Breeders' Cup Not a World Championship

I voted for Rachel Alexandra for Horse of the Year because I thought she accomplished more in 2009 than Zenyatta.

Those that voted for Zenyatta made a solid, well-informed decision. Who can argue with someone who voted for a mare that was unbeaten during the year and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I)? I can’t, but I do disagree—vehemently and vociferously—with those who say the award should have gone to Zenyatta because Rachel did not run in the Breeders’ Cup.

Their logic, they say, is the event is officially called the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, so that is where the championship should be decided.

I’m not sure where to begin rebutting such a silly argument, but here goes:

• The name World Championships is just that—a name, a title. No one actually thinks the Breeders’ Cup is a World Championship. If you are going to argue Rachel should not have won Horse of the Year because she did not run in the Breeders’ Cup, then can I argue Zenyatta should not have won Horse of the Year because Sea the Stars did not run in the Breeders’ Cup? All the best horses from around the world do not compete in the Breeders’ Cup, despite the title of the event.

• You cannot compare Thoroughbred racing to other sports. In baseball, football, basketball, etc., the league office determines the schedule. It tells teams when to play, and where. Teams can’t decide to skip a game or pass the playoffs. In racing, the owner and trainer decide a horse’s schedule. If they decide not to run in the Breeders’ Cup, or any other race for that matter, it is their decision. As a voter, I can certainly take their decisions under consideration when voting; I can question their actions or motives. But the Breeders’ Cup races should be weighted equally to other races throughout the year.

• Of course the Breeders’ Cup races are not weighted equally by the majority of voters. Otherwise Goldikova could not have been champion because she flew in from France, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), and flew home. As I have stated previously, Miesque was the greatest Breeders’ Cup winner I have seen, but I did not vote for her as champion either. I have always believed the Canadians have it right in this regard. To win a Sovereign Award, a juvenile must make a minimum of two starts in the country; horses older than 2 must make a minimum of three starts. One start does not define a champion.

• The Breeders’ Cup is a great event for racing. It draws attention to the sport; it stresses many divisions; it is a great example of how breeders are helping the industry. But a horse should not have to run in the Breeders’ Cup to become a champion.

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