Breeders' Cup Wrap - Final Thoughts

All the comments made about Quality Road being a rogue or crazy are way off base. Dr. Larry Bramlage called him a juvenile delinquent following his meltdown prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A juvenile, yes, in many ways, but being scared out of your wits does not make you a delinquent.


Quality Road was a frightened child afraid not of the dark or the boogeyman, but of a metal monster that closes in on his massive frame and constricts him. It’s called claustrophobia, and suffering from it does not make one crazy or a delinquent. Admittedly, this is not a trained medical diagnosis, but it’s pretty obvious having watched this horse all year what his problem is.


Continue reading this column or feel free to post your comments below. 


Leave a Comment:


Well sir, you covered everything I hoped you'd cover and all in your usual informative and heartfelt style! Thank you!!!

(and I hope the fairness of your solution for HOY award is internalized by all those whose votes count!)

11 Nov 2009 9:45 PM

In regards to Quality Road, I certainly don't want to disrespect the gate crew, or the many efforts that were made to keep the horse safe in the end, however I do not agree with the procedure that was carried out.

The continued cracking of the whip behind the horse and the gate crew locking hands and pushing was not working and should have been stopped before getting the horse further and further upset.

I do not understand why the jockey did not dismount, and try to load him without the jock, especially with blindfold on. It was a very dangerous situation. I saw that Zenyatta got loaded the second time without Mike Smith aboard, not sure why this was not an option for QR.

There have been past Breeders Cup's that who's broadcast have actually focused a segment on difficult horse loading and the horsemanship that goes into loading horses safely (ie, the 'Monty Roberts' blanket or backing horses in from the front). I was disappointed to see none of this over both days. Overall I have never been a fan of how the gate is controlled at SA and know that other tracks are miles ahead. I hope the issue is brought forward and that the gate crew is given more horsemanship options to safely and confidently get the horse in the gate. I hope QR is doing well.

11 Nov 2009 9:45 PM
Virgil Fox

Thanks, Steve.

Great stuff all week.

11 Nov 2009 9:48 PM

Thank you for your compassionate and wise words about Quality Road.  It is so easy for those of us who work with horses everday to develop an attitude of entitlement, as if the horse who doesn't fall into line as expected in an important moment is somehow bad or stupid. We forget that as  humans it is always our responsibility to make the unnatural natural for the horses we are priviledged to bring into the situations of OUR choice - not theirs.   Dr Bramlach is too fine a Doctor to really believe the ill chosen words he spoke, but say them he did and in a venue heard  by millions.  Again, thank you so much for speaking up for Quality Road.  I think he was handled poorly in the pressure of the moment, and I truly hope calmer and more understanding hands can restore his trust and allow him to continue his journey to what hopfully can still be a very fine destiny.

11 Nov 2009 9:50 PM

Kudos to you for crediting Ready’s Echo.  I know it's stupid, but last summer I had a dream about him winning a big race so I started betting him.  I then noticed that he's a really nice horse even though most turf writers mock him.  He always gets a horrid trip but he keeps trying anyway.  Watch out when he finally gets a clean trip.  

Of course all the other horses you mentioned deserve recognition, too, but nobody ever says anything nice about Ready's Echo.  I'm sure his connections appreciate your words and this fan of his does, too.  

11 Nov 2009 10:38 PM
carolyn rogers

God bless QR, I felt so sorry for him. they need to let him rest awhile and get him back to his own barn to get him adjusted, Maybe his feet hurt him.

11 Nov 2009 10:44 PM

I disagree with your praise of ABC and ESPN.  The multiple camera angles and the switching between them were very jarring to me, and most of the race, I couldn't tell what was going on.  The horses and silks were too small and far away to tell who was where.  I wish they'd stick to traditional, everyday angles (they changed to the colored saddlecloths to help the average race watcher, why not keep the usual camera angles?) for the live running of the race, and then show the blimp (which I *love*....for POST-race analysis) and such on replays.

I didn't care for the Kent D. piece, and the Baffert one only mildly interested me.  As for Desormeaux (and frankly, most of the humans involved - I watch horse racing because I love horses, not humans, to me, they are basically interchangeable), I don't care about his personal life, and it's really none of anyone's business, unless it affects his performance on the track, until then, please keep it to yourself.

11 Nov 2009 10:50 PM
Storie Teller

Thank you for such a great post about this magnificent animal. Quality Road has always been my favorite, and always will be.

Every single one of the gate crew had to think quick, and do what they thought was appropriate given they were under such pressure to resolve a problem that could have turned out to be the worst disaster in Thoroughbred Racing.

Many prayers were going up during that very moment, and I am so thankful that each and every one of the horses finished safely.

I believe Quality Road will recover

from it all, and amaze us with his incredible ability once again just as he has so many times before.  

Thank you so much for setting the record straight about him.

11 Nov 2009 11:02 PM

Steve, you and Lenny have bashed West Coast racing all year long, and finally you have seen the light. Santa Anita should have the BC every year. OK, we can throw the people who want to see championship racing in a complete unknown do to weather, a bone. Also, you said RA was a definite HOY in early SEP. no matter what Zenyatta did. Are you kidding me! Zenyatta is the best horse in 2009. The horses RA has beaten in '09 doesn't even hold a candle to the horses Zenyatta has beaten. It isn't even close. Stop seeing things with your heart. It is the eye test, Zenyatta is better. Watching you and Lenny on the BH show, you listed all the RA firsts. You forget to mention this is the first year the Oaks was a horrible field, the Haskell had 2 good horses, that poor excuse of a race at Belmont when she beat 3 sprinters going 1:08 and change at a mile and an eighth while sitting off the pace,(those three horses were walking on the turn)and the Woodward was a horrible field but the BC Classic was loaded and Zenyatta gave everyone in the race the advantage and still won. Yes, you can't punish RA for who she runs against but you also can't reward her either. Come on Steve, you are a historian, please be honest about what has taken place and leave you emotions aside. Zenyatta surprised almost everyone including you, to the point you couldn't believe what you saw. Zenyatta is HOY, period. She is a throw back, a horse who has scope, size, stride and can run all day. Oh, I forgot, she is undefeated. I hope you enjoy the BC at Churchill Downs next year, you better take a jacket.

11 Nov 2009 11:08 PM

Bravo Steve, Bravo!! As for your opinion on Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.....perfection came twice this year in the form of females, and they both deserve the honors of Horse of the Year. Thanks for a great recap, especially on poor Quality Road. As a person who suffers from claustrophobia, I can only imagine what fear that poor boy felt in the starting gate. Thanks for writing and thinking of the horse's feelings first.

11 Nov 2009 11:13 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I totally agree with everything you said about everyone and every horse. Spot on. Your humanity always shows through when you put pen to ink and that is what I love about you.

I hope that Quality Road is given tons of TLC and rest. Shortly into the attempt to get him into the gate, I could see he was frantic and I was getting frantic just watching it. They should have simply stopped. The blindfold was a huge mistake and should be disallowed for any future competitions. You are right, he is claustrophobic. I am too. I know exactly how he felt and nothing was going to help at that particular time except to back him out of the race. Down the road they can try to reschool him but they need to give this sweet horse a rest. He is not a juvenile delinquent. Just a scared horse.

Gulchfan, the Bob Baffert piece was warm and fuzzy. Can't say the same for you. If you don't want to listen to Kent Desormeaux's story you have an "on" and "off" switch on your t.v. Use it. Geesh.

11 Nov 2009 11:18 PM

"One final comment about Zenyatta running 13 of her races on a synthetic surface: Zenyatta transcends synthetic surfaces, pure and simple. According to Shirreffs, she merely tolerates it and is much better on dirt. This is one horse who will run on anything they put under her. Greatness is greatness no matter how you look at it."

Thank you. This is something that needed to be said and no one could have said it better.

11 Nov 2009 11:46 PM

I'm definitely for awarding both horses--Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta--equally for being and performing as two of the greatest fillies of all time in the same year.

Otherwise what the voters will be doing is giving the award to the owners, whichever ones have manipulated the situation to their own benefit the most--just plain politics. The HORSE deserves the award, and both of these magnificent gals are incomparable. I would hate to see Jess Jackson, who practically hi-jacked Rachel Alexandra from her former owners, get the award three times in a row. I see no sportsmanship there, nor in his avoiding the BCC.

11 Nov 2009 11:47 PM

I would have written almost everything you just wrote... if I were a writer!  I did post remarkably similar comments over on Jason's blog, though I disagree with you on all the camera angles used during the races.  I found them disruptive to the flow of the race.  

Also I really liked Bill Nack's pieces, but was not a big fan of the corny Dancing With The Stars spin.  Show me all of Zenyatta's fabulous dressage moves, leave the corny references out.  

Regarding Quality Road, yes he was clearly a frightened horse.  Horses can be very fragile emotionally. Entering confined spaces goes absolutely against every natural instinct they have! I've watched the loading more than once, I still don't feel like the crew did anything wrong.  Time is pretty essential when you already have 10 or 11 horses standing in the gates at the beginnning of a 5 million dollar race.  I am pretty certain that they could have spent another 15 minutes trying and not have gotten anywhere. It was apparent to me early on that Quality Road wasn't going into that gate, period.

And about that HOY situation... I for one thought RA deserved and would be a lock for HOY regardless of the outcome of the Breeders Cup races.

Then the field assembled for the Classic and we were looking at arguably the deepest field to contest not just a Breeders Cup race, but any race in this country over the past decade.

Not only did Zenyatta do what she did, she did it with an authority I don't think many of us quite expected.  I went back and looked at tape of all of her other races.  Her Apple Blossom last year was every bit as impressive, if not more, than her other races before the Classic.  

I now have NO DOUBT in my mind that you could put Zenyatta on broken glass and she would run her race.  She would simply run as fast as she needed to to be in front and the distance would be immaterial. You are 100% right, she transcends synthetics.

I also greatly appreciate you pointing out that people really cannot compare the season of Zenyatta's to that of Rachels. Two completely different campaigns with different goals.

YES, a choice should be created for CO-HORSE OF THE YEAR.  I love both of these girls however, and I'm not terribly concerned with who wins the award.  The real winners at the end of this season were all of us who so love this sport.

12 Nov 2009 12:09 AM

Outstanding piece--thoroughly enjoyed it! I love our sport--let us hold our heads high!

12 Nov 2009 12:20 AM

Great article, Steve. Agree with you on the HOTY debate, and loved that jockey's comment about the "4 legs." What I hope, however, is that poor Ready's Echo does not read your column; the poor horse will get a complex. Enjoyed the the ABC/ESPN telecast, but found the TVG commentators to be a bit more informative. As far as PP and CN, I was out my seat yelling with my own heart pumping but not as hard as how hard their hearts were working-what heroes! I thought of John Henry when watching the 9 year old. Finally, I feel so bad for QR and pray that the trainer/s can work a miracle for him.

12 Nov 2009 12:21 AM

Why wasn't Quality Road ever schooled in the gate at Santa Anita????

I blame Todd Pletcher for this horse's problems, a horseman HE IS NOT!!!

12 Nov 2009 12:24 AM

"One final comment about Zenyatta running 13 of her races on a synthetic surface: Zenyatta transcends synthetic surfaces, pure and simple. According to Shirreffs, she merely tolerates it and is much better on dirt. This is one horse who will run on anything they put under her. Greatness is greatness no matter how you look at it."

Thanks for writing that. There is a particular commenter on the Breeders Cup Chat blog who refers to Zenyatta as just "a poly horse," as if dirt is such a divine surface and horses that run most of their races on it are exalted above her. Several others have basically echoed his comments on that blog. What small, closed minds.

I also hope they keep Santa Anita in the mix for future Breeders Cup races whether the track is dirt or Pro-Ride, because of its good weather.

I will never forget George Washington standing in a muddy lake with a broken leg, waiting to be euthanized. Dirt tracks aren't always the best surface for horses.

12 Nov 2009 12:50 AM
Steve Haskin

To address a few points, Lenny and I never bashed California racing, only the synthetic surfaces. They have nothing to do with the beauty of the track. And I have to ask you, Exbourne, where were you before the Classic?

I just now was able to watch TVG's coverage on "Instant Classic" and loved it. I added a graph to the column about their coverage.

12 Nov 2009 1:48 AM

You are all heart Steve.  I loved your article.

The weather at Santa Anita is what makes it a great track to have the Breeders Cup and your proposal to rotate the Cup with the two others is great or at least I thought so, until I read CV's chilling post about his/her last memory of George Washington in the mud.

Watching Quality Road so terrorized was horrible.  I was so afraid of what could have happened to him.  The man who held onto the rein is very brave and should be honored for his action.  You know that fella had to be traumatized too.  He just couldn't let go of Quality Road.

Your commentary is always most welcome and your writing is beyond any words that I can put down on this blog.  So, just wow!

12 Nov 2009 1:58 AM

If people would recognize synthetic tracks as a separate surface, maybe I wouldn't mind.

But calling the Synthetic Mile...the BC "Dirt" Mile is kind of silly.  

And the people that think there is no difference between the two surfaces kind of get on my nerves.  

Zenyatta beat an excellent group of turf horses.  Gio Ponti, Twice Over, Rip Van Winkle....all champions on turf, but there's a reason why they race primarily on turf.  

Who knows if Summer Bird would have won if it had been a dirt race?  

Yes the trainer has said Zenyatta is better on dirt.  But we cannot draw conclusions based on a trainer's comments.  And her one dirt race does not bring us any conclusions either, as Brownie Points defeated Ginger Punch that day as well.  

If there are going to be synthetic tracks, I say let's be consistent and make all tracks synthetic.  

Either that or return to all tracks having dirt as their main surface.  

12 Nov 2009 2:32 AM

As always Steve great article. You say things in such elegant context. I whole heartedly agree, give the HOTY award to both superstars. You are absolutely right when you say that these 2 stars had a different path laid out for them this year. The fact is, that Zenyatta is 5 and Rachel is 3. That makes them racing together almost impossible unless Rachel races in older company which she did in the Woodward. She skipped the Beldame, so the Breeders Cup Classic was basically the only place these 2 could have met up, except for the Ladies Classic. I am personally glad they never faced each other. Just the drama alone of always discussing them is enough for me. Steve, you are always so positive and respectful it is with much pleasure that I read your columns.

I have going to Santa Anita since 1956 when my pop took me there to see Swaps run, that was a long time ago, wow. Finally, it may be a long, long time since we ever see the likes of these 2 great race horses come along, especially in the same year. I still get emotional thinking about it.

12 Nov 2009 2:33 AM
dr fager01

zenyatta was zensational,oh, i am sorry thats sensational, sorry bob, love rache but zenyatta did it on the biggest stage, not only thrilling us in the process but, showing why she is the man o'war of the 21st century go zenyatta and happy HOTY.

12 Nov 2009 3:49 AM
Julie J Stewart

Lovely article Steve - you captured so many moments especially of those horses who were lost in the shadow of the big mare.  Thank you for putting the Quality Road situation into perspective.  That was warrented.  When one is in the swirl of the Breeders Cup - it can be overwhelming.  Thanks for a clean wrap up about a very complicated weekend.  Kudo's.....  

12 Nov 2009 5:27 AM
Don from Delaware

Wonderful article AGAIN Steve, the insight info regarding QR and the RA/ZEN view are standouts. Let us all hope we get to see QR in the Cigar on a dry/safe track in Nov. If so I think he will be in the winners circle as he most probably would have been at CD in May. What a sweet boy he is

12 Nov 2009 5:49 AM
carolyn rogers

Something I think we haven't mentioned, Zenyatta is North America's all time richest filly. There has never been a filly to amass this before. If that ain't HOTY, nothing is.

12 Nov 2009 6:00 AM

You are so right about the gate guy who held on to was a miracle...and you are SO right that QR's reaction to the blindfold was fear...he was in total self-destruct mode. Maybe QR needs a some time on the quiet, rolling hills of Pennsylvania.

I'll say it again..schooling QR will not cure his fear...they should set up a gate and he should eat in it, plus as much pleasant association as they can think up for him.

The rest of the article was great...especially Joe's section...

12 Nov 2009 6:03 AM

Thanks for adding your kudos for Presious Passion. He and Zenyatta really exemplified the thrills of racing that can come from the speed horse and the closer.  What a treat having those two races one after the other!

Add me to those hoping for co-HOY honors somehow.  The campaign of the year and the race of the year for our dazzling duo.  Even if they can't find a way to do that, just think - in a few years we'll see them entering the hall of fame in back to back years.

You know, after Barbaro I haven't felt the same thrill.  This year has done a lot to remedy that.   We've had the warm fuzzy human interest stories, the litle heartaches, the to the wire battles, and the spectacular jaw dropping performances.   What a lucky year to be a fan!  Thank you to all of those who gave us such a bounty of memories at the track, and those who document them.

12 Nov 2009 6:11 AM

Yes,yes to the marathon! I don't know why I hear that it isn't relevant now.We need that test of strength of heart and bone.

 I vote for both of the

'wonder fillies'and they

don't need to face off!

It's fine to have both as

queens....What a year!

Poor Quality Road,I hope

he races again.

12 Nov 2009 6:39 AM

Thanks for the extensive update on QR, also for your remarks on the Marathon (I agree wholeheartedly).  Good point too about the differing campaigns of RA and Zenyatta--"apples and oranges."  As a footnote, I am one fan who is glad there never was a match race--a contrivance outside the usual management of each horse.

