August 31, 2009

Remembering ... Wajima

I will never forget the afternoon when Wajima and Forego came together in a furious stretch battle during the 1975 Marlboro Cup. They turned the race of the year into their own personal dual. Top horses Ancient Title, Foolish Pleasure, Avatar, Royal Glint, and Step Nicely were left far behind as these two champions had at it. The five-year-old Forego carrying ten more pounds than his younger rival, gave Wajima everything he had, but could not get by. It was striking for me to see the big, beautiful son of Bold Ruler almost dwarfed by the monster that was Forego. As they sprinted home to the wire he simply would not let the giant horse win. Wajima had beaten Forego for the second consecutive race, this time by looking him in the eye and battling to a hard-fought, head victory. It may not have been the result that the majority of the Belmont crowd wanted that day, but I went home happy.

Wajima was the highest priced yearling of 1973, and for that matter was the highest priced yearling ever at the time of his sale. Out of the last crop of the great American sire Bold Ruler, and a half brother to Naskra, the strapping bay always exuded the look of quality. So it was some surprise to see Wajima languishing as just a good horse, but far from a great one, in the early Summer of 1975. Everyone had been watching the $600,000 colt and my family was no exception.

I was only in the first grade but already was an avid fan of the sport. My Dad was, so I was. Thanks Dad! 1975 was the first year that I remember races quite well. Bits and pieces of races from 1973 and 1974 scatter my memory, but in 1975, I became a full-fledged fan. Everyone loved the ill-fated Ruffian who died that year and Forego had legions of fans especially in New York. For me, the first horse I really loved was Wajima and that love affair was born from a short stretch of time in 1975. It began with a change of strategy by his experienced trainer Steve DiMauro.

DiMauro knew that the real Wajima had not revealed himself on the track yet. He won four times and had been 2nd in a few major stakes, but his true talent was still below the surface. DiMauro decided what his colt needed was some confidence, something to bring his mental game on a par with his physical abilities. That prompted a trip to the old Bowie Racecourse and a start in the Marylander Handicap. Wajima toyed with his rivals and set a track record in the process. Mission accomplished…he was now a confident horse. Monmouth Park and the Monmouth Invitational (now called the Haskell) was next on Wajima’s dance card. His new found confidence was on display that day as he overcame an extremely troubled trip to defeat the game Intrepid Hero by a measured neck. The real Wajima had arrived and it was time for him to test the big boys back in New York.

Unfortunately, there were no big boys to be found in that year’s Travers and Wajima turned it into a laugher, cruising home best by ten, effortless lengths. On to Belmont and the best of the best. The old Governor Stakes was a showdown. The Champion Forego taking on the best handicap horse in California, Ancient Title and the top 2 three-year-olds in the country Foolish Pleasure, the Derby winner and last year’s 2-year-old champion, and the now red-hot Wajima. This story’s hero was again victorious as he beat Foolish Pleasure by a head with Ancient Title third and Forego, carrying a whopping 134 pounds, a wide and late fourth. Wajima had beaten three future Hall of Fame horses and he would do it again just 12 days later in the Marlboro Cup.

In a five race span, Wajima had set a track record at Bowie, overcame a bad trip to win Monmouth’s biggest race, won the Mid-summer Derby by 10 lengths, and did something that I am not sure if any horse has ever done by beating three Hall-of-Famers in two consecutive races. In so doing he clinched the 3-year-old championship despite not having raced in any of the Triple Crown races and propelled both his trainer, DiMauro, and his jockey, Braulio Baeza, to eclipse awards as well.

The mighty Forego would gain a measure of revenge by edging away from Wajima in their third and final meeting in the 1 ½ mile Woodward just two weeks after the Marlboro. But once again, Wajima proved his greatness as he battled Forego gamely down the stretch and it was a full 11 lengths farther back to the third horse, Grade 1 winner Group Plan.

That record yearling price of 1973 certainly turned out to be a steal. As Wajima’s successful racing career came to an end after his 3-year-old season, he once again broke a world record when he was syndicated as a stallion for $7.2 million. Wajima’s final race record shows 9 wins and 5 seconds from 16 starts, but it was that five race stretch in the Summer/Fall of 1975 that will always be special to me. I remember you … Wajima

August 30, 2009

Travers Day … Here is What I Saw

A sea of slop and a soft turf course were the stage yesterday for some of the best horses in America. Travers Day is an important one, not only for the 3-year-olds, but also for many other divisions as well. I had my thumb at the ready to dish out some approval or some disappointment to the performers. Here is what I saw.

Thumbs up to Summer Bird. He is now the master of his domain (3-year-old colts) with his second impressive win in a classic race. Summer Bird was much the best yesterday and proved his Belmont Stakes win was far from a fluke. In my eyes, he is now the clear leader in the division, and only a win by one of the other 3-year-olds in the Breeder’s Cup Classic would deny him an eclipse award. Congratulations to his young conditioner Tim Ice, who is barely one year into being on his own as a trainer.

Thumbs up to Music Note. She was inches from being the 3-year-old filly champion last year, but her one race so far this year left much doubt as to her 4-year-old campaign. That doubt was erased with an overpowering performance in the Ballerina. Music Note is back, and I move her all the way up to the second position on my list of top older mares behind only Zenyatta.

Thumbs up to Vineyard Haven. I knew he was a top 2-year-old last year, but to think he would run this well against such a great field yesterday caught me by surprise. His talent is undeniable as it almost overcame just one race in twelve months and that being during an unproductive Winter in Dubai. If he improves at all off of the King’s Bishop, he will be a force to be reckoned with this Fall.

Thumbs up to Sara Louise. Another one who I thought might not be ready for her best yet, but she just outclassed her rivals in the Victory Ride. It will be very interesting to see where she goes from here, but she may be a very good one.

Thumbs up to Salve Germania. I bet on her, so that is enough for me. The European certainly relished the boggy turf course and ran the race of her life. She might never beat this kind again, but hey, once is pretty good.

Thumbs up to Rachel Alexandra. The empress of American racing was once again flattered by her former competition. Notably Summer Bird and Sara Louise. Every time her former rivals come back and win big races impressively, it makes me think that she is even better than the extremely high opinion I already had.

