It has been a long, long time since racing has had a real rivalry, brought to life on the track. Last year we had Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, but them being females and racing in each other in female races, they were not publicized as highly as they would have been if they were colts. In 2009 we had Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, both highly publicized but nothing ever came to fruition on the track. The last real knock-down, drag-out rivalry I can remember was Easy Goer and Sunday Silence, during 1989.
Since then, as I mentioned we have had rivalries, but either they were not publicized as they should have been, or they just never happened on the track. This year coming year in 2012 we could finally be able to see a true rivalry that will be publicized and shown across America. The two horses that could bring this about are the unbeaten Hansen and the ultra-talented Union Rags. The two met for the first time in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and finished only a nose apart, with Hansen getting the nod.
For 2012, both connections have set tentative schedules for their charges, and as of now it looks as though the two could meet twice more before the Triple Crown. Both colts are being pointed towards Gulfstream’s three year old prep series. Hansen is possible for the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, while Union Rags will most likely skip the Holy Bull and pick up in the Fountain of Youth and continue with the Florida Derby.
Gulfstream is one of the premier tracks for the leading three year olds to make their mark. Last decade Florida sent a total of five horses that either won the Kentucky Derby or finished second or third. Of those five three were winners. There is no doubt in my mind, that should these two continue to dominate, that Gulfstream will publicize and hype this potential rivalry to its fullest.
If this rivalry comes to fruition it would be exactly the shot in the arm that racing would need. Both have sporting trainers in Mike Maker and Michael Matz. It wasn’t long ago that Matz was on top of the globe when training the unbeaten Barbaro to a dominant win in the Kentucky Derby, only to watch everything fall apart as Barbaro broke down in the Preakness Stakes. Marker has had success with his horses, but one could argue that he’s never had a horse with the raw potential and ability that Hansen has shown.
Also, the Triple Crown and the Triple Crown Trail contain the most publicized races, with the exception of the Breeders Cup. The three year old division often takes the most attention of any division in racing, which is why it nicknamed the glamour division. This is the optimum time for a rivalry to take place, so let us hope that if everything goes accordingly, that the powers to be do not pass up a fantastic opportunity to bring racing back into the public eye.