12 Nov 2009 6:45 AM
Pat in Florida

Dear Steve,

Couldn't agree more with all of your comments, but particularly on Horse of the Year.  How can you not give it to both Rachel and Zenyatta.  Both of these incomparable athletes deserve the awards and their connections are to be commended for always doing the right thing for their horses.  I hope racing does the right thing for them.  Co-Horses of the Year.

12 Nov 2009 7:06 AM
John Boudreau

Steve>>your the BEST of the BEST>>The Way Zenyatta BLASTED the Classic field>>HOY>>Presious Passion>>Warrior of the YEAR>>Good Luck!!!$$$$$

12 Nov 2009 7:15 AM
Steve W.

Very nice Steve!

12 Nov 2009 7:39 AM

  Regardless of whose fault it was, whether QR did not get enought training, or was handled poorly, one thing is the gate man that HELD ON  to QR literally SAVED QR's LIFE!!! Maybe even an outrider or someone in the stands. Can you imagine what might have happened if he let go?

I would like to see an award for this man. Gate handler of the year or something.

12 Nov 2009 7:46 AM

wonderfull read!! thanks  Steve.

quality road is  such a nice horse all my prayers will go to him  to get better,  now  as far  as  the HOTY  GOES there have been a lot of duel winners,  the first of  them was capot/coaltown followed by one count/native dancer,then bold ruler/dedicate. lets not forget  the moccasin/roman brother , then  there was fort marcy/personally split so its possable!!  all in all they both are champions in my book!!! all are  champs!! even us fans, yehaa for  the fans!! we are just as important!!nyfalcon

12 Nov 2009 7:48 AM
Fran Loszynski

Racehorses usually do what they want to do; we just think we have them in control.  They have every right to "act up".  Could we as humans race on an ankle as thin as a wrist at close to 80 miles an hour and keep our balance? I remember a line from "The Wind and The Lion" "If it is not worth losing, then it is not worth having!" Quality Road is just that, Quality.

12 Nov 2009 7:57 AM


As always you're right on. I just kept nodding yes to all your perspectives; Cloudy Knight, what a great race. We do need the Marathon as you suggest to keep the stamina in these great animals. My friend Bill from Alaska were standing next to you at Clocker's Corner and were treated first hand to yours and Lenny's humor and insight. Great show. I thought you guys were funny on the podcasts! You're right about Rosie at Clocker's Corner. She makes everyone feel welcome. I have been to all but 2 BCs and this by far was the greatest and made unforgettable by a wonderful race mare. We saw her school in the paddock Thursday morning, a treat I'll never forget!

12 Nov 2009 8:00 AM

Thank you for your comments on Quality Road.  He is such a beautiful and majestic horse and it broke my heart to see him so traumatized.  Hopefully he can get past this.  Right now, I just hope he makes it home safely.

12 Nov 2009 8:14 AM

on QR all this horse need is the peoples who know him the best is his first trainer . this horse miss his groom

12 Nov 2009 8:20 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve, good morning and thank you for the update on Quality Road per Dr. Bramlage. I did not send in a comment I wrote yesterday re: Quality Road as i did not feel my college psychology courses entitled me to be diagnosing Quality Road, but if you have claustrophobia, you recognize it right away. That was my feeling when i watched him being

loaded. I am glad he is not being written off as I have been pulling for him for a good while

beginning with his hoof issue. Hopefully with some TLC he can be coddled into accepting those huge metal constrictors. He is a beautiful racehorse and thanks to his owner for vanning him back to Belmont instead of placing him in another constricting metal machine, as that is exactly what i feel an airplane is.  

12 Nov 2009 8:20 AM

Steve great article as usual! But about the track, I do not want the Breeder's Cup out there every year, next year at Churchill Downs, I will be able to go because I can drive there, but I am not a rich person who can afford to fly out and use my vacation time. I feel that they should continue to do what they are doing and every so many years I will go when its at Churchill.

12 Nov 2009 8:26 AM

Steve--thank you so much for taking the side of the horse with regard to Quality Road.  He is indeed a beautiful colt with abilities that we may never get to fully appreciate.  Like many of us, I watched in horror as the gate crew did their job, whatever it took, to get that horse in the gate.  Unfortunately they went to the extreme way too soon and hardly gave him a chance.  I know from my own personal experience the frustrations of trying to get a horse into the closed space of a trailer and the endless hours re-training her to get into that closed metal tube.  The battle scars of previous owners and handlers remain today even though she does load.  I can only hope that the sheer terror the gate crew imposed on that beautiful animal can be overcome by gentle re-training.  It will be a lot of hard work--and, yes, magic--but will be worth it if it can be accomplished.

12 Nov 2009 8:45 AM
Soldier Course

The integrity of the Horse of the Year award itself has to be considered in the conversation about Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. I wouldn't want to see any ad hoc changes made for this year's award just because there are two close contenders. Let the regular voting process sort out this challenge.  

Politics will undoubtedly be a factor in this year's voting, as it has been in previous years. There is a subjective component to the process, and the public understands that. If it were simply a matter of raw scores, we'd know who's Horse of the Year right now.

Frankly I don't see what's wrong with taking factors such as good-sportsmanship and fair play on the part of the connections into consideration. The horse crossed the wire, but the force of human nature helped get her there. And the quality of that force is just as important as the strength of that horse.    

12 Nov 2009 8:46 AM

My hat is off to you Mr Haskin, you the best of the best, great article, both mares deserve HOY, If Zenatta is supposedly so good on dirt,why didn"t they run her on it, would of been real nice to have seen it,her race race was a thing of beauty, Will be very interesting to see Racheal come back next year, stronger and more developed, Quality Road can"t see defending him, not his first go around, he could of really hurt someone or worse another horse,needs to be minus two. All articles and interviews were great nice to see the human element that is ivolved with horse racing, it is a sport that takes all lot away and relly gives a little back, everyone in this business pays a big price to be in it, I was relly dissapointed by the lack of more horseman particapating in BC, a few names Lucas,Zito, and others, lot of heavy hitters no where around, that I thought made this BC suspect.

12 Nov 2009 8:48 AM
Barb C

Steve, thank you for the recap of the BC, but especially for the updates on Quality Road. I'm sure there are many race fans, besides me, who would like to know how he fairs through the journey he's about to embark upon (not just the travel, but the mental conditioning to the gate).  It would be such a diservice to everyon concerned, including the racing industry, if they can't get him past this.  I've watch him race and his and his talent and ability hasn't even been tapped into, what a loss it would be to racing if we aren't able to see him as he matures.  Is there any way possible that we can continue to receive updates on his progress?  I'm not sure where I could go to obtain this information so if you could provide any guidence I would certainly appreciate your help.  Thanks again for your coverage.  

12 Nov 2009 8:57 AM

Has anyone inquired why the loading crew did not attempt to back QR into the gate?  I agree with several who have questioned the misguided useage of a hood.  

GulchFan, the one part of your comments I will agree with is the artsy-craftsy camera work by the Networks.  One of the worst by ABC was a few years back for the Preakness - They showed the post parade from a low rear shot.  As a looks player, I did have a bit of a problem ascertaining which was the "Ready" tail.

12 Nov 2009 9:01 AM

TAIRATERCES, you are correct. It is the trainer's job to tell the gate crew what to do with the horse - especially in a race as important as the Classic.

Todd Pletcher should stand up and take responsibility for what happened. I have yet to hear him apologise for anything.

Claustrophobic? Then why does Quality Road easily walk right in and stand quietly in the morning? And why does he walk into a horsevan? I had a horse who was truly claustrophobic - he completely destroyed a horse van after being led into one. He also would freak out if anything touched his legs. He was ruled off the gate at Finger Lakes, and became a foxhunter.

NO, Quality Road does not like his life in that barn, and should go to another barn.

Yes, he's a smart horse, which can be part of the problem.

12 Nov 2009 9:03 AM

Steve, your final thoughts on BC 2009 are right on. As I watched Zenyatta win the Classic, with tears in my eyes, My thought was this sport NEEDS more moments like this!  

12 Nov 2009 9:11 AM
Barbara W

Is it just me, or did you all hear that helicopter hovering over the track with its blades whirring? I thought to myself at the time that it was a wonder they were not all crazy. I noticed that even Zenyatta had a problem getting in, and I was yelling at the tv, "Get that helicopter out of there!"

12 Nov 2009 9:12 AM

What the gate crew did to Quality Road was beyond terrible. The blindfold was the worst.

12 Nov 2009 9:15 AM

This might sound weird, but maybe Quality Road's owners should call on Pat Parelli.  I was at one of his presentations last yr. and he got a horse to load into a trailer that had given his owners a 5-hour battle about loading, so that they could get him to the presentation in the 1st place.  Might be worth a try at least.  With that kind of extreme fear, Quality Road might never race again.

12 Nov 2009 9:20 AM

It is with great sadness that I read Chris Baker's comments on what will happen when Quality Road returns to Belmont this week.  To immediately start gate work with this traumatized thoroughbred seems counter productive to me.  We do not sent traumatized soldiers immediately back into a war zone.  If Quality Road were my horse, I would give him some peace and quiet with lots of time in the sun in a large paddock at a farm known for TLC treatment of horses.

After Quality Road showed signs of healing and less fear, I would slowly begin retraining.  The one thing he does not need now is more pressure.  He has aleady won a great deal of money so that should not be an issue.

12 Nov 2009 9:30 AM
Lupe Aranda

Way to go, Haskin, defending the honor of Quality Road, the great great grandson of awesome Secretariat!!!  You are the best, you truly KNOW these magnificent creatures, the horse, the racing throughbred!!! You are 100%+ correct in your evaluation of what happened.  The famous horse wisperer, Monty Roberts has been called to help in the past to help throughbreds who have a fear of the gate...hopefully his owners and all concerned can look into this.  He is a promising CHAMP!!!



12 Nov 2009 9:31 AM

Quality Road made a very clear statement.  You have all missed the point.  The gate is where the race begins.  Forget the pain of 2 quarter cracks.  The Travers distance was clearly too much for him.  Animals don't lie. Quality Road knows he shouldn't run again. He made the strongest statement he could to save his own life.  He had a panic attack because he knew what was coming if he walked into that gate.  Perhaps Dr. Bramlege and company should do a little more investigating.  The last horse I remember who refused to go to the track was first gelded, finally ran, and died on the track from a massive heart attack or hemmorhage.  Take another look. Retire that horse.

12 Nov 2009 9:38 AM

I only hope they keep the Breeder's Cup rotating. Churchill, Belmont, and everywhere else. Keep bouncing it around. The fact that there were no catastrophic breakdowns at SA is just plain luck. Doesn't anyone remember opening week of the winter meet last year? Churchill in '10 will be awesome!

12 Nov 2009 9:40 AM

Dear Steve,

Thanks for another brilliant and poignant read.  Like others, I was dismayed and distraught watching Quality Road's terror.  He was obviously fighting for his life (he thought). It is a miracle he wasn't seriously hurt or worse.

Thank God his connections realized he was terrified when he wouldn't board the plane.  It sounds like they have his best interest at heart and will not rush him.

Co-Horses of the Year would bring a lot of positive publicity to racing.  I'm all for it!

12 Nov 2009 9:42 AM

As a Horse owner my heart went out to Quality Road, the colt was scared to death.  Maybe someone like Monty Robert could help in his retraining.  There might be some thought to widening the starting gate stalls, with the size and width of some of these horses the opening is way to tight.  I know I had a mare that was so big when she loaded into a trailer she looked wedged in,  we got an extra high extra wide trailer for her next trip. She was a quarter racing mare with a rear end the size of a tank.

As far as Zenyatta and Rachel go I agree with you, Rachel is a great filly and Zenyatta is a once in a lifetime mare, they should share Horse of the Year. This year's Breeder's Cup was one of the best I have ever seen. It was great to watch the races without a major injury.  I'm all for Santa Anita every other year with Churchill, Belmont and even Woodbine.   The Breeder's cup I went to in Toronto was outstanding.

12 Nov 2009 9:49 AM

Poor QUALITY ROAD!   This horsejust can't seem to catch a break!  As a horse owner and trainer (show horses) I can tell you that the old "forcing them in" just DOES NOT WORK and is DAMN DANGEROUS not only for the horse but the handlers around the horse.  At 17 hands this is a lot of horse to shove into that small area.  Perhaps the "brain trusts" that run racing would realize that MAYBE the gate needs to be re-designed to enable the LARGER individuals some comfort.   Blindfolding a horse with the "smarts" that Quality Road has, is NEVER a good thing and something that is self defeating.  Unfortunately for his trainer, they now have to undo something that took minutes to create but will probably take WEEKS to undo.  

God bless the handler who hung onto him.....I've BEEN in that situation with a scared 1,000 horse and it is unbearably HARD to hang on and hope YOU don't get too badly hurt, but you just CAN'T let go for the safety of the horse.  Whoever made the decision to BLINDFOLD this horse needs to have a little "re-education" on handling SCARED horses.......and they need to LOSE THE WHIPS!!!

12 Nov 2009 9:52 AM


What a superb essay. You are an invaluable ambassador for our sport and a knowledgeable fan without peer.

I agree with every point you made especially HoY to both RA and Z and having Santa Anita as host BC venue every other year. This year and last the BC experience out there has been spectacular and a true "vacation" destination. Skewed results on the synthetic surface remain the only problem, although handicapping those races is a rather enjoyable exercise. I'd much prefer though that the BC synthetic races at SA produce results that are more meaningful in the big picture.

As for Zenyatta, I look back and wish she had lost a race early in her career. Had she not been burdened with an undefeated record her overly-cautious connections would likely have turned her loose on dirt in other major races outside of CA. As it is, they never got to the bottom of her on synthetic.

12 Nov 2009 9:54 AM

Thanks again Steve for an outstanding piece of writing.  And for re-visiting the story of Quality Road. Watching that gate incident on t.v. was painful and terrifying; one can only imagine what that poor horse was feeling. I was so afraid he'd get loose but, like you said, kudos to the assistant starter for hanging on - it could have been a disaster.  QR needs a long rest and loving care and if he can't get past this, so be it; retire him and hope that his future is brighter. I was one of the ones anxious to see him to return to his Florida Derby form with his electrifying performance. We know he's the real deal-- just a shame we may not get to see it.

I guess I'm like many who thought Zenyatta had no way of winning the Classic after her slow start and lollygagging at the back. Despite that being her style, it seemed the field just bounded away from her.  Never thought she'd pull it off but glad she did.  It's great for the sport, the fans and all her connections. Such gracious owners and a classy low-key trainer.  When you can load a racetrack with fans of all ages, chanting and carrying posters and signs -- cheering for a HORSE....  that says something!    Which leads me to this:  We have TWO horses who produced this love-fest and who thrilled us with their accomplishments and who have left us awestruck  (by the way, I think "awesome" is one of the most overused words in the english language -- but it very appropriate when discussing these ladies)    I think there are a couple of points that need to be remembered when considering Horse of the Year and apologies if I repeat what others have already said.

* let's not have short memories; just several weeks ago, Rachel Alexandra was making everyone come up with new adjectives; and now people are blaming HER for dodging the Breeders Cup -- like she had a say in the matter

* the HORSE is voted on NOT the owner (I believe there's a separate category for that) Those who dislike Mr Jackson have to disregard him when considering his filly as a HOTY candidate

* by the same token, the likeability of the Mosses & John Sherrifs shouldn't be a trump card over Mr Jackson -- again -- it's the horse

* the complete difference in both horses' campaigns.

* the quality of the competition and the status of the races won

* what both of these fillies have brought to the racing world

* that these two didn't or don't need to race each other to determine who's "better"  What they each accomplished in their own right, their body of work should be the measure

Just a few points to ponder.  I wanted to also say that I think those basic ideas seem to have slipped into the backs of peoples' minds.  Point in case:  Jerry Bailey --- who I always thought was a class-act and highly intelligent sportsman who brings the fan right into the heart of the sport and doesn't talk over our heads --- said something that bothered me after the Classic.  He very emphatically stated that his choice, hands down, was Zenyatta for Horse of the Year because the connections of Rachel Alexandra ducked the competition by choosing not to "show up"  (again, like she had a choice) and implying that she took the easy way out by going to the Woodward, which he claimed was less of a challenge than the Travers.  Why the mudslinging???  I'd like to see some playbacks of Jerry's (and others' ) reactions to RA's races after she beat the boys THREE TIMES in GR1 races.  All I gotta do is replay the races and listed to Tom Durkin and I get chills all over again)  I was disappointed that Jerry seemed to discount Rachel in the aftermath of Zenyatta's triumph.  Not to take anything away from her -- I had joyful tears in my eyes too.  But I think it very unfair for Jerry or anyone out there to bash Rachel simply because of her owner's decisions.    

I hope that those who have the vote for the Eclipse awards will be able to enter their choice or choices for Horse of the Year and that both of these deserving fillies are rewarded.  We will probably never see the likes of them again at the same time.   After all, they've had co-winners in the Academy Awards before and that did not seem to be a negative (props to Katherine Hepburn & Barbra Striesand!)  And we've also had dead-heats in a few significant races (including BC) and those winners were equally deserving.

When you can't separate the top two, perhaps a co-winner is the best solution.  And enough of saying Jess Jackson avoided the competition.....the likeable and classy Mr & Mrs Moss chosse NOT to send Zenyatta back East where there could have been the showdown bewteen her and RA; nor did they opt to take on males prior to the Classic.  We will NEVER know how she would have fared -- we can say she probably would have won, based on what she did in the BC but that lies in the land of "what if." So all of our speculating as to what horse did more and what could have been if they met head to head is irrelavant.  BOTH gave us all we could ever hope for in racing, and more.