Thumbs down to the Jim Dandy horses. Kensei sixth, Warrior’s Reward fifth, and Charitable Man fourth, all had little to say when the real running of the Travers went down. For a bunch that looked like they all had a shot going in, it was a dismal finish, proving that this year’s Jim Dandy was inferior in quality to its normal high standard.

Thumbs down to Indian Blessing. Indian Blessing was a star at 2. Indian Blessing was a star at 3. Indian Blessing is not a star at 4. I don’t know if she is not the same since her Dubai sojourn, or if she has just lost a step, but she is not the same horse this year.

Thumbs down to Big Drama and Munnings. I expected a lot more of these two highly regarded 3-year-old colts. Full of class and dropping down in distance. Both bred to enjoy slop, they simply did not have it yesterday and were no match for Vineyard Haven and Capt. Candyman Can. They will need to step up their games if they want to be factors in either the BC Sprint or Dirt Mile.

August 29, 2009

Travers Day / Rainy Day

Ahh … Travers Day. One of my favorite days of the year. The Travers itself is always great, throw in a bunch of other very good stakes at Saratoga and you have yourself one of the best racing days of the year. Unfortunately, this year looks like it might be a little wet. I will not let that dampen my enthusiasm though. What I will do, is alter my selections accordingly for the wet track. Here is what I think:

Race 7 - The Victory Ride
Sara Louise, the last horse to beat Rachel Alexandra, will be overbet. Since I am not fond of her chances anyway, coming off the long layoff, I am happy to throw the favorite right out. All of her Twist, part of the Kelly Breen entry, can handle a wet track and should appreciate the fast pace carved out by her entry mate. She is the main play. The longshot play is Trix in the City, from the hot Linda Rice barn, who is actually stepping down in class after chasing the blazing Elusive Heat in her latest. She should be high odds and has a chance. The play - The All of Her Twist entry boxed with Trix in the City, Selva and Reforestation

Race 9 - The Ballston Spa
I am hoping that NYRA can keep this race on the turf. If so, on a yielding or soft turf, this race becomes more wide open. Recent import Salve Germania and Thomas Proctor’s Closeout both would appear to prefer soggy grass and could have enough to take this against the very classy, favorites Rutherienne and Cocoa Beach. The play - Key exacta box Salve Germania and Closeout with Cocoa Beach, Rutherienne, My Princess Jess and Captain’s Lover.

Race 10 - The Ballerina
Two of the best female sprinters in the world Indian Blessing and Informed Decision will battle in an interesting 7 furlong affair. I give Indian Blessing the slight edge in the slop, but not by much. Longshot Modification is not as good, but appears to want dirt and like it wet. Throw in Music Note who lost the 3-year-old filly championship by only a head last year and it should be a fun race. The play - Trifecta with Indian Blessing and Informed Decision boxed for 1-2 and Music Note and Modification in the third spot.

Race 11 - The King’s Bishop
What a race! The fur should fly early. Insuring fast early fractions causing some weary legs in the lane of this contentious sprint. Having said this, I am going for the closer, Not For Silver. 15-1 on the morning line, but this horse should love rallying at 7 furlongs off a fast pace. With the likes of Big Drama, Munnings, Capt. Candyman Can, and Vineyard Haven, this is as classy a race as you will see for 3-year-old sprinters, enjoy. The play - Not For Silver to win.

Race 12 - The Travers
Is he great or is he just good? That is the question with Quality Road. We should find out today. I will not be betting him for three reasons. He will be overbet, possibly closing in on even money. He may be a little short, coming off only a 6 ½ furlong sprint and I expect him to be involved in a contested early pace. Because of that pace I like Summer Bird, who we know loves the distance and should have a perfect trip. I had decided to throw out Kensei, but he is just a little more scary on a sloppy track. Any of the others have done enough to not be a major surprise in this solid field of seven. The play - Summer Bird to win.

August 28, 2009

Rachel and Her Rider - No not Calvin!

Dominic Terry has been riding horses since he was four or five years old. His mother, Elizabeth Kirkland, who was also was a jockey, brought him around the track as a young boy. He remembers loving to ride the stable pony at the barns where his mother worked. His first riding job (he will not say how old he was at the time) was for Bill Badgett, the trainer of the great Go For Wand. From these beginnings, it was only natural for Dominic to go on to a career as a professional jockey, but in 2003 and still a teenager, he was seriously injured in a race at the Fair Grounds. It was a terrible fall and caused him eleven months away from the races. Horse racing is clearly not a game for the faint of heart and the accident left him with a nine inch scar on his neck as a reminder.

After his return from injury, Dominic has had a difficult time in deciding on whether he should be a jockey or an exercise rider. Weight, as is the case for many men and women who have riding aspirations, is an important factor. He is currently a happier and healthier person weighing in at a few pounds more than he would need to maintain as a jockey. While he misses the rush of being a race rider, he has continued to work diligently and has found himself in an enviable position. As a trusted member of the powerful Steve Asmussen stable, Dominic has the privilege of getting on the back of some of the best horses in the world. Curlin, on occasion, Pyro, Kensei, and Rachel Alexandra in just the past couple years. It is in Rachel Alexandra, whom he calls the best horse that he has ever ridden, that Dominic finds peace with his choice to be an exercise rider instead of hearing the cheers of the fans in the afternoon.

Rachel Alexandra has benefited as well. Since beginning to work with Dominic in May, she has transformed into a much more handy filly during her conditioning workouts. When she first came to the Asmussen barn, Rachel was very hard to handle and her preparation for racing was not the most focused. Dominic was both thrilled and nervous when Asmussen’s top assistant, Scott Blasi, turned to him to work the star. Through his expertise, she has now learned to efficiently prepare for her races. This certainly can be seen in her last few races where she has patiently rated behind the quick early fractions of the Mother Goose and the quality speed of Munnings.

Dominic is as big a fan of this filly, that has captured the imagination of so many millions of admirers around the world, as anyone. He admits to almost needing nerve medication on the day of her races. He sees more great things in Rachel’s future, culminating with a win in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic at her favorite track, Churchill Downs. Dominic realizes that Rachel Alexandra will be a popular girl in the breeding shed, but he is not so sure that she will want to stop running so fast to enjoy the fruits of motherhood. In the end he wants her always to be happy and healthy.

Dominic is grateful for the opportunity he has been given by Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi, credits family and friends for their support and feels blessed that Rachel Alexandra is in his life. He credits her for helping him to be a fulfilled person today.

