Born To Run, Denied The Fun
Posted by Brian Appleton on November 24, 2009
2007 produced one of the most stellar crops of
three year olds ever to grace the track, the lineup of talent included Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday, Rags To Riches, Tiago and Nobiz Like Shobiz. All seven of these runners participated in at least one Triple Crown race and, as a result, the 2007 Triple Crown produced historic and exciting renewals. Street Sense became the only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor in history to win the Kentucky Derby
the following year. Curlin began his career in February and three months later won the Preakness in record equaling time by a head over Street Sense. Kentucky Oaks winner Rags To Riches became the first filly in over 100 years to win the Belmont Stakes,
beating Curlin in a stretch battle for the ages by a neck. Hard Spun placed second to Street Sense in the Derby, ran third to Curlin and Street Sense in the Preakness, and fourth to Rags To Riches and Curlin in
the Belmont. Any Given Saturday defeated Hard Spun and Curlin in the Haskell Invitational later in the year. Hard Spun won the King’s Bishop Stakes, then defeated Street Sense in Kentucky. Street Sense won the Jim Dany and Travers Stakes before running second to Hard Spun. Curlin ran down the
exceptional older horse, Lawyer Ron, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and then defeated Hard Spun, Street Sense, Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup
Classic. Unfortunately Rags To Riches suffered a fracture while running in the Gazelle and never raced again.
From this exceptional group of runners, only one was withheld from the breeding barns and returned to racing in 2008, Curlin. All others were retired. This year I have noticed an alarming acceleration in this pattern in the racing industry. Out of curiosity, I decided to compile a “short” list of the runners retired, or being retired, this year.
- Indian Blessing
- Music Note
- Seventh Street
- Cocoa Beach
- Kip Deville
- Colonel John
- My Pal Charlie
- Unbridled Belle
- Cowboy Cal
- Mint Lane
- Idiot Proof
- Pioneerofthe Nile
- Champs Elysses
- Icon Project
- Forever Together
- Old Fashioned
- Sea the Stars
The last three mentioned are European. Did I miss any? Yes, many, many in fact. While creating this list, I discovered that I was barely scratching the surface and therefore chose only the names that were most recognized this year.
When it was announced that Sea The Stars would be retired after his unmatched 2009 campaign, the general reaction was disappointment from thousands of star-struck fans. Disappointment, but not surprise. We fans have become used to the concept that the most talented, standout horses of the year will be retired to stud after a good three year old campaign, regardless of how badly we, and the industry, want them back for one more year. If they aren’t a filly or a gelding, it’s adios amigo! This year, Sea The Star’s connections said that he was in his element when running and in tip-top shape when they announced his retirement. In the same breath they said that it would be unfair to the horse to continue running him. To think that the fans are stupid enough to buy into that weak excuse is insulting to say the least. If they want to retire the horse fine, but be honest to the public and admit the real reason: money.
Horses like Zensational barely got a chance to prove their talent, and with
the time he was given he showed outstanding skill. If he was allowed to run again next year we could have witnessed a very special older sprinter. Zenyatta and Einstein are the only two that I’m not averse to seeing retired. Both apparently love running, both are older and in terrific shape, and both have nothing left to prove. Although it would be amazing to see Zenyatta race Rachel Alexandra and face the boys more often, she has had a great career. Einstein will probably be a hot ticket at stud due to his remarkable versatility. He will attempt to go out on a high note in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs this Friday against Macho Again and possibly Bullsbay. He has been one of the most consistent long-term, top-tier runners in recent history. Ventura will also try to end her brilliant career Saturday with a win in the Matriarch Stakes against Diamondrella and Rutherienne.
People like Jess Jackson get a lot of flak from fans and media alike for their methods in racing. When Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra after her record setting Kentucky Oaks win, many considered it a “shortcut” to being a winner in the top echelons of the sport. Regardless of how you feel about his tactics, you must appreciate the fact that he returned Curlin, one of the best horses of the last 25 years, for a second campaign in 2008. He plans on doing the same thing with Rachel Alexandra for next year; she is already beginning her training in New Orleans. If Rachel Alexandra wins Horse of the Year, that will be two very special, not to mention much-loved, Horse of the Year champions that Jess Jackson has kept in training two consecutive years despite lucrative breeding offers. We need many more Jess Jacksons in this sport.
People in racing, mainly owners, are in a huge hurry to rush their horses off to stud. They state the reasons that they believe their horse(s) will greatly contribute their stamina, strength, and speed to the gene pool. If the only reason they breed is to find another horse to breed, then what’s the point? Are they born to run, or breed? The real race nowadays is done in the breeding shed, not on the track. It needs to be brought back to the track.