Lastly, great job to Santa Anita and all involved there and ESPN's coverage was top notch.

12 Nov 2009 9:56 AM
hb compton

Just my opinion. On years that the Breeders cup is held at a dirt track the marathon should be moved to the turf.  There only needs to be one juvenile turf race with the entries split evenly between the top males and females. This would make this race a true grade 1. Then, on dirt years, add a 1 1/4 mile turf race for horses where a mile is to short and 12 furlongs is to far. Alot of great horses in the last few years fell into this category.  This way when the Cup is held on the dirt you can keep the euro's heavily involved.

12 Nov 2009 10:03 AM

Steve,  great column.  Thank you so much for your accolades on those great racehorses Cloudy's Knight and Presious Passion.  Both ran tremendous races and should have been given trophies for their performances.

   Agree that the Marathon needs to remain in the BC and that they need to add more distance events not only to the BC but also to racing in general.

  HOY goes to Zenyatta hands down.  RA's campaign was manipulated so that she faced easy fields.  Z absolutely blew away any of the colts that RA managed to barely beat.  Z. beat the best in the world.  In reality Gio Ponti deserves HOY more than Rachel.

  And thank you for your stand against the gate crew's actions with Quality Road.  One of the worst loading situations I have ever seen.   And whoever cleared the helicopter to fly over the gate should be fired.  Also the idiots that popped the whip behind the horse.   Interestingly enough I have read tho cannot confirm that Velasquez gave the gate crew specific instructions on how to load the horse---which were ignored.  And then asked them not to use the blindfold.  If true then the starter and gate crew should be fired.   While the handler deserves some credit for hanging on to QR, it never should have gone that far in the first place.   And the outrider who maneuvered his horse in front of QR deserves as much if not more credit for averting a total disaster.  

   I have watched gate crews at several tracks and feel that the one at SA is one of the worst.

   As for Dr. Bramlage I was shocked to hear him describe QR in those terms.  I attended a forum at which Dr. Bramlage spoke and also informally answered questions from a group of us who surrounded him and felt that if anything he was more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the horse.

   A loud NO on Santa Anita being the host to the BC every other year.   The BC needs to travel to different parts of the country to draw in local fans and give them exposure to the best that horse racing has to offer.  In Europe, the horses race at totally different racetracks with widely varying conditions in multiple countries.   And horses compete in adverse weather conditions that's what makes them champions.   Please don't ever forget Forego's charge in the slop he detested carrying 145 pounds to win.  And Personal Ensign's tremendous win over WC.  I would attribute the zero breakdown in the BC this year more to the fact that each horse was examined at least 3 times by a group of 8 veterinarians in the week leading up to the races than to the Pro Ride track.  You must have forgotten the series of horrific breakdowns which occurred earlier this year at SA.

  But again kudos on your column(s) and coverage of the BC this year.   Well done and well written! Thank you.

12 Nov 2009 10:05 AM
Bill Marshall

Difficult to believe you wouldn't include Einstein in your group of "hard luck horses."  You amended your previous column to note that Einstein was forced to "steady briefly."  Actually, he was in reverse for more than a sixteenth of a mile as Rip van Winkle stopped cold directly in front of him with traffic to both sides.  The chart caller had it better, stating that Einstein "was shuffled back after steadying sharply."  This horse, which has probably been the most consistent older male running at the top level this year, deserved better.

12 Nov 2009 10:12 AM

Mr.Haskin, thank you for recognizing the tremendous old warriors, the tragedy of Quality Road, and the necessity of awarding HOY to BOTH Rachel and Zenyatta. If more turf writers had the experience and insight to focus on the horses and their stories, racing would be in better shape!

I hope someone follows up about the helicopters. I also heard them and was shocked-few things upset horses more, and why add to the already tense, loud, and chaotic atmosphere of major races? Unbelievable that the track would allow them and that the "deciders" at S.A. would consider them more important than the welfare of the horses and riders.

Finally, please use all your influence to advocate for the joint HOY award. It would be terribly unfair to not recognize one of these amazing mares-that is the danger to the integrity of the awards. Choosing only one would not only be unfair on merit, but would (rightly) alienate many people, myself included-who would always wonder about the underlying dynamics. Last year's voting was embarassing; someone needs to step up and reclaim the integrity of that process-lets keep it about the HORSES.

12 Nov 2009 10:17 AM
Soldier Course

I worried about Quality Road's gate incident becoming yet another public relations disaster for the sport. If the Classic had not had such a storybook ending, that could easily have happened. That's something else to thank Zenyatta for.  

I also heard the helicopter - at the time I did not know what the noise was. Did the helicopter appear about the same time that Quality Road got upset?

Perhaps the industry should consider uniform rules for gate-scratching a fractious horse. Allow X number of attempts to load the horse with normal efforts, such as lock-and-load - if they don't work, then scratch. Don't allow blindfolds or other extraordinary measures. It seems so unfair to the other horses and riders when there's a prolonged incident like the one last Saturday.    

12 Nov 2009 10:22 AM
Bill Daly

It really hurts me to see what happened to this horse at the gate Saturday.  I'm certain the gate crew did all they could do and all they've been trained to do in these situations.  Too bad they don't have a horse whisperer to call on for help.  At that point nothing would have helped.  I think Mr. Evans ought to find one now to deal with the psychological wreckage, however.  This is really sad.

12 Nov 2009 10:24 AM
Bill Marshall

I believe you have it right about future sights for the Breeders' Cup.  Most importantly, replace the synthetic track at Santa Anita with a state-of-the-art dirt track. Then alternate the sights between Churchill and Belmont on the one hand and Santa Anita on the other.  I'm not saying that there isn't a place in North American racing for a synthetic surface - if racing is to be conducted where the track frequently freezes in winter (eg. Turfway).  But it's not the surface over which championships should be decided.  Wish Keeneland would get this message.

12 Nov 2009 10:29 AM
Barbara W

Agreeing with Blue Hen completely. Pat Parelli could show them all how to work that gate problem out. No one was listening to the horse.

12 Nov 2009 10:37 AM
Judy B

Generally when a horse is suddenly as adamant about not going in the gate as Quality Road was it is because they are in pain somewhere and don't want to run. Thank God that man on the gate crew hung on to him when he broke through-what a tragedy that could have been.

I think back on Barbaro's Preakness when he uncharacteristically broke through the gate prior to the start. The first thing I thought was that they need to scratch him-something is wrong. They loaded him and we all know what happened 6 strides away from the gate.

Quality Road is not a rogue or crazy-he was just trying to tell us the best way that he could that something just wasn't quite right. Thank God the Vet and Stewards listened.

12 Nov 2009 10:38 AM
Noelle D

Wonderful wrap-up (as usual).  Ditto some of the above comments.  

I also heard the hovering helicopter and wondered whether that might be causing Quality Road's panic, but my first thought was a bad training job done by Pletcher - he was obviously aware of QR's gate phobia - it sure looked like something wrong with the training.  

Agree entirely about Rachel and Zenyatta.  

12 Nov 2009 10:38 AM

Great article, as usual, Steve! Agree with you 100%-both of the fillies share HOY, it really is quite as simple as that!

12 Nov 2009 10:39 AM
steve from st louis

Exbourne: It probably will be cooler next year for the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs than it was at Santa Anita and everyone may need a jacket AND an umbrella.So what? You think having to wear a top coat will spoil the two days of racing? Your realities are bit  skewed. It may even get dark at night.

12 Nov 2009 10:42 AM

Thank you once again for such a great article. I was watching the Classic on my DVR (was out for all of Saturday) and watching Quality Road's struggles brought tears to my eyes, and once again I cried when I read yesterday that he was so traumatized he couldn't even get on the plane. I truly hope he makes a full recovery and that we'll be treated to seeing him on the track again.

And thank you for your words about HOTY! I really can't imagine choosing between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, for the reasons you stated. They are both brilliant and their campaigns were so different. I'd be happy with a tie, because to me they are both horses of the year, for different reasons. But even if one gets it and the other is a runner-up, I don't care. Like you said a trophy isn't necessary to secure their places in history. It's been an amazing year and it was refreshing to have people talk to me about horse racing, not because of Eight Belles or Barbaro, but because of Zen and RA!

12 Nov 2009 11:01 AM

Your comments about Quality Road's trauma at the gate were absolutely accurate. It's a black eye for the Breeders' Cup to make the regrettable decisions to persist and then blindfold him. I also have problems with Dr. Bramage's insensitivity to Quality Road. I suppose he was just minimizing the truth for the TV audience.  Many of us who have been around horses of any breed know enough to tell the difference between one who's just acting up and one who is totally terrified.  I appreciate your comments on the tragic incident.

Quarter Horse Owner and Thoroughbred Racing Fan in Texas

12 Nov 2009 11:05 AM

Shuvee- I agree that there is something else going on there.  I can't totally blame the blindfold.   It was part of it to be sure because he was so worked up, but I have seen the blindfold used many, many times and have not seen a horse react like that solely because of it.  Quality Road has other issues.  It would be nice if they turned him out for the rest of the year, worked on his mental state and making him happy and bring him back in FL in the spring.  I know that when JO Tobin ran his last race, Jeff Fell rode him in New York.  After he won, they interviewed him, and he said that he'd never been on a thoroughbred that was at full speed one stride out of the gate.  He just hung on to his mane and let him run around the track.  This horse hates to race and I'm glad for him that this is his last race.  It was the scariest ride I've ever had.  We don't want that to happen to Quality Road.  Turn him out and get him happy, please.

12 Nov 2009 11:13 AM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

     As usual, Bravo!  Great summary of two splendid days of racing!  First and Foremost, I was glad it was two safe days of racing(Hope Lillie Langtry heals nicely).  Hats off to Presious Passion and Cloudy's Knight, All Heart!  What an amazing year of ups and downs, Here is to 2010 being as exciting as this past year!  Finally, On Horse of the Year, You said it Perfectly Mr. Haskin, "you don’t need a statue to secure your place in the history books", So True...

12 Nov 2009 11:16 AM
Racing Through the Ages

Thanks for more superlative narrative, Steve. And hear, hear for dual HOY, Zenyatta AND Rachel!

12 Nov 2009 11:19 AM
Gary at Rough Creek


Great insights.  There were many tremendous performances in The Breeder's Cup, and not all of them came in first.  Thank you so much for not only seeing the "winners", but all the great athletes.

With all due respect though I must disagree with the idea of "Co-HOTY".  I think it would hurt a fundamental understanding of horse racing.  It is possible for a horse to come first in a race and not be the best horse in the race, as I'm sure you know.  

Rachel had a brilliant year.  She should be voted the Champion that she is.  But at least two of her Grade 1 victories didn't come in Grade 1 fields.  Due to weights and her running style, she wasn't even the best horse in all of her victories.  The two races I refer to are The Preakness and The Woodward, where she was receiving 5 and 8 pounds respectively and yet prevailed by diminishing margins while all out.

I compare those finishes and those races to what Zenyatta accomplished in The Classic.  She was giving weight to the three year old colts and won going away at 10 furlongs.  She looked like she could go around again...and win again!

One of the fillies that she "repeatedly beat up on" won The Ladies Classic on Friday.

In my opinion, Zenyatta is head and shoulders above Rachel, especially - but not only - at 10 (and I predict 12) furlongs.

Zenyatta deserves to stand alone at the head of the class. No "co-HOTY" for me.

For the life of me, I don't see why being named a Champion isn't enough.  

12 Nov 2009 11:21 AM

Steve, I agree with you wholeheartedly on the marathon.  We indeed need to add stamina  back into the racehorse.  I was so disappointed when they kept shortening the Jockey Gold Cup. And I must say that Presious Passion is such a joy to watch.  And for Cloudy Knight I was so hoping that he got his nose down in time:\

12 Nov 2009 11:24 AM
mike rullo


thankyou, put in a safe dirt track with a good cushion. do you have any influence on this situation?


the sports tracker on the bottom of the screen during the running of the race doesnt bother you ??

why does espn need to give football scores during the running of a 2 minute race. they have espn news.

12 Nov 2009 11:27 AM

Now it becomes a Todd bashing?

If Todd was not at the gate John was in charge and relaying what needed to be done. Didn't you all see him directing the gate crew?

The difference between mornings and race time are totally different. We can school them in the paddock during the races, we cannot school them in the gate then. We do the best we can with them to get them ready. The connections of this colt are suffering far more than any of you are.

This horse has had a gate problem since the get go, had it with Jimmy. Those of you speaking from 'expertise' might want to train one of them before you constantly criticize someone who really does train. Those of you letting your personal jealousy well not personal because you don't know him, but you saying the horse doesn't like that barn? You don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Short of escorting the horse to the gate, Todd could only watch as the gate crew followed SOP. There are a series of things they do, before putting them on the list or worse, scratching them.

To ME the whole set up at Santa Anita, in the saddling enclosure etc is potentially hazardous.

As far as giving the horse time to 'recover' from the experience?

Bad idea. Haven't you ever heard that if you get bucked off climb right back on the horse?

If not the 'bad' event is indelibly etched in the mind and the horse will NEVER recover.

Bob is a great gate man. If he fails there are tons of people who can work with this horse. Parelli, Roberts and C.Cox has given clinics on JUST this problem.

Or they could just give up on him, retire him and hear the shouting about that.

Seems like anymore we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

12 Nov 2009 11:31 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for your update on Quality Road, Steve. Your assessment of his emotional state is exactly right. When I heard Dr. Bramlage's statement calling him a juvenile delinquent, I was taken aback, thinking this was out of character for Dr. B. I also agree that this has been a singular year with two female horses doing things so exceptional that it might warrant a dual award--it could be a lifetime or more before we see this again, if ever.

BlueHen---The Pat Parelli idea is excellent! His philosophy in dealing with equines is that if a horse answers, "no", it's because someone asked the wrong question.

12 Nov 2009 11:31 AM

In some defense of the gate crew...had they had only QR to worry about I'm sure they would have tried more aptience but they 11 other pent up horses who knew the gate was going to spring open any moment...they had Zenyatta who had to pushed and dragged into the gate when they reloaded her...these were some of the most valuable horses in racing...

QR's not a bad boy for not loading...but it was not the gate crew's job to school him at the expense of the rest of the horses. If you listen to the conversation going on there is some concern about the other horses perhaps reacting to QR acting up...

Gate crews do a great job...they are quite patient with 2 year-olds, but at some point with a "typical" horse you put your foot down and get them to load...99.9% of the time the well-trained pro is going to do what's expected.

12 Nov 2009 11:36 AM

An overall good column as usual, loved your personal highlights , but for the first time

I am disappointed and disagree with Haskins ! I feel you are pandering to the most current- emotional- feelings of a crowd- with your statement of not being analytical and looking at the season's record, etc.

That you could actually equate Zenyatta's season with Rachel's is very distressing to see in  a professional like you.

Of course, you can't be analytical because Rachel's season was so hard, brilliant, and record-shattering that you can't compare Z's 4 previous races, can you ?

And who has she raced ? She once beat Ginger Punch and the rest are lesser, very lesser lights.

And in this BC Classic, she beat

Summer Bird and a few Euro grass horses. You know Rip VW had bad feet the week of the BC, and he could have been the only threat.

Look at the distance that Rachel beat SummerBird and look at Z's .

I feel that for you to equate this is emotionalism , not racing facts and truths, and I feel very let down. Go read Bill Finley, Gary West, and Tim Wilkins for three good examples of factual, clear based racing columns.

12 Nov 2009 11:36 AM

Great article Steve...seems like the majestic Santa Anita Racetrack agrees with you.  Your articles are never too long for me.  I'm always anxiously awaiting the next with snippets that only you can provide!!

12 Nov 2009 11:39 AM
Pam S.

Agree with those who are advocating a rest for QR, before his gate retraining begins.  But I hear he is still being considered for the Cigar Mile.  Seems too soon.  As far as the gate crew, I understand their feeling that they could not continue to "finesse" the horse indefinitely with all those other horses standing in the gate for the $5M BC Classic.  If I were one of them, I would have been in as bad a shape as the horse.  It didn't turn out well but could have been far worse.

Nyfalcon is right, awards have been split in the past.  I remember reading that.  What is different about it now??

12 Nov 2009 11:41 AM
Lou in TX

Steve, thanks for the great article. I was wondering if you could help keep us updated on QR? Like if he made it safely back home and how he is doing farther down the road. I think you can see by all our concerns for this beautiful horse that any later updates would be greatly appreciated. Hope his owners and all involved with him have lots of love & patience with him.

12 Nov 2009 12:06 PM

Steve, what a great wrap-up, with so much heart.  I agree, the individual at the gate who looked like he would lay his own life down before letting Quality Road slip away deserves a heroes reward.  And thanks for spreading the word about QR's temperment.  I think we sometimes forget or dismiss the basic nature of these horses and easily bypass all they really are required to do that is totally foreign to their nature. are in my prayers for total physical and emotional recovery!!

Pressious Passion and Cloudy Night!!!!!  Who won their races??  Watching both of these elders run, fight, and not give up one little bit made their races worth watching and it reminds me, again, of just what gallant hearts these magnificient animals have.  Please keep the of the only venues where you KNOW you are seeing the full heart of the thoroughbred.