On behalf of Rachel Alexandra fans everywhere, we salute you Dominic Terry. The work you do with Rachel is so critically important in allowing her to be the incomparable horse that she is. Your work may be very early in the morning, without the watchful eyes of millions of adoring fans, but we appreciate everything that you do. You are a true unsung hero. Godspeed to you and Rachel Alexandra.

August 27, 2009

The Jersey Boys

If you are looking for my critique on another rousing rendition of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, you can find it a few blogs over at the Totowa High School 45th Reunion Page. But…since I have you here, why don’t you stay a while. I have a story to tell.

You see, for me, the real Jersey Boys are three of the finest colts ever to set foot on the Monmouth Park racetrack. It was smack dab in the middle of the season for the finest crop of 3-year-olds the decade would see. Besides the Haskell Three, you had other sharks like Java Gold, Cryptoclearance, Polish Navy, Gulch, Gone West and Demon’s Begone swimming in the 3-year-old pool that year. But this is about the three colts who on the first of August, 1987, would run the greatest race ever run at Monmouth Park.

The Jersey Boys were Alysheba, Bet Twice, and Lost Code. Alysheba had become a national hero after being bothered twice, almost falling and still rallying to run down Bet Twice in the Kentucky Derby. He once again would wear down the game Bet Twice to win a hard fought Preakness and America was thinking Triple Crown. Bet Twice would have none of that though, as the Derby and Preakness bridesmaid would run away from a strong Belmont Stakes field to win by 14 lengths. Alysheba lost a three-way photo for 2nd and finished a weary 4th. Lasix, or the lack thereof, was a big story in the Belmont, as New York racing did not allow Lasix at that time. Many surmised that was the reason for Alysheba’s disappointing race. While Alysheba and Bet Twice were dominating the Triple Crown races, something was brewing in Alabama and again Lasix was part of the story.

No great horses ever came out of Alabama…until now. Lost Code was a horse-a-fire. With the addition of Lasix, he became a force, traveling from state to state, collecting other Derbies on a regular basis. Lost Code ended his races early with his blazing speed and left the other horses behind to vie for 2nd place. Seven straight stakes victories and they were easy. The stage was set. Alysheba and Bet Twice would renew their Triple Crown rivalry and Lost Code, the hottest horse in America would join the fray.

For those in attendance that day, including yours truly, the energy in the air was palpable. They called it the ‘War at the Shore’ and I had never seen so many fans at Monmouth Park. The ballyhooers were ballyhooing, this was big. Statistically speaking there were five horses in the race, but it was all about the three stars. Bettors would make little difference between them and everyone had their own choice as to which would be victorious. The Derby winner, the local star, and the speedball. As the gates sprung open, the crowd roared and Lost Code assumed early command. Bet Twice and Alysheba stayed together and very close though and the race was on. After a solid half mile, the three horses started to show off their immense talents. Lost Code streaked to the 3/8’s pole in 1:09 and change and his lead over Bet Twice on the outside and Alysheba on the inside was now slimmer. They would not let him get away.

As they turned for home Bet Twice cornered like an Italian sports car and was breathing down the neck of Lost Code. Alysheba and Chris McCarron had swung out and lost considerable momentum to the other two who were accelerating by the fence. Lost Code with Gene St. Leon aboard was giving Bet Twice everything he had and they would ding-dong it down the entire Monmouth stretch. Alysheba was now finding new gears on the outside. The crowd was deafening. As they approached the wire Bet Twice edged ahead of the gallant Lost Code and Alysheba’s desperate attempt to catch up would fall just short. Craig Peret pumped his fist and whip in exultation as Bet Twice defeated Alysheba by a neck and it was another neck back to Lost Code. The Monmouth horse had won. Bet Twice’s trainer Jimmy Croll and rider Craig Perret were Monmouth through and through and they had done it. What a race. Bet Twice had defended his home turf and in defeat Alysheba, who did not run with Lasix, and Lost Code proved that they were stars no matter the situation

Even as I ripped up the biggest win ticket I had ever placed, I knew I had just seen something very special.

These were the real Jersey Boys.

August 26, 2009

And Her Next Race is ...

I’ve been waiting. We all have been waiting. The Alabama, The Travers, The Woodward, The Personal Ensign, or The Pennsylvania Derby all seemingly or supposedly had a chance to attract the mega-star filly. Turf writers, like myself, Rachel Alexandra’s legions of fans, and pretty much anyone connected to a horse that was considering any one of those five races were waiting. Tick-tock Jess Jackson, tick-tock. Why must you make us wait so long? Don’t you know we just want to see her run?

Finally, we have an answer.

Rachel could not run in the Pennsylvania Derby. Come on! Philadelphia Park or Saratoga? No offense to Philadelphia Park and it certainly would have been different if she had already raced at Saratoga. She was stabled all Summer at the Spa, she needed to race at this venerable race place.

Rachel could not run in the Alabama. Her races against 3-year-old fillies have been so ridiculously easy that no one interested in competitive horse racing wanted to see that again. As it turned out, Careless Jewel would have been the most competition that she would have faced within her division, but Rachel rightly will not run in a 3-year-old filly race ever again.

Rachel could not run in the Personal Ensign. The older mare division, save one, is frankly a little boring to me. If there is no Zenyatta, then there is no reason for Rachel to be running against the older females. By the way, if Zenyatta had come to Saratoga for the Personal Ensign, then it would have become my first choice.

Rachel could have run in the Travers, but… there is the matter of her stablemate, Kensei. It would have been fun to see her in the Mid-Summer Derby. One mile and a quarter, and one more chance to prove that she is the best 3-year-old out there. A chance to beat a horse, Quality Road, that people are talking about in glowing terms. Prestigious and historic, the Travers would have been a nice feather in her cap. In Kensei, however, the Rachel Alexandra team has a horse that could win the Travers and vault into the front runner position for 3-year-old champion. They obviously do not want to run them against each other.

Rachel will run in the Woodward. She will become the first 3-year-old filly, or for that matter, the first female of any age, ever to win this prestigious, Grade 1 race for older horses. Yes, I expect her to win. The list of Woodward winners reads like a who’s who of American racing; Sword Dancer, Kelso, Buckpasser, Damascus, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Slew O’ Gold, Precisionist, Alysheba, Easy Goer, Holy Bull, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft, Ghostzapper, St Liam, Lawyer Ron, and Curlin have all won the Woodward. Now Rachel Alexandra. As she takes her next step towards greatness and once again does something no other 3-year-old filly has ever done.

