Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner?

Not to be a killjoy, but the fact is some of the best horses in the country likely will not be showing up at the Breeders' Cup this year. The following are those horses who have either been ruled out by their owners or have run so terribly on a synthetic surface it would be seem unlikely they will show up at Santa Anita.

Before getting too disheartened, people do change their minds, so this is not etched in stone. And there are more promising aspects to the Breeders' Cup later on in this column.

Rachel Alexandra - More than enough has been written about Jess Jackson's announcement that Rachel will not run on "plastics." So, unless he has a drastic change of heart, as he did last year with Curlin, the Breeders' Cup will lose a horse it cannot afford to lose. It must be pointed out that Rachel won her only start on synthetics in fast time over Keeneland's Polytrack, but Jackson apparently still has a sour taste in his mouth from last year's decision reversal and seeing Curlin close out his illustrious career with his only ever out-of-the-money performance.

Fabulous Strike - Arguably the top sprinter in the country, at least older sprinter, he ran an uncharacteristically subpar race in last year's BC Sprint, finishing a well-beaten fifth, and his connections would have to do some serious soul searching before going out there again. He would be a major loss to the Sprint.

Macho Again - The most accomplished older horse in the East on dirt, having won the grade I Stephen Foster and grade II New Orleans Handicap this year, his two lifetime efforts on a synthetic surface were a disaster, and his connections are already talking about the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Clark Handicap as possible targets. He's been inconsistent, but on his best days he's a tiger who can strike quickly. He would have bolstered the American team in the Classic, but on dirt.

Munnings - The fastest rising star in the 3-year-old ranks, with brilliant victories in the Woody Stephens and Tom Fool against older horses, he has thrown in only one poor race in his career and that was a 10th-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The one promising note is that he was only beaten 4 3/4 lengths in what turned out to be a totally bizarre race, more like a European turf finish. But it was evident he didn't handle that track the way he handled the dirt. Todd Pletcher has a history of loading up big-time in the Breeders' Cup, but unlike some years when he's had as many as 17 starters, he only sent five to Santa Anita last year. Coolmore, however, loves the international spotlight, so who knows? He certainly would be one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in the BC Mile, but it would be a gamble.

Seattle Smooth - A winner of five straight stakes on dirt, including a grade I and three grade 2s, she will be sorely missed in the Ladies Classic. The leading older filly and mare in the East was banished from California by her owner after running dismally for the most part on the synthetic surfaces and given sanctuary on the dirt. She has not been defeated since, so it seems inconceivable they would return her to the scene of her worst performances.

Charitable Man - One of the leading 3-year-olds, he did very little running in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, finishing a lackluster seventh in his only appearance on a synthetic surface. Owner William Warren and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will have to think this one over. There might be some hope here if they feel they have a shot at the 3-year-old title. But again, he just might have a disdain for synthetic surfaces. It's difficult to tell for sure from the Blue Grass, because it was his first start in seven months.

Unbridled Belle - The Queen of Delaware and winner of the Beldame Stakes, her lone appearance on a synthetic surface resulted in a dreadful ninth-place finish in the Spinster Stakes last year, in which she was beaten 14 1/2 lengths and never picked up her feet on the Polytrack.

Commentator - Nick Zito simply does not like synthetic surfaces and never once thought of sending Commentator to Santa Anita last year when he was at the top of his game, so there is no reason to think this year will be any different, especially with the two-time Whitney winner now 8-years-old.

Arson Squad - Another who was saved from synthetic mediocrity by his owner after compiling a perfect record on synthetics in California - seven starts and seven times out of the money. Since coming east, he has won the Meadowlands Cup and was a fast-closing fourth, beaten only a length, in the Cigar Mile. In the Stephen Foster, he again closed fast to finish fourth, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths. No way he's going back to California, especially with owner Jay Em Ess Stable having the exciting Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip.

Benny the Bull - Although it was back in April 2007, he did finish a dull sixth over Keeneland's Polytrack in his only ever appearance on a synthetic surface. He's come a long way since, and that may be a mere speck in the past to IEAH Stables and Rick Dutrow. But it is still there.

Again, we're not saying that none of these horses will run in the Breeders' Cup, but from their record and the actions and comments of their owners, it seems unlikely or at best questionable at this time, with the emphasis on "at this time."

Now, let's look at the bright side. As mentioned, we found an exciting new star in Rail Trip, who turned in a huge performance in the Hollywood Gold Cup. And it couldn't have come at a more opportune moment. Now is the time to begin fortifying our army if we want to have any hope of turning back the impending European onslaught this year. This applies mainly to the Classic, following our ignominious defeat last year at the hands of two Euro milers.

Rail Trip, who began his career with five soft races, was never asked to run to the wire and must have thought this was an easy game. Therefore, he was not prepared when top-class horses looked him in the eye and refused to go away. So, he had to learn his lessons under fire against stakes horses. His two defeats in graded stakes made him grow up in a hurry and he was primed and ready for the Hollywood Gold Cup. What was encouraging was the way he stalked the pace and then blew the doors off last year's Swaps Stakes winner Tres Borrachos, who finished nearly five lengths clear of the third horse. His final quarter in :24 3/5 suggests the boy has turned into a man. Now that we know he is effective at 1 1/4 miles and has the right running style and temperament for the BC Classic, he should be able to give anyone -- Americans and Euros -- all they can handle.

We can only hope Zenyatta continues her unbeaten streak and heads to the Classic to give the home team and the race itself some extra spark, as Curlin did last year. That would leave stablemate Life is Sweet to be the star of the Ladies Classic, unless she, too, heads to the "other" Classic following her impressive third-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup. We know Einstein certainly is a worthy combatant. We have no idea what's happening with Well Armed, who turned in the biggest shocker last year when he faded badly in the BC Dirt Mile, which for the third year since its inception will not be run at a mile on the dirt. After his Dubai World Cup demolition, perhaps they'll try their luck at the Classic this year. We still don't know if he's better on dirt or synthetic. We're also playing the waiting game with Tiago and Colonel John, whose return would be welcome for sure.

And the jury definitely is still out on synthetic virgins Dry Martini and Asiatic Boy, one-two, respectively in the Suburban Handicap; and Texas Mile and Cornhusker winner, the venerable 7-year-old horse Jonesboro.

On the 3-year-old front, we'll have to wait to see how the "Bird Brothers," Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, fare this summer, as well as some of the other top-class sophomores still in training. It says a lot for this year's crop, which has been decimated by injury, that there are so many horses still around that could be major factors in the Classic if they can handle the Pro-Ride. The recent loss of Pioneerof the Nile was a major blow.

Fortunately, we know that Mine That Bird can handle Woodbine's Polytrack, so that is at least encouraging. But we won't know if Summer Bird, Quality Road and the others will handle the synthetic until they run on it. One 3-year-old with enormous potential who has run well on both dirt and synthetic is Mythical Power, an imposing colt who could become a major force in the division. And let's see how far California-based Grazen wants to go after his victory in the Affirmed Handicap, his third straight win.

As much as we try to raise our hopes, we must remember that the Europeans could be a lot more powerful than last year if their leading horses head this way. Sea the Stars, winner of the English 2,000 Guineas, English Derby, and Coral Eclipse Stakes, is on the threshold of superstardom, and has already been mentioned as a possible BC Classic candidate. And Coolmore's Irish Derby winner Fame and Glory, Irish 2,000 Guineas and St. James's Palace Stakes winner Mastercraftsman, Irish Derby runner-up Golden Sword, and Eclipse runner-up Rip Van Winkle, and several others from Ballydoyle are not far behind. Last year's impressive BC Turf winner Conduit is still around and in good form, and Prince of Wales's Stakes and Prix Ganay winner Vision d'Etat, who captured last year's French Derby, looks to be a formidable foe at 1 1/4 miles.

Although all the filly talk here is of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta (and let's not forget the imminent return of Stardom Bound who loves the Pro-Ride), Europe has several budding female superstars in undefeated French Oaks winner Stacelita, English and Irish Oaks winner Sariska, and the brilliant miler Ghanaati, winner of the 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes. Together, they have won 11 of 13 starts. And let's not forget that Goldikova, who had jaws dropping in the BC Mile last year, is rounding back in form after winning the group I Falmouth Stakes last weekend. That is some group of femme fatales to keep an eye on. Combined with the aforementioned colts, and others lurking in the wings, such as Michael Stoute's hard-knocking Coronation Cup and Yorkshire Cup winner Ask, Europe could be on the verge of launching one of its most potent invasions ever.

Our main hopes right now are the ever-improving Man o' War winner Gio Ponti, who is rapidly developing into a Manila-like grass star that can do anything, and the swashbuckling Presious Passion, who is unlike anything the Europeans have ever seen. The only horses over there that run with the same reckless abandon and gusto on the front end are no-hope pacesetters who usually barely make it to the finish line. The Euros have never encountered a horse like Presious Passion, who runs as if he's being chased by demons. He can open 10, 15, or 20 lengths on you and rip off dazzling fractions, and even if you catch up to him, good luck getting by him. And even if you do get by him, try staying there. Relax for one second and he's all over you again. Remember Michael Meyers from "Halloween?" Every time you think he's dead, there is he coming at you again.

Another synthetic horse who should be tough to beat in the BC Sprint if he continues to progress and mature is the pure speed freak Zensational, who ran older horses off their feet in the grade I Triple Bend last week, going seven furlongs for the first time.

So, although it will be a major disappointment if we lose so many major stars, there is a glimmer of hope. There better be, or else Santa Anita could very well be a playground for the Europeans once again.


Leave a Comment:

Cowboy Bob

Steve   Do you have any idea on the status of Stardom Bound? She can handle Pro Ride and there is enough time if she is training.

12 Jul 2009 9:43 PM

Steve, this scenario is fine because Europe has the best horses as a whole anyway. I attend the BC only in Ca because the weather will not be miserable and I want to see the best in the world run in person. I have already seen what the US has to offer and Zenyatta will be electric in her final start. Gio Ponti will be fine, as well as Presious Passion. I am hoping the best horse, Sea The Stars, in the world would be there but what I am reading it doesn't look promising and that is regardless where the BC is run. Steve, I can't wait until the first weekend in November.

12 Jul 2009 10:25 PM

Mike, if you have ever seen Zenyatta run in person, then you can only dream she will run a mile and a quarter. If she is healthy, Moss has said she will run in the Classic. The one major reason she hasn't run at a mile and a quarter is because Moss owns another horse called Tiago and he wants that distance. Plus, how many mile and a quarter races for fillies and mares are there in a year? Answer NOT MANY! Mike, reputations are made by accepting challenges and exceling in those challenges. Mike, do me favor, bet against Zenyatta so I can get better odds.

12 Jul 2009 10:33 PM
Glenn Craven

While I don't oppose the notion of running the Breeders' Cup at a track with a synthetic surface (though it puts true dirt runners at a disadvantage), I've blogged a couple of times about how wrong I believe it is to have run the event in consecutive years at Santa Anita. Now we see why.

Connections might not be so put off by having to run on synthetics every few years in the Breeders' Cup. But when the same horses that were disadvantaged in the last Breeders' Cup get the same treatment the following year -- not just the synthetic surface, but all the east coast horses having to ship west -- I think this result was completely predictable.

12 Jul 2009 10:42 PM
Tim G

Jerry, Ann and John bad for the game?

NO I don't think that is the case at all. They've run Giacamo, Tiago etc all over the place. They are like most of us who really love our horses and always have a favorite (yep, just like your folks told you they love all you kids the same? It's a lie.)

Personally I HATE SYNTHETICS. They're hard to handicap and have a lot of issues of their own (more soft tissue, suspensory, foot injuries). Thankfully this is still America (for the moment) land of the free. If we don't want to take our horses there, we don't have to. If we don't think they'll run well on the surface, why torture them and scam the bettors?

To me it's irresponsible to take a horse you KNOW doesn't like a surface or has never run on it and fool people into thinking the horse will do well on it.

LOTS who went last year, hated it and are really deciding if they want to go back. Sort of has them in a conundrum. Your horse can't have much of a chance at the Eclipse if you don't go and if you do go and they run like a dog, it harms your reputation and destroys all the hard work you put in to them on a dirt track. Especially the two year olds.

12 Jul 2009 10:47 PM

Rachel Alexandra will participate in the Breeders Cup. Her connections are aware that great horses overcome the challenges of different surfaces. RA’s grandsire El Prado has sired a number of top class turf horses; consequently she should have no problem with the SA surface. Mine That Bird first four victories were achieved on the Woodbine synthetic track. He made the transition to dirt to win the derby and give top class performances in the Preakness and Belmont.

Fabulous Strike, Macho Again, Munnings, Charitable Man, Unbridled Belle, Commentator, Arson Squad and Benny the Bull are nice horses but they would not be scaring anyone so their absence will not affect the quality of the fields.

Racing fans would be more disappointed if the top Euro horses do not show up base on the show they put on in 2008.

The US based 3YO that I will be following to the Classic in Summer Bird. Obviously I will be laughed at but I think this horse is the real deal. I cannot recall any horse that reflects inbreeding in the third generation to Storm Bird. Storm Bird was1980 Champion 2-year-old in England & Ireland and sire of Storm Cat and Summer Squall. In addition to the close inbreeding to Storm Bird, Summer Bird’s third dam was sired by 1970 English Triple Crown Nijinsky. Summer Bird’s pedigree therefore has strong turf influence and he should acquit himself extremely well on the synthetic surface. I expect him to join A.P. Indy as one of only two horses to win Belmont and Breeders Cup Classic.