As for the  incredible, awesome, "once in a lifetime" experiences of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, in one year???  I certainly hope "they" are reading your article and taking heed.  Let's look at it this way:  left lobe brain activity is considered to be male and linear, in other words, a great place for the data, numbers, and statistics.  Right lobe brain function is considered to be female...creative, non-linear, more instinctive/intuitive and heart driven.  So, our two top horses for HOY are female.  Are we going to decide HOY with our traditional left lobe and male mind when we, possibly for the only time in history, have TWO all time great females?  Or, can we switch to the right lobe, go with heart and heed our screaming instincts and creativity, and give it to them both?  Let's see what this sport is REALLY made of.  If we as a sport can install synthetics, and let that distort all time records to such a degree that we get totally confused and turned around in comparing the historical past with the present...certainly we can, without apology, change the traditional surface of the Eclipse awards this year and simply do the only right thing...give it to them both.

12 Nov 2009 12:10 PM


Great wrap up as usual.

I thought that nameless gate worker should win the award for savior of racing.  Had Quality Road gotten away - in front of that type of on site and television audience...I don't even want to think about it.  The replays would have been endless and the outrage would have made the Eight Belles tragedy pale by comparison.

One honest guy with guts and a strong arm holding onto a terrified 1200 lb animal - honestly - that gate man deserves a raise and then some!

12 Nov 2009 12:18 PM
Kate Harper

Another memorable article, Mr. Haskin.  After watching the trouble Lookin at Lucky had, after the Juvenile I told my friends he is still my Derby pick.  He's really going to be something as a 3-year-old, hopefully, he'll stay healthy.  I've got a lot of respect for Gotta Have Her as well.

Thank you for your lovely tribute to Dr. Rauch and you perfectly captured the demons in QR's mind.  It would be wonderful if he can overcome his gate fears and return to give RA a run for the money.  Same with Careless Jewel.

I respect what RA has done in her memorable year, but will always feel Zenyatta should be the sole HOY recipient this year.  Not since Secretariat's Belmont have I witnessed such a tremendous horse who simply dominates her sport. She will be a legend.    

12 Nov 2009 12:23 PM



12 Nov 2009 12:25 PM

Steve, many thanks for a great article. Thanks for honoring so many fine horses. I did not like the camera coverage of the races, however. Shot selection was so choppy that it was hard to follow the flow of a race, and the coverage of the stretch run and the finish was especially poor. I notice the only reporters you didn't single out for praise were Kenny Mayne and Hank Goldberg, and again I agree. Especially now that we have Randy Moss's oddsboard, an excellent feature, could we please turn Mayne and Goldberg out to pasture?

12 Nov 2009 12:30 PM

You wright beautifully and eloquently and put onto paper what I am thinking, amazing --you must have ESP!! Talk about mistakes in the handling of QR, coulda, shoulda, woulda --what can you say after the fact.  Hopefully, this will put awareness into the gate people on how to better access a situation and resolve it more effectively.  However, since horses are flight fight response creatures; when that drive for self preservation kicks in, its all about risk management to both horse and personel.   As for giving HOY to both fillies, I admit they are both unique individuals and outstanding breed representations.  Reminiscent of the Ali and Frazier fight --that was touted as the fight of the century.   But at the end of the fight there was only one victor.

As it should be here as well...  

12 Nov 2009 12:30 PM

Thank goodness for the assistant starter who hung onto the for dear life to the blindfolded and panicked Quality Road doesn't even come close. Any vague exposure to horses should have told those handlers to take that terror-stricken horse away and the fool who ordered the blindfold should be sent back to the school for common sense. The loan handler who hung on avoided a horrendous disaster and he deserves the thanks of all who love horses and racing.

12 Nov 2009 12:31 PM
It aint easy being good!

I have been on the QR bandwagon all year. I blame the owners for switching from j jerkens to pletcher. I dont know why they made the switch in the first place. If you watched QR after the switch of trainers his loading process became worse and worse. He will be 4 next year and hopefully he will be trained correctly and a bit older and wiser because this horse has amazing talent and might be HOY next year.

12 Nov 2009 12:34 PM
Lady Ruffian

Steve - your articles make my day everytime. you're words convey emotion so well. wonderful piece.

Thank you for making a case for Quality Road and for saying it exactly right; the racing industry needs him back as a 4yo.

As for the HOTY talk Zenyatta v. Rachel - who cares at this point. we've witnessed two fillies who've stamped their place in history this year. their greatness can and should be appreciated without any award or title.

12 Nov 2009 12:39 PM

Couldn't agree with you more, Steve. The gate handlers should have tried a front load of QR, backing him into the gate w/o blindfold. I, too, suffer with claustophobia so I really understood his panic. He has a lot of mental work ahead of him...

12 Nov 2009 12:43 PM
The Rock


I'd have to disagree with you on the telecast from ABC/ESPN. Fortunately, I have the options to switch from TVG & HRTV over here in Southern California and the ESPN Telecast with its Camera angles just don't do it for me. TVG really captured a lot of personal emotion between the crews on the set and Zenyatta. Paul Lo Duca hollering out at Mike Smith was a pretty cool moment. If they're going to use different camera angles, at least take a page out of what Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai & Australia are doing. They seem to capture everything a fan would want to see during a race without going dizzy and figuring out where each horse is.

On the QR issue, in Europe horses are blindfolded all the time. I don't see what the big deal is for trying to use the blindfold on this horse. Trying to get a 1200 pound animal into a starting gate is hard enough job as it is. Let's cut these guys a little slack.

12 Nov 2009 12:46 PM

About Quality Road.  I agree he was scared out of his wits, but why?  This was not his first race and he never has acted like this before.  I felt so sorry for him and was thankful he did not hurt himself more.  I don't think Pletcher is the right trainer for him and he never should have been moved into his barn.  He has so much potential and I hope he can come back.  He needs a trainer like John Sheriff who is so patient with his horses.

12 Nov 2009 12:53 PM

This is one of the greatest articles you have ever written Steve.  Brilliant and compassionate.  I am literally sobbing reading it.  The pressure-cooker that I was already in at the start of the race, worrying about Zenyatta, was made virtually unbearable by the frightening incident with one of my favorite horses, Quality Road.  I thought he was going to kick the metal starting gate and shatter his hindlegs.  At one point I thought for sure he had gotten loose and would be running wildly down the track, and crash into something to his death.  I'm still sobbing thinking about it.  Thank you God that you were present to save him.  Why did they keep trying to stuff him in when he was violently opposed to it?  Did they actually think they could change his mind?  As you said, he is a massive horse.  Using car terms he is built like a Hummer limousine.  He is still at SA because now he refuses to get on the plane -- he is so traumatized -- and worked 4 furlongs today going 48.60.

12 Nov 2009 12:56 PM

Have to disagree with your comments regarding the ESPN coverage...The cuts gave me a headache and made the races difficult to follow. Please just go back to the good old pan shot..and speaking of good old, can't wait to get back on dirt next year.

12 Nov 2009 1:21 PM

Hi Steve,

You've done it again - a perfectly written, thought out and warm analysis of racing's stars on their biggest day!  THANK YOU!!

Regarding Quality Road, I was very frightened watching his traumatic event - by screaming at the people on the TV, as they only heightened his fright.  Maybe SA needs Monty Roberts input on sensitivity training at post time?  Maybe it is time for remodeling of the gates??  The majority of horses are larger today.  Even the top metal frames of the gates are too low for a rearing frightened horse.

Remember Smarty Jones?

Living in North Carolina now, which is not horseracing friendly like wonderful New York - must have had something to do with my dissatisfaction of the ESPN coverage.  Too many lengthy advertisements - one particular break for ads was - without exaggeration - 30 minutes long, so I missed a lot of vignettes you wrote about.

I love Zenyatta and Rachel equally and wish the two camps would just chill out.  They both deserve Horse of the Year Awards.  Just like we will never the see likes of Secretariat again, we will never see the likes of these to females again either, especially in the same year.

The synthetics are not a bed roses to run on - I understand temperatures on it can rise over 125 degrees and is really unpleasant for the horse and the jockey on his, or her back.

Thank you again for your wonderful thoughtful articles Steve.

12 Nov 2009 1:28 PM


You stole my comments.  :)


Seriously, I rewatched the two days of racing a couple of times already and have come to the conclusion that I have not previously seen so many horses who had above average difficulty loading. But without an extensive tape library, I have no way to verify the actual facts on this.  However,prior to the Classic, I had made the mental note that there were a great number of horses that were difficult to load and it wasn't just the Euros, despite their (perhaps undeserved) reputation as problem loaders. Although I have only seriously followed the BC since 1991, I really don't remember seeing this volume of problems before.

As  a professional, you have a much greater knowledge than I, did you notice the same thing?

Also, I hope a diligent reporter can discover the name of the handler that may have saved QR and prevented a potential public relations disaster.

12 Nov 2009 1:33 PM
Soldier Course


In early 2004, you wrote a beautiful article about Funny Cide's 2003 Eclipse Award for 3YO Male. His win came down to "the intangibles", you said.

This is also where I believe Zenyatta has the edge over Rachel Alexandra for Horse of the Year. It's hard to state my case. How can I argue about something so pure that I can't put it into words.  

12 Nov 2009 1:39 PM

   I won a lot of money thanks to Cloudy's Knight at the Fairgrounds a couple of years ago, and he has (naturally!)been a favorite since. What a treat to see him back in good form this year! Cloudy and Zenyatta were spectacular, as was California Flag.  Best of all, there were no horrific breakdowns to mar the event this year, thank God. Good job, Santa Anita!

12 Nov 2009 1:40 PM
old gray mare

It always amazes me how a horse, a prey animal, allows us to trap them in such a small space.  It shows great trust of humans.   That trust was abused in the Breeders Cup. I've trained many thoroughbreds. They are very intelligent with long memories. This incident will be hard to overcome. Sadly it is probably career ending.

12 Nov 2009 1:43 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and insights. I dont even know where to begin to address some of them.

I know it sounds simplistic, and I may offend Bobbie for not being analytical enough. But in my simple mind, statistics do not apply. To me Zenyatta is the synthetic Horse of the Year and Rachel is the dirt Horse of the Year. It's like saying who is the champion skiier -- the great downhill skiier or the great slalom skiier. It's two completely different worlds within the same sport. In this case, had they met, we could have possibly answered the question, but they didnt. Anyway, I respect all opinions. That's just the way I feel. To me, they both deserve it, but in the grand scheme of things its only a statue. Personal Ensign didnt need a HOY statue to be remembered as one of the all-time greats. It's just a fun debate and shouldn't go much farther than that.

I agree about TVG's coverage. I watched it last night on Instant Classic, and it was great. Very personal.

I'll try to address some other comments shortly.

12 Nov 2009 1:45 PM

Very well put.  It would actually then be truly historical, a year we will all look back on and talk about for years.  Giving a co-award would ensure the significance of these gorgeous girls and this remarkable year.   For once, move beyond the petty (who chums with whom, geography, jockeys, all the people stuff) and do it for the horses.  Thanks so much for sending me all these articles.  Love Haskins, great writer.  JD

12 Nov 2009 1:51 PM
Dave Smith from NJ


I think i was talking to Steve Byk about this the same day yyou were on At the Races.

I spoke with Steve and Bob Duncan a couple of days later about it.

Go back and check out the video replay of the the gate crew loading QR.  The starter had a lunging whip and he laced QR it happened exactly when Moss said they dont hit them with the whip.

Can you look at that moment and listen to the snap, the flinch abd resposne of QR?  Let me know what you see?

12 Nov 2009 1:57 PM

I have been firmly in the corner of RA as HOTY based on her body of work which so clearly demonstrated her brilliance and stamina (# of outstanding performances).  I must admit over the last 48 hours that I have felt myself wavering - not that RA shouldn't have it, but that Z should have it too.  How can that be helped to happen?

People should go to SA's website and email them with kudos for the starter that likely saved QR's life.  Management/horse racing needs to know the world is watching, and what more positive way to deliver the message!

12 Nov 2009 2:00 PM

I am wondering if Quality Road has trouble in closed quarters, does he have potential in steeplechase races?

12 Nov 2009 2:21 PM

Awesome, awesome article, Steve.  Thank you.  I especially liked you standing up for Quality Road!  God bless him and keep him safe.  You, too.

12 Nov 2009 2:25 PM

QR being scratched was a disappointment because I think he could prove a dirt trained horse can run a good race on syntheics dispite what some other owners think! No way should you have a shared HOY. RA had a well orchastrated 3 yo season but so did SB and at least he showed up at BC! One performance that is being pushed aside in this filly & mare race for HOY is Goldikova. Not that she should be mentioned(Zenyetta hands down) but what she accomplished seems to be overlooked in all the hoopla surrouding RA vs ZEN. Talk about girl power!!!!

12 Nov 2009 2:35 PM
Steve Haskin

Regarding Einstein, although he did have to steady, it looked to me that he was already starting to back up. One of the things that made me think that was the fact that he never even attempted to come on again. I've seen a lot worse where the horses attempted to put in another rally. It's not like he had to check abruptly. Even Helen Pitts didnt mention anything and only said she couldnt understand why he picked this particular day to run a clunker. After the incident, which was brief, he continued to drop out of it, leading me to believe he was having a bad day. Also, I didnt mention him because I restricted it to horses who had hard luck and still were right there at the finish, suggesting they might have won with a better trip.

12 Nov 2009 2:37 PM

I think it's terribly unfair to blame Todd Pletcher for the issues with Quality Road.  As a horse owner, I can attest to how unpredictable their behavior can be.  Even when you think you have issues resolved, they can rear their ugly heads in the most unlikely situations.  It's like they keep their ghosts in a file cabinet and just when you least expect it, the drawers fly open.  It's perfectly understandable that QR could load with no trouble in the morning and then pitch a fit in the afternoon.  It's happened many times just the same way with my own mare.  And the actions of another person that the horse doesn't recognize as a friend can serve to amplify the behavior.  It's the nature of the beast.  

12 Nov 2009 2:38 PM

What about Mastercraftsman? He looked like he would have won by several lenghts if he could have gotten thru on the rail. The space was there but he was afraid to go in to it.Had he been outside I think he would have won.

12 Nov 2009 3:05 PM

Imagine having to face one of your very worst fears every time you go to work. This is what Quality Road endures, and my heart goes out to him and his connections. If he cannot be trained to tolerate the starting gate, then for the sake of the horse, he should be retired. I was so thankful that he was scratched from the BC Classic. Who knows what could have happened? As for the starters - I am sure that they were under enormous pressure to get the last of the horses loaded and to get the race going. Each second that passed by was making it harder and more unfair for the horses already standing in the gate. We should count our blessings that things ended as well as they did.

Lookin At Lucky is my Derby pick for next year. He was far superior to the other 2 year old colts and despite everything, he was barely beaten. I am looking forward to watching him run in 2010.

I thought race day coverage went well too, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why horse racing has to focus on so-called "celebrities" all the time. I think the real celebrities are the horses and their connections. Why do we need to see these people in their seats and standing in the winner's circle? I would rather see pieces on individual horses, trainers and owners than on these folks who don't seem to have any more connection to racing than anybody else.

I will never, ever forget Zenyatta's race. She is one for the ages. I remember Secretariat's connections saying that he could run over broken glass if he was asked to. Zenyatta is of the same class. The good ones can do most anything. All in all, a great 2 days of racing at this year's Breeder's Cup.

12 Nov 2009 3:09 PM
steve s

Quality road does not have not have issues with the gate-he has issues when he doesn't want to race-you watch his next race on dry dirt track-he will be fine

12 Nov 2009 3:18 PM


Well said.

12 Nov 2009 3:21 PM
s lee

Quality Road is not a nut.  He's a teenager, to be sure, and a tightly wound athlete and a young stallion to boot.  He has his safe places and his scary places, and, in retrospect, there are things the ground crew, trainer, jockey, everyone, might have done differently.  I hope time heals his wounds and he comes back as a sound 4 year old, mentally and physically.  But from the sounds of his injuries and how terrified he was to even try to get on a plane, it'll be a long road back.

But I wonder how much the rush of the crew to get those last 2 horses in mattered.  They were in a hurry because they knew 11 horses were in and standing and the world was waiting.  Even a LITTLE bit of tension is transmitted to finely strung animals and QR quickly had enough, maybe of the 50,000+ people, maybe of the cameras, maybe of the gate crew.  He responded to the situation as if they were threats and he was ready to fight back.  Escalating the stimuli was not a good answer - but the crew did not have a lot of choices.  They can't baby every horse.

But somebody with a better memory than I might remember more about Rock Hard Ten.  As Steve notes, he was a big horse and not real keen about the gate.  When he was on the East Coast there was talk about making friends with him and feeding him treats in the gate and making sure he always had the same handler.  He never liked the gate but he went in, and he raced.  But then when he shipped west there was a story or a comment made by one of the track starting crews that "he's just a young horse and he needs to know who's boss".  Not the best strategy for him, either.

In the early 1970's there was a horse named Snow Knight who won the Epsom Derby and eventually raced over here winning, among other races, the Man O'War.  He didn't trust people he didn't know and it took a great trainer, a patient exercise rider and the willingness of a gate crew to always have the same person meet Snow outside the gate, feed him treats in and outside the gate in the morning, and when he felt safe, he was fine.

And I agree with Steve, hats off to the assistant starter who grabbed QRs rein and, against all pressure and knowing that he was likely to get kicked, hung on for dear life - for his and for the horse's!  I hope whoever he is gets a reward, or at least a citation, for saving QR to run another day and, on a larger scale, for sparing racing yet another tragedy.