August 24, 2009

Remembering ... Genuine Risk

I will never forget the moment when Angel Cordero perpetrated one of the greatest crimes against the fans of thoroughbred horse racing. Racing fans everywhere had adopted a new hero, or should I say heroine. Genuine Risk was everything the public wanted in a new star. She was elegant and fast, she was feminine and tough. A lovely filly who could fill the void left by Ruffian’s death five years earlier. Her win in the Kentucky Derby had been one of the most popular in history. Genuine Risk was a powerful example for women libbers everywhere. In Genuine Risk, Girl Power was alive.

Angel Cordero, one of the best jockeys of his time, was no stranger to controversy and he was not afraid to raceride. The race was the 1980 Preakness and it was a chance for everyone to see Genuine Risk march to immortality. The striking, chestnut daughter of Exclusive Native was peaking at just the right time. Her capable and experienced trainer Leroy Jolley saw to that. She entered the Preakness as the belle of the ball and the world was watching. Among the seven colts that lined up as her opposition that day was a California colt named Codex. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Codex was also peaking, having annexed the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies. Unfortunately for his connections, he had been unable to run in the Derby due to mistakenly not nominating him. They were ready and eager to take on the Derby winning filly.

Early on, the race was unfolding in a predictable fashion. Codex was in a perfect stalking placement and Genuine Risk was not far behind running in a similar position to her Kentucky Derby triumph. As Codex sprung to the lead, Genuine Risk followed. She quickly gained on the outside as they approached the homestretch. It was a two horse race and the filly had the momentum … and then … she was Corde-rode (verb - meaning to screw the filly). At the very least, Codex and Cordero carried Genuine Risk seven wide in an attempt to keep her from passing. I prefer to think of it as a deliberate mugging of America’s Sweetheart. Her rider, Jacinto Vasquez, claimed that Cordero had whipped her in the face as they came together. Cordero was less than apologetic.

In that Triple Crown series of 1980, Genuine Risk performed better than any filly ever has. She won the Kentucky Derby, defeating the rallying Rumbo by one length. In so doing, Genuine Risk became the first filly to win the Derby in 65 years and any Triple Crown race for 56 years. After her troubled 2nd in the Preakness, she came back to run a game 2nd in the Belmont to Temperence Hill, with Codex far behind.

During her illustrious career, Genuine Risk ran 15 times with 10 wins. She was never worse than third and the only time that she lost by more than two lengths was the infamous Preakness. She was named champion 3-year-old filly of 1980. Many felt that she should have been the 2-year-old filly champ of 1979 as well, based on her undefeated 4 for 4 record and by beating the filly, Smart Angle, who would win the award, in the Demoiselle Stakes. Following her rigorous Triple Crown, Genuine Risk was given a well deserved rest. She came back three months later to run two dynamite races against the best fillies and mares in the country in the Maskette and Ruffian. In both races, she was full of courage as she battled down the stretch to be 2nd in the Maskette by a nose and then to win the Ruffian, also by a nose.

Still with Bert and Diana Firestone, her owners since the age of one, Genuine Risk would live to the age of 31. She passed away almost exactly one year ago. To the dismay of millions Genuine Risk was not a producer of race horses, as her only two foals to survive never raced. How wonderful it would have been to see offspring with her characteristics on the racetrack, but it was not to be. Instead, she endures as a runner and what a runner she was. I remember you … Genuine Risk.

August 23, 2009

Jewel of the North

The New York Racing Association has found sponsors in TVG and Betfair to add another $400,000 to the purse of the Beldame, raising the kitty of the Grade 1 affair to a cool million. The purse raise is dependent on the entry of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. After yesterday’s Alabama, there is reason to hope for some competition for the big two.

It was not all candy and rainbows for bettors who placed their hard-earned dollars (unless they make their living by betting on horses) on the nose of Careless Jewel. She was so fractious in the post parade, that her Canadian jock, Robert Laundry had to take a flying leap off. Apparently the beautiful, gray daughter of Tapit was a little over stimulated by the Saratoga crowd. Once in the gate, she was ready to run, but her troubles were not over. Laundry decided to let Be Fair take the early lead and heading into the first turn he had to check Careless Jewel sharply to avoid Be Fair who was taking the rail spot. These are not good signs for an inexperienced filly making just her fifth career start, going 3/16 farther than she has ever run and taking on Grade 1 fillies for the first time.

Not a worry in the world after that, like a silver streak, The Josie Carroll trained filly took over the lead when she was ready and continued to pour it on the rest of the way. It was a ways back to another Canadian miss, Milwaukee Appeal, as Careless Jewel crossed the line 11 lengths the best. The sky appears to be the limit for her as she improves with every race. Her winning margin is increasing as the competition gets tougher, which begs the question; is she ready for Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta or both? Maybe not, but only time will tell. It would be a lot to ask, but Careless Jewel does allow for the imagination to run wild.

As for the Beldame, yours truly is still very skeptical of the big mare from California making the trip, but if it happens, it would be even more special with a little gray flair.

August 22, 2009

Is it Too Early? The Zipse Awards

Don’t look now but the first decade of the 21st century is winding to an end. Four months and a few days and we will be entering the 2nd decade…where did the time go? With the end of the decade speeding towards us, I have decided to get a jump on things for a change. I am previewing the Zipse Awards, which will be awarded to the best horses of the decade in their respective divisions.

Champion Two-Year-Old Colt: Unless something big happens this year, 2-year-old of the decade will be a tough call. My selection right now is Vindication over War Pass and Street Sense. Street Sense clearly has the best single performance winning the BC Juvenile in 2006 by 10 lengths, but falls short with only two wins from five starts. War Pass and Vindication’s juvenile campaigns were very similar. Both went 4 for 4 culminating with easy wins in the Breeder’s Cup. I give Vindication the edge by virtue of more travel and winning the 2002 BC Juvenile on a fast track.