12 Jul 2009 11:19 PM

Zenyatta will not win the Classic? And you base your opinion on what?

Shirreffs and Moss are two of the classiest gentlemen in the sport. I have no idea where you get your information.

12 Jul 2009 11:24 PM

I do know Stardom Bound has recently shipped to Saratoga..

12 Jul 2009 11:29 PM

Hope to see all the Euros you listed. That is a star-studded lineup! Seems to me that many American owners and trainers are planning a Breeders' Cup boycott as a way of expressing their dislike for synthetic surfaces.

12 Jul 2009 11:30 PM

Mike Rullo-  If you think John Shirreffs and Moss are bad for the game, you have an awfully twisted view of this great sport.  

Get rid if the plastic tracks.  Put that money towards improving dirt tracks.  Problem solved.....

12 Jul 2009 11:31 PM
Golden Gate


Thank you for bringing us up to date on where the horses may be running this year. There are some I hadn't really heard about that I will research now.

Personally I think Zenyatta can win at any distance. Zenyatta Rules!

Also, it is very sad about Lawyer Ron. I loved watching him run at Oaklawn and was really looking forward to seeing how his progeny would do through the years. At least there will be some to carry on his name. Mr. Hines has his beloved horse with him now I believe.

12 Jul 2009 11:32 PM

I agree that this will be another year for the euros. Pro ride is brown turf. I know RA has won on poly, but for one, who was it against, and two pro ride and poly are two different types of synthetic. A horse who runs well on poly may not like the pro ride. Zenyatta if she wants to keep unbeaten should stay with the fillies. The Euros and the up and coming Rail Trip, plus a few of America's best 3yr olds will be too much for her to run down. LIS was beaten almost eight lengths i think by Rail Trip. Zenyatta runs relatively in the same position as LIS, and probably would've gotten the same trip. Zenyatta may be a great filly, but if she wants a hope at HOTY she'd better run in the Goodwood for a try against the colts, then go back to the Distaff.

12 Jul 2009 11:52 PM

Mike Rullo,

Zenyatta won all her races in one season of racing. I see nothing wrong with racing her another season.

Peppers pride raced over four seasons for her 19 consecutive victories.

On the subject of reputation, Zenyatta's consecutive victories do not bring her close to the greatest fillies and mares that have raced in the US.

A reputation worth noting is that of Regret-

In 1914, Regret became the first of only four horses to ever win all three Saratoga Race Course events for two-year-old. She won her first three starts in stakes races against colts i.e., the Saratoga Special Stakes, Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes.

The following year, campaigning as a three-year-old, she won the 1915 Kentucky Derby in her seasonal debut.

Regret earned the most prestigious honor in racing, voted the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Her four first starts in graded races against colts’ results in four victories. Zenyatta 11 consecutive victories and reputation do not compare to that of the great Regret in her first four victories.

12 Jul 2009 11:53 PM
Ted from LA

Get the Breeders' Cup to Churchill Downs every year.  It is where it belongs.

12 Jul 2009 11:56 PM

What happened to Tiago?  Is he still around?  Does no one know?

13 Jul 2009 12:07 AM

Mike, I don't understand your comment - why shouldn't Zenyatta run on her preferred surface?  She's a brilliant filly who deserves the chance to run, in whatever race her connections choose.  

13 Jul 2009 12:17 AM

It's unfortune the BC won't have the US superstars, The BC was ment to be moved every year and if they did move it we would probably see the US stars their.  

That being said we should fell grateful to have the European superstars in the US as we rarely get to see them over here.  And I have a felling they will ship more over this year than last year.

13 Jul 2009 1:01 AM

Before I cause anyone annoyance, I feel the need to insist that I'm perfectly content to hear there are no plans to try it this year and he can wait til 2010, but should Nicanor hit the board or even win the Virginia Derby, would the Jacksons and Matz consider trying any of the many options in the Breeders' Cup?  The VA Derby competition's supposed to be pretty darn respectable as I understand it.  I know they've every intention of continuing to be patient with him, but if he actually won a G2 in July, wouldn't there be a temptation to plot a course ending in run at Santa Anita (synthetic or turf) form-permitting?  Obviously counting chickens is a mistake, and maybe we'll find out that he's just not ready yet, but I'm saying hypothetically that results in the VA Derby are good...then what?  Use form momentum or take a vacation?  His early races don't tell me he has to stick to turf either, even if he didn't win them.  He's never passed horses to go on and win, though, right?  He seems to be talented, but very interested in watching others in front of him to the point of not passing them, thus the blinkers.  Does it even make sense for him to try get the mental seasoning to handle the BC this year, even with VA Derby success?

13 Jul 2009 4:23 AM

Hi Steve,

It was foolish to hold consecutive BCs on synthetics. It clearly favors European turf horses accustomed to the bounce of the surface rather than American dirt horses who use the resistance of dirt as a springboard to a powerful stride. If they want to attract the Europeans, they've accomplished that goal. But Santa Anita isn't Longchamps or Ascot, nor do I want American racing to become that precious. So, I'll follow the BC races but tune out the results after the royal

sc$%#@&# accorded Curlin last year in his home country as he closed out his career. Curlin fans always thought (and voted!) that he should have raced in The Arc after the Man O' War. As for the BC, maybe the Queen will show up and you can -- must -- wear a top hat and tails. Cute, Horse Boy.

13 Jul 2009 6:10 AM

The Breeders Cup decision making apparatus has the arrogant habit of not listening or caring about anyone's opinion but their own...e.g. many owners, trainers not liking synthetic so they decide to run it on that surface for two years in a row. The argument might be made to run on synth one year for fairness to Cali horses, but two years was

simply spitting in the face of the people who don't like sythetics..the only way to protest is to not show up.

The same thing goes for cramming "Ladies" down our throat as a term for mares and fillies, and changing the great Distaff name...

...and to top it off, putting the mares and fillies on a Friday, a workday...especially this year with all the layoffs, forloughs,etc. are you going to be the one to tell your boss "I'm not coming in, I'm watching a horse race"...

Lawyer Ron, I'll miss you.

13 Jul 2009 6:44 AM

The mistake here, as I see it, was giving Santa Anita two consecutive years of Breeders Cup.  It should have reverted to a conventional dirt track in 2009. How many chances do our equines get to run in the BC?  We know how quickly (and often without reason)they're whisked off to the breeding shed. A year or two in a horse's life can be a career.

13 Jul 2009 6:48 AM


love reading hanging with haskin-would love to hear stories on your european travels.

as for this breeders cup have to wait and see but dont think they,ll be much in it-this year anyway.

will be cheering on euros hoping they can translate form to u.s but with fingers crossed no breakdowns.

ps- colts run in 2000 guineas-tut tut

pps - whats the latest on i want revenge?

13 Jul 2009 6:59 AM
Brooklyn Steve

Breeders Cup races should not be held at synthetic tracks. Already have enough turf races. An the turf is the same as synthetic. So hat should the dirt horses do, stay home?

13 Jul 2009 7:23 AM
Judy Winters

It was obvious last year at the Breeders Cup that the San Anita "dirt course" favored grass horses so the question is why is the Breeders cup back at San Anita?   If San Anita wants a Breeders Cup again - the track should to convert back to dirt and then the horses will come ....  

13 Jul 2009 7:54 AM

Don't forget about Colonel John. Harty has been getting him ready to compete through the summer and peak in the fall. At his home track. On the poly. At 1 1/4 miles. By Tiznow, a two-time Classic winner. Check out the video on YouTube to see how well he's matured. He'll be ready for those Euro invaders.

13 Jul 2009 8:23 AM

perhaps now the stallions that have been turf runners will have offspring that will be future stars on the synthetic surfaces. It is a gamble to breed anyhow, dont dismiss the future of american synthetic champions of the future.  I bred my mare accordingly, others should too. The synthetic surfaces are for the safety of the horses, and riders.

13 Jul 2009 8:26 AM

Great article Steve, thanks.

Having attended the 2000 Guineas and watched Sea the Stars win over at Newmarket, it looks like he's the real deal.  When I saw him on my Easter Break from college, he was just a blip in the field, until he won.  Now I look back and think "Wow, I saw a future triple grade one winner. Yikes"  

I hope our contingent is strong.  Do you have any news on Well Armed, or is he still on break from his Dubai World Cup victory?  Thanks,


13 Jul 2009 8:35 AM

Great listing, Mr Haskins - A lot to decipher, but, I would just like to throw a kudo to Ron Ellis for his fine work in bringing Rail Trip up to the Gold Cup.  Never really was in his corner, but, hats off for doing it in the olden style of Charlie W, by running RT in two graded prep races prior to the Cup.  He used these to build RT into what many had thought he could become.  No, not a mile and quarter horse, but a top Grade winner.  Even Ellis didn't know whether he could get the distance, but, he flew in the stretch.

Now, will IEAH buy Necessary Evil?  Hope not, but O'Neil said the sale tag was still out for the fine young 2 year old.

Synthetics, be damned - To be the best and finest, a horse should be able to run on any surface.  As one who still believes the BC Classic should be a mile and half turf race instead of a dirt race and loves to see cavalry charges on turf, come one, come all to SA to race on a turf type surface.  Don't pout, Mr Jackson.

13 Jul 2009 8:44 AM

If Rachel has already run well on a synthetic track, Mr. Jackson has no excuse for not running her in the Breeders' Cup.  I hate to see grown men sulk.

13 Jul 2009 8:46 AM

Stardom Bound is now at Aqueduct and starting her training....

13 Jul 2009 8:56 AM
Bobby G


Any word on Bob Black Jack entering any of the Sprint or Mile races?

13 Jul 2009 9:02 AM

Check this site out. It tells about RA being part of the Del Handicap field. She has been assigned the highweight. I didn't hear or see anything about JJ entering RA in this race. Maybe after her work today he'll anounce it.

13 Jul 2009 9:13 AM
Majella from Ireland

Its disapointing that so many Americans won't go to Santa Anita, esp. Rachel. However, there are some very good horses over here, and as Steve says, Sea the Stars will be a superstar if he can continue running like he is. And the only horse to defeat him, Driving Snow, runs in America now.

13 Jul 2009 9:16 AM

Persoonally I think that a lot of owners/trainers are using the synthetic surface issue as a major excuse not to face tough competition.  

  Even oon dirt surfaces, there are tracks that many horses don't care for or don't run well on:  Saratoga (graveyard of champions) Belmont, Delaware Park, just to name a few.

  As for the Euros, they have surface "specialists" also:  ie some don't like heavy turf, some don't like it fast. So we may not see all of the Euros either as the Calif turf is usually fast and hard.

 Sorry, but I just don't buy the synthetic surface excuse.  It's still more about tarnishing a reputation which in turn results in lower future breeding fees or sales prices as opposed to who has the best horse.

13 Jul 2009 9:38 AM

There hasn't been ANY *definite* evidence synthetic's superiority to dirt in reducing injuries, and the only good thing? It keeps down slog, and most tracks cancel races that would risk horses slipping and falling so...what's the point? If the good horses are kept away from synthetics, of course they won't be injured, and they are for nothing. This is killing the industry. I don't expect Quality Road in the BC after his iffy injuries, and of COURSE Rachel won't come, even though Curlin's losing race was hearty. Commentator, Charitable, Macho--all strong-running horses, although Charitable is maturing.

Has anyone heard about Musket Man? Will he be going toward any BC races?

13 Jul 2009 9:46 AM

Does anyone know what's going on with The Pamplemousse?

13 Jul 2009 9:47 AM

Exactly as I predicted.  This years Synthetic Classic will be dominated by European horses. There will be more european horses entered in this years Classic than any previous year ever and a european WILL WIN this years edition of the Synthetic Classic as well.  Might as well hold it over in Europe.  What's going on,  I thought Jess Jackson was going to save the sport of horse racing..?  And the next Ruffian won't be running.?,  great horses can run and win on anything, Secretariat, John Henry,  but the horse racing industry/Breeders are not producing horses like that anymore. A far cry from the 1984 Breeders' Cup, Wild Again, Gate Dancer & Slew O' Gold.  It's the end of yet another era of horse racing...

13 Jul 2009 9:51 AM


    MM is out for the rest of the year pretty much. There is no way for him to make the Classic, but he will probably return as a 4yr old.

13 Jul 2009 10:17 AM

Steve, Any idea if there's a chance that Nicanor could make it into the Breeder's cup? Or Lentenor if he's ready.


13 Jul 2009 10:22 AM


We know Mine That Bird can handle Woodbine's polytrack, but he did finish last in the BC Juvenile last year didn't he?


Great horses can win on anything? You used the most obvious examples in Secretariat and John Henry. I'll give you Lava Man, but care to name some more.   What was Cigar's record on the turf? 1 for 7?

The fact of the matter is that for a century, we have had dirt and turf racing in this country.  Now we add a third surface which moves some horses up and some horses down, and people are just supposed to enter their horses and play the "let's see what happens" game on the biggest day in the biggest races.

Santa Anita should never have been given the BC two years in a row.

13 Jul 2009 10:22 AM
Mindy C.

Hi Brian'

I agree with you on Colonel John...

He is going to be fresh and tough...  where on you tube can I find those pictures?

13 Jul 2009 10:48 AM

Musket Man is out for the rest of the year MtBFan (still).  He had an injury in training a few weeks ago.  They said they'd not push him and would go slow and bring him back next year.  As for The Pamplemousse, I haven't heard any news and have been asking around for the last few months.  It seems no one has any news on this horse.

