Race of the Week 2017

Haskin: Horse of the Year a stalemate

Says scribe on one of the most talked about debates to hit racing in years: "With thoughts of Santa Anita and Saratoga, and even Monmouth Park, still fresh in my memory, I feel my only recourse is to look at all the facts stated above and call it a stalemate." Read More


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Older Comments about Haskin: Horse of the Year a stalemate...

Rossington: Thank you. That's the whole point. Zenyatta beat the best horses in the biggest race. You can award style points to Rachel if you want, but she's not the better horse. Macho Again and Bullsbay are cool horses... but they are Grade II horses that have won Grade I's due to fortunate circumstances or weak fields.
Given the way that both Macho Again and Bullsbay finished today in the Clark Handicap and in some of their most recent races doesn't lend much credence to Rachel's Woodward victory. Rachel may have a couple of more win's, but Zenyatta CLEARLY beat a much better group of male's in one try than Rachel has beaten in three. Zenyatta, imo, deserves HOY honors.
I'll also never buy into the ridiculous argument that Rachel somehow should be docked for running in the Woodward over the Travers. Look at the facts here - The Travers included Summer Bird (a horse she'd just trounced in the Haskell) and Quality Road, as well as completely overrated horses in Charitable Man and Warrior's Reward. The Woodward included Macho Again and Bullsbay, the 1-2 finishers of the Whitney, and Macho Again had already won several graded stakes races earlier this year. Both were in the best form of their lives, and each was completely capable of winning a Grade 1 race on the dirt. Cool Coal Man was entering the race off a big 107 Beyer, and Asiatic Boy and It's a Bird were both solid older horses. It's not as if this field was a joke by any means. In all actuality, from top to bottom, it was deeper than the Travers. Now, if you're going to say that she ducked the Travers because of the distance, who really cares? Isn't it good ownership to put your horses in the spots where they're best capable of excelling? If you've got a horse that is probably best suited going 9f, why try him or her at 10? Zenyatta's connections ducked running in the mud at Churchill back in May, but I don't see anyone condemning them for that decision. They also never took her out of California this year, nor did they ever run her on a conventional dirt surface in 2009. Why? Because those scenarios didn't give her the best chance of winning. Just like 10f doesn't seem to give Rachel Alexandra her best chance of winning (although that could be false). Why fault somebody for spotting their horse as best as possible? It's not as if she ducked the Travers for the Pennsylvania Derby here.
  • Rossington · If you're going to make your case, make sure you're right. Macho again had not won "several" graded stakes races earlier in the year. As a matter of fact he's 20-6-6-0 lifetime. His only graded stakes win's had been in the Stephen Foster Handicap and the New Orleans Handicap. One a Grade 1 and one a Grade 2. So don't over hype Macho Again's successes either. I don't think Rachel necessarily ducked the Travers. Maybe Jackson just wanted to prove that she could beat older horses. But of the two, the Travers was the more difficult race. · 2926 days ago
Whoever thinks the Woodward was a favorable pace advantage for Rachel is off their rocker. Here are the horses at the pace call and their subsequent finishing position: 1 - Rachel Alexandra (1st) 2 - Da' Tara (Eased) 3 - Past the Point (6th) 4 - Cool Coal Man (7th) 5 - It's a Bird (5th) 6 - Bullsbay (3rd) 7 - Asiatic Boy (4th) 8 - Macho Again (2nd)+ Fast is fast, it doesn't matter who it is. To run on the engine with fast fractions and a contentious pace, then subsequently put away each and every speed horse as they wilt backwards and then fend-off a legit closer who had the race tailormade for him is pretty extraordinary. Rachel had numerous defining races. Zenyatta had one. And for the record, saying Rachel ducked the better horses is equally laughable. She beat the Travers winner, soundly, in the Haskell. While Zenyatta tip-toed around all year long, Rachel scaled new heights, tried new things and was devastatingly good. She is Horse of the Year.
The problem with the thinking behind the 'World Championship' argument is that nobody beyond the Breeders' Cup itself anointed it the 'World Championships.' That is part of their marketing plan, but it's just that, a marketing scheme. Yes, the Breeders' Cup is a year-end culminating event, but in no way is it synonymous with the Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, etc. All things considered, it's just another day of Grade 1-level horse racing. Championships have been and will awarded to horses who didn't compete in the Breeders' Cup, as will championships be awarded to horses who lost in the Breeders' Cup. If it is indeed the 'World Championships,' neither of those scenarios would be possible.
Absolutely agree with Rossington. Excellent post.