Champion Two-Year-Old Filly: A very strong division this decade with several worthy candidates. The strongest contenders, Stardom Bound, Indian Blessing, Sweet Catomine, Halfbridled, and Storm Flag Flying all won the BC Juvenile Fillies in impressive fashion to cap their excellent years. It will be very difficult for any 2-year-old filly this year to top my top selection for juvenile filly of the decade, Halfbridled. The daughter of Unbridled gets the nod because of her undefeated 4 for 4 record and by overcoming the adversity of having post position 14 in her biggest race of the year, the 2003 Breeders' Cup.

Champion Three-Year-Old Colt: Many nice 3-year-olds in the decade, unfortunately in several cases their campaigns were cut short. Smarty Jones, Barbaro and Afleet Alex did not get a chance to run after the Triple Crown. Tiznow was not a factor the fist half of the year. Big Brown did not finish the Belmont, nor the year. Bernardini was beaten in his biggest race. That left it to either Curlin or Point Given. Very tough decision, and I have gone back and forth, but at this time I am siding with Point Given. He failed when he ran 5th in the Kentucky Derby, but he proved his class winning each of his other six races of 2001. They were easy scores in the San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers.

Champion Three-Year-Old Filly: Of this decade and just about any other is Rachel Alexandra. Sorry Rags to Riches’ fans, but the answer is definitely Rachel Alexandra.

Champion Older Male Horse: Tiznow, Mineshaft, Ghostzapper, St. Liam, Lava Man, Invasor, Lawyer Ron, Curlin…how can I pick just one? Well I will pick just one, I promise, just not today. Give me four more months to chew on this one.

Champion Older Female Horse: A two horse race between the great, Californian mares. Azeri and Zenyatta both thoroughly dominated their divisions and compiled impressive win streaks. I am going to give the edge to Zenyatta, as she is still undefeated, while Azeri was beaten in six out of her last nine races.

Champion Sprint Horse: There has been a lot of sentiment expressed to me lately in favor of Midnight Lute off his consecutive wins in the last two BC Sprints. Being the man of integrity that I am, I will not be swayed in my decision. I am going with the champion sprinter of 2000, Kona Gold. Unlike Midnight Lute, Kona Gold had a lengthy career that finally ended at age nine. Even at nine he was a stakes winning sprinter. I am not sure his record of running in five consecutive Breeders' Cups will ever be broken. He only won the BC once, but he was the old man to fear in the big sprint stakes the first four years of this decade.

Champion Female Sprint Horse: I have one word for you: Xtra Heat. OK, I know that is two words, but what a sprinter she was. 26 wins in 35 races and the last 34 were all stakes . Enough said.

Champion Male Turf Horse: Again I am going with the consistently excellent career over the short term greatness. That is why my selection here is English Channel over High Chaparral. English Channel never quite reached superstardom, but he was the best American grass horse over a three year span. His sparkling career was made complete with a seven length score on the soft BC Turf of 2007. High Chaparral and his consecutive championships was very, very tough to deny though.

Champion Female Turf Horse: Ouija Board was a super turf mare worldwide during her entire, illustrious career and overshadows all the other great turf mares that have run this decade. During her trips to America, she won the BC Filly & Mare Turf twice and was second once in a three year span. Not even repeat BC wins this year by either Goldikova or Forever Together could surpass Ouija Board’s accomplishments.

Horse of the Decade: Too early to call, or maybe I don’t want to give this one away just yet. I will tell you that I have six horses still under consideration.

Remember these are only previews, the actual awards have not been decided yet and will be announced after Christmas. Horses had to run in America to be considered for the Zipse Award. 2-year-old and 3-year-old divisions are single year awards, while all the other divisions are cumulative awards for the decade. Let the debate begin!

August 21, 2009

The Canadians are Coming, The Canadians are Coming!

The Canadians have captured the airport! We have got to get organized! Just don’t panic! The Canadians have landed! Hide the women and children! We haven’t got a chance! This could be World War III! OK, maybe I’m overstating things just a little bit, but in looking over the past performances of Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama, I fear for the chances of our poor, little American fillies against the Canadian invasion.

With Rachel Alexandra skipping the race to run against the boys, Milwaukee Appeal and Careless Jewel are now the horses to beat in one of America’s most important races for 3-year-old fillies. Both fillies are based in Canada and have crossed our unprotected border to pillage.

Milwaukee Appeal is an Ontario bred daughter of the long-winded Milwaukee Brew. She is seasoned and has experience over a distance of ground. After an easy score in the Woodbine Oaks, Milwaukee Appeal went right in to the deep water. With any luck she could well have won the first two legs of Canada’s triple crown against colts. In the Queen’s Plate, she appeared to be the best, but was a tough luck 3rd that day beaten just a neck. She followed that performance with a head-bobbing nose defeat in the Prince of Wales which showed both her toughness and her affinity for a dirt track. Save her only turf try and Milwaukee Appeal has fired every shot. If she does again and is not adversely affected by her tough Summer campaign, she is the one the other fillies will have to beat.

The Canadian based Careless Jewel is a beautiful white, gray daughter of Tapit. Tapit is one of my favorite new sires and this one has the potential to be every bit as good as the champion Stardom Bound, who is also from Tapit’s first crop. Careless Jewel made mincemeat of her opponents with two straight at Woodbine in just her second and third career starts. Impressive, yes, but could she do that against American stakes horses? Again the answer was yes, as the Josie Carroll trained miss dominated the field in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks. The stretch-out from 1 1/16 miles to 10 furlongs is a question, but she has appeared to appreciate the move to two turns and should be the one to catch in the lane.

Throw in the Ontario bred Wynning Ride, who was only beaten ¾ of a length in the Coaching Club Oaks when 3rd to Alabama entrants Funny Moon and Don’t Forget Gil, and you have the makings for the worst beating by the Canadians since the 2002 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game.

Once they are done, I have no doubt that they will take their booty right back to Canada for the entire country to bask in, or worse yet, they may stay here and force us to speak Canadian.

August 20, 2009

The Greatest Loss There Ever Was

Seattle Slew was a winner. In 17 races, he won 14 times. The Slew won racing’s greatest achievement, the Triple Crown. He also won the hearts of millions of devoted fans. These wins are not the topic of the day, but rather one of his losses. Seattle Slew’s performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup displayed everything you could ever ask of a racehorse. I was lucky enough to be in the stands at Belmont Park that October day and I will forever remember the greatest loss there ever was.

