Notre Dame - Alabama reminds me of Cigar and Skip Away

January 07, 2013 08:34am
Alabama and Notre Dame, the wait is finally over. In probably the most anticipated college football game so far of the 21st century, the top two ranked teams in the nation, and two of the most storied programs in the history of the sport, will square off in tonight’s BCS National Championship Game. Alabama is the defending champion and the clear favorite. Last year, they used a stifling defense to dominate fellow SEC member, LSU, in the title game. Meanwhile, and despite all of its history, Notre Dame is the upstart. The Golden Domers are playing for their first title in 24 seasons, but enter the game on an impressive win streak that has seem them improve greatly since the season began. I, like millions of others, will be tuned in with interest tonight at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN to watch the showdown. Being the thoroughbred fanatic that I am, though, I also have a bit of an equine take on the whole affair. Tonight’s Notre Dame vs. Alabama reminds me of a big race between a couple of titans of the turf, the incomparable Cigar, and the iron horse, Skip Away.

Like Alabama, Cigar entered the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup as the overwhelming favorite. In 1995, he had dominated the national racing landscape like few horses have in the past quarter century. Much like the Tide, he rolled through his competition in such a way that left little doubt as to who was the best. His effortless victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic made him the obvious Horse of the Year. 1996 had begun for Cigar like 1995 ended. Overpowering performances kept the Bill Mott trainee as the unanimous number one ranked horse in America. But just as Alabama had their stumble against Texas A&M and Johnny Football, Cigar had his Dare and Go at Del Mar. The loss for both Alabama and Cigar came as a shock to most, but did little to shake peoples’ ultimate belief in their quality. Just as Alabama rebounded from the loss like a champion, Cigar shook off his West Coast failure to outclass his opposition in the Woodward Stakes. There was no doubt going in that he was the horse to beat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Like Notre Dame, Skip Away had his moments, but also his struggles. While Notre Dame’s ups and downs have lasted a few dozen years, the grey son of Skip Trial had already gone through a lot in his first two seasons on the track. Just as the Irish showed signs of turning it around last year under new coach, Brian Kelly, Skippy showed promise, but closed 1995 with a juvenile season largely unfulfilled. As Notre Dame became nationally prominent again in year two for Kelly, it was in his second season for trainer, Sonny Hine, that Skip Away really started to flourish. A six length win in the Blue Grass was his own big win on the road against Oklahoma. He endured a long, tough season, and was not always at his very best, but the wins started to add up. The Ohio Derby, Haskell, and Woodbine Million were impressive, and fans began to see him as a real championship contender, but very similar to what Notre Dame has faced of late, most seriously doubted whether he could really knock off Notre Dame.

On race day, October 5, 1996 at Belmont Park, Skip Away was let go at nearly 6-1, while the defending champ was pounded down to 1-5. Both horses had to chase the pesky front runner, Louis Quatorze, but neither Cigar, nor Skip Away, would allow the party to be crashed by the talented speedster. Skip Away was always ahead of the favorite, but as the wire approached, Cigar made one final surge. It wasn’t easy, but in the end Skip Away showed he belonged and pulled off the upset, holding off Cigar by a determined head. I’m not sure if all this is a good sign for Notre Dame tonight, but at the very least, we can all hope that the BCS National Championship is half as exciting as the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup. 


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Older Comments about Notre Dame - Alabama reminds me of Cigar and Skip Away...

I just wish Skip Away was around to face Cigar in 1995 when Cigar was at his peak instead of a year later. It would of made the race a bit more interesting, but was still a great race.
The very first thing that all seminars about wagering point out is that most bettors continually lie to themselves as regards their ongoing total plus or minus
I would have loved to see the high powered Oregon offense line up against 'Bama's gut-wrenching defense, oh well. Not much of a game, shut it off after the first half ;).
Don't give up Mary. You're providing an essential selfless service for the betterment of all.
That website is not fully functioning just yet. I'm on their e-mail list now, and the guy from their merchandise ordering department was polite but had to have been irritated by my lengthy dissertation on horse racing.
I'm going over to to talk about Royal Delta all day long.
I agree with Zatt, my 2012 was extremely profitable. The Derby, Preakness and Breeder's alone fattened my wallet. Although I agree with travel vic that it would be difficult to do it as a profession, most due to the lack bankroll I suspect. I generally come out on top, but usually other than 2012 it's been petty cash
Why do you assume everyone loses, but yourself? I would be happy to show you my 2012 totals.
Handicapping contest winners prove very little as well since you are forced to bet on the races the contest forces upon you. One of the greatest aspects of an independent speculator is in choosing to match your skill with the venue where they work the best and stay away from those where it does not. These stupid contests negate that enormous individualizing aspect of the game.....Heck I find Evangeline and Canterbury along with Northlands great places to play...No competition
Like I posted before. go through the very humbling experience of betting through an automatic wagering account and see for yourself what your NET is after a few weeks.....THEN, when the reality of accurate accounting hits you square in the pocket book you will realize how difficult this game is to beat
People LIVE in the dream world that they COULD become some long term successful turf speculator. I will tell you from personal experience that 95% of the population neither has the time skill, discipline nor bankroll to do it. Once you have seen it done, you are in awe and I doubt seriously I would see it when attending the races with anyone here
I hear that hogwash all the time about being the professional... My goodness...
I didn't say Notre Dame was better than Oregon, Humphrey. Wouldn't you be better served to read, write, and spell well before insulting everybody that speaks to you here? I'm pretty happy supplementing my earning every year with winnings derived from my handicapping, thank you.
zatt your logic is as porous as a collander. Hope you dont handicap that way: if A beats B and if B beats C then A must beat C.....Doesn't work
review those losses and they could have gone either way. ND was not dominant over Stanford, not even close, and Oregon was UNLUCKY to lose in overtime. THE BEST OFFENSE out there belonged out of Eugene Oregon
Notre Dame beat Stanford, and they beat Oregon ... Perhaps SEC only (A&M or Gerogia) would have been best opponent for Alabama.
Oregon would have been a much better opponent, or Standford
Ahh. Two "Ss."
How in the heck do you spell Eblouisante?
I think the playoff system starts next year with four teams. It'll be hard to keep the SEC Champ out of those four teams, meaning the SEC will own NCAA Football for the next 20 years. The only time they don't win the championship is when they're not allowed to play (Memories of Auburn a few years back). Anyway...enough from me about football.

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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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