Porter: The problem with the pace arguments is they can be used against both RA and Z. But in actuality, both ran great all year against difficult pace scenarios, but beating Grade II fields. Rachel putting away an entire Preakness field after a hot pace was awesome, and she gasped to hold on, only because Mine That Bird was the only thing coming. In the same way, Zenyatta's run from double-digits lengths behind pedestrian paces was pretty awesome, but she needed every yard to beat the likes of Anabaa's Creation. The problem with the dodging argument is that Rachel's connections dodged the big races (could have run in either big race). In the end, it comes down to championship day. It's sort of like the Final Four. The best team doesn't always win. If the #8 ranked team wins, that doesn't convince everyone that they were the best in the land. But if one of the top 1-2-3 teams wins the championship, that sort of settles it on the field even if #2 beat #3 and #1 didn't show up in the finals. And that's what happened here.
Sorry, I have to add a PS: Lets see how undefeated Z would be if she would have run in the preakness, haskell and a grade 1 against older males when she was a three year old. If they would have run against each other on a neutral track (dirt) some of the races could have gone either way and in others RA would have blown her doors off. You want to be horse of the year, no home track advantage, get off the poly.
Talk about no knowledge, sabaka you win the prize. RA is one dimensional, Z is one run closer who strictly raced on a one run closers track. Now thats one dinemsional. Now for that loaded field she beat, dirt horses who had the decked against them(Zero for 43 the last to BC,S at SA), turf horses from US and Eur. that left colone john and richards kid. Yeah she really beat a loaded field. RA raced at many different tracks under different conditions. Another thing mister knowledge, check out the splits in the woodward. Lets see if Z casn run hard the whole race liek RA does and still win. No lopping around the track for 3/4 of the race and putting on a poly track charge to win. Z never left the cozy confines of her favorite surface, gee I wonder why. RA is so much more deserving of Horse of the Year.
Sabaka95 is right on. Rachel was exciting, but she beat a subpar group of older males in a race with no other speed. She's a great horse, but she does not win the Travers or the Classic.
It is hard to believe that the voting is done by the least knowledgeable people in the industry..the media. Zenyatta has done more than Rachel. The defining point was when Rachel went into the Woodward instead of the Travers. The sad bunch of older males in the Woodward made her look better than she was. It was a small field with no speed and Rachel was all out to beat Macho Again who was soundly beaten by Summer Bird and Quality Road. Remember its not about beating older horses if they are not good anyway. In the BC Classic, once again Zenyatta only had to run for a brief amount of strides before putting away a stellar full field. Rachel is one dimensional. I work on the backside and we all knew that Rachel would avoid the Travers to run with the sub-par older males in the Woodward. Its too bad racing has to have the media blowing performances out of proportion in order to promote the sport. If the HOY voting was done by knowledgeable people the voting would be at least 70:30 for Zenyatta. Hopefully Rachel will run next year against quality older horses....The Woodward looked like a setup race to make Rachel look good. Way to go media.
Right, but to win those World Championships you have to win a lot of games, something Rachel did, and Zenyatta just kinda did. If Gio Ponti won the Classic, would he have been Horse of the Year? On paper, his credentials are just as good, if not better, than Rachel's. When you look at it that way, the vote goes to Rachel.
  • Rossington · You ask a good question right there in your comments. One that my wife and I also discussed. If Gio Ponti had won the Classic, he would have had as much of a legitimate claim to HOY as Rachael or Zenyatta. Actually, more so than either IMO. · 2928 days ago
While watching ESPN recently, I heard a basketball annalist talking about Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. The debate about which one was the best "big man" in NBA history. Wilt's stats were quoted. His total points scored, his rebounds, his blocked shot's, etc... When the question and Wilt's numbers were put to Bill Russell he responded " the only numbers I care about are that I won 11 world championships." Much is the same in the debate between Zenyatta and Rachael Alexandra. Many writers quote Rachael's number of wins, her stakes and track records, and her by-length average margin of victory. But Rachael has won no world championship's. Zenyatta has won two world championship's. The Ladies Classic division in 08' and the Classic in 09' making her the world champion by beating the best available colt's, 3yr.old and older in the world. I don't know who'll win HOY. The award is decided by a group of people who probably don't have any more knowledge about the sport than I do, and that's not much. But I do know this, Zenyatta is something that Rachael will never be UNDEFEATED, and retire's as world champion. Until the day that I see Rachael line up in the gate against the best colt's in the world, on the biggest stage, in one of the world's biggest races, IMO Zenyatta will alway's be a CUT ABOVE Rachael.

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