point is that when Curlin's fans say he didn't handle the surface they get smashed for it. Yet SS did the same exact move in the 07 Classic, and you say he didn't like it. How can that be, he was moving so well on the far turn. Here's a thought, maybe because both horses were racing on surfaces they had to work harder to get a hold of, they tired quicker, which means Curlin did not like Pro Ride. He, like SS did in the mud handled it OK, but since he had to work harder to get over it, he got tired quicker. If SS didn't like the surface, niether did Curlin in while running on Pro Ride.

31 Aug 2009 3:38 PM


31 Aug 2009 3:42 PM
CB man

RA has done enough already to be horse of the year.

I don't think it's necessary for her to go to the BC. Zenyatta started too late and is on a very conservative path, so she has zero chance at this point.

I really love Zenyatta, but routing for her to get beat. Getting beat doesn't make her any less great, the connections already stunted her.

At this point she is not on the same level as RA, But its not too late.  

31 Aug 2009 3:50 PM


    Who are the several horses shipping from the east, i only recall Einstein off the top of my head, and he has run most of his races over turf, and already has raced over synthetics. Asiatic Boy is staying for the Wood, so he doesn't count. You also won't see many other trainers send horses to the BC because of synthetics.

    I agree it's a political stand that JJ is taking, but that is not the only reason. You seriously can't tell me that after all the breakdowns at Del Mar this summer, the ones early at SA this year, and the one late in the year at Turfway, that you would really want you horse to run on them right now. IMO a well maintained dirt track is safer than synthetics. These were just a bandage to the real problem. If we can get breeders to breed for soundness and endurance, trainers to run their horses on hay oats and water, and make sure our dirt tracks are in tip top condition, we'll be fine. Synthetics don't have a place in racing, and to try and force them down everyone's throat is wrong. They aren't safer, to me they are more unperdictable, and need to go. True Champions do not run on that fake crap, they run on natrual surfaces, dirt and turf only. That is why this year's BC to me, will have little meaning.

31 Aug 2009 3:50 PM

LDP, Parading and Einstein off the top of my head. They were going to send Asiatic Boy, so obviously they don't fear the track.

I disagree they are any more dangerous, which is what you're implying by saying you wouldn't send a horse there but would run them on dirt instead. Dirt breakdowns aren't getting the publicity.

I agree with you that synth is a bad way to go because I've said before it's just another way to try to mask unsoundness. We can't build a tougher horse so we'll build a kinder track seems to be the philosophy -- that's not working.

31 Aug 2009 5:20 PM

For all those who think RA should give in and face Zenyatta on synthetics because it's best for racing, you should all agree that Goldikova, RA, and Zenyatta should run on grass at 1 and 70 or so, and have all of them at a bit of a disadvantage, and see who can overcome it since they are easily the best filly/mares we have seen in 25 years.

31 Aug 2009 5:21 PM

I would not send a horse that's run only on synthetic all year, that's in training to peak on synthetic in November, to a race on dirt in October, to meet the top horse in the country...that's nuts...why would that race be tops on my agenda?

Conversely, After the report that just came out about the hind end injury rate increasing because of synthetics and the breakdown rate, there is no way I would send a horse with one allowance win on synthetic to that kind of track for one race after she's destroyed her competition all year on dirt...it's nuts.

31 Aug 2009 5:28 PM

Lmaris, I love Zen, and I agree with your post.

JJ paid a fortune for RA...if she beats the older males she could end up in the JGC, if she wins there she could go to Dubai...she could end up breaking Curlin's money earning record...If it wasn't for JJ, RA would still be in the 3 yr-old filly ranks...

The BC is not the "end all". It's one race on one day, not a season or career worth of acheivement.

31 Aug 2009 5:37 PM

rhoward - Andy Beyer has recently recalculated Beyers for the Cali synthetic track.  As a general rule of thumb, for faster times, the beyer speed figures were increased by 7.  For slower times, by about 4 points.  This is in line with the qualitative description that synthetics (Cali) make fast horses look slower and slow horses look faster.  Perhaps you should contact Mr. Beyer and tell him he's got it all wrong.  

