Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

By Gene Kershner, EquiSpace

So how do you think the year is shaping up so far for the sport of thoroughbred horse racing? Do you think the glass is half empty or half full? It's time for my annual half year inspection of the Bests and Worst of thoroughbred racing. You can see the mid-year reports for 2009 and 2008 in the archives (always fun to look back at where my head was at). We seem to be at a crossroads in so many different areas.  There are lots of positives and enough negatives to go around. So here goes the halfway there edition for 2010.....

Best Moments in Racing - midpoint 2010

1 - Zenyatta remains the queen of racing through early 2010. No east coast sour grapes here, she's continues her winning streak with wins in California (2) and Arkansas (1) to raise her consecutive win streak to 17. The defending Breeders' Cup Classic champ looms large to defend her title in Louisville in November. This should continue to be fun to watch.

2 - Monmouth Park's Elite Summer Meet. Innovative.  Less is More.  Fabulous Purses.  Weekend Race Dates.  Big name trainers. The experiment is working and is sure to be copied.  Handle is up.  Attendance is up. 

3 - Pletcher wins his first Kentucky Derby.  Super Saver helped the Toddster smash the goose eggs next to his Derby record winning over a hard closing Ice Box by 2 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track under the Twin Spires.

4 - Quality Road emerges as best older male horse. The quality has shone through with major wins in the Donn at Gulfstream and the venerable Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park. A big showdown looms in Kentucky at the Breeders' Cup. Stay tuned, this one could be tremendous.  The emergence of the older handicap horses in 2010 is definitely a theme that has trumped the 3 year olds so far.

5 - Glen Fullerton's 15 minutes of fame. The 40 year old plunked down $100K in a CNBC contest on Super Saver and won $900K and bounced up and down on the NBC broadcast like a Mexican jumping bean. Why this is not a commercial for the NTRA on the joys of racing is beyond me.

Honorable Mention - Lookin at Lucky's Preakness win; Drosselmeyer's Belmont victory; Beulah Park's new Fortune Six wager; Odysseus' Tampa Bay Derby photo finish wire win; Canadian filly Biofuel making noise; Blind Luck wins Oaks at the wire.

Worst moments in horse racing - midpoint 2010

1 - Eskendereya injured weekend before the Derby. The horse that dominated the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial Derby prep races and likely post-time favorite was out of the Derby even before the draw. Subsequently retired and partially purchased by Jess Jackson, this horse had the pedigree and stamina to be a legitimate Triple Crown challenger. Maybe next year...

2 - The Apple Blossom Showdown. The Great Race that wasn't. After negotiating a race date change and hyping the showdown between Zenyatta and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, owner Jess Jackson pulled the plug saying RA wasn't ready to roll.

3 - NTRA rolls out streaming video, it fails. I shouldn't pick on the NTRA, but rolling out a new product after touting it for weeks without testing it for the volume, well you know what happened. They seem to have it straightened out, based on King Alex' latest post, applauding the IT company that now has fixed the issues altogether. That post, by the way, has a whole 7 comments.

4 - Aqueduct Slots Debacle. See the Left at the Gate blog who covers it better than anyone.  Maybe in my lifetime.  Maybe not.  This is a half empty endeavor, folks.

5 - Churchill Downs pulls out of NTRA.  Ouch.  Even Churchill management's subsequent commentary that their internal testing program is way more intensive than the NTRA's Safety and Integrity initiative had to hurt.  Many tracks are sure to follow Churchill's lead.

Honorable Mention
- Jockey fight on Dubai Cup card; Difficulty filling fields in California; The Mig is injured and forced to retire; Jockeys reality show cancelled by Animal Planet; NYCOTB bankruptcy issues mount.

So how do you think thoroughbred racing is doing half way through 2010, is the glass half full or half empty? What did I miss?

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