12 Nov 2009 4:11 PM

Cheers to Trevor Denman (sp?) also for a superb calling of the Classic.

Zenyatta was magnificent! This was the first time in years that a horse race has moved me to tears of joy.

12 Nov 2009 4:22 PM

s lee, with Snow Knight they went to so far as to have his "spceial" assistant starter come and spend time in his stall feeding carrots to him there too. He definitely was a fragile horse mentally/emotionally.

12 Nov 2009 4:25 PM

I know this probably isnt the right place to do this, but I just read the arcticle about Kip Deville being retired after several colic surgeries and now has laminitis. I just wanted to extend my prayers that he recovers from his illness quickly. I watched Kip his entire career and was very saddened to learn he has this dreadful disease. My heart goes out to his connections. GET WELL SOON KIP..we want to see your babies race.

12 Nov 2009 4:33 PM

What a day, what a year!  Only Secretariat's Belmont gave me the same kind of goosebumps: major build-up followed by the payoff of the win.  

How do you split the atom? Just a couple of thoughts:  Zenyatta has raced in several handicap races, once carrying 129 lbs. and giving up to 18 pounds to her rivals. She was giving weight to all the 3 year olds in the Classic (one pound, but still giving weight) and ran by all of them, older males too, with her ears pricked - after "stopping to pose" in mid-stretch (according to Smith) AND running the last mile of a mile-and-a-quarter race FASTER than the winner of the BC Mile. Before the race, it was called one of the deepest fields in Classic history, and the "experts" gave her little chance of winning, but win she did, and with style. She only goes as fast as she needs to, but she also holds a track record at Del Mar at 1-1/16 miles. Her performance in last years' Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, Arkansas, only her 4th race, proved she can run on dirt as well, as she destroyed the BC distaff winner from the year before, winning going away.  Her trainer says she's even better on dirt - that's a scary thought!

I love Rachel! She had an outstanding year as well, one of the best ever for a 3yo filly, but she only raced in weight-for-age, and always got at least five pounds from her male rivals, and in all but the Woodward only in her age group. She was all out in the Woodward, and just barely won against what really was a "B" team of older horses, getting that weight from them, but win she did, at her best distance of a mile and an eighth. She's primarily a front-runner which is more spectacular to many, but in her races against the colts they've been gaining on her. She's undefeated this year, and that says a lot. If not for Zenyatta's year, it's Rachel's hands down. If you consider the whole handicap/weight issue and running in open races vs age restricted, that tips the scales to Zenyatta.  Let's just hope that the whole "East Coast vs West Coast" thing doesn't get in the way- I hope the voters really look at everything.  Maybe co-HOYS is the way to go.  

Let's see how Rachel does next year against all comers, carrying and giving weight, if Jackson lets her run against the "A" list in handicaps. I'd also like to see her run at 1-1/4 miles, the true classic distance. It should be a fun year.

12 Nov 2009 5:04 PM
Theresa S.

As others said, there was a helicopter type noise when they were trying to load Quality Road.  Actually I heard it when they were trying to load all the horses.  I noticed that some usually good loaders were balky (like Zenyatta, she balked both times they loaded her).

I'm not an expert by any stretch but I've trained a few horses.  That noise would have freaked out the horses I trained, especially if it was going on when they were loading into a constricted enclosure like that.  

Anyway, I don't think QR's refusal to load was the trainers fault.  Can't really fault the gate crew either, they had 11 or so other horses getting antsy in there.

12 Nov 2009 5:11 PM

Actually, I thought it was dreadfully unfair when Personal Ensign did not win HOY-Alysheba won on the basis of one race, the Classic, whereas her entire year was incredible, capped by her epic Distaff. I put that down to gender bias, esp. since stallions are worth more in the breeding shed. Only recently has Personal Ensign begun to receive the wide appreciation she deserves.

The Eclipse Awards do reflect the industry, and so they mean a lot to the public as well as of course to the connections and fans of the horses. Its important that they stand for something, beyond personal politics and so forth.

Racing has everything to gain by demonstrating that great horses are appreciated. Judging between Rachel and Zenyatta is comparing apples and oranges-both of them raised the bar and generated tremendous public interest and affection. Why is it necessary to chose, when both so clearly merit the award?

Something is wrong if the powers that be can't think out of the box on this one. They should recognize and enjoy the opportunity to celebrate a year of two incredible race horses.

12 Nov 2009 5:14 PM


Thanks for featuring Quality Road here.  He is an amazingly talented and intelligent horse (don't believe that his protest at the starting gates was rogish).  I agree with those who suggest that he should be given a break.  I believe that he'll take the 2010 season by the scruff of the neck once he is freshened up and ready to race again.  He can trample any Grade 1 field and threaten any track record from seven to 10 furlongs.  Mr. Evans (QR's owner)just needs a little patience.  Also it seems unfair and baseless for some observers to be casting aspersions on trainer Todd Pletcher.

From my vantage point next year is going to be a very tough year for all contenders if QR is fit and racing, bar none.

12 Nov 2009 5:25 PM
The Equestrian Vagabond

I made the same comment in my blog on Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. There's no way one of them should 'lose' Horse of the Year. I measure the horses on their "Choke Factor." Both Zenyatta's BC Classic win, and Rachel's Woodward win choke me up equally. They should both be Horse of the Year.

12 Nov 2009 5:47 PM

Quality Road will be delivered from his demons; he will be back. Amen to all your comments re: Zenyatta. Bah humbug to the naysayers. You did forget to mention one individual that adds brilliant footnotes to the BC festivities. That would be William Nack. He has a way with words much like you do Steve.

12 Nov 2009 5:50 PM
Jonas luva

Zenyatta for horse of the year she deserves it!! sorry if I misspell any words I didn't pass spelling this six weeks!! 

12 Nov 2009 6:24 PM
Ida Lee

I do hope the beautiful and talented Quality Road gets over his claustrophobia. Suffering from it myself, I ached for him. I agree with you about our Girls - they should both be HOY. What a trip they took us on this year!!! P

12 Nov 2009 6:39 PM

I'm so glad you provided an update on Quality Road.  I was so upset he did not race as I really believe he would have made the race different and I really wanted to see him have a chance in the BC Classic.  He has had a challenging year to say the least and I was looking forward to seeing what he could do on synthetics.  It was very upsetting to see him that worked up and I really hope the experience doesn't stay with him too long.  

12 Nov 2009 7:28 PM


 Thank you for shedding light on the situation with "Quality Road"..

I am thankful that he and others(horse & people) escaped this time


Unfortunately if this horse doesn't

get some VERY PATIENT & LONG RETRAINING for his now SERIOUS CLAUSTOPHOBIC PROBLEM...then the next time it happens we will watch

a beautiful horse (& probably other

people/horses) seriously injured!!!

 I myself have worked with a horse

that was MINORLY Claustophobic and

that was ALWAYS AN ISSUE...BUT I loved that mare and she also had a

very kind soul just like "Quality


12 Nov 2009 7:51 PM

Good article, Steve, and I agree with most of your comments. A terrific day of racing it was, capped by the unforgettable performance by Zenyatta.

The ESPN camera angles, however, were a disaster. The cameras were all over the place, and it just made the races more confusing. Here's hoping the network keeps it simple in the future.

12 Nov 2009 8:07 PM

RA is HOY. Z scratched on the Churchill track Derby weekend. She is a horse for the course but her Breeders' run -on the formulated turf- the best ever.

12 Nov 2009 8:41 PM

Bravo Mr. Steve Haskin...

My list of famous equines that I want to meet someday just keeps growing.... but amazingly my list of "humans" I can't wait to meet still remains the same...only one. Mr. Steve Haskin. You are my "human" HOY.....

12 Nov 2009 8:45 PM
Robin B.


Your insights are spot-on, as always.  Despite all the griping about the synthetic surface two years in a row, what a stellar Breeders' Cup this turned out to be.  I don't know if there are sufficient words to truly describe Zenyatta.  I believed she was one of the greatest mares of all time before the race, but I felt she'd rarely competed in races tough enough to prove it.  But in the span of two minutes, she proved it with a bigger excalmation point than most could have imagined.

I especially love your comments on Presious Passion and Cloudy's Knight.  Those brave losing efforts were my favorite BC performances aside from Zenyatta's Classic.  What gallant warriors.  I can't say enough about them, but I think you summed it up best.

I could say so much more, but I just really agree with pretty much everything you said.  I'm so grateful for a safe and invigorating BC, and am still on a high.  This is why we're so addicted to this grand old sport!

One more thing: I know the Horse of the Year arguments will go on until the official announcement is made and even after--neither deserves to lose the honor.  But, can you believe that it's an argument we're even having?  That in 2009, the top two horses in the country are females who have vanquished some of the best males in the country, and even the world?  Unfathomable.  I'm still blown away by this.  I never thought two of the greatest females of all time would come along in this day and age, when the breed is widely considered to have been weakened so, and many feel that horses are being coddled too much.  And in the same year!  Perhaps a little unfortunate for each, but what a blessing for the fans!  It actually makes you feel like it's a great time for racing again.

12 Nov 2009 8:48 PM

As always Steve- GREAT article!  I agree with Co-Horse of the Year  but if not, Zenyatta gets my vote now (if I had one - LOL!).  There have been co-horses of the year before so it wouldn't be some unbelievable never before seen thing -  but none that I am aware of since the voting was changed to the Eclipse awards.  I love them both, but can you imagine a horse that retired undefeated and won two different Breeders Cup races (the only to do so I believe) but never was awarded Horse of the Year?  Seems like a travesty to me!

12 Nov 2009 8:49 PM

Thanks for a great wrap of BC 2009 and appreciate your honest writing on the Quality Road debacle.  Agree with another poster that Pletcher should not take the blame for this one.  He has worked with this horse.  The horse was in enept hands at the gate.  

Co-HOTY I am all for it.  Zenyatta is now a living legend and I'd hate to see her not awarded but Rachel Alexandra gets it hands down.  To those who call RA races carefully chosen...HELLO!  It is laughable how effortlessly easy it is to say the same for Zenyatta's carefully chosen races this year.  When you look at the races run and won by the filly, the mare comes up short.

Owner of the Year - Jess jackson for an outstanding campaign for his 3yo filly.  

The biggest winners this year?  We the fans for having the Legendary Zenyatta and the Great Rachel Alexandra.

12 Nov 2009 8:53 PM

I do believe QUALITY ROAD is the best horse of his crop, above Summer Bird and the same Rachel Alexandra. He will show that next year. You´ll see.  Write it!!!

12 Nov 2009 8:58 PM
Soldier Course

Mike Rullo:

I hadn't thought about it before, but you're right about the ESPN sports tracker running at the bottom of the screen during the Classic. What's so important that it can't wait for two minutes?

The tracker's rude and disrespectful. It's like the person who's always looking over your shoulder while talking with you, trying to see who else is in the room.

12 Nov 2009 9:14 PM

I'm getting addicted to your columns, Steve.  

One comment - I don't have cable and so couldn't see most of the BC races.  The whole world does NOT have cable.  

12 Nov 2009 9:21 PM

Thank you for your wonderful insights.  I had my doubts about Zenyatta.  However, deep in my heart, I know that RA could not have won that race, at that distance, under the same circumstances, and with that field.  She may have beaten Summer Bird earlier, but he is certainly not the same horse in November that he was in May and June either.

12 Nov 2009 9:54 PM
Saratoga AJ

Quality Road needs to be returned to Jimmy Jerkens, who was able to get the most out of him (FOY, Florida Derby) and who nursed him back to health from his foot problems. Evans made a terrible mistake switching him to Pletcher. I got the word from a friend of mine who is Saratoga's main clocker that it was all over where the horse would be based. Even Pletcher was taken back, and went out of his way to praise Jimmy for all the great work he did with QR.

You just don't take horses away from Allen or Jimmy Jerkens.

If I have a great horse, I'd want a Jerkens training him.

12 Nov 2009 10:13 PM

Yall are wrong the deepest classic field ever was Curlin's '07 Breeders cup classic

12 Nov 2009 10:33 PM

Thank you Steve for the insight you always show.  Particularly for the compassion for Quality Road and acknowledging Cloudy Knight's great performance.  I too feel that both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra had years that should earn HOY.  Can't help but respond to a few of the negative comments about RA.  First, regarding the "inferiority" of Rachel's competition and the weight issue.  I'm certain that Z also got the filly weight allowance in the BCC and I'm absolutely certain that RA's connections did not "manipulate" her campaign in order to face easy fields.  As for margin of victory, Z's margins of victory over some pretty weak rivals in a couple of her races this year were not great.  It appeared to me that Summer Bird was only at most 4 lenghts back of Z in the Classic; RA beat him by 6 lenghts in the Haskell, so I don't think the weight or margin of victory are valid points in Z's favor.  Also, the amount of money won shouldn't be an issue; Z's bank account is so big because of her victory in a single race.  Granted, it was the "granddaddy of them all", but remember please that RA's earnings far surpassed Z's this year until the BCC.  Z is the richest filly in history because she won the richest race, not because she won the most races.  Giving the nod to Z because she is "undefeated" is another point of which I take exception.  HOY voting for 2009 is based on what the horses did this year.  Rachel is 8 for 8 on 7 tracks and won outside of her division 3 times.  Zenyatta is 5 for 5 on 3 tracks, winning outside of her division 1 time.  I'm not saying that Rachel should "stand alone"; just don't try to belittle her achievements.  I'm with Steve; call it a "tie".  There is precedent for co-HOY.  Let's do it again.    That statement "I don't see why being named champion isn't enough" could apply as easily to Z as to RA. I've never heard of a situation where there have been two horses that simply don't deserve to lose.  Finally, kudos to WWSTP - Thanks for pointing out the most amazing fact of the year -2 females are the only horses truly deserving of the title this year.  When has that ever happened?

12 Nov 2009 10:43 PM
Matthew W

Steve, I played Gotta Have Her and Life Is Sweet, had a saver bet on Biofuel, keyed Big Z on top of six horses and didn't have Gio!Angel Cordero hit the nail on the head when he said Zenyatta was up against it in so many ways--first time 1 1/4... first time males.... the salty males at that...this is a figety mare who was visibly disterbed at times prior to the running---who really knows how good she far as HOY, I have never seen a horse take the Fall off, and another horse runs lights out during the Fall--and the latter not winning it--take Smarty v Ghostzapper...or Riva Ridge v Key To The Mint for three year old honours--the guy who does it in the Fall gets more credo--BOTH are deserving--I guess I think if ONE had to lose,well, it would be a shame, and I really mean that, if Zenyatta were not HOY---she may be the greatest ever, and everybody knows that--Rachel will win it next year--if she's the same horse--two years on top is special--that's when you arrive in the sacred pastures of Secretariat, Affirmed, Bid, Alysheba, Curlin, and...Zenyatta....

12 Nov 2009 11:18 PM
Paula Higgins

Actually, we have been splitting the atom for quite a few years now (see the above comment), so splitting HOTY should be a piece of cake. It's absolutely doable. It only requires the will to do it by people who can think outside the box.

Steve, can you tell us how Quality Road is doing right now from any of your sources?

12 Nov 2009 11:23 PM

Thank you so much for your comments regarding Quality Road!  I was devastated when I saw what happened during the load for the Classic.  He is truly a brilliant racehorse, but he is also just an animal.  So many people forget that.  I hope he makes it through this.  The smart ones to me are the ones that refuse to do what you tell them to because they know better.  It goes against all of their instincts.  I love Quality Road for being the intelligent animal that he is.

12 Nov 2009 11:34 PM

I for one do not think the Santa Anita gate crew did anything excessive. I understand the love for Quality Road, but the majority of the field was loaded and in the gate for quite a while. The taking the horse to the front of the gate was an option as was the blindfold. It has been used many times before and at many tracks. It just did'nt work for this horse. Another thing is after the horses were in the gate for so long, taking him to the front of the gate and trying to load could have caused other situations to occur. It was unfortunate for the incident to happen, but the gate crew acted exceptionally. Why is it when Quality Road was the culprit, the gate crew got the blame?

12 Nov 2009 11:40 PM
Matthew W

Steve, why then, why not offer up a "special vote", for shared HOY, has to be 3/4 yay and it's a done deal--THAT'S thinking outside the box--CUZ, my friend, you know why, it's because it's the right thing to do....

13 Nov 2009 12:05 AM

Thanks Steve.  This and the column about Zenyatta were just about perfect recaps.  There really isn't anything to add, just things to underscore.  

I had the pleasure of being at Santa Anita for both days of the BC, and it truly was an amzing experience.  Perfect weather,no major injuries, and an affordable price for a general admission ticket that allowed spectators like myself to get upclose with the horses in the paddock, walking ring, on the track, and in the winners circle. And, of course, there was great racing!

While the other races were fantastic in their own right, the Mile(turf), Turf, and Classic made this a truly special Breeders Cup.  First, there was Goldikova, one of the greatest mile turfers(and yet another female) in the history of Europe and North America, repeating in the Mile.  Then there was the great duel between Conduit and Presious Passion in the Turf, with Conduit just getting up over the remarkable Precious Passion to be become the first horse to win two BC Turfs outright(High Chaparal deadheated w/ Johar for his 2nd Turf). Finally, in the closing act, there was the perfect Zenyatta, who, with her Classic victory became 1) the first female to win the Classic, 2) the first horse to win 2 different BC races, 3) the richest female in North American history, and 4) only the 3rd horse, along with Colin and Personal Ensign, to retire from major racing(open graded competition in North America) undefeated since 1908, with a 14 for 14 record.  