31 Aug 2009 5:55 PM


    I never said more dangerous, but they are more inconsistant and unperdictable. You can be going along, having a year like Saratoga last year with no breakdowns then all of a sudden, boom, you have five in one day. I don't want to risk sending my horse over on the off chance that that track will have that type of day. What also worries me is they don't know how to fix it. At least we know that if you just keep up the maintenance on a dirt track you can decrease the number of breakdowns, but the guys handling synthetics don't know how to fix them, and are trying to reassure everyone that, the track is doing fine. Fine to me means you don't see five breakdowns. The reason these breakdowns get publicity is because the surfaces that they occur on were said to greatly reduce breakdowns and fatalities. The media is showing that that is a lie. Dirt does have breakdowns, that is nothing new, nobody said that the dirt this year would produce less breakdowns. Synthetics were supposed to end them, and they didn't, and until Cali admits they were wrong about the tracks, and stops insisting that they are better,every breakdown and fatality will get publicity.

31 Aug 2009 6:54 PM
John T.

The Breeders Cup was indeed created as a championship to decide

the best horses in each category

towards the end of the season and it's up to the horsemen at that time with the best horses to support it if they want to keep it that way.However the powers that be that organize the Breeders Cup

deserve to take a lot of flak for not only running it at the same track 2 years,but a track that has a synthetic surface.I do not agree that the Breeders Cup Classic has become a second rate race riddled with turf performers.Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator were two of the best horses in Europe last year

regardless of what the they on.I'm sure if Curlin had  won the race most people would not be complaining at all.

31 Aug 2009 7:30 PM
Driftin Sage

I am glad that Mr. Jackson is sticking to his guns. He is a smart man or he wouldn't be where he is today. More news: Calvin Borel is now riding Mine That Bird in his next two races...of which one is the Breeders Cup Classic.

31 Aug 2009 7:46 PM

The BC has lost it's way.  It robs the host track, so now it is a tougher sell and we wind up with back to backs synthetics.  It bends over backwards for foreign runners who come over with their no-info. past performances turning a number of races into guessing games.  I already pass 25% of the program due to the lousy foreign pps.  The BC has devalued many traditional and historic features while encouraging top horses to avoid each other all year in an effort to win a BC race and the votes of the dopey media for year-end honors.  It needs a complete overhaul.  First, stop expanding! Lower purses to something sustainable.  Support historic features and create a number of stops through the year that leads to BC event day (win and you're in doesn't cut it).  Work with our beloved foreigners to produce a pp with more information such as running lines and internal fractions and course characteristics.  Don't rob your host tracks and patrons.  Get together with other major industry players and create a year-long point based league to determine divisonal and year end champions.  A running box score is an easy way back into the nations main stream media. Find ways to build up to event day, make sure that important over-sea races are widely seen in the US, find a way to get the top horses together more than once, make event day the final word, not the only one.  So much opportunity to help the industry, so little inspired leadership.        

31 Aug 2009 7:47 PM

Synthetic tracks were supposed to be safer, and after a few years of experimenting with several different kinds of materials, such affirmation is still not proven. So far, there are only 2 things that can be proven about synthetics: First: Turf horses do very well on them; second: People who manufactured them have gotten considerably richer thanks to the people who rushed to install them, without having actual proof that they would deliver what it was promised.

31 Aug 2009 8:03 PM

Stop this madness, Mr. LaMarra ... stop this madness!

31 Aug 2009 8:29 PM

Everyone has an opinion, many make valid points. I believe RA has run against grade I caliber horses. She is phenomenal. I also love Zenyatta but I am not sure I would want to give away weight for age to RA this year. I also don't see any reason for the Moss' to change their plans and disrupt Zenyatta's schedule to please a lot of other people. Their first priority is their horse. The same goes for JJ and if he believes it is not in RA's best interest to race in the BC than I wouldn't.

they are both way to valuable to compromise.

