The Answer Man to the Rescue

With more than 400 responses on my last blog, and with some of the posters a bit overzealous in expressing their opinions, it is obvious the Horse of the Year debate is going to continue to heat up as we get closer to the Eclipse Awards.

I have stated my feelings and have nothing more to say on the matter, as far as what is right and what is wrong. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not an earth-shattering topic, but one that apparently has hit the nerve center of the American racing fan.

What I will do is address some of the comments by posters, many of which denigrate the “other” horse, and at least attempt to put them in some kind of perspective. So, playing devil’s advocate, here are my responses.

“Rachael Alexandra was fully extended to beat Macho Again and Mine That Bird--two ordinary horses:”

The quality of one’s competition in a particular race should be based not on an opponent’s overall record, but on the form he or she is in at the time. That is why there have been major upsets throughout history – a superstar getting beat by an inferior opponent who is in the form of his or her life on that day. In the Woodward, Rachel Alexandra defeated two horses – Macho Again and Bullsbay -- who were in the form of their lives, having finished one-two in the Whitney (gr. I). Macho Again on his best day was good enough to win the Stephen Foster (gr. I), New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), Jim Dandy (gr. II), Derby Trial (gr. III), and finish second to Big Brown in the Preakness (gr. I). Rachel Alexandra on Woodward day defeated a good older horse who was in the best form of his life, as was Bullsbay, who was coming off a 107 Beyer in the Whitney. Denigrating a 3-year-old filly’s accomplishment of defeating solid older horses in early September is not based on anything logical. As for Mine That Bird, he also was in the best form of his life coming off his Kentucky Derby demolition and ran another terrific race in the Preakness. The Mine That Bird Rachel Alexandra defeated was not the Mine That Bird we saw struggle in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a track he ran horribly over last year.

“A Horse of the Year has to show up – Zenyatta:”

Show up for what? A self-proclaimed “World Championships” that does not decide “World” championships? And run on a synthetic surface? Does showing up for one big race mean more than showing up for several big races from May to September at seven different racetracks, stepping way out of the box against males on three occasions?

“Why do you think Zenyatta was not scheduled to race against Rachel when there were so many opportunities? It's because they knew for months Rachel would never run on the polycrap at SA and they would have their only argument:”

Whatever articulate and poetic word you wish to use for synthetic surfaces, Zenyatta was scheduled to ship to Belmont Park to run in the Beldame Stakes had Rachel Alexandra showed up. All the arrangements had been made. But when it was decided after the Woodward to retire Rachel for the year that plan was scrapped and she ran in the Lady’s Secret instead.

“Zenyatta only beat grass horses, a couple of synthetic horses, and dirt horses that didn’t like the track:”

Only beat grass horses? You mean like Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator? If the Pro-Ride favors grass horses, why knock her for beating the best grass horse in America? No one knows for sure that Summer Bird didn’t like the track. He was only beaten three lengths. Doesn’t closing her last quarter in :23 flat, while being angled out several paths during the stretch run, suggest she ran a fantastic race, running down a closer who was running a winning race himself? Why would anyone want to ignore the fact she defeated eight grade I-winning males from three countries?

“Why do you think Rachel was not scheduled for the Breeders? Um. No chance of beating the mare:”

This must have been written by Jess Jackson or someone close enough to him to know the real reason Rachel did not run in the Breeders’ Cup. How else could someone be that authoritative? He obviously has first-hand knowledge of the situation.

“How many times did Rachel Alexandra race in California? This is the better question:”

None. And this is the better question?

“The East couldn't win on the racetrack, but they're going to do their best to beat us on paper. HOY is so East Coast biased. It makes me wanna puke:”

Beat US? Glad to see the West Coast isn’t biased at all. And who doesn’t like a good conspiracy once in a while? I must admit the Eclipse Award voting may very well be slanted toward the East in numbers, but not to the point where it would make me wanna take such drastic measures.

“Zenyatta took the best males by their throats and didn't let them up. She is the Horse of the Year. Bar none.”

This comment was from a poster by the name of Rachel Alexandra. Talk about a low self image.

“My vote for Horse of the Year: 1. Rachel Alexandra, 2. Summer Bird, 3. Gio Ponti:”

Signed Rachel Fan From Arkansas. Now that’s what I call a fan…and objective all the way. Take Zenyatta and just get rid of her altogether.

“Ghostzapper and/or Invasor are in this year's BC Classic (assume they handle the surface well). Does Zenyatta still run them down?”

And if she doesn’t?

“Zenyatta raced spectacularly in the Breeders Cup Classic, but that race was over what her connections have repeatedly said was her best surface.”

Sorry to have to correct you, but John Shirreffs has said all year that Zenyatta “tolerates” a synthetic surface, but it most definitely is not her favorite surface. Her favorite surface was Oaklawn Park’s dirt surface.

“What do you think about trying to take some of the subjectivity out of the HOY and some of the other categories. Let's have some governing body assign a point system to each GI stake race.”

The words ‘governing body’ and ‘assign’ mean one thing: you are creating subjectivity, not eliminating it.

“Beating dirt horses on a synthetic surface is like ME BEATING PETE SAMPRAS IN PING PONG:”

No offense, but my money is still on Peter Sampras.

“While Rachel has an impressive resume, the sport at its best is still about how a special horse can stir one's blood. Zenyatta's Classic just might be the most memorable ever run. I've not been that moved by a filly or mare since Ruffian. My HOTY is Zenyatta - by a heart.”

There is nothing wrong with voting from your heart if you so desire, but  standing on the track after the Woodward and the Haskell, I can assure you that Rachel stirred the blood to a boil and moved the fans in attendance like they’ve never been moved before. I have never experienced noise after a race that reached the level of the Woodward. On the heart meter, this one’s a draw.

“Last time I voted for President, I didn't see an "either/both" option on the ballot.  So man up and make a decision.”

You know, I was thinking the same thing. I just don’t see any difference between voting for the leader of the United States of America and Horse of the Year. And you’re right about having to man up. It takes a real man to decide which horse wins a statue. Ask Zenyatta and Rachel if they’d rather have the statue or a carrot.

This is just a small sampling of the comments, but you get the picture. I hope the Answer Man was of some help.

The third sampling goes like this:

“Rachel gets the Horse of the Year award.....No Rachel...what a stupid predicament to be in.....they are both Horses of the Year.....”

“Horse of the Year should be about the extraordinary. I don’t see how anyone out there can say that label does not fit both these incredible horses and their accomplishments this year.  I hope the voters step up and show the same class these horses have.  It’s my feeling that if we don’t take this dual opportunity to acknowledge greatness, the only loser will be us.”

“I wanted to vote, but there was not a choice for BOTH, so I abstained.  ;-)”

OK, combatants, re-assemble, and let the battle continue. But, please, this time, how about water pistols instead of Howitzers. Feel free to get each other a little wet, but let’s not blow anyone’s head off. The evil moderators await with their itchy little fingers firmly pressed on the delete button.

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