Many of the horses listed above would be a loss, mostly RA, Fab. Strike, Benny the Bull, and Munnings (if I had a subpar sprinter, this would be the year I'd aim for the BCsprint).  The rest I could take or leave (though I'd love to see Commentator win another big one).

If RA or Zenyatta don't go in the classic, I'll probably find myself cheering for Einstin and Summer Bird.  Wouldn't you all love to see a repeat of the UN the other day with Precious Passion running like his tale was on fire (I'm with Steve here, the Euro's wouldn't know what to think).

I'll be going to the Breeder's Cup this year (because I will be in the area), but I'd rather see it on TV and it be at Belmont or Churchill Downs or any other number of dirt tracks around the country.

13 Jul 2009 10:54 AM
Ann in Lexington

Just like to point out that Regret's Horse of the Year title was unofficial and simply the general consensus, since the Eclipse awards weren't around until 1971. Ack Ack was the first horse to receive an Eclipse award as Horse of the Year.

13 Jul 2009 11:01 AM

Regret did not win an Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year in 1915.  She was voted the Horse of the Year but the "Eclipse Awards" themselves did not exist back then.

13 Jul 2009 11:10 AM
Tim G
Mourning Dove, Synthetics? The jury is still out on how 'safe' they are.

A lot of tweaking, fatal breakdowns have plagued EVERY synthetic surface and career ending soft tissue injuries still are pretty high in number.

Like more than one trainer has said, we still have the injuries, they're just a different type of injury.

All the tweaking, fixing, reworking of synthetics? Apply that same effort to dirt (actually a good super will tell you LESS) and you can have a dirt track just as safe.

Dirt turns to mud when it rains (sometimes, but once again a good super can work wonders). But WHAT happens to synthetics when it rains? THAT has been a HUGE issue. The other thing? If it proves to be no safer than it has so far in the short term, the long term doesn't look so great as issues and problems will inevitably mount. The final common denominator will come down to: can it survive the loss of the gamblers?

That's what keeps racing going, the handle. All the night time party crowds at Churchill etc, all the 'horse lovers' activists won't save the industry and the gamblers on the whole HATE to try and handicap the plastic.

ON Churchill and the BC? They have consistently had the most successful Breeders Cups. I'd love to have it here in Louisville, I know the REAL horse crowd would come out to watch and bet and the party people with their bets for posterity would add to it as well.

13 Jul 2009 11:16 AM

mourningdove, the synthetic tracks are hurting as many horses as dirt or turf. Why?

Because racing failed to make necessary changes and the same people still train and race immature, spent, ill and injured horses on drugs and refuse to do what is right for their horses, that is resting or retiring when needed instead of dropping them in claiming races! No synthetic surface can save these horses.

jamesb, as Mine That Bird's owners and trainer at the time admitted, he shouldn't have run in the BC Juvenile. So it appears that his finishing last may have had nothing to do with Pro Ride...  Though I think synthetic tracks stink and if or when all is said and done all injured and dead horses are counted, it is no better than dirt because it is not the track which injures most horses it is the people who medicate and run infirm and spent horses.

13 Jul 2009 11:17 AM
Karen in Texas

The synthetic surfaces have become polarizing for many trainers and owners. Those who are against them have legitimate reasons; the dislike is not just an excuse. If American trainers/owners stay away from the BC this year, it is because that is virtually their only way to express the strength of their convictions. Unfortunately, your assessment of the absentees is probably correct, Steve.

13 Jul 2009 11:18 AM
Mindy C.


I found the pictures of Colonel John...  he looks tremendous!!!  Cannot wait for his next start off of this lay off...  has been frustrating !!  Hope Well Armed bounces back as well...  Your thoughts on Da Tara ?  His half bro won yesterday @ Belmont  (Tizway) and looked pretty good...  your thoughts ???

13 Jul 2009 11:19 AM
Tim G

Also on horse of the year? Very interesting comment by a friend.

Horse of the year should go to a horse that you don't have to "explain to anybody". A horse who casual fans and Sports fans reading the bits and pieces available about racing, will recognize.

WHO is THAT? MTB and Rachel.

13 Jul 2009 11:21 AM
Sun and Wind

With all the mindless "global warming" hype that extends into protecting animals that are not in danger, I think the entire racing industry has to be very careful with its horses in order to project an image of responsibility.  There are a lot of people that feel racing is evil and for many reasons.  We do not want this great sport to be over regulated or destroyed in the name of saving the poor horses.

The BC should have been moved east this year.  And I agree that one year is a huge deal in any horses career.

Turf is not so similar to synthetics as you may believe despite the results.

13 Jul 2009 11:25 AM

As I read through Steve Haskin's column and many of the readers' comments, one thing becomes very clear to me.  Horses who have excelled on the turf (especially the Europeans) and horses who have turf specialists in their breeding are at a clear advantage running on the synthetics.  While we have some outstanding Grade One turf stakes in this country, our forte is on the dirt.  Down through the years, American racing has been about dirt track stars.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that very few horses excel on both dirt and synthetic tracks.  So why do people get so upset when an owner decides to skip the BC because of the synthetic surface?  It is simply not a level playing field.  If your horse were at a competitive disadvantage for whatever reason in a particular race, would you choose to run in that race?  Of course not.  I feel bad about last year's situation with Curlin, who was the best dirt horse in the world.  He was at a distinct disadvantage and he finished out of the money for the only time in his career.  His owner knew that this outcome was a possibility because of the synthetic track, but he ran him for the benefit of racing and its fans.  Would he do it again if he could turn back the way.  So, yes, there will be some outstanding horses who won't go to the BC and racing will suffer because of that.  But I, for one, will definitely not blame any of those owners and/or trainers for their decision.  The BC should not have been held at Santa Anita for two years in a row.  The Breeders Cup is supposed to be America's showcase and it should be held at a (dirt) track which will allow our best to compete at their highest level.  If we structure it so that European turf horses have the advantage, then why even hold the BC on this side of the ocean?

13 Jul 2009 11:28 AM
John C

Steve - LOVE the comparison of Presious Passion to Michael Meyers. You made me laugh. He is certainly one of the most interesting horses in training right now, and the funnest to watch. Combine that with how tough and game he is, and he's on his way to being a major fan favorite.

As far as the BC, I agree with almost everyone about the idiocy of holding it at the same synthetic track two years in a row - unfair move to the horses and connections. And it gives people like Jess Jackson an excuse not to send the best to face the best. I am a little surprised, though, that Jackson has such a vendetta against synthetics - first of all, he's such a proponent of progress in the sport in so many other areas, you'd think he'd be in favor of synthetics considering at least anecdotal evidence from trainers suggests they may be safer. And considering he seems to be a pretty intelligent man, you'd think he would have realized by now that Curlin's loss was because he simply wasn't fit enough and probably wasn't the same horse that won in Dubai, not because of the surface.

I for one can't believe nobody ever talks about trying to entice the Japanese horses into testing the BC waters. How exciting would it be for racing if the Classic featured not just Zenyatta vs. the Boys, but the two most popular and best older mares in the world going at it: Zenyatta vs. Vodka? It's Vodka's best distance, and what better way to end her career than by potentially pulling off a Breeders' Cup Classic-Japan Cup double? (If she did this, I believe she'd also become the richest horse ever.) Throw Deep Sky and Logi Universe in there, and (with a couple of the Euros you mentioned) you've got one of the best international fields ever assembled.

Won't happen, unfortunately, but we can dream...

13 Jul 2009 11:36 AM
Steve Haskin

A few quick points, Tiago is back in light training and there is still hope he can make the Breeders' Cup. If he's back in the form he was last year, he should be a major factor for sure.

Stardom Bound is doing really well, and I probably should have included her when discussing the fillies. She loves the Pro Ride.

13 Jul 2009 12:21 PM
Karen in Indiana

Yes, there will be some favorites out, but it still looks like it will shape up to be a really decent bunch of horses. Possibles for Classic - Colonel John, Zenyatta, Rail Trip, Einstein?, Sea the Stars, Mine That Bird, all are proven turf or synthetics. RA should be allowed to be there - she's not unbeaten so no record there to protect and she has had synthetic experience.

I have conflicting thoughts about the location of the Breeders Cup. I agree with Glenn Craven - having it 2 yrs. in a row at the same place does disadvantage those who don't do well on whatever surface the track is. But, I also think it does a lot to raise the level of competition to make it favorable for others in the world to compete. If we want world class competition, then we have to be open to getting beat. And if we get beat, that just means something needs to be changed. Crying foul is what kids do.

13 Jul 2009 12:25 PM

I think Jess Jackson is being VERY smart.  Good sport last year with Curlin...he did the sportsman thing by going against his own intuition and we all saw Curlin's last, and only, performance off the board.  Keeping RA out of this years BC and saving her for when it's on dirt is just plain smart.  He's got a horse "for the ages", so why should he risk her career, her record, or even perhaps injury just to move her across the country and run her on a surface that he knows is not her best????  I will be so happy when the BC gets off the synthetics!! Synthetics, and all the endless variations of synthetics, seem to have added more to the muddle of this sport than to have saved lives.

13 Jul 2009 12:42 PM
Virgil Fox


Thank you for mentioning Fabulous Strike and giving him the respect he deserves. He's been so good, for so long.

(Still something about that 111 Beyer in the True North that rubs me the wrong way. And that trip from Prado back in the Spring.)

I love the horse, but hope they skip the BC.

Looking forward to the Vosburgh.

Also respect to Benny, Indian Blessing, Munnings, Zensational, and Light Green in the Sprint division.


13 Jul 2009 12:50 PM
It aint easy being good!

I agree with everyone on here get rid of synthetics its killing the sport. That would be like playing bball on a sports court, have you played on a sports court before its alot safter then the hardwood! lol!

13 Jul 2009 1:21 PM
Greg A

In ten years synthetic surfaces will be looked at as a joke when we all reflect back.  Never thought I would not wager on or watch a Breeders Cup, but after last year's boring display, I'll be watching College Football instead.   The Breeders Cup is run by a bunch of clowns - see the seating fiasco at Monmouth in 2007 - who have no real clue what the racing or BETTING public want.   Economy aside, I'll bet the handle for the 2010 Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs will be up about 25% because people will come back to the window when it returns to a normal surface/track.

13 Jul 2009 1:42 PM

berttheclock, no offense, but exactly how many horses have won Grade 1's on all 3 surfaces? ONE.

13 Jul 2009 1:45 PM
Pam S.

To Jamesb:

People are just supposed to enter their horses and play the let's see what happens game on the biggest days in the biggest races ....

Pretty much, yes.  Isn't that what horse racing is all about??

13 Jul 2009 1:46 PM

Why is it Zito does not like the synthetic but has no problem running at Keeneland?

I never bought the nonsense from Zito about the BC.  He just comes across as a spoiled child who has to have things his way.

13 Jul 2009 1:48 PM

Steve, of your final top dozen Derby picks - how many are still running - Off the top of my head I know that IWR,PON,The Pamplemouse,Quality Road,FF,General Quarters are not - who is left?

13 Jul 2009 1:55 PM

Mr. Fantasy Update:

Mr. Fantasy has been given the go ahead to begin hand walking. They've taken the bandages off of him. Dr. Baker said he has been all class so far.

Click on the link for the video taken about a week ago:

Although he won't be in the Breeders Cup this year, perhaps next!

13 Jul 2009 2:20 PM

East Coast connections have always found reasons not to run in California long before synthetics.  Look at Forty Niner in the juvenile and Mineshaft in the classic.  Two champions that never headed west, why?

The Breeders' Cup will be fantastic this year.  If the owners want to sit at home with their lip poked out and complain about the economics of the sport and complain about synthetics more power to you.  But don't ever tell me that you are doing things for the fans when you have a horse that has raced and won on the synthetics and you say you won't run on the plastic.  You aren't doing that for the fans, you are doing that out of arrogance.

13 Jul 2009 2:24 PM
Not a FOB

These people who even mention Nicanor or Lentenor are dreaming.  Lentenor has been put on the back way he'll be ready for the BC.  He'll enter a couple of maaiden races this year, tops. Matz is no fool.  He knows what he has, and doesn't have.

Nicanor on the other hand, still has to win a stakes race against some real company.  I don't think he has it in him, however, I could be wrong.

The odds of any of these Dynaforomer/La Vile Rouge offspring being the second coming of Barbaro are slim to nothing.

13 Jul 2009 2:34 PM
Steve Haskin

SSC, here is the exalted list of horses in training as we speak -- Hold Me Back, Papa Clem, and Chocolate Candy. Pretty pathetic.

13 Jul 2009 2:38 PM

It is a shame that some of our better horses may skip the BC, such as RA.  But on the bright side, I'm really looking forward to Sea the Stars racing over here as well as the European fillies/mares.  

And what about The Pamplemousse?  He was my favorite 3-year-old this year.  Hope he'll come back for the BC.  

13 Jul 2009 2:39 PM

Pam S.

There is a difference between:

"Let's get them in the gate and see what happens" and

"Let's find out on BC day if my horse takes to Pro-Ride"

13 Jul 2009 2:45 PM


Rachel won on Polytrack, not Pro-Ride.  Different surfaces.  Ask Stardom Bound.

Another dizzying aspect of the current state of horse racing surfaces:

1 Dirt

2 Turf

3 Polytrack

4 Pro-Ride

5 Cushion Track

6 Tapeta

Did I leave anything out?

13 Jul 2009 2:49 PM

KV--couldn't agree with you more "Why is it Zito does not like the synthetic but has no problem running at Keeneland?

I never bought the nonsense from Zito about the BC.  He just comes across as a spoiled child who has to have things his way."