This year's Breeders Cup is why I love this sport and try to make it to as many big races as possible.

13 Nov 2009 12:11 AM

Another great article, as usual!

My vote is joint HOTY to Rachel and Zenyatta.

Re Quality Road, thank God he didn't get loose. That just chilled my blood seeing him bucking in the gate and then breaking through. I did wonder, has anyone tried one of Monty Roberts's gate blankets on him? Seemed an obvious thing to try.

As for where to hold the Breeders' Cup, why not Woodbine? It has all three surfaces (okay, I'm kidding, the third one is a Standardbred dirt surface!). But Woodbine is a great facility and the grass course is the best anywhere in North America.

I think the whole "dirt is natural" argument is just wrong. Turf is natural for horses in most places. Sand is natural for horses in some places. But where do you find horses that run naturally only on dirt or mud? They run on dirt all the time only if they are Thoroughbreds on a racetrack. Synthetics at least approximate turf to some degree, and as such they seem to me to be much more "natural" than dirt. Some horses at Woodbine have even raced barefoot on Polytrack.

13 Nov 2009 2:53 AM

Re ESPN's coverage. I thought it was awful. Most of the horses got no mention at all. I found out nothing about their pedigrees. The Dancing with the Stars segment was stupid, and for heaven's sake why don't they get rid of the Hammer (and the music) and Kenny Maine?

The focus was all on the people and the betting with very little about the HORSES.

I guess I am just spoiled from watching the Woodbine Live broadcasts, which are fun, interesting and full of info about the horses themselves.

I was very upset when the Canadian International was covered by ESPN instead of the locals, who always do such a good job. ESPN botched that one too.

The Blood-Horse is my favourite magazine because its focus is, and always has been, on the horses. Why can't ESPN do the same?

BTW in Canada we didn't see anything after the Classic ended. No presentations, nothing. The stations cut to football!!!

13 Nov 2009 3:06 AM
Don from Delaware

Just a thought I had and have had sometimes re: QR gate behavior in BC, could it be with Zen being female sometimes the boyz get too wound up? She sure turned on the charm, all the way to the winners circle, was like dancing with the there is a thought, sea of stars and Zen offspring, is there a chance?

13 Nov 2009 6:00 AM

I don't think anybody has given a thought to the extreme pressure the gate crew is under, especially for a race like the Classic. Their job is to get the horses loaded - period - not to school them, or make them feel good or help them with their mental problems. That's supposed to be done at home. So blame the trainer, not the gate crew. And please stop making all these excuses for Quality Road. He's had nothing but excuses all year.

13 Nov 2009 6:20 AM

JJ was right to keep RA out of the BC. You can't run on the lead at SA!

RA is HOY she ran May 1st, Zenyatta Scratched! Zenyatta showed up Nov. 7th RA didn't, PUSH.

RA ran three more times and ran over 7 tracks vs 3 for big Z.


13 Nov 2009 7:56 AM
The Peacock

Dick Powell's Brisnet 'Classic'comments: "That extra furlong between 9 and 10 seems to seperate many pretenders from contenders. On Saturday, it confirmed greatness...If she was ever going to be beaten, it was at the shorter distances. If she ran 10 furlongs 14 times, she would be 14-14 as well. But it would have been easier."

13 Nov 2009 8:29 AM
Grand Prix Show Jumper

Thanks for a great article.

QR did not deserve the Juvenile Delinquent comment, with all due respect to Dr. Bramlage. These horses are not pets, but a JD?  QR was thinking self preservation.  You don't ever want to be on or near a horse who doesn't care about self preservation.

The gate crew and the person who OK'd the helicopter made some mistakes, but the man who hung on despite the risk to himself probably did save QR's life.  If he got away or broke a leg on the gate, racing would have died with him.

I had to listen to much of the racing on the radio, and in addition to the helicopter, there seemed to be a camera on a wire over he horses heads as they were being saddled.  Who allowed that?!  There needs to be some king of horseman veto power at these events.  A big cheese who has to give a final OK to anything that happens near a horse.

By the way, the radio coverage was also excellent.  Hope some of you got a chance to hear it.  Great to have that kind of coverage when you can't get to a screen!

Hate to say it, but as bad as we need to attract fans so the industry can survive, we NEED co-HOTYs.  We finally have a "good" story so we should make a big deal of it and pull in more fans.  Both are deserving.  If not, Zenyatta's the one.  As someone said earlier this week, "Rachel beat the boys, Zenyatta beat the MEN!"

BIGGER GATES!  Horses are bigger, gates should be too.  I see a ton of races with 4-5 horse fields, so it seems like the initial cost of the gate is the biggest hurdle.  The tracks need to get over that.  Who's to say if it would have made a difference to QR, but it would probably significantly reduce gate-related accidents and problems.  

"Marathon" races... YES!  Good in every way mentioned, also good for the fans... more older horses they can get to know, MORE SOUNDNESS emphasis in breeding.

13 Nov 2009 8:37 AM

Did any of you read where Zenyatta's Timeform was 3 points more than Rachel's (128 vs 125) but Rachel's Timeform is the highest for a dirt horse in the WORLD?

Imagine, a 3 year-old filly has the highest dirt form in the world...

13 Nov 2009 8:51 AM
Unbiased Opinion

Great thoughts, and I respect your opinion, we have to continue to draw in more fans who will love the sport and important topics.

There is no debate for Horse of the Y-E-A-R, Rachel's previous owners were never going to run her against males, just as Zenyatta's owners intended, their hand was forced by the 3, count them 3 record setting performances of the filly oh, yeah against 3 year old males in 2 and open division older handicap horses in another. I dont have any issue at all with the skipping of an event run on a surface that doesnt play for dirt horses as Zero (count them again) Zero dirt horses won on the surface and not just in 2009 but oh yeah 2008 also.. Take into count the numerous horses that sat out due to that very fact, for example Fabulous Strike on a good day Fabulous Strike would have run the majority of the sprint field off their feet, but because of how the track plays his connections decided smartly not to send, again because ZERO horses who run primarily on dirt won a race. Now lets say D'Funnybone was to have jumped up and won the Juvi, at least you have 1 horse that would have trained primarily on dirt that showed that dirt horses can transfer form, then you could say he should have modified the schedule to let her run, but he seems all the wiser considering 0-14 in two years on the proride for dirt horses.

Rachel Ran in the Woodward Stakes a race that Zenyatta certainly could have shown up for, (open company 3+). If we want to compare the season quality race to quality race lets take the (Oaks 1 G1 winner, Preakness 3G1 winning males, Haskell 1 Grade 1 winning male, oh also winner of the Travers and JCGC, and Woodward 4 G1 winning males, and a horse that defeated Einstein in the S. Foster) and compare that to the season of the Milady a GII race with 1 G1, Vanity 0 G1 horse, C.L. Hirsch same G1, L.S 2 G1 horse, and Classic 8 G1 horses. When you compare the full year of quality, -let me repeat the full year not just 1 race or 1 month of lead up to the B.C. Classic- faced there is no question Rachel was challenged more. Zenyatta was challenged in 1 race and stood up like the most incredible equine athlete you've seen in a long time, but in the final year long analysis, her connections failed to allow her to be asked during the other months she raced, if you can justify how her previous 4 races make up a HOY campaign, i'd be all ears. (No travel, no males, no challenge, running against allowance competition and even almost losing to a horse that had barely broken its maiden (Anabaa's Creation), but i'm listening).

And as for the statement about "Zenyatta beat the best older males in the world" guess what Zenyatta beat the best older males still running that could be offered, just like Rachel beat the best older males running that could be offered in the Woodward. So there is no upper hand there except Rachel beat older horses on a surface that they have trained and raced on all their lives. Zenyatta beat a field of a number of horses that have not and do not race or train on the surface, oh and will never race and or train on the surface again. HMMMMMM

So to me (just to me) just like in 2008 a 7 or this year 5 race campaign (in 1 state), scratching out of races due to track conditions and dodging races (with the excuse of the detention barn,  ) like the Beldame, Go for Wand, Personal Ensign, Woodward, Pacific Classic that fans begged to see or the Goodwood for that reason that fans begged to see, and then hitting a homerun in the Classic is a 1 score show. Rachel's Record setting Preakness, Record Setting Mother Goose, Record Setting Kentucky Oaks, Record Setting Haskell and Record Setting Woodward, well its historic times 6 at the very least.

Let's count the number of times that Zenyatta made a historic run on the track. (Once)

Someone said on another board to make it fair for Zenyatta the B.C. Classic should account for 2 Grade 1 wins, if you need to do that please do, that might make some Zenyatta fans feel better, but then you'd have to find a way to even up 3 times facing males to 1. Maybe if they are from Europe they are like racing two american horses. I dont know but it seems as if a spin is needed.

Here is a quote from a guy in my office that has watched the progression of the season:

" Seriously for Zenyatta I understand that was a great race that she won but their only argument is just that one race which does not make sense to me. I may just be starting on the horse racing circuit but even I can tell that Rachel is the better choice for Horse of the Year."

Hey I guess we'll have to wait till January to see if the Eclipse award voters feel that the B.C. counts as like 4 races or something lol. It will be interesting. Hope you have a good day.

13 Nov 2009 9:14 AM

Gary West, who writes horse racing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (and is my favorite race writer next to Steve) summed up horse of the year most elequently:

"Zenyatta, of course, will be the champion older mare, and Rachel Alexandra the champion 3-year-old filly; and one of them will be Horse of the Year. Most years, the award defines and summarizes a horse’s accomplishments, but not this year.

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are both bigger than the honor, their accomplishments greater than anything the award suggests, for they carried the sport most of the year to a wide audience and elevated it to a dizzy height. However Horse of the Year turns out, the accomplishments of neither can be diminished or enlarged by it."


13 Nov 2009 10:32 AM

Last Saturday just wasn't Quality Road's day to race. Thankfully he's physically OK and I think that with time, gentle, postive schooling and patience, he will be fine mentally as well. Good thing that the attendant who held onto QR's bridle had eaten his Wheaties that morning! That whole scene was hairy!

Question: if an unused worn-out starting gate was placed somewhere in a horse's pasture, would that help him get used to the gate in general? Let the horse see the gate, sniff it, walk around it. Let him see that it won't bite; would that help horses load easier at post time?

13 Nov 2009 10:38 AM
Greg J.

Unbiased Opinion,

    All good points, But, The only thing I would add is that Zenyatta beat the Best field assembled this year at 1 1/4 Miles, The typical "Classic" distance, Her first try at this distance, A distance Rachel never attempted, Nothing against Rachel, Just thought it was a fact that needed to be added...

Give BOTH of these Champions the Award, They BOTH deserve it...

13 Nov 2009 10:39 AM

Great responce to your article by everyone, you hit it on the head RA dirt champion, Zennata syn champion, Moss could of came east to race RA on dirt but elected to stay home to race afor 250,00 against a bunch of mares she has been beating up all year, love both of these mares, nobody has really addressed that RA is 3, Zennyata 5 big diff guys. Seems to me it has become contest of Jackson or Moss, both equally guilty of avoiding each other, so don't make one better than the other, each did what they tought was right for their horse. As far as Quality Road it seems like it now has become that every one is wrong, but the real culptit, the horse is not, Pletcher has won more and done more by accident than most have done on purpuse,Gate crew starts about 800 hiorse per week all of a sudden they don't know what they doing? Give nme a break. Yes there were 11 other hiorse standing there, really should of sratched him right off, Hats off to assistant starter could of got real hurt for a nut case. Best coverage  TVG, hands down all week they talked about diff horse how terrible some of them trained and how great Zeenyata looked, from their point of view, all pretty expert horseman it sort was a far gone conlusion she would win

13 Nov 2009 10:47 AM
Dickie J

Nice piece about Quality Road but come on you have to mention the fault of the trainer/staff for placing the horse in that position where he could have killed himself. They had to know his issues beforehand and if not, then they are guilty of malpractice.

13 Nov 2009 11:17 AM
Soldier Course

Some have commented here about Dr. Larry Bramlage's calling Quality Road a "juvenile delinquent". I am sure that Dr. Bramlage meant no disrespect to the horse.

His comment was "shorthand" in a brief TV interview, just to let the viewers know that Quality Road was prone to being fractious, without having to go into a lengthy explanation.  

13 Nov 2009 12:04 PM
Marvin J. Gentile

The major reason I was infuenced to subscribe to Bloodhorse is because of Mr. Haskins' in-depth awareness in the art of Thorobred racing.

In my opinon, he is the finest 'Track' reporter in the last two decades.

My impression of your gift was only reinforced with your observation of the important role that unfolded at the starting gate, when the handler responsible for the loading of the fractious colt 'Quality Road' acted in an understanding way as only a horseman would. I was up screaming praises duringthat most critical time, while the people around me thought my reactions strange.

That 'starting gate handler' was the hero of the most important moment, in the most important race, at the most critical suspended moments in 'racing time'.

Only experience allows the presence of mind to first, remove the blind fold covering the colts eyes and then to hold on to the colt and try to survive the colts reactions to his immediate situation.  That man saved the entire racing season for San Anita Park when history was teetering on Thoroughbreds' racing most dramatic moment dressed in the presence of Zenyatta's run into the Breeders'Cup history.

I'm hoping his reactions were rewarded since he was the hero of the day, as Zenyatta was the heroine of the classic and Thoroughbred racing's finest moments.

13 Nov 2009 12:10 PM

Several have criticized the TV coverage by ABC/ESPN.  Others have mentioned TVG.  I do wish someone would devote a web log to coverage, not by the networks, but, even how local tracks show horses in the paddock, post parade, working prior to the race and the race itself. Having watched some of the first track coverage by Illinois race tracks in Vegas, I have seen tremendous improvement.  But, I really hate to see misplaced cameras, artsy craftsy directors and trying to view horses while Bob's Pick Four to Click, or Simon's and/or someother tout's Pick Three or such covers the screen.  It's the Horses, Stupid, not the commentator/tout I wish to see.

13 Nov 2009 12:44 PM
Soldier Course

Unbiased Opinion:

How many times did Ghostzapper run in this country before he was given the 2004 Horse of the Year award?

According to the Thoroughbred Times Racing Almanac (2009 edition), voting procedures for the Eclipse Awards, including Horse of the Year, were changed thirty years ago to eliminate ties. This step was taken the year after two fillies tied for the 2YO filly championship in 1978. This certainly suggests that the forum wants one and only one winner per category.    

13 Nov 2009 12:52 PM
Soldier Course

Dickie J:

Earlier in this blog I suggested that all tracks adopt uniform rules for determining a gate scratch. Allow X number of normal lock-and-load attempts, and if they don't work, the horse is scratched. No extraordinary measures like blindfolds. Expedience is important here. No one likes to see these awful episodes prolonged at the expense of the other horses and riders.

This remedy would shift more responsibility to the trainers to see that their horses are adequately schooled in the gate during their regular training.

13 Nov 2009 1:30 PM

When is TVG and HRTV going to change over to High Definition?

I mean are dinosaurs still roaming the earth or what?

If you don't have enough money to run a business, then get out or merge.

We need the family of Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum III to bail out TVG and HRTV and buy High Definition (HD) equipment for all American racetracks and the TVG and HRTV studios.

Why the Sheik?


...because no American owner will do it for us to promote the sport.

13 Nov 2009 1:58 PM

Hank, you wrote "Moss could of came east to race RA on dirt but elected to stay home..."

What race, exactly, could Zenyatta have raced in? Zen was eligible only the Woodward, which Rachel's connections only announced at the last minute. So you think Moss should have shipped Zen 3,000 miles east, right before the BC Classic that was in California, so that she could wait and see whether Rachel entered a restricted race or an open race?

Rachel, as most 3-year-olds are, ran in restricted races until the summer was over. The two couldn't have met until late summer or early fall, and by then it would have been really disruptive to send Zen back and forth across the country.

13 Nov 2009 2:05 PM

I would like to read some comments regarding the BC Jockey Bet. Despite this release on Sunday: Posted: Sunday, November 08, 2009 5:45 PM

Leparoux wins Bill Shoemaker Award

Julien Leparoux rode three winners at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 6-7 and was honored as the recipient of the seventh annual Bill Shoemaker Award.

The award, established in 2003, is given to the top jockey at the event. No other jockey this year rode multiple winners during the two-day World Championships at the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Park.

Despite these facts, BC Official rules indicate that "All other jockeys" was the winning bet.

Who's running that organization????

13 Nov 2009 2:15 PM

If you are going to bring a horse to the Breeders' Cup, the horse needs to be able to load in the gate without throwing a huge fit.  All the other horses in the Classic did it, so what makes Quality Road so special that he is allowed to make such a fuss with almost everyone else loaded in and waiting to go?  Yep, he's big and long, but so are alot of other horses.  His training on the basics obviously needs to be improved and he should not be allowed to be entered in another race until he has been certified several times, for the safety of all involved parties.  Don't boohoo about how traumatized the horse is.  He's a racehorse, and getting in he gate is part of his job!  Train him so that he does his job!  

13 Nov 2009 2:16 PM
Count Fleet

There will "never" be another filly/mare that will be the morning line favorite in both the "Breeders Cup Ladies Classic" and the "Breeders Cup Classic".


It's unfathomable to think that this mare won both races.

13 Nov 2009 2:24 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Marvin. Any relationship to the baseball player, Jim Gentile?

13 Nov 2009 2:33 PM
Bill Daly

I definitely agree with the notion there ought to be separate categories for performances on sythetic tracks as opposed to dirt as opposed to turf.  All three are distinctly different entities. The awards should reflect the times we live and race in.

