The Invisible Horse

What an array of stakes and talent we saw this weekend. When you have the winners of all three Triple Crown races, and the Dubai World Cup, and the Breeders' Cup Mile and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and the Florida and Arkansas Derby winners, and the Beldame winner, not to mention one of the greatest fillies of all time, you know you're in for a special weekend of racing.

The Remarkable Rachel will be discussed in our Countdown to the Cup column this week. But there was one horse who ran last weekend who will receive little attention, and understandably so, as he could finish no better than fourth in a grade II turf stakes. But if you can look beyond the brilliance and true greatness of Rachel Alexandra and focus on a horse who tries hard every race, then you might want to pay closer attention to a 7-year-old horse, yes horse, named Cosmonaut, despite his fourth-place finish in the Fourstardave at Saratoga Saturday.

Horses like Cosmonaut often go overlooked, because their record is not that of a champion, and their victories do not come with great frequency. These are the blue-collar horses who go out race after race and run their heart out. They don't win consistently enough to be Eclipse contenders or possess the brilliance of the sport's major stars, but they quietly build up an impressive record over the years, with each victory and placing coming from the gut.

Their past performance lines are not scrutinized over, so their accomplishments normally go overlooked. One might look at Cosmonaut's record and ask, "How did this horse manage to earn almost $1.4 million?

Well, here's how he did it. Since being put on the grass for good by trainer Phil Serpe in July 2006, he's run 22 consecutive races without finishing worse than fifth. In 18 of them, he finished fourth or better. Of those 22 races, 19 were graded stakes and two were listed stakes. In all, he's started 29 times on the grass and has never finished worse than fifth, meaning he's brought back a check every time he's run. Considering how often horses get in serious trouble on the grass that is a remarkable record of consistency.

And he did it at 12 different racetracks in eight states from coast to coast, ridden by nine different jockeys, while undergoing seven trainer changes. He has finished in the money in stakes on firm, good, yielding, and soft courses.

To demonstrate further how tough and consistent he's been, he won the grade III Fort Marcy Stakes over a good course at Belmont, the grade III Arlington Handicap over a good course at Arlington, another Arlington Handicap over a soft course, the Tampa Bay Stakes over a soft course at Tampa Bay, an allowance race over a firm course at Keeneland, and he even won the grade III Golden Gate Fields Handicap off the turf on a good dirt track at Golden Gate.

He was second, beaten a neck, in the grade I Shadwell Turf Mile over a firm course at Keeneland; third, beaten only two lengths, in the grade I Breeders' Cup Mile over a soft course at Monmouth Park; second in yet another Arlington Handicap over a soft course; third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in a fourth Arlington Handicap; second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the grade II Dixie Stakes over a firm course at Pimlico; and second, beaten a half-length, in the grade III River City Handicap at River Downs.

He was beaten three-quarters of a length in the grade I Manhattan Handicap, 2 1/2 lengths in the grade I Arlington Million, 4 1/4 lengths in the grade I Man o'War, 2 3/4 lengths in the grade I Citation Handicap, three lengths in the grade I Maker's Mark Mile; two lengths in another Shadwell Turf Mile, and 2 1/2 lengths in the grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap.

He's earned a triple-digit Beyer figure 17 times. Among the major stakes horses who have beaten him are Kip Deville (by two lengths and three lengths), The Tin Man (by 2 1/2 lengths), Better Talk Now (by three-quarters of a length), Thorn Song (by a half-length), Gio Ponti (by 4 3/4 lengths), Ashkal Way (by 2 3/4 lengths) and Purim (by a neck). And he was two lengths behind Einstein in the Maker's Mark Mile. In summation, despite the stiff competition he's faced race after race, he has been in every race, his worst defeat being six lengths in the grade I Hollywood Turf Cup. He has also defeated top-class horses such as Go Between, Artiste Royal, and Tam Lin, just to name a few.

In the Fourstardave, in which he was beaten 3 3/4 lengths, he ran hard every step of the way and simply was outrun by faster, much younger horses. He's not a horse you tend to notice, but it's time we recognize horses like Cosmonaut and appreciate all they give of themselves race after race.

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