Let's see-Nick is fond of saying "God made them to run on dirt" but just won't answer if God made them to run on steroids too and THAT had more to do with him avoiding BC last year.

Those who want to avoid the BC because of the surface--unless their horse runs badly on it and they know it--that is like an NFL team saying 'oh I won't go to super bowl-I don't like that surface". If their horse has proven to be uncomfortable on it or terrible on it then I say do stay home because it might lead to an injury if they are not comfortable on it and run differently. Other than that man up and show up!

13 Jul 2009 2:55 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Could you please give updates soon on all the 3yr olds that have been injured/taken off the derby trail? I would really like to know how I Want Revenge, the Pamplemousse,etc.... are doing and when are they planning on returning to the races?! Thanks in advance!!!

13 Jul 2009 3:03 PM

I am not a handicapper by any means. However, I live in Southern CA and love going to Santa Anita.

My concern has been about the horses taking "early retirement due to injury"... mostly because of leg problems. What's up with that???

I'm just one who prefers going back to dirt. My heart breaks everytime I hear about another breakdown, or retirement due to injury! :-(

13 Jul 2009 3:13 PM

What do we have to compare the Nerf tracks with except the old surfaces they replaced?  If they'd engineered new dirt tracks, put in new bases and surfaces, would they compare favorably to the Nerf tracks?  We really don't have any way of determining that right now.  

Personally, I think a wiser thing to do would have been to put in completely new dirt tracks, and tear up the turf tracks and replace those with Nerf.  Then you's have that surface for your turf-style races, plus you could move your dirt races there when you had rains.  

13 Jul 2009 3:26 PM

Dan-  get your facts straight. Zito doesn't run horses at Keeneland anymore.  Look it up.  Do you even follow racing?!?!

13 Jul 2009 3:39 PM

KV-  do you even follow horse racing?  Zito doesn't run horses at Keeneland anymore because he has mainly DIRT horses.  Not even a handful of entries since they went plastic.  Look it up and get your facts right please!

13 Jul 2009 3:48 PM
Tim G

LOTS of East Coast trainers ran their horses in California for many years. Actually many, now EC trainers were based in Cali.

Todd Pletcher took a BIG stable there, guess he didn't like it?

Used to be the dirt tracks there were very speed biased. Kind of exaggeration but think I heard someone say it was like running on concrete?

As for Nick? He doesn't run at Keeneland a HUGE amount and it's a surface which plays different from SA. They had their fair share of fatal breakdowns recently as well.

There's a HUGE difference in shipping across country to run on a surface you don't think is good or appropriate for your horse and stopping at Keeneland on your way to Churchill. (or shuttled from).

Judy? THAT is what everyone is saying. The synthetics just present a whole DIFFERENT set of injuries.

For those saying that the breed is more fragile? Maybe, but how many breakdowns did we have 20-40 years ago? Quite a few. Drugs? When none are found in some of the most wellknown breakdowns? (Eight Belles and many others that we on the track know about were DRUG FREE).

Not sure when people are going to get that the huge numbers we NOW have running (year round 4-6 day per week, multiple circuits) the # of breakdowns will be greater just based on the law of averages.

Like in humans, we see an increased # of certain types of fractures and injuries. Why? You all are breeding weaker children? (possibly LOL)

Increased # of skateboarders, bikers etc. Dangerous sports account for a lot of the increased injuries (not too many bungy jumpers, extreme sports when us 50 somethings were kids).

Horse racing or ANY equine activity has innate dangers attached. WHY do you think any rodeo grounds, polo grounds, horse show arenas etc have those disclaimers posted?

13 Jul 2009 3:49 PM

In response to the dwindled down number of 3YO males that competed in the this year's triple crown series and still remain in training *there are currently five* -- We only have four horses from last years triple crown grind that have made it to the ranks of 4YO racehorses ... Macho Again, Court Vision, Smooth Air, and Riley Tucker.  So this is an unfortunate trend?

13 Jul 2009 3:58 PM


    CJ and Tres Borrachos are still in training aswell.

13 Jul 2009 4:18 PM

Sorry, my mistake:  I read Steve's response wrong (the question was about his top dozen derby list).  There's probably about 15-20 males from this year's triple races that are still in training.  

13 Jul 2009 4:24 PM

Steve, loved your description of Presious Passion.  I so enjoy watching him run!!

13 Jul 2009 4:32 PM

My rooting interest for this year's BC will be Gozzip Girl.  She may run in the Alabama next so who knows which BC race may get her.  She darn near won the Ashland on the Poly and she's a Grade One winner on the turf.

13 Jul 2009 4:46 PM

1- If the BC were held at Belmont 2 years in a row then the West COast crowd would be screaming bloody murder about it. I think it is perfectly reasonable to be upset about it. Why can't there be a 3 year rotation of West-Central- East? Unfortunately it looks like the only track left on the West Coast capable of hosting the BC will be SA. In the middle of the country we could use not just Churchill, but LS & Arlington. (I'm no fan of the synth's either but if my man Shug McGaughey can adapt to them....... )

2- Why should we be changing surfaces for the Euros anyway? Are we asking them to make THEIR championship races more fair by wanting them on "all-weather" OR dirt, even? Why was there apparently no great outrage over Horatio Nelson's breakdown in the holiest of holy races, the Derby, with calls for Epsom to be torn up?

3- How many of the same Euros who look down their noses at our medication policies will be using them to full advantage this fall, just as they did last year??? I am STILL amazed at how little comment?/notice? that issue received last year. There were exactly 2 horses last year in all the BC races that ran no Salix/no bute- the last place in the Turf Sprint and Goldikova. Among your first-time Salix users?? None other than the first 2 under the wire in the Classic. I would like to know exactly what CA's policies are- I very foolishly assumed that a horse had to prove that he/she had bled at some point in order to be treated. Not to mention that had Rick Dutrow had been fined for not reporting first time Salix for his horses, like Aiden O'Brien was, then we never would have heard the end of that either. But apparently O'Brien is untouchable.

BTW, despite my tone of above (kinda anti-European isn't it), I too would love to watch Sea the Stars- he sounds like something special. And let's see if Goldikova can pull a Miesque in the Mile. (No, I've not forgotten the Lure or Da Hoss doubles either, but they were based here)

13 Jul 2009 4:46 PM
Driftin Sage

Horses are injured on all surfaces and I have not read anything that absolutely proves the "plastics" are better for them, but I have read there are still injuries....starting them too young is the main reason...not fully developed. I have said this time and time again, but that seems to be the way it's done.  I love the horses and horse racing so I will continue to watch them and read about them.

As for Jackson and other owners and trainers who do not want to race on the other surfaces....way to go!  Stick to your guns.  Take care of your horses!

Horse racing isn't just to please the fans.  The trainers and owners know better than the fans what is best for their horses. Sure , we want to see our favorites and top horses in the big races, but I prefer to go along with the connections who make the decisions for their stars...the horses. They are the ones who are spending their money on these horses and providing entertainment for the fans...and it does cost a lot of money.  

13 Jul 2009 4:53 PM

Steve you bring up some very valid points.  It appears the best horses will not be showing up to the Breeders Cup which will only leave the door open for more success from the Europeans.  Please do not plan on seeing Zenyatta in anything but the Distaff she will not take on the boys this year.  Rachel after winning the Haskell and the Travers will have nothing left to prove this year and will be on vacation after August.  The winner of the Classic will mean little and will be just another race this year with some of the best horses on the sidelines.

13 Jul 2009 5:24 PM
Tim G

Driftin Sage,

We were starting them as 2 year olds decades ago.

Many tracks won't let them start in a race until they are 24 months old.

Most responsible owners/trainers xray them to make sure their knees are closed up, same as they did 30+ years ago.

MANY who have a 2 year old they want to run as a 3 year old in a classic race get one or two starts at the very end of the year(fighting the jinx)but doubt you'd run a multi-million $ horse before it was ready, like Curlin. Know I wouldn't risk one of MINE like that.

Everyone acts like this is something that never happened in the past.

War Admiral raced as a two year old in 1936, Kelso, Secretariat. Criminy even Man O' War started as a two year old in 1919, winning 9 of his TEN starts. Do you guys not know the history or not research it before you post this stuff?

This is not a new phenomenon.

Like I said before, with SO many horses running and SO many tracks and SO many days at each track? The law of averages will catch up with us. Please people, the argument about starting them too young only makes sense to those who don't understand that we don't just pull a baby out and run them at 18 months.

13 Jul 2009 6:09 PM
Tim G

Also, lest we forget? Seabiscuit a late May foal at around 15 hands ran 35 times as a two year old. Not that it's right but he did okay I guess.

Go back over a hundred years ago and see how many ran as two year olds.

13 Jul 2009 6:37 PM

Steve, it is pretty pathetic that your list is occupied by just three of your original horses.  Pathetic and sad.

What about josy's comments on this blog?  It is very depressing.

As Driftin Sage stated, let the owners and trainers do what is best for their horses.  Somebody has to.

13 Jul 2009 6:55 PM

The Europeans don't want to risk their stars in a sea of mud (like Monmouth in 2007). And the last time the Breeder's Cup was held at Churchill, Pine Island broke down and was euthanized.  Fleet Indian broke down in the same race, but was saved to be a broodmare. That is why the Breeder's Cup is being held at Santa Anita two years in a row. If Jess Jackson doesn't want to bring Rachel the BC will go on without her. I think Zenyatta would love 10 furlongs (look at her pedigree). She ran the second fastest Distaff ever last year without being asked to really run.

13 Jul 2009 7:02 PM
Steve Giauque

The artificial surface hucksters have helped marginalize those race meets that bought into their scam (and an entire state, California).  I'm glad owners are standing-up to the sham.  The only reason artificial surfaces caught on was because the investors mined for data that supported the surfaces in the name of safety.  But to this day I have not seen data that suggests that races of similar purses see more fatal injuries on dirt.  Naturally, the few surfaces that first applied artificial surfaces tended to be higher caliber race tracks with higher purses and logically, fitter horses.  By logical extension, these horses thended to be better cared for than an average sample of all races that included places such as Zia Park and Hoosier Downs.

13 Jul 2009 7:32 PM

I enjoy the Breeders Cup races too and wish all our champions could compete but the reasons for their passing them up are usually (at least these days) couched in, "the best interests of the horse," which is the only reason that really counts. However, the Breeders Cup is ONE race each division and should never be the deciding factor in determining a champion. The real champions are out there all season, proving themselves, and nothing that happens in that single event should change anyone's mind as to who's the best of the best. Like the Kentucky Derby, the best does NOT always win - just the best on that day under that set of conditions. Proud Spell, for example, went for a well-deserved rest after her long and brilliant season - but happily she did not lose her credentials as the best of her division. Curlin was beaten on Breeders Cup day. Is anyone going to take away all the wonderful things he did in a campaign longer than most of his cohort group? He WAS the best; it just wasn't his day. For pete's sakes, he'd raced all over the map for 2 years and maybe he was just tired! I think surface is just one of the factors involved in injuries. Medications are, I think, more important ones as their effects don't stop with the condition they're there to treat; all of them have other effects as well and some of them are structural. Genetics are important too. I wish Rachel was going to the BC as I love her - but I'd rather see Jackson put that crown aside for the welfare of his filly. If he's wrong about synthetics, so be it. I'd rather he was over-cautious than undercautious. And I plan to enjoy the Cup races anyway. There are a whole lot of races still to be run before that time. Who knows what budding new stars are still waiting for their time to shine?

13 Jul 2009 8:18 PM
John T.

The dinner menu can change an awful lot before the Breeders Cup.

I hope Sea The Stars will be over for it.How about his dam Urban Sea

who also produced another Epsom Derby winner in Galileo and she sure could run some herself as a past winner of the Arc.

13 Jul 2009 9:13 PM

As a practical matter, are those horses really going to be missed?

Except for Rachel Alexandra, it's highly unlikely that non-fans have ever heard of any of them, nor is there any evidence that they are of better quality and will put on a better show than the good European horses we're apt to see.

The bottom line is, with the exception of Rachel Alexandra, the horses the general public will actually recognize and/or care about will be there.

13 Jul 2009 9:41 PM

To WWSTP; who says Rachel's best surface isn't synthetics?  She ran pretty darn good on it the 1 time she tried it and she's a far better horse now.  and to Pam S. "NO" - horse racing isn't about "just enter your horse and see what happens".  Thankfully most owners are more responsible about caretaking their equines.

13 Jul 2009 9:56 PM

Quality Road would have won the Derby but for the quarter crack. Pletcher will have him right by fall and they'll never know what hit 'em in the Classic.