13 Nov 2009 2:44 PM

So many have commented about the "easy schedule" of our Queen Z and the tougher road of RA.

It could be very interesting what path Jackson takes with RA, next year.  Without having to run in restricted 3 year old races and her propensity to run well against the males, what races will he choose for her?  Filly and Mare stakes?  Open graded races?  Put her in the Arlington Million ala Estrapade and beat the boys?  Mr. Jackson, we certainly wouldn't want to have that old argument about taking "the easy path" come up next November, now, would we?

13 Nov 2009 3:57 PM

This was a beautiful recap, Steve.  I especially love the deep respect you always give to the amazing efforts of those who aren't the winners.  And thank you for the insight to the sweet personality Quality Road shows the large percentage of the time.  He is exquisitely beautiful, powerful and talented. (My son-in-law's favorite) Those of us who don't get to meet our heros in person really need your powerful pen so that we can be part of the experience too.  

Watching QR go to pieces at the gate was horrifying but I don't see that it helps to start blaming the gate crew or the horse's connections.  This can be an opportunity to review gate procedures and set up standards to handle any future problems in a better way.  It's really a miracle that any of these horses go in a gate at all.  It's totally opposite to every instinct they have.  Throughout history we humans have always asked more of the horse than he could reasonably be expected to give - and the horse has always given us his heart and soul.  There was a reason for his behavior. He was telling us something; it's up to his human family to figure it out and fix it.

13 Nov 2009 4:10 PM

As much as I love Zenyatta, which I do, she could have raced outside of California at any point in the year, even without facing RA...sure we would have all complained they were avoiding each other, but what has hurt Zenyatta is they never left "home"...I mean at least poor Lava Man tried to win out of California!

No one can say they didn't put Rachel in a position to get beat if you were good enough...

13 Nov 2009 4:25 PM

Winner wrote: "Yall are wrong the deepest classic field ever was Curlin's '07 Breeders cup classic"

Well, I'm not sure who wrote that this year's field was the deepest ever, but clearly the best Classic field ever assembled was in 1998. Just look at the order of finish: Awesome Again, Silver Charm, Swain, Victory Gallop, Coronado's Quest, Skip Away, Running Stag, Touch Gold, Arch and Gentlemen. There isn't another Classic field that comes close to matching that powerhouse group.

13 Nov 2009 4:40 PM
dr fager01

Great article by the great Steve Haskins on the QR situation, only one with the immence talent of a Steve Haskins can find a way to humanize what most consider sometimes a brutal sport, the sport of so called kings, it only steve who can reach out to those who dont bet a dime ,but have love for the equine beast we all call the horse.  This kind of story about the one on quality road would not only make peta proud but possibly convert a few into racing fans. the only dispute i would have with such a wonderful story is, it takes away from the classic itself, QR wasnt the morning line favorite he was a mere minor compettitor with little chance of winning, it was the horse that threw the fit, to blame anyone else would be ludacris, a lot more could have gone wrong, when a 1200 pound beast bucking and kicking is not a little dangerous, but can become very deadly. So in that said i give the gate crew much respect those guys are the unsung heroes of a sometime dangerous sport.

13 Nov 2009 4:51 PM
carolyn rogers

Laz, Vic, How many horses in the years have won HOTY without running in the Breeders Cups?

13 Nov 2009 5:00 PM

And Gio's returning next year! What a difference synthetics is making to the racing community. He'll be pointing for the world cup. I appreciate you writing this article. Quality Road is so special and the moment he freaked out at the gate I figured people back off him. I hope people come to realize how frightening those gates are, especially to giant horses. And If I recall, California gates for some reason are smaller than gates on the east coast.

13 Nov 2009 5:02 PM
Judy LL

As a fairly new member of the American TV racing scene, I have loved it since I first watched it and I thought the Breeders Cup meet was a most exciting 2 day spectacular!!

I have been mildly shocked by the dress code of the gate assistants In Ireland and GB it is now mandatory to wear hard hats when handling horses( If an accident were to happen it is quite possible that any insurance claim would be invalidated."due care was not taken" a great mantra get out clause.

 Also body protectors should be worn.And also safety shoes

I would humbly suggest safety committies should look at videos of horse handling at european starting gates

The stalls handlers use blindfolds that appear to be much easier to get on and off in emergencies the Blind fold used at BC appeared to look like a pair of size zero underpants.

The other aid these guys have is a strap with handles on either end to increase the grasp width around the rump,this makes it unnecessary for the handlers to grasp each others hands and commonsense would suggest that the extra room would make handling a tad safer.

We have all seen the panicked behavior of horses like Quality Road. It is very unfortunate that it happened on one of Americas biggest day. I feel very sorry for the horse and his connections but In Racing these things can happen but If I suggest a few safety changes it is no reflection on the stall handlers or management it just might make these peoples job a bit more safe.

13 Nov 2009 5:10 PM

Most of my friends know that I'm very much into

Thoroughbred racing and at least a few were watching the B.C. when Quality Road had his scary experience. The effect on these newbie

watchers is not what we

could hope for,no new fan

among them. I was remind-

ed that Smarty Jones had

his gate trauma too,maybe

it's a family thing. The

same friends also were as

blown away by Zenyatta as

any aficionado and were

surprised to find that

they were on their feet as they cheered her to the wire!

13 Nov 2009 5:24 PM

About QR- Pletcher said they did extensive schooling with him, as he was aware of his starting gate antics.  He said during the schooling he behaved beautifully.  Something triggered him.  It's really a shame, as it looks like it will take alot of work.  

13 Nov 2009 5:58 PM

I have raised TB for racing for a very long time.  I have loaded then in trailers etc some easy some difficult but that fiasco that went on with QR should NEVER have happened. I just reviewed the race again, after I ran this article, and no they never hit the horse directly  but that jerk that had the whip when he was loaded without the blindfold you can clearly see him poking the whip right up his rear many times while in the gate that is when he bucked and reared out of the gate, then they blindfold him get him in the gate and the same jerk starts poking him again with the whip. That is when he went balistic.  I couldn't believe it!!  If I were the owners and trainer I first would fire them all and then sue them for any damages that this colt will have in the future. They are suppose to be professionals and they were far from that. What a shame.  I hope to see this lovely animal run again and win.  He is a beautiful colt.

13 Nov 2009 6:40 PM
The Peacock

I agree Soldier Course...bring tehm back when they're ready to load.

13 Nov 2009 7:00 PM
The Peacock

You're more than AReasonablySmartMan...sucker bet. A point system might be used for win, place, and show. More interesting, longer chance that a tie would occur.

13 Nov 2009 7:05 PM
The Rock


I watched the Instant Classic last night on TVG, and it was awesome. I especially loved the Jekyll & Hyde affect on "Mutton Chops" when he said there was no way Zenyatta would win the Classic, till after the race he praised her and the entire setting at Santa Anita and how he stated how badly horse racing needed this. I've never seen him that excited over an American horse before!

13 Nov 2009 7:16 PM

I keep thinking about what was said in your final thoughts and agree wholeheartedly about Cloudys Night and Precious Passion.  What heart out of good old fashioned American horses !

I also keep thinking about the Classic.  I still believe that Zenyatta (she is 14 for 14 by the way, not just 1 race, and already had a convincing Breeders Cup Ladies Classic to her credit)could have accomplished what RA did if given the chance.  RA could NOT have done what Zenyatta did last Saturday

13 Nov 2009 8:24 PM

Carolyn Rogers:

To the best of my knowledge, the following horses never raced in a BC of any kind during their HOY campaign:

• 1984 – John Henry – injury

• 1985 – Spend A Buck – Injury

• 1990 – Criminal Type

• 1994 – Holy Bull

• 1999 - Charismatic – Injury

• 2000 – Point Given – Injury

I might have missed one or two, but I don’t think so.  Have a good day and keep on posting.

13 Nov 2009 8:26 PM

In answer to carolyn rogers, there have been more horses that have won HOY without running in the BC because BC has only been around since (I believe) 1984.  HOY has been here since the early 50's if I'm not mistaken.  Even since the debut of the BC, the HOY has not always participated.  You seem to be inferring that a horse MUST RUN in the BC event to be under consideration for HOY.  Not so. In as much as the BC was held for the 2nd year in a row at Santa Anita (on a synthetic surface) and statistics show that horses used to running primarily on dirt do not fair well at S.A.; it's no wonder some of the "stars" did not show up, and those that did compete, did not perform at their best.  I've never thought that the BC should determine year-end awards.  I believe this even more strongly when they are held on a synthetic track.

13 Nov 2009 9:10 PM
Matthew W

For one time only--offer up a shared vote as one of the choices--otherwise Zenyatta has no chance for HOY, thats the politics of the thing---don't let that happen!

13 Nov 2009 9:50 PM

Peggy? If you've raised TBs to race you'd know that the gate crew are employed by the race track.

If you've been around it at all you'd know that the buggy whip is snapped behind them, they're never touched with it.

The main thing is there were a bunch of very valuable horses in that gate and they needed to expedite getting this colt in. They gave him a lot of time, they tried to link hands, urge him, open the front etc. A blindfold is used as is a blanket and it may be that they had the blindfold there and it may be that Todd has used it on this colt before.

Really, I'm not sure what to make of all of this. This is HORSE RACING not a pony ride, petting zoo. The other thing that no one seems to be considering is these gate crews are in a dangerous position, on the ground with a kicking horse. These guys have been kicked, crushed and badly injured. Frankly the Starter or the vet should have stepped up and said enough. But then think about the ton of money the owners lost in fees.

The horse wasn't badly injured, if he never runs again how does it affect any of you in the long run?

13 Nov 2009 10:42 PM

Carolyn Rogers:

Just adding to what robinm posted, before the Breeders Cup several year-end races were considered paramount in considering HOY, among them the Woodward and the Jockey Club Gold Cup and for a short period, the Marlboro Inv.  Now, since the advent of the Breeders Cup, they have gradually lost their importance (the Marlboro has even been discontinued) and the fields that race in them don't seem to be nearly as deep as they were in the past.  Though racing and winning in the BC isn't the be-all and end-all in determining year-end champions, racing in them is extremely important because of the level of competition, important for the voters when casting their ballots.  LOL

13 Nov 2009 10:51 PM

Steve, as usual, your article was wonderful.  Like Peggy, I watched the loading of QR again today and quite honestly, was extremely disappointed in the way the gate crew, in particular, the man yielding the whip, reacted to the whole situation.  I understand that time is of the essence in this situation, but if you listen- in the very beginning of the load process, QR's jock is disagreeing with the methods.  First, he tells the starters not to touch QR's ears.  Then he tells them to bring him back, and let him settle and try which they turn him a half step and try and force him in again.  You can actually see Velazquez shaking his head in dismay.  Then another starter yells- Get in the outside horse- referring to Awesome Gem- I assume thinking that perhaps if QR saw another horse load next to him he'd feel more comfortable.  But the crew completely ignores this, and continues to try and get him in.  I am NOT convinced he wasn't hit with the whip after watching it several times over.  Like Peggy mentioned, the guy with the whip actually keeps "poking" QR with it for the first few seconds he is in the gate blindfolded and freaking out.  It's insane.  The man in the front of the gate is indeed a hero for holding onto QR with all he had.  Whoever has it DVR'ed- watch it- you won't believe it!!  I think it turned QR from a reluctant loader into a horse who was totally terrified- Pletcher had nothing to do with that. (It almost pains me to say that, since he's DEFINITELY not my favorite trainer).  Anyway- I apologize for the stream of consciousness like tone of this post, but I just wanted to weigh in after re-watching the load.

13 Nov 2009 11:42 PM

TIZNOWBABY-Belmont Park and TVG agreed to raise purse, I believe in The Beldame Stake from600,00 to on million, if both Rachel and Zenatta raced in it, It was a foregone conclusion Rachel was going to run in Woodward, They didn't have many other options,every article I read came up with that conclusion Maybe Mr Haskins can enlighten this situation,I belive both parties eluded each other to show place their horse, but like Mr Haskin said RA dirt HOY Zenyatta syn HOYtake youe own pick

14 Nov 2009 12:23 AM
Judy Loves Both Zenyatta & Rachel

You wrote " this case we’re talking about two of the greatest fillies of all time who have performed feats so extraordinary they will never be duplicated..."

"I can see voting for the filly of your choice, but I cannot see NOT voting for the other one. What that means in simple terms is I cannot imagine one of these fillies not being rewarded for her accomplishments this year."

Steve, you read my mine and put my thoughts into words much better than I! In my opinion, if only one of these glorious "girls" wins HOY, then that means one of them has to "lose" HOY and that would be horrible! Neither one of them should go down into the history books as losing to the other. Period.

I am so grateful for being a part of history and actually being close to QUEEN ZENYATTA on BC day! Tears of joy the minute she crossed the wire.

By the same token, PRINCESS RACHEL ALEXANDRA gave me goosebumps for her tenacity, too! She was able to beat the "boys" more than once!

Different, but the same: CHAMPIONS!

14 Nov 2009 12:54 AM

Re. the Marathon: "they should boost the purse, give it grade I status, and have the tracks devise a schedule of lucrative races at 1 1/2 miles and longer."

From your lips to God's (or Greg Avioli's) ear...

14 Nov 2009 1:47 AM

Again, Hank, I would ask you: If your goal is the Breeders Cup Classic, why would you travel 3,000 miles for a prep race, then have to turn around and travel 3,000 miles back to where the BC is being held?

14 Nov 2009 3:29 AM
carolyn rogers

Laz, Now I have another question, Since the Breeders Cup Classic, which horses have ran like Zen and won in the classic races and still won the HOTY award for that year? Thank you for education me as I just started following horse racing about two years ago, of maybe three years.

14 Nov 2009 7:55 AM

Just a comment on the year end championships....there have been horses awarded a divisional championship who only raced ONE time in this country the entire year!  That one time was winning a Breeder's Cup race!  So, it appears to me that winning a Breeder's Cup race is given much more weight than winning any other race or combination of races.  I wonder why then after all of Zenyatta's racing in this country and ending with a never before accomplished win should disqualify her for racing's biggest award....? For the record though, I am still for co-horses of the year!

14 Nov 2009 8:58 AM

defree - I'm glad you mentioned JV trying to tell the gate crew how to load QR.  When I watched it just the one time live I could have sworn that just before the problems started I heard JV tell the crew to give the horse some breathing room (words to that effect) but instead they closed in on him.  I don't have it recorded so I couldn't look at it again.

I don't think it's a pony ride or petting zoo but if they'd listened to JV from the start maybe the problems wouldn't have developed at all.  QR doesn't load well but I've never seen him come completely unhinged like that before.  He'll usually kick a few times then go in.

The horse has a pretty big fan base.  It affects us because we'd like to see him break a few more track records.  Would be a shame to see a horse with so much potential retired over a mishandled gate incident.  

14 Nov 2009 11:25 AM

Tiznowbaby- I agree.  It makes no sense.  But she was pre-entered in the Beldame, and Rachel Alexandra was steered clear of it.  There was no other reason for Zenyatta to run anywhere else if her goal was the BCC.

14 Nov 2009 11:53 AM

Carolyn Rogers:

I missed one on my other list…….In 2003 Mineshaft was HOY but didn’t race in the Classic because he was retired earlier with a tendon injury.

Following is the list of HOY since 1984 (the first year of the breeders cup) and where they competed in the BC Classic……Two fillies won HOY but chose to race in the Lady’s Classic instead (which they both won)…..Lady’s Secret in 1986 and Azeri in 2002…….In 1998, Favorite Trick was HOY but did not race in the Classic because he was a 2 y-o. (He won the Juvenile)…..In 1993 Kotashaan was HOY but did not race in the Classic.  He raced in the Turf and won.


• 1984 – John Henry – (injured did not compete)

• 1985 – Spend A Buck – (Injured did not compete)

• 1986 – Lady’s Secret – (1st Lady’s Distaff)

• 1987 – Ferdinand – (1st Classic)

• 1988 – Alysheba – (1st Classic)

• 1989 – Sunday Silence – (1st Classic)

• 1990 – Criminal Type – (injured did not compete)

• 1991 – Black Tie Affair – (1st Classic)

• 1992 – A.P. Indy – (1st Classic)

• 1993 – Kotashaan – (1st BC Turf)

• 1994 – Holy Bull – (Did not compete)

• 1995 – Cigar – (1st Classic)

• 1996 – Cigar – (3rd Classic)

• 1997 – Favorite Trick – (1st 2 y-o Juvenile)

• 1998 – Skip Away (unplaced Classic-won it ’97)

• 1999 – Charismatic – (injured did not compete)

• 2000 – Tiznow – (1st Classic- won again in 2001)

• 2001 – Point Given – (injured did not compete)

• 2002 – Azeri – (1st Lady’s Classic)

• 2003 – Mineshaft – (injured did not compete)

• 2004 – Ghostzapper – (1st Classic)

• 2005 – Saint Liam – (1st Classic)

• 2006 – Invasor – (1st Classic)

• 2007 – Curlin – (1st Classic)

• 2008 – Curlin – (4th Classic)

As you can see, HOY is heavily slanted towards horses that competed in and won the Classic, but not all.  Of 11 HOY winners that competed in the Classic, 9 finished 1st, 1 was 3rd and 1 unplaced…..Of the balance, 7 were injured and did not race, 1 just chose not to enter and had been retired for the season (Holy Bull), 2 were fillies and raced in the distaff, 1 was a 2 y-o and raced in the Juvenile and 1 was a turf horse and raced in the Turf…..It is interesting to note, that of the 25 Breeders Cups since 1984 and the corresponding HOY, excluding the 7 that were injured, only 1 HOY did not race in a BC race of some type.