In the Fall of 1978, Seattle Slew vindicated his shocking upset loss to Dr. Patches at the Meadowlands by proving that he was once again the best horse in the world with his easy wins in the Marlboro Cup and the Woodward Stakes over future Hall of Fame horses. In the Marlboro, Slew maintained an easy lead over the reigning Triple Crown champion, Affirmed, the entire race. The great 3-year-old simply could not put a dent into Seattle Slew’s working margin. Slew accelerated in the stretch to win by three lengths in the first ever match-up of Triple Crown winners. Final time was a great 1:45 and 4. In the 1 ¼ mile Woodward, it was Exceller’s chance to watch Seattle Slew’s tail. Slew rolled that day as he repelled Exceller’s advances with ease in tallying by four lengths.

It was on to the Jockey Club and there were some changes in store for Slew. This time both Affirmed and Exceller would challenge him and at a distance, 1 ½ miles, that both horses had proven to excel (no pun intended). To make things even more difficult, Harbor View Farm entered a rabbit into the mix. A decent handicap horse named Life’s Hope, who in the JCGC would run as fast as he could for as far as he could, was entered only to bolster the chances of their big horse, Affirmed. If you thought things were stacked against Seattle Slew before the race, it would only get worse. First Slew broke through the starting gate expending precious energy. Then one of the strangest things that I have ever seen in a big race happened. Affirmed broke like a shot and was right in the middle of what could only be called a suicidal speed dual (It was explained after the race that Affirmed‘s saddle slipped and Steve Cauthen had lost control of the great 3-year-old). Seattle Slew had to not only deal with the rabbit, but also the horse that the rabbit was designed to help. Fractions of :22 and 3, :45 and 1, and 1:09 and 2 were amazingly carved out of the Belmont dirt. Remember this was a 1 ½ mile test of endurance. Almost immediately the other three horses, including Exceller were 20 or more lengths behind. First Life’s Hope fell away and then Affirmed soon followed. Slew had sent his rivals on the front packing. But how could he possibly survive this blistering pace himself?

He couldn’t. Exceller, with Bill Shoemaker aboard was gobbling up chunks of ground on the rail at an alarming rate. It looked like he could call his own margin of victory over the tiring Slew. But then something happened. Seattle Slew, the champion that he was, fought back. It still gives me goose bumps to think about. Seattle Slew and Angel Cordero were coming back at him…Wow! Exceller, who had taken almost a full length lead was now desperate to hold of the valiant Slew. The wire came too soon and Exceller had held on to win by a nose.

In defeat, I believe Seattle Slew had run his greatest race. He would have only one more start after that in winning the Stuyvesant Stakes in easy fashion. But it was the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup where you showed us all what you really had, thank you Seattle Slew, for running the greatest loss there ever was.

August 19, 2009

Oh ... To be 2 Again

Well maybe as humans we would not want to go back to being two years old again, but for a thoroughbred race horse, this is when all the running begins. As fans we get a whole new crop of horses to follow, anew and fresh, the possibilities are limitless. Anyone of these youngsters could be the next Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, John Henry or fill in the name of one of your personal favorites. Future titans of the sport. Then you see them break their maiden and look out. You begin a journey with that horse to see what heights they can reach, for you will be forever intertwined with this magnificent horse because you were there when it all began. You can say “I was there“, or “I knew she was going to be a good one” adding joy to your bond with this horse. Most of them will not go on to be champions, but that’s OK. They will still be your ‘friends’, you will always look at them fondly and there is always the hope that the next one will become truly great. It all begins at 2.

For me the 2-year-old season begins in earnest with Saratoga. The Sanford and Schuylerville, the Saratoga Special and Adirondack, the Hopeful and Spinaway. All rich with tradition and consistently filled with young talent. Today and tomorrow fill me with excitement as I see full fields in the Adirondack for fillies and the Saratoga Special for colts.

In today’s Adirondack, I am partial to Dashing Debby. I saw her first start, a stakes race on the ‘Summit of Speed’ card at Calder. She dominated her more experienced foes that day with a combination of speed and power and I expect her to be very tough to beat in the Adirondack. As you probably already know, I tend to love the Medaglia D’Oro fillies and she fits the bill. I think Dashing Debby has a very bright future with her new connections, Jackson and Asmussen.

In the Saratoga Special, I’ll be looking for a bit of a longshot. Listed at 8-1 on the morning line is Tiny Woods. A Bob Baffert trained son of Roman Ruler. This is Roman Ruler’s first crop and I believe he is a sire to keep an eye on. A son of Fusaichi Pegasus and a brother to El Corredor, Ruler was a very talented horse who accomplished a lot considering the short amount of time he was in training. His 2-year-olds look like they have come out running and if Tiny Woods can improve upon his only race, a maiden win at Del Mar, he could get all the money. He is working very well and might appreciate the switch to a dirt track.

The stars of tomorrow very well may be racing today and tomorrow at Saratoga. Enjoy them and I hope their talent and potential gets your juices flowing for horse racing like it does mine.

August 17, 2009

Remembering ... Free House

I will never forget the look in his eye as he turned to eyeball his great rival Silver Charm coming down the stretch of the 1997 Preakness. It was like he was telling his adversary to bring everything you have, because you are in for the fight of your life. Never mind the two other great horses on either side of them, Captain Bodgit and Touch Gold. This was all about two great rivals giving their all to get to the wire first. It was the fight of both of their lives as they battled to the wire in a head-bobbing, too-close-to-call finish. That was the day my appreciation grew into a real love for Free House. Oh, those long white legs and those expressive eyes.

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul and for Free House, I knew this to be true. I always felt that he had just a little more depth to him than the average thoroughbred race horse. Smart and sensitive with a whole lot of heart. His heart was on display for millions to see that day in the Preakness. For me, a sad result, but fitting in a way that Silver Charm got the head-bob and defeated Free House by a nose or a small head or whatever they would call it. You see, Free House was the perfect horse to root on, for a diehard Cubs fan like me. Always teasing greatness, but never able to win the really big one. I take solace in the fact that next year or the next race could finally be the big one.

Don’t get me wrong, Free House had a very successful career. He is considered to be one of the greatest California breds ever to run. The homebred son of Smokester won 9 times in a 22 race career and earned over three million dollars. Trained by Paco Gonzalez and owned by John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, his victories include the biggest races run in California: the Norfolk, San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Swaps, Bel Air, Pacific Classic, San Antonio, and the Santa Anita Handicap. He never raced in an allowance race and was a major player in one of the best crops of horses I have seen. 3-year-olds of 1997 included Silver Charm, Touch Gold, Captain Bodgit, Pulpit, Deputy Commander, Concerto, Behrens and my favorite, Free House.