31 Aug 2009 8:46 PM

Tiznowbaby: it is not LDP's opinion that switching to dirt from synthetic can lead to injuries.  It is documented. I read it in an article in the Blood-Horse last year and have heard it a couple of times since then.  Since a horse uses their muscles differently on synthetics (in lay terms), it takes time for them to adjust and initially they do appear to have a higher risk of injury.  The risk appears less when switching from synthetic to dirt however.

31 Aug 2009 10:31 PM

The east coast Rachel Alexandra lovers keep hyping this horse but in the same breath they don't want to come out to the Breeders Cup and race against Zenyatta and lose Horse of the Year (HOY) honors.

They talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Breeders Cup - "Where Champions Meet"

01 Sep 2009 3:12 AM

Racingfan, I'll agree with your assessment. I won't agree that synthetics are inherently more dangerous than dirt. So many variables. Not all dirt tracks are maintained the way Saratoga is.

To be clear, I don't agree with synth. I think it's a way of saying we can't breed durable horses, and that's not true.

01 Sep 2009 11:24 AM

Hmmm. And to clarify more, I think you exchange one set of problems for another when you're talking dirt or synth. Both can be dangerous. Both can be safe. Ultimately depends on the soundness of the horse and sometimes luck.

01 Sep 2009 11:27 AM

I have a solution - all those who want to see Rachel run in the Breeder's Cup should pool their money and buy her from Jackson.  That includes the author of this blog.  

After you've purchased her, hired a trainer and done everything else needed to race her, please report back here and tell us how you like it when other people try to tell you what to do with your horse.  

And tell us how you like it when long after you've announced your decision about a particular race, the writers and bloggers who disagree with you are still trying to browbeat and insult you into doing what they want.  

And also tell us how you like it when total strangers start acting like your life is their business, merely because you own a horse they like.  

Tell us how it feels for these strangers to sit in judgment of whether or not you're greedy, whether or not you're arrogant and egotistical, whether or not you really "care" about your horse, and so on.

Then after you've experienced all that for a few years, please tell us if you'd even consider buying and racing a horse again.

01 Sep 2009 1:08 PM
Carlos in Cali

I've wondered if JJackson wouldn't have gotten his ego-laden hands on RA,would her season culminate with an appearance @ the BC Championships?..He's still sour from Curlin's loss last year which is pathetic & childish.

There were many "dirt" horses that performed well last year,including Cocoa Beach & Music Note who ran exceptional vs. Zenyatta.Who,BTW..would've shown up anywhere regardless of surface for the BC,which is the right and noble thing to do.I'm sure we the public as a whole,want to see the Best vs. the Best in the ultimate Showdowns.

01 Sep 2009 2:12 PM
Tim G

I sort of believe in 5-10 years we won't be having this discussion about synthetics. With the number of fatalities at Del Mar this year, the number at Santa Anita right after the BC, the cost of something supposedly safer, the difficulty convincing horsemen that it's better "Even Shirreffs admits he doesn't like the synthetic surfaces of California tracks.

"I hate it," Shirreffs said. "It's THE WORST THING that happened to horse racing."

The trainer is concerned about the heat it generates. "It's like if you're standing barefoot on asphalt," he said. "There are a lot of foot problems on them."

At the time of that article in the NY Daily news, there had been eight horse fatalities at DM. At Saratoga, there had been one, in a turf race. There are a LOT more hind leg injuries and fatalities from those than on dirt.

Add to that, the fact most handicappers (the lifeblood of racing) hate it and there you go.

How many horses connections have refused to come to the BC when held at Belmont or Churchill or even SA when it was on dirt?

The economy is part of the issue, even for a lot of the very wealthy a certain amount of caution is involved in not rubbing peoples faces in the situation now.

I feel next year we won't have any no shows for track reasons. The Euros can run on the turf.

Cal racing is facing extinction and the introduction of synthetics just hurried it along. The economy there is in a mess, more so than in many racing venues. Add holding it on a controversial surface two years in a row and pffffft.