13 Jul 2009 10:28 PM
courtland simmons

HELLO Racing fans

Courtland Simmons over here in

RACE COUNTRY - Norht Carolina

of curse AUTO ACING is what we


 But I KNOW what side the \


And I AGREE with Alan

on the notion that:

The Breeders Cup (committee)



There has ALAWYAS been a VARIANCE

in: DIRT racks as WELL over the

years  in  relation TO HOW one


Skip Away'S two CLUNKERS came

over the Churchill strip in the 96 Derby and 98 Classic

(12th and 6th RESPECTIVELY)

Of course I think his SUICIDAL

SPEED DUEL with Gentlemen prior to the 98 Classic in the Jockey Club

PROBABLY killed ANY CHANCE for him to have A SHOT that day



significance here is because

back in 2003 when Santa Anita

HOSTED a lot of the top horses


some did not like the

distance of the ship after a

demanding schedule , AND/ OR

the hardness of those "fast"

California racetracks

EVENTUAL  Horse Of The Year

MINESHAFT opted OUT, as did

Birdstone for the Juvenile , etc


Funny Cide  MADE the TRIP,

but ANY chance he had to be


do with: NO  RACE /PREP  since the

Haskell in the first week of

August , so PREPARATION along with

a BIT of LUCK makes for Breeders


Like any OTHER sport u have

to MAKE adjustments RATHER than

read TOO MUCH into: TRACK

CONDITION, though I DO think

some of these CONCERNS

 (over synthetics) are LEGIT

So the BREEDERS Cup giving

the event to SANTA Anita


a MISTAKE, - minus the SURFACE

issue- if u BELEIVE it is an issue

and it SEEMS that 99% percent of

you guys beleive that it is

I THINK it is a MENTAL issue

morethan anything else

Maybe achel can handle it and


I thought if anything

the Gold Cup was a BIT OF a HARDER

race on him (CURLIN) than a lot of folks thought, but perhaps the

SURFACE and / or Albaradio's

MOVE coast him, because one thing

that IS APPARENT about the synthetics

is that the FIRST RUN horses

often times get OUTKICKED by

horses that TIME their RUNS

LATER, but then AGAIN

Midshipman won the Juvenile

last year ON THE FRONT END

If youi look  at:

Charitable MAN, perhaps going TWO



than the surface

So if Im in the Rachel camp

perhaps you PREP her on the

Keeneland Polytrack which is

HEAVIERthan the pro- Ride

it could GET HER very FIT

the way that Street Sense and Hard

Spun did after running  their

LAST Derby PREPS on it at Turfway

and kenneland in 2007 BEFORE

running ONE - TWO in the Derby

  She (Rachel ) like others

coul make that "TEST RUN" over

that same PRO - Ride STRIP

in the Lady's Secret or versus

males in the GOODWOOD

OF COURSE  a horse could

easily SUFFER big time "FATIGUE"

and then BOUNCE  in the Breeders

Cup the way Skip Away did and

Aptitiude and Perfect Drift RAN


big wins over the SAND

in their BC preps

 So yes I do AGREE that the

synthetic FACTOR has created

some DEFECTIONS , but if any

of the connections were to READ


HERE and by Alan I think


towards MAKING the TRIP to


13 Jul 2009 10:29 PM

Steve, I have to throw in my kudos to you on your terrific observations about Presious Passion!  The neatest thing is that you took the words right out of my mouth!  I thought exactly the same thing after that UN.......the Europeans have NEVER experienced anything like him!  Yes, on class and competition level, they are probably better horses than he is, but I can easily see them being shell-shocked when, as I suspect will happen, their jocks totally disrespect him.  The other good thing is that Presious Passion has already made a very successful trip to California with a strong second in the Sunshine Millions Turf at big odds (what else is new).

Mary Hartmann says that if all goes well, he will be here.  I'm probably looking forward to seeing him in the Breeders Cup just as much, if not more, than any other horse!

How can you not love this guy!

13 Jul 2009 10:34 PM
Paula Higgins

I don't think either Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra will run in the BCC. So that pretty much leaves the boys. I think you will have a good group running. I am hoping Quality Road and Sea The Stars will show up, along with Einstein and MTB.

But I agree they should not be running this in California again on synthetics. Should be the east coast this year. I think synthetics gives the Euros a big advantage.

13 Jul 2009 11:04 PM
Fire Slam

Point Blank--

Plastic surfaces need to be done away with. There will be break downs no matter what, because trainers and owners will continue to run sore horses.

If you want to do away with the majority of break downs, do away with bottom level claiming races. If a horse is running for $3,000 at River Downs, something isn't working right.

This will never happen though, because tracks wouldn't have enough races to offer.

The immediate concern should be who the (person) was that worked the deal for the BC to be in California two years in a row. Also, if Churchill Downs and their team were not such ego driven you know whats, they could have hosted it.

Rachel A is special. However, there is a filly that may be just as freaky. Carl Bowman is the trainer. Her name is Ravi's Song. What she did her last race was unreal. Just keep an eye for her, as she seems to be very special.

It wasn't against stake horses, but it was a start, and it was the way she did it.

13 Jul 2009 11:19 PM
Jason Shandler

In talking to Todd Beattie last week, he mentioned they may very well send Fabulous Strike back to Santa Anita, especially if an Eclipse Award is on the line. Beattie doesnt blame the synthetics as much as he does other factors for his average BC effort last year. He said he would likely take him there earlier this year to give him more time than he did in 2008. In fact, Beattie said Fab Strike trains very well over synthetics, including Presque Isle, where he often breezes.

13 Jul 2009 11:39 PM
Shawn P

Okay, this comment is laughable "Rachel after winning the Haskell and the Travers will have nothing left to prove this year and will be on vacation after August.  The winner of the Classic will mean little and will be just another race this year with some of the best horses on the sidelines.

Draynay 13 Jul 2009 5:24 PM"

On here you say Rachel winning the Haskell and the Travers are all that's important?

Quite a reversal in opinion from last year. When you were bashing the Travers last year this is the blog writers response to a comment you made on his blog comments from last year:"Draynay: Who cares about the Travers?? It is only one of the most prestigious and important 3-year-old races in the history of racing! ....... Once again, you have shown your completely biased and one-sided opinion of this horse.

js 22 Aug 2008 2:41 PM"

Your next response to him was:

"Sorry not any more, the race that matters takes place 63 days from now and when Big Brown wins the Breeders Cup is ANYONE going to care who won the Travers ?

Draynay 22 Aug 2008 4:05 PM"

So NOW it's important? Please stick to the other blog. This blog is for educated horse fans who appreciate Steve's writing abilities, which are immense!

13 Jul 2009 11:40 PM
Shawn P

And CEIL? Santa Anita merely  lucked out. There were SEVEN fatal breakdowns in the 2 months following the Breeders Cup.

13 Jul 2009 11:43 PM
Shawn P

Jason, that's the rub. Lots of trainers say the synthetics are great to train over, right? Least wise I've heard a bunch of the biggies say that.

13 Jul 2009 11:46 PM
mike rullo

let me explain myself on sheriffs and moss ,sheriffs said zenyatta is better on dirt well prove it.moss interviewed on tvg saying zenyatta will run out of town now she is going to delmar??? they are trying to protect her record only.I dont sense confidence coming from that camp!!

13 Jul 2009 11:56 PM

I used to live for horse racing. I was a fan from age 7 (ALMOST 40 YRS AGO) until two events happened: (1) the retirement of Bernardini (straw that broke this camel's back in not only premature retirement of racing's stars, but in the invasion of the Dubai sheikhs) and (2) all the CA tracks going to synthetic. I've never cared for European grass racing and that's all we have now.  Everywhere. I hate it.  I used to go to the track almost every week, and now I haven't been in two years.  And now with the BC being run in CA 2 yrs in a row it has rendered that event completely useless.  Decades of development of the breed are rendered useless. The leaders of this sport make changes to appease those who will never be racing fans (like PETA) and in doing so lose the fans they already had.  Idiots.

14 Jul 2009 4:57 AM

I kind of can't fault any trainer/owner for not wanting to come to dinner in the west coast again, if their horse/filly can't handle the synthetic surface of Santa Anita.  Who I do fault is the Breeders Cup themselves for having back to back Cups in Santa Anita.  That in itself is the problem!

14 Jul 2009 7:52 AM

The BC should never be at the same track two years in a row...Period!  And the fact that it is on that surface, Uggh!!!

14 Jul 2009 8:44 AM

Paseana, I definitely agree with your assessment of Presious Passion.  That U.N Handicap was one of the most extraordinary races I can remember seeing.  To sprint for a mile and three-eighths and smash a track record is something you don't see every day. We all know that Secretariat sprinted for a mile and a half and set the bar forever in the '73 Belmont and I'm wouldn't dare compare him with Secretariat, but this horse is absolutely amazing. We are truly blessed to have him with us and he reall ought to be appreciated more....

14 Jul 2009 9:25 AM
Matthew W

Not sure Zito would come West on dirt/several stables eschewed the harder dirt tracks out West---at least there's Europe! I had no problem getting into the Cup last year--thought the best horse won almost every race, but I wish pro ride played like Hollywood's cushion, which plays like dirt instead of pro ride, which plays like grass...heck, ya can't please everybody/that's the cards we're dealt with, still think they're gonna be full and strong--less East Coasters/MORE top time on Belmont slop they can have just USA horses and maybe a Euro longshot or two, hopefully not breaking down again.....

14 Jul 2009 9:50 AM
Tim G

bsinboots "The leaders of this sport make changes to appease those who will never be racing fans (like PETA) and in doing so lose the fans they already had.  Idiots."  Are you saying the fans they already had are idiots? LOL

Actually though, that whole statement was contradictory.

You lost interest in racing because of Bernardini's retirement, the invasion of the sheiks? That has me shaking my head. Bernardini belonged to Darley uhhh Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum ummm of Dubai. Either you're happy the Dubies have one less horse or, hmmm can't figure it out.

The problem with PETA isn't that we ARE doing what they want it's that we AREN'T doing what they want.

I think I agree in premise with what you are saying. I don't like the synthetics and think the BC has been watered down holding it there at Santa Anita, especially two years in a row, with all the issues surrounding the track and ownership etc.

14 Jul 2009 9:52 AM

Shawn P,

    I can't believe i will do this but i will defend Dray. Tell me what impact did the Travers have last year? BB who won the HASKEL, not the TRAVERS, won the the championship for top three year old colt. So in the three year old section it did not matter. Curlin won the Classic and still got HOTY, so did it have any affect on that, no. This year it can. If RA, who has been dominant thoughout the year and already has a win over three year old male, wins the Travers, that race will have an impact. The switch this year is justified because which ever she competes in, if it is the Travers will weigh in heavily for HOTY, because of her dominance displayed already. Last year the Haskel counted most because the most dominant horse was in that race, so it had the most impact.

14 Jul 2009 10:04 AM

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I always find it very interesting that those who decry running the BC on "plastic" forget that in the same race Jess Jackson's Curlin took the Cup, the great turf champion George Washington was killed precisely because he was running on dirt.

Not drawing any conclusions, just making an observation.

14 Jul 2009 10:23 AM
Shawn P

LDP can't believe it either, just when I gave you props for forming some decent opinions (ha,ha JK)

What my point is, he didn't just discount the Travers last year, he said it was no big deal period.

The point? If you proclaim to the world that a race is unimportant just because your pet isn't in it, makes it hard to believe when a guy does a total reversal.

Sort of a whatever way the wind blows.

tvnewsbadge. As for GW? Who knows. Like they say, at that level the horses reach down and give just a little more, because they are great competitors. He was a turf horse and since horses run a bit different on each surface that may have caused different placement of the foot.

He was infertile as a stud, so who knows whether he had other issues?

I still go back to the fatalities and career ending injuries at SA after the BC. Just fate intervened that it didn't happen that day.

14 Jul 2009 11:13 AM

Does anyone know why the decision was made to run the Breeder's Cup two years in a row in the same location?  It makes no sense whatsoever, and totally unfair to the midwest and east coast people who would like to attend.    

14 Jul 2009 11:32 AM

Thank you LDP ... it seems Shawn P does not understand 2008 has nothing to do with 2009 and Rachel Alexandra and the path she is on.  My point is simple when Rachel wins her next 2 races with one of them being the Travers its all over !  Rachel is HOY regardless of what happens at the Breeders Cup.  Her path does not need the Breeders Cup... Big Browns path required the Breeders Cup to get HOY.

14 Jul 2009 12:04 PM

How did you leave-out GLADITORUS from the Euros?

14 Jul 2009 12:16 PM


    GW was not killed because he ran on dirt, if you did your research you'd notice that he'd run on dirt in last years Classic, though he did finish up the track. The connections shoud've noticed the horse who was a turf specialist did not handle dirt while it was dry, and when they saw that mud whole in the 07 Classic should've scratched. GW broke down because he was extremely uncomfortable in the slop, if you saw the way he moved during the race you'll understand why he broke down. This is a prime example of what can happen when you take a horse and switch it from the surface it's been running on all year long to a surface totally forieng to it. Basiclly the reason he broke down was because of how badly he handled the track, and the stupid move his trainers made by switching from his best surface. This is why JJ thinks there is a risk for RA, because different surfaces require the use of different muscles. If you just up and switch surfaces you'll put your horse at a bigger risk of injury, because they do not normally use the muscles that are used for that type of surface.

14 Jul 2009 12:23 PM

Tim G,

    bsinboots i think meant that the ppl who appease the PETA ppl are idiots, not the fans that we already had. On the invasion of the shieks. I think he meant he doesn't like how they buy and retire, or even if they own a horse originally they just up and retire, like they did with Bernardini. Basicly he doesn't like their style.

14 Jul 2009 12:26 PM

LDP, thank you for the corrections.  I know, after I sent my comment I started remembering other horses from last years triple series still in training .  You can also add Gayego and Two Step Salsa (out of sight, out of mind since going to Dubai) to the list, and I think Pyro is still lurking around working.  So that would be 9?

14 Jul 2009 1:01 PM


I am a big fan of yours and wanted to thank you for keeping horseracing exciting with your great articles and blogs!  Keep em coming!

14 Jul 2009 1:08 PM

If I remember correctly, George Washington had failed at stud and was brought back to racing that summer.  He had already shown that he was not a dirt horse.  It was somewhat controversial that he was going in the Classic.    

George Washington, the GREAT TURF CHAMPION, dying at Monmouth (dirt) could by some, be a very valid reason not to run their dirt horses on plastic. . .