Together with Silver Charm, he was part of one of the greatest rivalries of modern racing. Their rivalry was another reason for me to be so fond of Free House. Fans could not help taking one side or the other. They faced each other eight times, all in major stakes including all three races of the Triple Crown. Silver Charm won four of those races and Free House won three. Only in the Belmont Stakes did another horse, Touch Gold, win a race that they both ran. In that race Silver Charm and Free House battled the majority of the stretch before Touch Gold swooped by them late with Silver Charm just missing out on a Triple Crown and Free House, who had gone very wide throughout, a tough luck third. Most fans were heartbroken over the Charm losing his bid for immortality, I was saddened that my gray lost again after such a valiant performance. What a Triple Crown series he had run only to be defeated by Silver Charm each time. The final tally was Silver Charm 5 and Free House 3. I for one, wonder when we will ever see two great horses like these ever face each other so often again.

It was ironic that in Free House’s final race he found himself battling to the wire again at Pimlico. This time he would fall just short to another Bob Baffert trained, near Triple Crown winner, Real Quiet in the Pimlico Special. It was almost exactly two years after his finest hour and again he showed all the courage that he had in that thrilling Preakness. The performance was all the more impressive when you consider he strained a muscle early in the race. He retired as one of the few horses ever to win at least one Grade 1 race in four consecutive years.

Free House’s life came to a sudden, tragic end in 2004 when he injured himself severely at his farm in California. He was only ten years old. In his short career as a stallion, Free House was well on his way to becoming a force among California sires. His life was cut way too short, I miss those long white legs and those expressive eyes. I remember you … Free House.

August 16, 2009

GOLDEN - kova

Uh-oh. Right after I did some serious Euro-Trashing. France's Goldikova, the glorious female turf miler, ran what may have been her best race to date. She trounced a full field of Group I winners in winning the Prix Jacques le Marois today at Deauville in France. Winning by six lengths, Goldikova flashed her amazing turn of foot to leave the boys in her dust. Final time for the Group I race was a brilliant 133.50 as the 4-year-old daughter of Anabaa prepares for her ultimate gooal, defending her title in the Breeder's Cup Mile.

August 15, 2009

Still Going Strong

The year was 2002 and I just started following a lightly raced 3-year-old who had recently switched to turf. I saw his first race on the lawn, after four unsuccessful dirt tries, which was a maiden special weight at Churchill. He exploded with a electrifying burst to go from near the back of the pack to a nine length romp. I checked the breeding and I liked what I saw with turf on both sides. His grandsire was one of my favorite turf horses, With Approval. This was one horse I would need to watch. His next race was also on the turf at one mile. An allowance race at Saratoga and I was ready, but at 11-10, I decided to be only a spectator. I am glad I did not bet him, because it was one of the worst trips I had ever seen. He literally was bottled up the entirety of the far turn to the finish line. The horse simply never had anywhere to go. He finished eighth, beaten by less than 2 lengths. In my mind and in my heart, I knew if he just had any opening at all he would have blew past this field.

Now I was wanted to see his next race more than ever. For vindication, but also for the betting opportunity he would represent. My wish came soon. It was in the Saranac Stakes on the turf three weeks later. He was making a jump up in distance to 1 3/16 miles, but also a big jump up in class. This was a graded stakes at Saratoga. My eyes widened at his price 13-1. You don't like a horse this much at those odds very often. I bet him to win!

Seven years later and Better Talk Now is still going strong. A force on turf courses everywhere around the country now for eight seasons. Little did I know back then what a truly wonderful horse Better Talk Now would become. Today at the spry age of ten years young, Better Talk Now proved once again that he is still a dynamite turf horse by rallying to a strong second place finish in the prestigious Grade I Sword Dancer Stakes at, you guessed it, Saratoga.

Oh, and by the way, I did not collect that day in the Saranac, as Better Talk Now was not quite ready for those horses. He finished sixth. It did not matter though, as I have been a fan ever since and have collected on him many times over the past EIGHT years.

August 14, 2009

You are Not Going to Race??? 1953 Revisited

Are you like many of us who are disappointed that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are likely not to race each other this year? Two great horses, one a 3-year-old filly and the other a 5-year-old mare. Why can’t something be done to get them on the track together and further prove just how great they really are? How unsatisfying! Well if you were around in 1953 you might have had the same unsatisfied feeling, maybe even more so.

Native Dancer and Tom Fool arguably the two greatest horses of the 1950s, were at their best in 1953. Native Dancer was coming off an undefeated 2-year-old season in which he won all nine of his races and was named Horse of the Year. In 1953, the gray ghost started his year with a victory in the Gotham and finished it with a nine length score in the Arlington Classic. All he did in between was win the Wood Memorial, Withers, Preakness, Belmont, Dwyer, American Derby, and Travers. His only loss came in the Kentucky Derby as Dark Star held him off by a desperate nose. He finished the year one fleeting nose away from being ten for ten and an undefeated triple crown winner. The following year, despite being hampered by nagging injuries Native Dancer was named Horse of the Year for a second time.

Only an incredible season could deny Native Dancer Horse of the Year bragging rights in 1953, and that year was turned in by Tom Fool. The Greentree colt was a top notch horse at two and three. He was the champion two-year-old of 1951 and narrowly missed a championship again at three. But it was as a four-year-old in 1953 that Tom Fool rose to another level. In one of the greatest handicap seasons ever seen in racing, he won all of his ten races ranging in distances from five-and-a-half furlongs to a mile-and-a-quarter. He carried staggering weights up to 136, routinely giving rivals more than twenty pounds. He was so dominant in the top handicap races that many times betting was not allowed. Tom Fool was a deserving Horse of the Year in 1953.

Race fans everywhere clamored for a meeting between the two great horses, but it was not to be. A possible match-up in the Sysonby Mile was won by Tom Fool without Native Dancer as the 3-year-old was having hoof problems. So, in 1953 the race that could have been, never was. Race fans were left to debate and imagine what might have been had Native Dancer and Tom Fool ever raced each other. Fast forward 56 years to present day…imagine what a race with Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta might be.