01 Sep 2009 3:22 PM

I think billionaire Jess Jackson needs to stop whining about nice purses and pressuring tracks into raising them.

There is no surface more dangerous than sloppy dirt, yet Jackson thinks it's just fine to run Rachel, Curlin, and all his other horses over that crap. The synthetic mandate was a huge mistake, but at least horses won't ship into find a VERY unfair sloppy soup they have to run over. The Mosses put up and run their horses in the Breeders' Cup World Championships no matter the location or track condition.

01 Sep 2009 3:49 PM

1- Synthetic IS NOT DIRT, and I don't understand anyone who insists it is. Yes, dirt surfaces differ from each other, as do turf courses, but synth has been sold as being "safe dirt" when it plays more like turf. (IMHO, by the way, I think the FIRST TIME LASIX by RP and Henry has just as much to do with their success last year as the synth. I'd just like to know when they had shown themselves to be bleeders to allow it!) I personally would have like to have seen the the Graded Stakes Committee provisionally re-grade the first runnings of all the graded stakes at tracks that changed surfaces to synth (because it is NOT dirt), just as off-turfers are judged after the running to determine their grading. NO, this is not a slam at Cal.- after all wasn't historic Keeneland the first to change? I think many of the original gradings still would have stood.

2- After all the talk (OK complaining) about the BC at OSA 2 years in a row, I decided to refresh my memory. This is actually the SECOND time that Cal. has had back-to-back BC- the first was '86/SA & '87/Hollywood. It was also the 3rd time in 4 years that the BC was in Cal. If memory serves, that fact, as well as the incredibly late date in '87, was the reason many East Coasters skipped '87. Only once has the BC been on the East Coast in back-to-back years- '89/Gulf & '90/Bel. Also, despite the greater variety of options on the East Coast for host sites (there have been 4, vs 2 in Cal.) the East Coast has actually hosted only 1 more BC than Cal., including this year. Neutral Churchill, with 6 BC's, leads the way. I mentioned somewhere, sometime ago that the ideal rotation would be a 3 year set up of SA/mid country/East Coast. Right now, with the back-to-backs at SA, we seem to have the same mind set as the very early years of the BC- get all the Hollywood stars there and who cares about the rest of the country.

01 Sep 2009 5:14 PM

This is not a valid argument. Rachel is taking on and beating G1 winning males and running times of 146 with ease.  Zenyatta can't break 148 this year and had to struggle to catch an allowance winner.  Rachel is setting history without running on the plastic which 5 years from now will be nothing more than a distant memory.

01 Sep 2009 5:26 PM

What did we EVER do before BC???

I THINK we evaluated a horse on their entire season, not just one race... there were many, many champions, great champions, before the BC was ever thought of as an end of the year marketing tool.

The BC may cap a great season but it can't make a great season just by one race.

Racingfan, you are right, they just released a report right here on BH that demonstrates that through statistical and anecdotal evidence.

Entire racing season "Where Champions run many great races".

01 Sep 2009 6:23 PM

I liken the Horse of the Year award to the college football BCS title.  Sure, there are stats which will help the winner to be determined.  But at the end of the season it is a subjective value-judgement that determines the honor.  

In BCS football, as long as there is not a playoff, the "champion" will always be debated.  

In horseracing, as long as the best don't race each other, the "champion" will always be debated.

It seems the Breeders' Cup was devised as a method to bring the best together.  Too bad so many extraneous factors get in the way of that.

As an aside... My husband (not a racing fan) once told me that the reason he and other non-racing fans are not interested in racing is because the top horses never meet.  

Of course, I tell him that the reason myself and other non-college football fans are not interested is because there's not a playoff.

01 Sep 2009 8:46 PM

My God, These blogs are so boring! all every one does is fight about Zen and RA. Aren't there other horse racing news that can be discussed on here, this has gotten so lame and boring. People get a life. talk about some of the other news in the world of horseracing. I occasionally read these blogs and darn, it's the same people argueing the same Hoo-pla. Leave RA and Zen alone. Let their connections do what they want! I love them both, talk about the birds for a change and why Calvin is back on Mine that bird. It's a shame he doesn't have a secure jockey.