Now the big question is will this effect Rachel and of course…….who will win HOY in 2009.

LOL and have a good day.

14 Nov 2009 1:13 PM

Quality Road should have been BACK IN to the gate! No blindfold is needed then and actually they should allow the Groom, who the horse is familar with, to handle the gate procedure.

14 Nov 2009 1:27 PM

Daniel, here it is on YouTube:

You can see him shaking just before the blinfold goes on...they did nothing wrong and he's just who he is...thank the good Lord all ended well with him and the others.

14 Nov 2009 1:36 PM

Actually the gate problems started when they began loading the other horses. They just tried walking the colt up and he was so on edge it was apparent it was a no go. I just could not understand why Johnny V didn't get off him.

I don't want to say anything against him, but remember back all the gate problems Johnny has had. He's not known in the game as a good gate rider.

I can tell you guys that QR has had gate problems and Todd's been working with him for a while. This didn't just pop up on Saturday and if they'd have taken all the time in the world, the crowd had him so riled up it would have ended in disaster. Sure his gate problems have never been this bad, but he's also never been in an atmosphere like that.

You saw what effect it had on Zenyatta and there were some other horses starting to get riled up. Another 2 or 3 minutes of this and once they unloaded Z and tried to reload her, she wouldn't have gone in either.

What I'm kind of wondering about, like some others is what it really means to anyone other than the connections. Sure you guys are fans, but the horse is okay physically, or will be. Who even knows if he was going to run after this year anyway?

I, like others, just don't get WHY people feel free to take jabs at those in racing ALL the TIME. To me everyone involved did everything they could to get the horse in the gate. Everything they tried was what they do every single day. So Johnny said stay away from his ears, give him a minute, blah blah. Well they did all of that but they were responsible for 12 others and to pander to one much longer would have been unfair to the others. I suspect even if he'd have gone in the gate without the blindfold (although I doubt that would've happened)he'd have pitched a fit.

He just had a meltdown and there were a lot of contributing factors, starting in the paddock. The crowd being asked to put down the Z signs because they were stirring up the horses, the actions of some of the horses in the paddock.  Once this colt started being asked to do something he didn't want to is when it all blew up.

14 Nov 2009 1:59 PM
dan renzulli

as usual haskins writes and gives the best info all the time. simply put "the best"

14 Nov 2009 4:23 PM
Mike Relva


I agree w/you regarding Quality Road. The blindfold almost proved to be Quality Road's undoing.

14 Nov 2009 4:50 PM

KY fan- I was just making observations- I think everyone involved minus the guy with the whip was doing everything they could, and following normal protocol.  I think people crap all over racing far more than necessary, but this time I saw a few things that I thought were a little strange- again the guy with the whip once QR was already loaded. Just things that need to be considered- If I as a race fan notice them and disagree with them, then how is the general public who isn't as lenient or understanding as I am going to take it.  Thats all.  But I do understand your frustration.  I agree with you that QR probably wasn't going to get loaded at all that day, no matter what.  If we want racing to survive, we need to figure out how to appeal to the general public, and for most people, watching events like that isn't going to hook them.  I grew up watching racing- I don't want it to go away.

15 Nov 2009 1:15 AM
Mary in VT

Rachel will be Horse of the Year.

I'm nuts about both of these horses, and although Zenyatta's BC was visually very impressive, it was her only impressive race this year. If she was capable of more races like this, shame on her connections for keeping it a secret. They should have realized it takes more than a 5 race - 1 state campaign  - with 1 impressive race in it after they lost HOTY in 2008. People keep saying how beautifully managed she was. Sorry. I don't see it. I think they lose it again for the big mare.

The BC could not have set up more beautifully for Zenayatta, Life Is Sweet, and Sheriffs. Home track, Rachel not coming, Sea The Stars not coming, Summer Bird and Mine That Bird struggling on the ProRide, Rip van Winkle's connections concerned, Gio Ponti had a long year and looked the tired horse he was, Music Note wasn't getting over the ProRide as lightly as she does dirt, everybody was talkign about Quality Road's oochy ouchy trot the day after a work so he was a non issue, and Zenyatta's people *still* didn't call it for the Classic until they had seen all the compition on the ProRide. Of course Zenyatta's race was visually impressive. How could it be anything else? The class of the field was in trouble giving a gigantic advantage to Zenyatta who was the freshest horse in the field and the only synthetic specialist. Similarly, the class of the field in the Ladies Classic was in trouble on the ProRide, advantage to Life Is sweet.

The '08 and '09 versions of the BC dirt races should be forever asterisked as run on a surface that clearly handicapped dirt horses. There are troubling issues, and a lot of lines have been blurred. "Horses who made their last start on the dirt were 0 for 21 at the Breeders' Cup this year, making the tally 0 for 43 in the two straight Cups on the synthetic track at Oak Tree, with 34 of the 43 finishing worse than third. .. Thirty of the 43 starters ran a slower figure switching from dirt to synth, 20 of them by 10 points or more:"  - DRF

You all saw the top grass horse in the US come in a respectable second to Zenyatta on Santa Anita's version of 'dirt' with a Euro grass horse in third, and Summer Bird was the first dirt horse over the line in fourth place. The same was true on Friday. According to DRF, none of Friday's BC AWS participants finished better than third unless they prepped on synthetics. The lovely Music Note, who to my mind towers over Life Is Sweet, was the only dirt horse to get up to third place all day on Friday, and I forgot who managed Friday's soul fourth place. Sheriffs was merely the lucky recipient of the sythetic surface funneling the marquis races his way. All he had to do was recognise the golden opportunity before him and hold out his arms.

Zenyatta beat the winners of the KY Derby and the Belmont on *her* best surface, not theri best surface because they were taken out of theri game. Every tv commentator noted that the Classic winner's works over the ProRide were unimpressive. I don't care what Tim Ice said. Everybody else saw his horse wasn't the same horse on ProRide. If you want to know the truth, I think when Tim Ice said that his hiorse handled the track fine, he was just doing his best to stick a fork in Rachel Alexandra. Rachel Alexandra beat Summer Bird by six lengths in the Haskell on a surface that he liked and came within two ticks of the track record doing it. Zenyatta only beat him by 3-4 lengths on a surface that he didn't care for.

Whereas, every time Rachel ran she was asked to step up to bigger and better challenges. Every time. Every race. If Jess Jackson "cherry picked" her races it was to make sure that each one was tougher than the last. When they could no longer fill a race with 3 yr. old fillies to run against her she took on the boys again and again and still again. She stayed undefeated on seven tracks in six states and in whatever weather God cared to deliver. She was tested every step of the way while smashing through record after record. To be able to find a way to keep her neck in front in the Woodward after setting sprinter like early fractions took the strength and breath and voice right out of me. I will never forget it as long as I live.

Rachel's people were begging for a race with Zenyatta, while Zenyatta's people remained coy. America was begging to see them both in the same race, but Zenyatta's people could not be pursuaded to take on the 3 yr old filly. Zenyatta supporters now want to say that true dirt was really her best surface because of her one race on it lasy year. If that were true, we would have had our race.

This debate is not even close.... Rachel Alexandra had one of the greatest seasons of all time and is HORSE OF THE YEAR.

15 Nov 2009 2:31 AM

KYFan, you're right about the signs, etc. Even Zenyatta had to be pushed in for her initial loading as well as the reload...

15 Nov 2009 7:02 AM

Tiz first of all  I love both of these horses, have watched all of Zenyattas and Raceals races if possible through TVG, if that were, classic in mind, the case why enter in both races, and then realize that most of classic horse were out of their element,GiPonti is going to be grass champion, he wouldn;t even try dirt,Read article by UbiasedOpinon, not taking anything away from Zenyatta, achomplishments by each horse, and that is what HOY is relly about, are like and day, RA are way ahead of Zenyattas, probaly never duplicated Zenyatta's probably will be repeated next year by RA. If she is as good RA will run in BC Classic,shee would of ran this year if it was on dirt, give Jackson his due he didn't dodge any bullets with her, Each should be looked at own  merits, RA dirt, Zenyatta Syn.Run on glass, rember Zenyatta was in Kentucky in to go but got scratched,why track conditions, not the case for RA, the only thing wrong was that both horses showed up in same year,Greatest thing for racing, now it is time for racing to step up to the plate and award both camps for their success. I will go with Mr Haskin on this one and I have to give him credit he is trying in the the nicest way to tell everyone here what is best for everyone. Love everyon here!

15 Nov 2009 9:06 AM
Karen D

I'm a little puzzled why they chose to start the Classic in the chute off the main track.  I would think that contributes to problems loading with horses being boxed in on three sides. Thanks for the reminder that everything we ask these horses to do goes against their nature and instincts.  It's arrogant and thoughtless to blame one of them if something goes wrong with our plans.

On a lighter note, in the search for Secretariats I would like to nominate Presious Passion as Big Red in the Belmont.  He certainly knows how to open a gap on the field and he has the heart of a champion.

15 Nov 2009 11:19 AM
Matthew W

Steve thanks for placating me--I know I'll always have the memories--I remember Ancient Title, Best Pal, Exceller, and others who never got a sniff of an Eclipse--That's what happens when some regions have more votes than others--it's ok...but I ask you, if it were reversed, and there were more votes out West, would it be ok with you to just have the memories of Rachel, cuz it's not ok to constantly hear Big Z only ran one good race, when she beat the Ladies Champ three times--it was not ok to hear her 7 for 7 season (last year) was not enough cuz she didn't run in Classic... if there ever was a time for the powers that be to step in and offer up a shared vote, this is that time....otherwise, Zenyatta will lose for the second time, and she never really did lose, did she?

15 Nov 2009 12:32 PM

Steve, I agree with all you have said, but I wonder... if final thoughts on the Breeders Cup Classic 2009 can be finalized until we know the final outcome of Quality Road.

Dear God, please help Bob Duncan rehab this magnificient horse...

All my prayers are for Quality Road and Bob Duncan with his ability to help Quality Road overcome this problem....such a beautiful horse.....

Rachel and Zenyatta will never be separated from their "Greatness" during the 2009 season...yes, we can add Goldikova.........

15 Nov 2009 1:05 PM

Hank, I've never debated who should get horse of the year, so I don't know why you're addressing that post to me.

I will debate you 'til the cows come home, however, that Zenyatta should have traveled east just before the BCC in hopes of meeting Rachel. Again, how does it makes sense to make a 6,000-mile round trip for a prep if your goal is the BC Classic?

15 Nov 2009 1:06 PM

Mary in VT

Zenyatta's people did not exactly back away from a meeting with Rachel......If Rachel’s connections would have continued with their plans to race in the Beldame, Zen would have been there as she was already pre-entered.  As soon as it looked like Zen would race in the Beldame, Rachel's people decided to commit to the Woodward……Whether this is a coincidence or not, who knows, but it’s not right to say that Zen shied away from Rachel………I think it would be safer to say that Rachel shied away from Zen and after her devastating win in the Classic it is not hard to see why.  As good as Rachel has shown to be, at least in the 3 y-o filly ranks, she is not even close to being Zen’s equal on any track surface you want, especially dirt, because that is THE GREAT MARE’s best surface.  That one race, the Classic, is tons greater than all of Rachel's races put together.

15 Nov 2009 2:15 PM
Matthew W

Mary in VT how can you say they were begging for a race with Big Z--The ONLY race va older was The Woodward, and they waited to announce their intent to go there, instead of Travers--no way could they have met--I agree with you that Rachel Alexandra had an all-time great season--I do not agree with your embelishment of that fact--begging for a race with Big Z, a full field of toughies around two turns? I never heard any mention of that--Rachel was a top filly--still is--no need to embelish that fact...that is the bias I claim exists: West Coast fans have nothing but praise of Rachel Alexandra---you try being a West Coast Fan, always seeing your horses getting the short end of the stick--always getting second--even when your horse never did!

15 Nov 2009 2:52 PM

defree, that's the problem with racing as a lot see it.

We cannot make it 'perfect', we cannot make it incident free or made for TV.

It's human beings with feelings and failings, it's unpredictable animals.

It isn't like the 'reality TV' that for the most part is TOTALLY unreal.

These guys whether it's trainers, gate crew or whatever, do the very best they can every day. If someone isn't going to watch it because something out of the norm happened? Chances are they wouldn't have watched it to begin with.

Whoever can't let this go as something that happens when you have a high strung animal having an issue and move forward with the GREAT things that followed? There's no pleasing them.

Not to start a controversy here, but it seems like the ability to tell all of us how to run our business, point out all the bad things and second guess us, mostly with the advent of the internet and the popularity of blogs, is what has really started to hurt horse racing more than anything else. The TV has focused on the feelgood stories in the past, but now when they show those the negativity always comes up for something else. Nothing is just face value and maybe it's the times we live in but people seem to always want to find something to criticize, demean or put down. Not sure if it makes them feel better about their own lives, but it's not just racing it happens in.

Many of the suggestions are great, even if they have some things we don't like to hear. But the random criticisms and constant complaining or pointing out ONLY the negative? In my opinion, THAT has been as or more harmful to racing than almost anything.

15 Nov 2009 4:49 PM

I have an idea. It's just an IDEA, so nobody better attack me and say it's ridiculous. Zenyatta is supposed to leave for Kentucky in a few weeks, right? Rachel Alexandra is currently at Churchill Downs, correct? WHAT IF, before Rachel leaves for the Fair Grounds, both of them jog or gallop around Churchill Downs together for one lap to show off for the fans? It wouldn't be a breeze or competitive, just something light and friendly. Wouldn't that be a great moment, the two girls that defined 2009 together on the track, especially for the public? Personally, I think it would be fantastic if both parties and Churchill were able to agree to do it. But that's just MY OPINION, so please don't bash it as being stupid or impossible, because I don't think it is.

15 Nov 2009 6:23 PM


Bravo.  Very well said.  

15 Nov 2009 7:07 PM

Rachel's connections were begging for a race on their terms, on their turf.

Zenyatta's connections said they weren't chasing after her, they had a specific goal in mind.

If you all trained or owned you'd know that almost all of us set up a game plan and try not to deviate from it too much. If we do it's usually because a monkey wrench got thrown into the works and we had to go back to the drawing board.

But if you recall, Jerry said he was considering running his mare once more, that would have been the match up. Then Rachel was put up for the year so why would he run his mare?

Let's just see if the filly is still running at 5 and how careful those connections are with her race schedule.

15 Nov 2009 10:57 PM


Could you please explain how Zenyatta's Classic win is greater than all Rachel Alexandra's races put together?  It's a bold statement with nothing given to support it so I'd love to hear your reasoning.

15 Nov 2009 11:02 PM

Mary in VT:

I love Zen as much as Rachel, but you said it perfectly.

16 Nov 2009 11:39 AM

Love your columns, nice to see a writer that loves the horses, the sport and does not get caught up in all the hype but rather sees thru it all. Keep up the great writing!

16 Nov 2009 4:45 PM
Suzie B

Quality Road needs a few sessions with John Lyons!  Then he will be another perfect horse!

18 Nov 2009 10:47 AM
Debbie O'Connor


Great article!  My heart bled for Quality Road, poor baby, he was so frightened, I read later that he also refused to go on the plane and had to be vanned home.  I pray he recovers, I agree that he is a very talented athlete, who happens to hate the gate (I know how he feels, I'm claustrophobic).

I really liked the Breeder's cup coverage, especially the interview with Kent Desormeaux, I confess, I just love him...

Santa Anita really looks like a lovely place, someday I'd like to see "The Home of Seabiscuit" in real life.  Until then, thank heavens for TVG!!!  Thank you for all of your insightful, entertaining articles.

18 Nov 2009 2:31 PM

Mary in VT hit the nail on the head.

It's the result of being either misinformed or naive to think that Zenyatta dodged Rachel when in fact it is the other way around.  

The bottom line is that Jess Jackson got outmaneuvered.  He was sure that Rachel had HOY locked up and therefore there was no reason to risk a confrontation with Zenyatta at the BC.  Of course the one thing he didn't plan for was Zenyatta blowing away the toughest field assembled in North American racing this year in the BC Classic.  In fact, many experts are calling it one of the toughest BC Classic fields ever.

How anyone could have witnessed Zenyatta's truly remarkable achievement and still think RA could have beaten her is beyond me, certainly not at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.  On any surface, at any track, at any time, Zenyatta would have blown past RA in the stretch and beat her to the finish line at that distance and perhaps any distance.  

RA is magnificent, one of my favorite horses ever, but she never beat a field that even remotely stands up to the top-to-bottom quality that Zenyatta beat in the Classic.  

19 Nov 2009 2:02 AM

That Zenyatta, never mind synthetic, she could run on water and win ...

19 Nov 2009 3:43 AM


19 Nov 2009 10:06 AM
John Horton, Jr.

Steve, speaking to your point of Quality Road, I, too, am a big fan of his. Going back to the pre-Derby preps I saw him in. Winning the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby. I only wish he had gotten to run in the Kentucky Derby. That said, I truly hope he's able to overcome all of the Breeders Cup trauma he experienced. This is a colt with a world of racing potential, and I really feel like his best race has yet to be seen. And that his best races lay ahead.

20 Nov 2009 1:56 PM

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