Monday, November 2, 2009

This Year's Horseracing (horseracing)

The Breeders' Cup is this weekend, but with big names Rachel Alexandra and Sea the Stars not participating, there is very little buzz. The horse racing industry continues to die in the states while the Melbourne Cup, which is being run today, continues to be the race that stops a nation.

World turf racing has fared somewhat better with the brilliant campaign of Sea the Stars bringing up comparisons to some of the all-time greats. As with any comparison of sporting champions from different ages, the inability to directly compare the competition makes it very hard to come up with an objective measurement. Sea the Stars' unbeaten 3 year old campaign included some of the very top races in Europe, but did not have the durability and range of Giant's Causeway's 3 year old campaign. Nor did Sea the Stars win by many lengths like Dubai Millenium.

I am glad that the connections of Sea the Stars did not try to run him in the Breeders' Cup Classic. When you have an unbeaten horse, it's much better to keep that mystique than to risk it on an unknown surface. I thought the most impressive thing about his unbeaten campaign was that the 6 group 1 wins were all in races that I would consider true top level European group 1s, including the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, which is generally considered the toughest race in Europe. I have one problem with the Arc race though. To get a weight-for-age allowance for an October 3 year old at its peak is kind of ridiculous. Three year olds have dominated the race since Sea the Stars' dam Urban Sea won it in 1993.

For me, the test for the ultimate racehorse would be if it could win both the Arc and then the Japan Cup. The Japan Cup is one of the hardest races in the world to win as it is. The ground is solidly firm, the fanning out of horses on the home turn is tough to deal with, the Japanese horses are usually very high quality, and there is also the travelling. It's even harder considering that usually by the Arc the horse will have peaked from a long summer season. The closest I've ever seen was Montjeu's 4th back in 1999.

No comments :