01 Sep 2009 9:49 PM

I agree totally with Bill Daly when he says it takes away from the sport and diminishes the importance of other races. Champions used to be crowned over their compiled record throughout the year not just one very market hyped single day. Its sad to see such races as the Jockey Club Gold Cup, The Travers,and The Woodward as prep races now as opposed to what they were for so many decades and so many champions. You need to also include the loss of such races as the Marlboro and the Washington D.C. International to the unjustified hype that has become the Breeders Cup. Would we see the greats of yesteryear like, Count Fleet ,Kelso, Forego ,Secretariat,  Slew or The Bid with the same sense of awe that we now have if they werent able to pull off a B.C. win? it seems we've lost sight of real accomplishments and become blinded by what happens over the course of one day.

02 Sep 2009 1:13 AM


02 Sep 2009 2:23 AM

Tiznowbaby - my error - I stated it backwards - it is switching FROM dirt TO synthetic that I meant to say!  But it is true that both can be bad if not properly maintained and an unsound horse is at risk no matter what - but also should not be racing.

02 Sep 2009 8:56 AM


Jess Jackson courts criticism when he so openly seeks publicity. He holds regular press conferences and make grand pronouncements. If he's going to enjoy the limelight, then he also has to endure the harshness a spotlight sometimes throws.

02 Sep 2009 9:24 AM
Pam S.

It certainly is a sad but true fact that you can't please everyone.  People complained about top horses ducking each other, championship voting being too subjective, not enough interest in racing except during Triple Crown season, etc. ... So they came up with the Breeders' Cup to address these issues.  Have mistakes been made in steering the event?  Sure.  But to call it "a very market hyped single day" shows a great deal of negativity IMO.  Remember that other racing fans consider the year-end championships to be a great day and they look forward to them regardless of where they are being held.  I am dismayed by all the Jackson-style whining going on.

Mr. Jackson is not just any horse owner.  He has set himself up as practically a spokesperson and reformer for the sport.  And he does not own just any horse; Rachel is the most popular horse in America with the potential to capture the interest of many non-fans.  To the growing chorus of synthetic doomsayers, I point out once again that she and any horse are at risk every time they race.  If any horse should be preparing for an historic run in the BC Classic, I think it's Rachel.  

I am saddened by the great number of fatalities at Del Mar as well.  I don't know what to make of it.  But the Cup is being held at Santa Anita.  And I agree with the previous poster who said that if Curlin had won the Classic last year, we would all be talking about something else.

02 Sep 2009 12:19 PM

The Breeders' Cup used to be a wonderful day of racing.  Only the very best horses came and I have been to several, including the very first one.  I've always loved the BC until last year.  The change to two days was ridiculous.  You lose attendance and television ratings on Friday and calling the distaff the "Ladies Classic" is ludicrous.

In the last couple of years the synthetics have been a hot topic, especially in the BC.  Mr. Jackson didn't want to race Curlin on synthetics but he gave in because the BC needed a big name to draw attention and people to it.  He did what was best for the sport by giving in.  Whether you think Curlin would have lost anyway is a moot point.  Makes no difference now.  Jackson has never liked synthetics and he sticks to that.  I do not think that HOY should be decided because of a BC race.  I've never thought so.  You wipe out a whole year's accomplishments for one race????  How is that right?  I am so glad that I'm not a high profile owner to be bashed, insulted and demeaned by people who don't know anything about me.  Jackson owns Rachel and has brought this filly out to compete where she never would have competed before with her former owners.  She has passed those tests and thrilled us all, except for the ones who won't give her any credit for being the fabulous animal she is.  rhoward has nothing but nasty things to say about her.  Why?  Why this hate for this horse?  I don't understand that but you are certainly entitled to your opinion but you cannot argue the fact that she has won every race this year and at several different tracks.  She has stepped up to every challenge but she shouldn't be considered for HOY because she won't run against Zenyatta at the BC?  Jackson just stated today that if Zenyatta goes to the Beldame, Rachel will too.  Zenyatta won't.  That is entirely the Moss's decision unless they change their minds.  I honestly don't think either is ducking the other, not at all.  The owners put up the money, we don't.  End of story.  It's about the horse.  Zenyatta is a tremendous animal in her own right and I honestly believe if she was put against the boys, she would win but they choose not to do that.  Zenyatta has raced 3 times, Rachel 7 and Zen may race 5 times by the end of the year and Rachel 8 or 9.  To see them face each other would be great to see but unnecessary and certainly shouldn't have anything to do with HOY.  I think the BC needs to go back to the old schedule and not be run on synthetics.  Zito won't run on it and many others won't either.  It's not natural for horses to run on it and in CA's heat, the surface gets up to well over 100 degrees and the horses are running on that!  No, it's just not best for the horses or for horse racing.