August 13, 2009


I am getting a little tired of the disrespect shown to American racing by blokes on the other side of the pond. Timeform, out of England, creates their own Global Ranking while The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, based in France, puts out the World Thoroughbred Ranking. Both lists are an insult to the very best of the American horses. Too much emphasis is placed on the Breeder’s Cup and the Dubai World Cup and not enough is placed on all of our other races. If an American horse doesn’t compete in the BC or Dubai, than they are barely a blip on the world radar. Also, they place far too great an importance on the results of last year’s Breeder’s Cup where European horses had some solid success.

As far as their world rankings, here are some notable examples causing my displeasure:

Rachel Alexandra, the greatest 3-year-old filly we have seen for many years, is rated behind Rip Van Winkle on the Timeform rankings. Rip Van Winkle is clearly a nice Irish 3-year-old, but to rate this horse, who has won once out of four tries this year, a whopping five pounds ahead of Rachel Alexandra is insulting. Meanwhile, the World Thoroughbred Ranking lists her in a tie for ninth globally and six pounds below Rip. I guess the International Federation people have not seen her last eight races!

Gio Ponti, winner of four consecutive Grade 1 turf races, is judged to be below at least 15 other turf horses on these respective European rankings, or excuse me, World rankings. 15 or more turf horse are better than Gio Ponti??? This is nothing less than a slap in the face to American race horses. Reminds me of the lack of respect given to Manila, the year he thrashed Europe’s star Dancing Brave.

Our consistent success in the Dubai World Cup proves our dominance on our best surface, dirt. America has won five of the last six runnings of the world’s richest race. While on our secondary surface, turf, sure the Europeans are tough to beat, but we hold our own as evidenced by winning the Breeder’s Cup Turf 12 times out of 25 runnings. Europeans are quick to point out their win in the BC Classic last year. OK, you got that one, but on our third surface, synthetics, and it was the first European win in the Classic for 15 years. This gives them two Classic wins in total. I am confident that if we sent a few horses every year to the Arc, the Americans could also claim a victory every 15 years or so.

With the chip that is currently on their shoulder, I am sure the Euros will expect to come over here and sweep our Breeder’s Cup this year. Sorry blokes, it is not going to happen. Bring your superhorse, Sea the Stars, bring all your best Europe. You are going to need it to compete with the USA in 2009.

August 12, 2009

The Year of the Filly and the Mare : Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta’s Place in History

Miss Woodford, Beldame, Regret, Busher, Twilight Tear, Gallorette, Gamely, Dark Mirage, Gallant Bloom, Shuvee, Susan’s Girl, Desert Vixen, Ruffian, Genuine Risk, Princess Rooney, Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign and Go For Wand. The greatest females of American racing. These fillies and mares so dominated their competition at classic distances on the foremost surface of United States racing, that they will be forever remembered as all-time greats. Who is missing from the list?

Before you start rattling off names of your favorite filly or mares that I neglected to include, (sorry, I wanted to keep the list short and sweet and some difficult decisions had to be made) my answer is Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

That’s right, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta already have accomplished enough to be included in my list of the 20 greatest American female horses of all time. I can already here the doubters and the protectors of history rumbling with all their arguments at the ready. These horses are still racing, what if they start losing? Just who have they beaten? Racing is not the same as it used to be, surely these two are not as good as some of the ones I saw race in the good ol’ days. One of them maybe, but I do not like the other one as much. OK, OK, I hear you. Fair arguments all, but I will do my best to dissuade even the harshest of critics.

It is true that these two remarkable females are currently in training and their race records will undoubtedly soon change. They may strengthen their claims to history or they may weaken their position with their performances in future races, but my stance is; if either were retired tomorrow their accomplishments would already be sufficient for this lofty stature.

Zenyatta has already won her first twelve races, the last ten being all Grade 1’s or Grade 2’s. She is an eclipse award winner and a Breeder’s Cup Distaff champion. The closest comparison in history to Zenyatta is clearly Personal Ensign. Personal Ensign completed her magnificent career twenty years ago a perfect 13 for 13. She received one eclipse award as outstanding handicap mare, losing out the Horse of the Year award to the outstanding older horse Alysheba, won one Breeder‘s Cup race and ten graded stakes. Sound familiar? Personal Ensign finished her career winning a memorable Breeder’s Cup Distaff by getting up in the last jump to catch the Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors. She did defeat males once in winning the sloppy Whitney, but her detractors pointed out her careful race selection, lack of racing outside the East Coast and her limited schedule much the way Zenyatta is criticized today. With the important place synthetic racing holds in current American racing, Zenyatta should not be discounted for running most of her races on synthetics. Remember also, that Zenyatta’s one foray on a dirt track is one of her most impressive wins easily beating the champion Ginger Punch. She has beaten all of the top fillies and mares of the past few years save Rachel Alexandra. Zenyatta’s current accomplishments may be a shade below that of Personal Ensign, but close enough to already ensure her place in history.

As for Rachel Alexandra, her accomplishments in the last eight races are so impressive that she is hard to compare to many female horses in American history. The superstar Ruffian and the great Regret are in many ways incomparable, but young Rachel Alexandra is quickly moving in that direction. Regret who raced almost a century ago, was so talented that her connections were confident in running her against the best males of her generation. Her speed and ability carried her to a Kentucky Derby win and nine wins in only eleven races. In just those eleven races, Regret, like Rachel Alexandra, became a filly that will not be forgotten, due to her consistent excellence and partially because of her historic win in a triple crown race.

Ruffian won ten consecutive races with Rachel like ease. She dominated her division so thoroughly that it was hard to know just how good the other fillies that were left in her wake were. Much like Rachel Alexandra, it was clear that Ruffian had proven everything against her own age and gender. Unfortunately her eleventh and final race, her first attempt against worthy competition, ended in tragedy. Despite her relatively short career and the lack of quality horses that she beat, Ruffian’s greatness and brilliance are undeniable. Just as we are seeing this year with Rachel Alexandra, Ruffian proved her greatness through her jaw-dropping dominance.

Often it takes years before full appreciation for what we have sets in. Love them both, pick a side, consider where you might rate them in historical context, but no matter what you do, enjoy every day that these two wonderful race horses grace us with their presence. Mr. Jackson, Mr. Moss, how about a race?