Bloggers: I'm off for a few days, be back at the end of the week. In the meantime, here's a guest blog to help get us pumped up for the Breeders' Cup. Jason
By Dani Pugh
In recent years, racing seems to have fallen from its previous throne of excitement, beauty, and majesty. It is a far cry from where it was in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, when we saw such stars as Secretariat, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Cigar, and Holy Bull.
Racing used to be one of the most popular sports in America, where not just the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup were televised, but every race of importance, of stature, would be on some channel. Today, the only time you'll ever hear of racing on any television channel, besides HRTV, TVG, or ESPN, is when there is a major breakdown, like the tragedies of Barbaro, Eight Belles, and Pine Island. When our sport's most dedicated fans, trainers, owners, and jockeys look at the future of the sport, many see nothing but darkness and gloom ahead.
But I don't believe that assessment is true. Racing still has a future, because beyond all the dark there is hope within our sport. And we are reminded of that every year.
In times like these, we need to remember what is good. When Barbaro broke down, Bernardini and Invasor swept in to provide us with an abundance of brilliance and excitement. When they retired, early in 2007, the possibility of a year without excitement looked very real. Then came Hard Spun, Curlin, and Street Sense. We saw a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner win the Derby for the first time, we saw a filly win the Belmont for the first time in more than 100 years, and we saw the meteoric rise of a colt who went from a maiden winner to Breeders' Cup Classic winner in just one year.
All this happened in the short span of one year, and what an amazing year it was. In 2008, we saw our Horse of the Year return to win the Dubai World Cup, and become America's all time leading horse in earnings. We saw Zenyatta, an unheard of filly as a 3-year old, go from being unknown to an undefeated Breeder's Cup Distaff winner.
This year, racing was starved for another champion, another feel good story, and we got it. Mine That Bird, Canada's champion 2-year old, dropped off the face of the planet as a 3-year old, but came back in to win the Kentucky Derby, and could possibly be another version, or even a better version of the gutsy gelding Funny Cide.
After him came the brilliant filly Rachel Alexandra, whose races against fillies were won with Ruffian-like ease. She won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths, then went on to beat males in the Preakness, Haskell, and a gut-wrenching, heart-pounding edition of the Woodward. And she'll back back for 2010.
My friends, racing may have taken a few hits over the years, but there is still hope, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. In my few years of being a fan, I have experienced the passion, thrill, and excitement that no other sport can provide. These beautiful, majestic creatures are what keep this game going, they are what make people fall in love with the game, and they are what made me fall in love with the game. Though racing is far from perfect, it is still extraordinary. It still is the sport of kings.