02 Sep 2009 2:09 PM

babbler68, spot on!

03 Sep 2009 8:09 AM
Turnbackthe alarm

"The Breeders Cup is a victim of the people who run it and don't know how to market it."-Emilio P

I couldn't have said it better.  Wabstat also has valid complaints about the insufficient pps of the European horses that make it very difficult for the average horseplayer to place an informed bet.

Unfortunately, the uninspired and myopic leaders of the BC have taken a once exciting event and turned it into a shell of its former self.  I went every year from 1992 to 2007.....and between the ticketing snafus, the watered down racing and the synthetic track for two years in a row, my friends, family and I have all taken a pass until the venue changes and the other problems get addressed.

03 Sep 2009 12:24 PM
David R.

The Breeders' Cup organization needs a commitment one year in advance in order to begin plans for the big day. None of the major tracks were able to give them that in a timely manner. Santa Anita was the only track not having issues at the time a decision needed to be made; that's why the BC is being held at the same place two years in a row.

07 Sep 2009 1:25 PM

Someone needs to ask the question why do we have synthetic tracks ?  Horses still get hurt and die on the track so what is the point?  Get rid of the stuff it is an experiment gone bad.

08 Sep 2009 2:30 PM

This goes to show a horse dont need the bc to get hoty, racing has been around before the bc and it will be here after. the bc has become the similar to what destroyed boxing, too many titles not enough champions.at one time in boxing there was the heavyweight division, which is comparative to the classic.at one time there was the middleweight division which reps the sprinters.we need to go back to having the sprint,the juvenile and the classic be the highlight once again,all these new divisions just water down and make the process so much more confusing, and less interesting. the turf, the turf mile, dirt mile, ladies classic ladies juvenile, what next a juvenile sprint get back to what made the bc a show to remember instead ofsome watered down spectacle..

12 Sep 2009 9:43 AM

As I have said before, the Breeder's Cup is not the end all of Horse Racing, just as the Triple Crown Races aren't either.  It is the competition the horse runs against that dictates the quality of runner. Anyway I don't like non-biodegradable surfaces. (Those that Mr. Jackson calls plastic.)  

13 Sep 2009 11:44 PM
Jeff Buck

Racing needs to go back to all natural tracks,dirt and grass.Handicapping was tough enough without having a third type of surface to deal with!I don't bet any track that's synthetic,so there's quite a few I do not wager on any more,including the Breeder's Cup last year and this year.I wonder how many bettors horseracing has lost because of synthetics?If I'm going to bet on an unknown,I'll go to the casinos.

17 Sep 2009 3:08 PM

I think you're all a bunch of bone heads. This is about racing horses, lets race!

22 Sep 2009 12:23 AM

California Liberals do it again. Mandating these surfaces before any proof that they improve anything. Sounds like every other political decision made by Liberals. (If it sounds (feels) good, do it!) I'm still scratching my head why the BC have made such foolish decisions regarding adding races and two years in a row on "plastic".

23 Sep 2009 12:54 PM

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