14 Jul 2009 1:26 PM

The problems at Santa Anita took place over a short time span and were fixed. After that, the rest of the meet was fine. I remember the summer at Del Mar when 17 horses broke down and were euthanized over a 5-week span! I also remember the problems at Arlington which led to the installation of Polytrack then. Everybody and his brother examined that dirt track and could never find a problem, and yet horses kept dying. Last year I was able to relax and watch the Breeder's Cup for the first time without dreading a disaster.

14 Jul 2009 1:36 PM

LDP - very well said about poor, beautiful George Washington.  He should not have been running.

14 Jul 2009 1:59 PM


    I completely forgot about Gayego and TSS. I forgot Pyro was even in training. Thanks for reminding me.

14 Jul 2009 2:04 PM
Soldier Course

I'll never forget George Washington.

I had invited 2 prospective racing fans over to watch the Breeders' Cup in 2007. All afternoon their interest was growing, and we had fun discussing various aspects of racing.

When Jeannine Edwards said, "There's been a development on the track", my heart stopped. Then we saw "the screen". My guests were so upset, they left immediately. I put away all the food, and wept.    

14 Jul 2009 2:06 PM
Tim G

Yes LDP I got that. It was subtle sarcasm. As for the Dubies? I don't like that they're buying up KY. But, then again, who do we blame? Those buying it all up or those selling it?

Face it they have had some rotten luck with the colts they've bought and really, just because Jess raced Curlin at 4? That doesn't make him much different from anyone else. There was quite a back story there that a LOT of the public STILL doesn't know.

As far as retiring them early? Sheikh Hamdan ran Invasor well into his 5 year old season when he was injured in late June. Would've most likely run til the end of the year, in the BC again and maybe into his 6 year old season.

These guys have been around for years, buying big time at the sales etc (course they had to borrow money from another Emirate so they've slowed down a bit), so it's not really totally new. (Their alleged feud with Coolmore and the bidding wars that went on for a while were awesome entertainment! If you haven't been to a sale? Go to one that they're at. Not quite as bitter but still fun.)

Draynay, scurry away please.

08 has nothing to do with 09 only because YOUR flavor of the moment horse is running in it this year (maybe).  

Last year you stated CATEGORICALLY that the TRAVERS was irrelevant. NOT just last year but as a RACE. That's the way Jason seemed to take it, that's the way I took it and apparently the way Shawn and many others took it.

14 Jul 2009 2:06 PM


    Thanks. He was a beautiful horse and deserved his nickname of gorgeous george. That breakdown coming on the heals of the death toll of 06 just made it all the worse. GW was Europes Barbaro.

14 Jul 2009 2:06 PM

Shawn P,

    Last year the race was not important. The travers is a nice race to win and the winner gets a lot of respect for it, but last year in the voting for HOTY it was not important. That is why you did not see CJ as a finalist for HOTY. This year if RA goes in the Haskel, it will be the race that matters, if she goes in the Travers it will matter. The only place the the other race will matter is when the winner of it goes to stud and they can say o, i won this or that.


    Your welcome. I may not always agree with you bluntness, but if i feel your right i'll defend you or whomever it may be.

14 Jul 2009 2:12 PM

Mr. Haskins I am a big fan of Lawyer Ron. It would be really cool if you could do some kind of tribute to him. Maybe somethings in the works by Bloodhorse staff, but to this date he just got a tiny little article and I felt sad about that.

14 Jul 2009 2:27 PM
Shawn P

Ceil, how wonderful that those fatalities were in a short period of time and got 'ironed' out. Don't think that's much comfort to the owners of those who perished or the ones whose careers were ended because of suspensory or soft tissue injuries (Like PON) etc. which is VERY much on the increase.

Like a lot say, that's almost as bad as fatalities because what happens to those horses who aren't breeding material, can't become successful at any other type of horse endeavor?

Turfway has had their synthetic surface for years yet THEY had 5 fatalities in 8 days earlier this year and Del Mar had a bunch last year, while Saratoga on dirt had NONE.

Yes the fatalities at Del Mar were down, but synthetics are the 'cure all' hah, right. Last year, two weeks into the Del Mar season, 69 horses had already suffered season-or career-ending injuries. The tracks get funky again and how many fatalities will there be?

Plus, soon all the tracks that run on synthetics in Cal will be closed (other than the Fair circuit) so who'll care then? The handicappers won't support it because we can't figure it out. TOO many big time trainers hate it and will stay away more and more.

The 'sell' on no bias? BALONEY.

Draynay? Your fans are calling, please go back to where you're wanted. You DISSED the TRAVERS, period. Jason had to EXPLAIN the importance of the midsummer Derby to you. A race many would like to see as part of the Triple Crown series.

14 Jul 2009 2:31 PM

Actually, tvnewsbadge, GW's death, while tragic, had nothing to do with "dirt" at Monmouth. He was running in mud and badly. After two days of wet weather, it was probably a bad decision to race him. And you can't draw conclusions anyway from only one race, especially considering SA's disastrous opening meet last year. Ten years from now, synthetics will be regarded as racing's version of Astroturf, a novelty. The use of synthetics has little to do with PETA (which would end racing), but with fans like myself saddened by seeing the fatal breakdowns of these magnificent athletes on national television. The answer is changing "breed for speed" and not racing two-year-olds until the breed characteristics related to breakdowns are reversed. Regarding bsinboots comment about the "invasion" of the Dubai sheikhs: actually, it's only one family, Sheikh Mohammed's. I live in Dubai and, fact is, he is doing more for the SPORT, and possibly breeding as well, than anyone in America. He bought the breeding rights to BOTH Street Sense and Hard Spun, props up the Keeneland yearling sale, even dons top hat and tails (and looks pretty bad doing it) to attend Royal Ascot. And his goal is not to have the highest priced yearlings in the world at auction. Rather, it is to win the Kentucky Derby with a horse trained in Dubai, no small feat considering climate and distance. ANYONE can attend the Thursday night races and The Dubai World Cup Day at Nad Al Sheba  free of charge and, while you cannot wager your own money for religious reasons, you can participate in the pick seven and pick three and win a "gift" of money. He is building the largest racing venue in the world in Meydan, with a kilometer and a half-long grandstand (my only complaint is that its main outer track will be turf, its inner dirt), a five-star hotel and several world-class restaurants. He'll race horses on dirt (Dubai Milennium, Bernardini) turf (all the races at Ascot) or synthetics (his stable leased Raven's Pass, last year's BC Classic winner, to Princess Haya). And, he loses his own signature race, The Dubai World Cup, virtually every year without complaint to an American dirt horse. Dubai made me a serious race fan -- I got so close here to Curlin, Benny the Bull and Well Armed, I could just about feel their breath! He's a lover of horses, particularly racehorses. The result? The sport is very alive and very well here. American owners, breeders -- and fans -- could learn a bit about the SPORT of racing and the LOVE of horses from Sheikh Mohammed.

14 Jul 2009 2:54 PM

I can't wait to see Presious Passion run away from  all those sofisticated Euros in the Turf!!  They won't even know what hit them!!  This could very well be the best of the Breeder's Cup races.  I hope that he opens up a 20 length lead and just keeps rolling.

14 Jul 2009 3:38 PM
Randy Marsh

Lets not forget about One Caroline, who is likely to return from a layoff and run in the ladies classic. She will be one to watch, she can do it on synthetic or dirt.

14 Jul 2009 3:47 PM


14 Jul 2009 4:07 PM
Shawn P

LDP, WHAT? WOW, that just altered my opinion in a BIG WAY.

Lots of horses SKIP the Belmont to shoot for the TRAVERS. Only a newbie would say that the Travers is 'a nice race'. Tsk Tsk.

richard, good points.

But someone wrote about all the 2 year olds who raced a lot, in olden times (110 years ago) and even 20-30 years ago.

Also I think I agree with him. He said the HUGE number of races, horses, race tracks etc not age or fragility have increased the # of break downs.

People say the breed has changed a lot over the last 20 years? Go For Wand was born 22 years ago, 30 years? Ruffian broke down 34 years ago and was born 37 years ago.

Studies I have read say there hasn't been enough time pass to say the breed has had an evolutionary change for the good or the bad.

Also the guy (think it was Greg A) who said synthetics will be gone in ten years? I think you're right.

People want a cure all and synthetics haven't and WON'T cure it all. Banning drugs won't cure it all(didn't they just determine that Lasix/Salix actually has some health benefits?). Like has been said on here, anything to do with horses is dangerous to both horse and human. BIG horses running on Fragile, slender legs, the characteristics of a TB, there will be break downs there will be injuries and the more horses running, the more CHANCE for injury. How many horses were running way back when? How many tracks were there even?

Just like auto accidents. The fatalities have increased dramatically over the years even though the cars are built safer (more standards) and the highways are much improved. Sheer number dictates that kind of stuff.

14 Jul 2009 4:22 PM

Ok, i may not always agree with Dray, but all of you with your go back where you came from comments need to back the h/// off. If you don't like him leave. Honestly i don't mind bluntness, i myself am like that too, and he does have good points. I have had big time disagreements with him before, haven't i Dray, re Curlin BB. Though did i ever get rude enough and sink low enough to the level you people went and say scurry back to where you came from? No. Honestly if you can't take his opinions, and this is a blog, he can have those and express them freely, it is America after all, then you either need are the ones who need to leave. If your not gonna, then suck it up.

14 Jul 2009 4:24 PM

Richard,  I can feel your desire to defend Sheikh Mohammed in every line you write.  I don't really understand any of the ugly, accusatory comments often written about many of the owner/breeders of great wealth in the racing industry.  The Sport of Kings has always been mainly by those with wealth. Horses are expensive from beginning to end.  In the past it was often a single farm and now it is often conglomerates who own horses.  But it still requires wealth.  Those extremely wealthy owners who are in it for the love of horses and the love of racing may not always make the right decisions, they are, after all, only human.  But, I really can't fault any man or woman who loves the horses for trying to do something rather than whine and complain.  It sounds like racing worth seeing there in Dubai.  I wish I could go.

14 Jul 2009 4:52 PM

I think I remember Santa Anita had 5 breakdowns, 4 fatal, in the first five days of the Dec 08/Jan 09 meet...what's going on with it now?

14 Jul 2009 4:59 PM

Shawn P,

    I don't consider myself a newbie. O yes, compared to other races, say the Derby, JCGC, or the Classic, the Travers is a nice race. It can be w/o a doubt a weighty race if run in by the correct horses, if not, sorry it's not, just like last year.

14 Jul 2009 5:15 PM

Yeah, the Euros might have an edge because they do grass racing and we emphasize turf. BUT one of the arguments for dirt is that it's a "natural" surface. Now correct me if I'm wrong but 1) horses are grazing animals ie grass-eating animals, which means they live on grasslands (turf) so, in nature, when they run away from the predators they run on grass. TURF. Sure, I like dirt racing too but I applaud all efforts to make surfaces safer. It's too soon to tell how well the synthetics are doing. One of the problems is that horses use different sets of muscles on each surface, which means changing back and forth calls for changes in training regimens too. I read a neat Blood Horse article about that and it makes perfect sense! Until we have enough horses who train/race on nothing else to compare with horses who train/race on nothing but dirt, we'll never know when the scene was actually set for the breakdowns. I believe (and recent studies seem to suggest the more-learned than I agree) that most breakdowns are very ofter the final escalation of pre-existing damage so minute that our current imaging techniques can't pick them up. One thing I will say though is that last year, for the first time in quite a while, we got through the Breeders Cup - 2 whole days of it - and every competitor who left the gate walked back to his/her stall and ate supper. Just for that benefit, I can't bring myself to slam synthetics. Way back when, we steered breeding in this country toward dirt rather than grass. In time, some of us will steer some lines back again. Isn't that diversity one of the wonderful things about this game? If we have another year with no George Washingtons, no Pine Islands, no Fleet Indians, no Go for Wands to break our hearts, I'll enjoy the two days of world-class racing and may the best horse win. It's a global sport nowadays. Let's compete against other nations on the racetrack instead of doing it with guns and bombs.

14 Jul 2009 6:13 PM

The Travers will not play an important role this year either.  Mr. Jackson is quite the chess player and knows that the Haskell and Alabama work in his favor.  Winning these two races forces Zenyatta to run in the Breeders Cup Classic to have any chance of taking away HOY from Rachel. Rachel will be a 4 to 5 favorite in the Haskell and a 1 to 5 in the Alabama.  After she wins those two races she will complete the greatest year any 3 year filly has ever had.

14 Jul 2009 6:16 PM

To Richard, your remarks were well said, so thank you.  Your perspective is very much appreciated.

George Washington deserved better.

On another note, Presious Passion is unbelievable.  How wonderful to watch a thoroughbred run as though he were alone in another place and time. I would love to see him run in the Breeders Cup.

14 Jul 2009 7:18 PM
Kevin Stafford

Bottom line for me is that the decision to run at Santa Anita 2 years in a row was based on the lure of marketing dollars - not in the interest of advancing thoroughbred racing in our country, and certainly not with any care for how it may impact particular horses.

Being a glass half full guy, I look forward to seeing whoever does show up, and will watch/play along...

But it's a shame what a truly special showdown we may have had if the race were not being run at Santa Anita.

(and for the record,nothing against SA...just don't think the Classic should be run there).

I've taken quite a beating blogging about this in the past. Still feel exactly the same about it. It sinks, and it's detrimental to the sport (by virtue of losing these runners and more)in a time when doing things detrimental should be a last/desperate option only.

Would love to see them take all the $$$ from the BC though and do something to "save" Hollywood. Losing that track to the bulldozers and would-be strip mall constructors is a tremendous shame.

Like looking back and saying "so where did Ebbott's field stand, exactly?"  

14 Jul 2009 7:31 PM

Toe-grabs on shoes have been implicated in several major studies on breakdowns. Long toe-grabs lower the angle of the foot and put excessive pressure on the suspensory ligaments. When several tracks decided to ban toe-grabs (Turfway and California tracks), they were banned on front and rear shoes. After several breakdowns at Turfway, they decided the horses racing on polytrack needed them in the rear for traction. They rescinded the ban on rear toe-grabs and the situation improved. (We also have to remember that the weather conditions at Turfway during the racing season are generally atrocious. Same at Aqueduct during the winter. Horses need to be on vacation then.) The toe-grab problems were repeated in California with the same result. I think bloodlines also have a large role in breakdowns. Not to single Unbridled's Song out, but a lot of his major runners have made less than 10 starts in their career. (PON is a grandson by Empire Maker, who made 8 starts.) He is a popular stallion because he throws horses with brilliance, but they may be brittle horses. They also tend to be very tall horses (like Eight Belles), and there is some feeling that tall horses need to be given more time to mature into their frame. (This is one reason Zenyatta didn't start until the fall of her 3-year-old season.) You can't just say that synthetic causes breakdowns or that dirt causes breakdowns. There are too many variables. I think synthetics are here to stay. Trainers with a stable full of turf horses like them, and racing secretaries like them since you don't have seven out of ten horses scratch if it rains and the race comes off the turf. They also have synthetic tracks in Britain, Ireland, France, Singapore and Turkey. Once upon a time horses ran 4-mile heats. Times change.

14 Jul 2009 7:49 PM
Tim G

LDP, ask anyone who actually owns race horses. They will tell you the dream races they'd love to win with a 3 year old, whether it's a gelding, filly, ridgling or colt. They want to win 1)KY Derby, 2)Travers, 3)Preakness and 4)Belmont. THAT is speaking ONLY about races taken one by one. Of course on the whole? The dream is to win the Triple Crown but I assure you, most of us with high dollar 2 year olds? Dream of winning the KY Derby.

The Belmont has had some iffy fields and so has the Preakness, they all cycle like that.

As far as being a newbie? You have good 'opinions' and you obviously are a student of the game, but you aren't old enough to be anything BUT a newbie like Shawn said.

My thought is he's been a lifer at the track, like me and a lot of others (some of us lots longer life than others, yes Steve, I too had the long hair of the late 60's early 70's).

As for telling DN go away? He has his blog where he can say whatever his pea pickin heart desires, as far off the mark as he usually is. Most of us aren't afforded that opportunity there.

This blog is a step above slamming horses and races, trainers who don't deserve it and owners who do a heck of a lot for the game.

For those talking about the Dubies? Someone mentioned on another blog the filly Kinsolving and the author who wrote a horse racing book (man that poor woman? Anyone think you had a hard life, read that book), anyway it mentioned the Dubies, Sangster and Lukas all in the same breath. The book was written in 1990 and the setting was in the 80's so they've been around forever.

Uh, speaking of DN, Do you know Jess personally? Steve? Calvin? ANYBODY in racing? If not how do you know what ANYONE is thinking?

Richard is correct. Dubai is spectacular and a spectacle for racing. However, a lot of the construction came to a standstill and many foreigners left, because unlike their neighbors they aren't oil rich and Abu Dhabi recently bailed them out with 10B in Bond purchases. Guess work on the new track there stopped as well, last I heard.  That's what worries me, that they'll end up like Magna.

14 Jul 2009 7:55 PM
Steve Haskin

She'sfast, I agree with you about a tribute to Lawyer Ron. I have an historical column coming up tomorrow and then I'll start  working on Lawyer Ron, who was such a great horse to be around.

14 Jul 2009 7:58 PM
Tim G

Reason I know Shawn is a lifer? My son.

Used his computer with my name, his sign on.

Sorry Steve and/or moderator.

14 Jul 2009 8:01 PM
Tim G

Ceil most tracks have adopted a toe grab policy. CDI has a new horseshoe policy as of Oct 2008 that bans the use of toe grabs greater than two millimeters. It applies to all horses whether training or racing at CD, Arlington Park, Calder or the Fair Grounds.

So that applies to  toe grabs, bends, jar calks, stickers etc worn on the front. Any hind shoe with a turndown of more than one-quarter inch isn't permitted on the dirt courses. Hind shoes with calks, stickers, blocks, raised toes or turndowns aren't allowed on the turf courses. Including QH shoes or any shoe with a toe grab of more than 1/4 inch.

Loosely translated from the condition book.

The NYRA banned the front toe grabs etc. And the Graded Stakes Committee announced early last Fall that "graded stakes run at racetracks that haven't implemented The Jockey Club limitations on toe-grab horseshoes would lose their graded status effective Jan. 1, 2009, or the date of the track’s first graded stakes."

So it's pretty much across the board back here.

14 Jul 2009 8:19 PM

Honestly i think RA will win the Haskel. She will love the distance, and so far i don't see a ton of speed, unless they decide to have munnings run at her, which i don't think they will. SB is a good horse, but the distance for him will be too short, and Monmouth tends to favor speed, not closers. The only horse i think in America who can beat RA is QR, and i'm not sure if he'll enter that. Pletcher already said he'd rather not go in the Travers, and thinks it be asking a lot, going 1 1/4 so quick of a layoff. The haskel looks to be more of an ideal spot. Dray, answer me this, if QR and RA end up in the same race, who would you take?

14 Jul 2009 8:36 PM

LDP I am a big Quality Road fan but I am riding Rachel all the way into the history books.  She is the greatest 3 year old filly in history and I doubt we will ever see another as good as her in our lifetime. At some point you have to look at the times she is posting and the EASE at which she is doing it and just shake your head.  And the best part is she is getting better.  A 10 length win in the Haskell is not out of the question she is simply too good and runs too fast... We are watching the greatest 3 year old ever....enjoy !

14 Jul 2009 9:20 PM
Tim G

LDP, Todd said QR will probably miss the Jim Dandy, go in the Amsterdam and MAYBE try and make the Travers, depending on his feet, which Todd thinks that issue is behind him.

I've been watching your picks and your handicapping and for an underage gambler (just kidding)you're pretty good.

I think the LAST person someone who seems to pick em like you can would ask, would be a guy who can't pick his, ummm guitar.

14 Jul 2009 9:30 PM
Matthew W

I used to wonder why so many West coast horses won BCup races back East compared to East Coasters winning out West--it was because even when they had dirt tracks, severay Easterners just did not show up to run on those harder DIRT tracks.....But I AM surprised to see so many defections, since there's a "built in mulligan" for any horses that ships and loses...heck, they even gave HOY to a fading fourth place shipper last year, I would think that would give the East Coast Barns a litte more moxie, a little more guts, as it for Team Zen, I think after going 7 for 7 and not getting HOY they already know they're not gonna get it this time, either---I just think they don't give a rip, they'ved put a helluva streak together, over very different and difficult synthetic tracks, I wish it were at Belmont this year, but, alas, it is not...I'd love to see Zen in the Whitney, as a "tribute" to Personal Ensign, also because I want to see her dirt again, but as much as synthetics have been a real trial and tribulation around here, I marvel how full the workout program is when it's pouring rain--there is NO drop off, and the one Breeders Cup held on synthetic was full of great races/full of good Euros, their top tier of three year olds and it showed---if that makes Santa Anita the center of international racing, so be it, we'll take a few Eastern no-shows...but no way do I give Rachel a mulligan cuz she loved Keeneland/was intended to run here before being sold to "Sour Grapes Jess"....  

14 Jul 2009 9:44 PM

Last year's Traver's was exciting but ended up being totally a non factor for 2008 racing. Has any of the top 3 finishers of that race done anything since? To me there are much more interesting races at Del Mar.

14 Jul 2009 9:44 PM
Matthew W

NO WAY does ANYBODY win the Derby this year except Mine That Bird! Bo-rail figured it all out, they got the poor start they needed, the rest is Derby Lore...Quality Road can thank his lucky stars for that quarter crack! Summer Bird AND Rachel will beat him if he gets to the Travers, and that's a big if.....Love Rachel in the Haskell---I HOPE they don't try them in the Travers, leave that for the boys, it's a grueling race--I'm West Coast all the way but in my book there's The Derby, The Travers, and all the other races for three year olds.....

14 Jul 2009 9:54 PM
Matthew W

Steve I don't think either filly would lose their greatness if she lost to the other--and I know they would lose no $$ value--not one cent! So it makes sense to run them together, They should go to Zenyatta cuz she's undefeated....

14 Jul 2009 10:34 PM

Tim G,

    That is why i said the race is a nice race to win, but honestly it's mainly because the trainer or owner gets to say oh, i won this race with this horse. The other thing it is good for is that it looks great on the resume of a new stallion. Is the race normally important for a three year old and for that championship, w/o a doubt, but at times, like last year no. CJ the winner of last years Travers which is one of the top two races for three year olds got his butt whipped in the voting, and wasn't even in the finallist for HOTY. This is my point. Basiclly the race that draws the best horse in that division are the ones that matter in that particular year. In fact the last two years actually the top three year old has come from the Haskel, not the Travers. I'm not sure, but weren't Smarty and Afleet Alex the winners of the 04 and 05 top three year old? If so than that means the top 3yr for 4 out of the last five years has not one the Preakness. It seems you must either win 2 jewls of the TC, or do what Curlin did and win one jewl and beat older horses/ win the Classic. This seems to be the recent trend. Now i could be wrong on Smarty and Afleet, and i'll go check. But if i am right my point is validated, that though the travers is a nice race to win it will not hold much wieght in the voting of top 3yr old. By the way, i know Bernardini won the Travers, but if you'll go farther you'll also see he did what Curlin did by winning a grade one race against older horses. Plus as i also mentioned, he was the dominant horse of that crop after the tragic breakdown of Barbaro. When he chose to race in the Travers that race became important to voters.

14 Jul 2009 10:55 PM

Tim G,

    In your latest post thank you, but i can't quite understand what your trying to get at in you last sentence, sorry, i can be, unless it's horses, be sometimes kinda dense.

14 Jul 2009 10:59 PM
Matthew W

Annie M How wrong you are! The Travers in MANY ways is the TRUE Derby! The Travers list is comparable--big time--to the Derby list! Saratoga has always been the KING of North America meetings....I was hoping they would go to the Travers with Pioneerof The Nile, as he ran his arse off on the mucky outside part of that awful Derby Track...they had that big ego and pushed him into the Preakness and he shut down.... and it cost them.... last year's winner Col John is a real nice, classy horse but I'm not sure where they are with him....he was "run up on" by Macho Again at top of stretch yet rallied top win Travers, it takes a real good horse to win this race....But how right you are about Del Mar this year! Zenyatta in The Clement Hirsch, we'll take it!!

14 Jul 2009 11:04 PM

Tim G,

    Went back a few years and the stats show that only one horse in the last ten years has won the Travers by itself. That horse would be Bernardini. When i say by itself i mean the horse did not win both Haskel and Travers, Point Given did that. Here are the 3yr old champions and their major wins they compiled that year.

Tiznow: won the BCC and Goodwood beating older horses. He also won the Affirmed and Super Derby.

Point Given: Won the Preakness, Belmont, Travers, and Haskel.

War Emblem: won the Derby and Preakness, and the Haskel.

Funny Cide: Won the Derby and Preakness and won the JCGC against older horses.

Smarty Jones: Derby and Preakness, second in the Belmont.

Afleet Alex: Third in the Derby, won the Preakness and Belmont.

Bernardini: won the Preakness, Jim Dandy, Travers, and JCGC. Was second in the BCC.

Curlin: Won the Preakness, third in the Haskel, won the JCGC and BCC.

Big Brown: Won the Derby and Preakness, and won the Haskel.

These stats show you that when looking at the whole picture that the Travers and in some ways even the Haskel do not weigh in on who get top three year old. Two horses, including PG won the Travers in the last 10 years and went on to become top 3yr old. Four, including PG, went on to win the Haskel and become top 3yr old. It seems to me the more important thing to me is to either have won 2 jewls of the TC, win against the elders, or do both. In the whole scheme of thing the Travers is just what i said a nice race to win but with no bearing on top three year old, unless the dominant horse of the TC is in there.

14 Jul 2009 11:30 PM

AnneM... Do you know anything about the history of the Travers at all ? Some of the past winners in the last 8 years are Point Given, Medaglia d' Oro, Birdstone, Flower Alley, Bernadini, and Street Sense.  Not bad huh ? Do you still want to compare the 135 year old race with Del Mar ?  Matthew W... why are you comparing Rachel Alexandra and her 6 for 6 wins including a Triple Crown win and a couple of Stakes records with Zenyatta's 2 wins in California Stakes races ?  In Rachel's last 3 races against fellow 3 year old fillies she has won by nearly 50 lengths.  Zenyatta is a good horse but against the boys in the Classic you will discover she has been protected and will have no real shot of winning that race.

14 Jul 2009 11:39 PM

Tim G,

    my typo, i went back nine years. I've been up for only god knows how long, and barely got any sleep last night, so my head is not quite with it, basicly i'm real tire. Sorry for the typo.

15 Jul 2009 12:01 AM

I am well aware of how important a race the Travers used to be. However, the last few years, it has been much less so and I think will continue to lessen in import.

The Haskell on the other hand is gaining in stature and importance.

And Del Mar always has great races -

15 Jul 2009 2:16 AM


    Though i do agree that the Travers for the past ten or so years has had little bearing on HOTY or top 3yr old, i have to disagree that it has lost it's stature. This year you will have the Derby winner alone entering. Last year you saw CJ win in a thriller, and i would go on to say he was the second best 3yr old last year. This race may not be a huge factor in Eclipse Award voting, but it almost always attacts the top horses in the 3yr old group. Dray mentioned all the great horses that chose that rest. Many of those horses were Grade one horses, top of their generation, and most had success on the TC trail. This is still a very important race, and to say it has lost it's stature and importance is just plain wrong.

15 Jul 2009 11:00 AM
Tim G

LDP, How many 3 year old classic runners have you had?

I cannot imagine you didn't want to run in and win the Travers.

Many owners, trainers etc feel that race has saved their season if they did badly in the TC races, whether they win it or even run well in it.

Some of the horses you mentioned didn't even run after the TC series. I think your only focus is who won 3 year old Eclipse champion?? I'm not sure because your comparisons don't jive with anything else.

The HaskeLL Invitational Handicap is a race by invitation only. Stacks the deck to assure what horses will be there and what the outcome will be.

It was established in 1968. Ancient history as far as some of you kids are concerned I'm sure.

It's had some decent winners years ago, but I'd say Point Given, War Emblem (maybe) and Big Brown last year are the major players in the last 8 years. The rest? Forgettable

'nice' horses.

As far as Stallion impact? Point Given.

The Travers? Established in 1864 and has been won by some of the greatest horses in TB racing. Alydar, Buckpasser, Easy Goer. Draynay listed some of the winners in the past 8 years. An impressive list. My point was: Ask an owner if he'd rather win the Haskell or win the Travers and 99.9% will tell you they'd prefer to win a 145 year old race than win a 40 year old INVITATIONAL Handicap. But hey, if you get invited to run at a million dollars, most won't say no.

You say The Travers is a 'nice' race that the owners can say "I won this race with this horse".  Well, what in the heck is all this about?

It's competition, it's about WINNING specific races. Why else do you think we do it?

That comment has me shaking my head and wondering what you think racing is about for owners and/or trainers.

If it was just to have beautiful horses? We have those that we use for other things. If it's just to say we have race horses? We could run at any level (and sometimes do) and say 'we have race horses'.

If we do it for breeding purposes? It doesn't help much for geldings or mares. But the stallion impact from the Travers winners? Just look it up dear.

When you play at the top of the TB game in the USA there are just a small handful of races you'd give your firstborn to win (sorry SP you're expendable). At the top of those races are THE DERBY and a slight notch down (for some) The Travers. The Preakness is nice as is The Belmont, but obsession only comes for those races if the TC is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The BC Classic? Well only recently was it upped to a big purse and the BC has messed around with the BC races so much they've sort of mucked it all up. Who knows if the 25+ year old event will survive the financial fiasco.

I don't think I've bid on a single yearling or watched a foal drop and thought, now my dream is to win the Haskell, Preakness or Belmont with this baby. My first thought, the reason I will pay the money? There's my Derby winner, My dream of all dreams,TC winner and to ice the cake? My Travers winner.

Like I said before, people who actually run at the top of the game think that the Series should be the D, The P, The B and the Travers. Ask one, if you aren't one.

I'm not speaking about this from the perspective of getting the Eclipse Award (which is relatively new, subjective based on votes from writers etc and pretty political) I'm speaking of what gets horses into the Hall of Fame.

Ask the general public or the casual fan which race they've heard of.

There are races older than the Haskell which have disappeared from the racing map, with the fragility of the industry it can happen again.

As far as my last sentence to you? Just saying you asked DN(who is finally recognizing the importance of the Travers. To me it was sad that BB couldn't run in the race but he was already foot fragile by the time he ran his last race) about who HE thought would win between RA and QR (who is probably running in the Amsterdam per Todd just a couple days ago). My comment was that YOU seem to be a FAR better handicapper so why would you care what anyone thinks about who would win. That's all I meant.

On Del Mar? Was a beautiful track by the ocean, the Saratoga of the West. Now, it's a track with a difficult to manage surface that had super slow times, resorted to rock concerts to draw people in and will probably soon go the way of the rest of the Cal tracks (development, in an economy where it sits as a pile of rubble).

15 Jul 2009 11:43 AM

Tim G,

    The fact that more ppl want to win the Travers is NOT my point. I am stating that through yes even ten years when you count Charismatic, the winner of the Travers doesn not get champion 3yr old, therefore as a race the count in votes, it's not one of them. I agree that more ppl want to win it, but then you go on to say many believe that race saves their season. Facts from the last ten year say otherwise. The haskell has and i made another error, there have been five horses that raced in the haskell that have gone on to be top three year old, 4 if you don't include PG. Another point was if you are dominant in the TC like those who didn't race pass it you still can wrap up the 3yr old honors. Smarty for example never raced past the Belmont, and even when Birdstone the horse who beat smarty won the Travers aswell Smarty still was crowned champion three year old. I will say that winning the Travers helps those who performed badly in the TC to climb back up the ladder, but after that you must beat older horses. The Travers w/o a doubt is a poppular race, but over history it does not hold as much weight as beating older horses or being dominant in the TC. I am not disrespecting it, only stating facts that i found from history. You can argue all you want that it is the more poppular race, in that i believe you are right. But historically it does hold wieght as much as other races do and is not a season saver. If it was you'd see Travers winners winning champion 3yr old. The facts are there and you can't argue with history.

15 Jul 2009 12:46 PM

Tim G,

    I only asked Dray his opinion because i know he is high on both and was just wondering who he'd choose if put in that situation. It was not about handicapping at all. Personally i'd go with RA right now, mainly because QR has been off and i would want to see his comeback race before i put him over RA. If he does come back like he was earlier in the year, all i can see is a Ruffian vs Foolish Pleasure match race all over again. Both have the same style, both can rate, both can run real fast fractions and still have some kick. In my mind even with Zenyatta around, he if he comes back like he was is the horse with the best chance to beat RA. Maily due to their practically identical styles.

15 Jul 2009 12:53 PM

I for one don't beleive it was a synthetic track that caused Curlin' poor performance last year.Off his last couple of races before the Breeders Cup he looked to me like a horse who was in decline and ready for a poor performance.Throw in the trip he got,and to me the outcome was very predictable.

15 Jul 2009 1:14 PM

Hi again,

Sorry, Tim G for the belated response -- we're 9 - 12 hours later here in Dubai. Actually, construction on Meydan was slowed not solely because of credit crunch (though you are correct that the Feds in Abu Dhabi loaned many unknown billions to Dubai to service its 82 billion construction debt), but because the original contractor wasn't meeting construction time goals and the contract was rebid. It's back under construction (along with the Dubai Metro, set to open in September to ease the traffic congestion that has affected past World Cup Days, and the Burj Tower, due for a December topping off) and is now supposed to be open for the 2010 Dubai World Cup on March 27. Oh, some more fuel for the fire: while there is no final publicly announced decision on the "dirt" surface, it's almost certainly going to be synthetic (though both tracks are ovals, unlike Nad Al Sheba's unusual triangle). They have been using Tapeta Footings for the training track for the past year. The decision is largely due to the lobbying of trainers like the very outspoken South African Mike De Kock, who claims the Europeans avoid The Dubai Winter Racing Carnival (January to March) because of the dirt surface at Nad Al Sheba. Also, virtually all the jockeys racing here head off to Newmarket after the Dubai season. So, the connection with the Europeans is growing stronger here -- sad to me considering it was the magnificent Cigar who first brought attention to Dubai racing when his connections gambled on the long trip to race in, and win, the initial Dubai World Cup. So this year's World Cup is in for a facelift on several levels.

15 Jul 2009 1:30 PM
Scottish Racing

I do think that you have underated the 3YOs last year that finshed 1-2 in the Classic. They never just won because of Pro Ride. They were improving all season.

I don't think Sea the Stars will be coming over. Has John Oxx ever had a runner at the BC? Looking forward to seeing him at York this year. A great horse in the making.

15 Jul 2009 2:45 PM
Mike Relva


We NEED MORE individuals like Zenyatta's connections,not less. They are a credit to the game.

16 Jul 2009 10:25 PM
Fire Slam

Matthew W and Others--

The Travers is a nice race. But don't event try to compare it to be as sought after as THE KENTUCKY DERBY. THERE IS THE KENTUCKY DERBY, AND THEN the Travers.

And yes, Saratoga is a very historic facility. Love the area and the old barns. But then again, a groom put it into prospective the other day, it kind of reminds him of the ELLIS PARK OF THE NORTH.

17 Jul 2009 4:16 AM

When Polyturf first came out, it was intended to help the frozen surface from Turfway's brutal frozen track.

A novel and conventional idea it seemed to be the "new way" in our sport. As this concept spread the "artificial surfaces" were all the rage until problems surfaced and it was doing more harm than good.

Here's the deal, why mess with a good thing? I commend the above mentioned trainers and their horses not to run on these surfaces. I'm old school and don't believe in these surfaces but still believe in the good intentions from the frozen Turfway arena.

In my humbled opinion the old adage, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" seems pretty appropriate".  If this was held true instead of everyone "jumping the gun" on these surfaces, we would more than likely see some great racing in this year's BC!

We will  see some nice horses run, but it won't be the same "thrill" our sport could use in this day and age.

Good luck to all and we'll see you @ the races!


17 Jul 2009 12:48 PM

Hi Steve,

I'm happy that many, or all of those mentioned above will not be at the Breeder's Cup.  In my humble opinion the only legitimate surfaces are dirt and grass.  It is what nature provided for a horses to run and walk on.  If the race tracks properly maintained and restored the dirt or grass on a regular basis it would be safe for the horses and be cheaper in the long run.  If tracks have skimped on the upkeep of the dirt and grass to save money - then that would factor in to the number of breakdowns.  I'm not a vet or trained horsewoman, but other factors that perhaps lead to breakdowns are owners and trainers running horses who have sustained some injury - no matter how minor - or have an physical ailment.  An example would be serious cracked quarters, or hairline fractures, temperatures, etc.  I think due to all of the attention in the last year or two due to the serious breakdowns we have been witness to, etc., we have seen top owners and trainers opting not to run their run horses if the horse is not 100%.  That is as it should have been in the past.  They deserve that consideration, they have given us so much and get so little in return.

I think that scheduling the Breeder's Cup races two years in a row at Santa Anita was to force the other tracks around the country to conform to synthetics -- so someone could make a lot of money, someone was selling the idea the new surfaces are cheaper for the tracks to maintain. But I think they are finding out it is not cheaper in the long run especially where there a significant temperature changes.

For whatever their reasons for being in the game - tracks, owners and trainers owe it to the horses health and welfare by providing excellently maintained natural surfaces to run on.  No one knows what the long term effects of breathing in particles from the synthetics will have on the horses, especially those who have racing careers longer than two years.

If they want the younger generations to take an interest in horse racing they need stop the posturing and rhetoric and put action where their mouths are.

I have great respect and admiration for Jess Jackson - we need more owners like him.


20 Jul 2009 4:18 PM

I agree with Jess Jackson as far as synthetic tracks go. I know for a fact that if the Breeders Cup races move to a real surface the industry would have plenty of competition and support. It was hard for me to watch Curlin last year finish out of the money. If it wasn't a fake track he would have won. I think that the Breeders Cup races need to be moved to another track.

20 Jul 2009 5:55 PM


I guess we have great dirt horses

I guess we have great turf horses

I AM VERY SURE WE HAVE JUST A GREAT HORSE..OH JOHN HENRY why don't you come back and tell these whiners how you ran on DIRT and TURF like a TRUE GREAT HORSE!! and not a surface specialist!!!

22 Jul 2009 12:42 PM

I have read some post giving the Haskell and Travers to Rachel Alexandra. LOL!!

C'mon, I mean yes she is very good but she is not that great. There is no doubt she can beat the fillies asleep but against the real boys? Yeah sure she won the Preakness but have a reality check here. She beat MTB who was 50-1 in the Derby. That should tell you how mediocre the boys are and if MTB got a good trip...well...

I heard Munnings is in the Haskell therefore I predict the bubble will burst come August 2, 2009.

22 Jul 2009 5:01 PM


    MTB may not be the best horse of the crop but he is not mediocre. He was Canada's top two year old last year. The only bad race he ever ran was the Juvenile when coming over here to run on the Pro ride. In NM he was never allowed to run as a closer, he was always a stalker, even then he didn't run half bad garnering a fourth and a second. Once allowed to run as a closer he ran right by everyone in the Derby, then he runs second and third in the Belmont. He may not be the best but he's right up there with the top five at least, for the three year old males. On your Munnings prediction, if BD, arguably one of the top two 3yr old sprinters in the country couldn't wear her down, what makes you think Munnings, who normally does not take to the front can do it. If you think SB will do it what makes you think if MTB who is much more explosive couldn't catch her after she was worn down by BD, that SB can do it a shorter distance? She's proven she can rate or run up front. She has proven she can withstand testing fractions, then you have Monmouth which is speed favoring. This race screams RA will win.

28 Jul 2009 11:47 AM

horsein49 and Nancy,

    Praise Jesus, Praise the Lord. You both are SO RIGHT!!!

28 Jul 2009 11:51 AM

Horsin49 said "If it wasn't a fake track he would have won. I think that the Breeders Cup races need to be moved to another track."

Maybe he would have won, maybe not.

The real issue is that Jess Jackson got his head handed to him last year and now wants to race only when the the odds are stacked in his favor.

"Plastic" is just a straw man.

29 Jul 2009 12:30 AM

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