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Monday, November 20, 2006

It's Still Bernardini

- Pete from Gowanus questioned the assertion by Nancy J in CA that Barbaro blew away 14 graded stakes winners in the Derby. He's right; according to Dan Illman (registration req'd) (via Curb Your Enthusiasm), the correct number is actually 15!

Bluegrass Cat (G1 Haskell Invitational, etc.)
Jazil (G1 Belmont Stakes)
Brother Derek (G1 Hollywood Futurity, Santa Anita Derby, etc)
Showing Up (G1 Secretariat Stakes)
Sweetnorthernsaint (G2 Illinois Derby, etc)
Deputy Glitters (G2 Ohio Derby, etc)
Point Determined (G3 Affirmed Handicap)
Lawyer Ron (G2 Arkansas Derby, etc.)
Cause to Believe (G3 El Camino Real Derby, etc).
Private Vow (G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Futurity)
Sinister Minister (G1 Blue Grass Stakes)
Bob and John (G1 Wood Memorial, etc.)
A. P. Warrior (G2 La Jolla Handicap, San Felipe Stakes)
Sharp Humor [G2 Swale]
Keyed Entry (G2 Hutcheson Stakes)
That's a fair point by the emotional pro-Barbaro contingent and an impressive achievement. But, as Illman points out, everybody runs in the Derby, whereas later in the year, people are far more likely to duck horses like Bernardini. So it may not be a fair comparison.

Plus, I could pick through that list and point out that Keyed Entry and Sharp Humor are sprinters that won their graded stakes in such races. Showing Up and AP Warrior won their graded stakes on the grass, Sinister Minister on a freaky speed-favoring track, Private Vow as a two-year old, and the plodding Jazil at a distance which is irrelevant in U.S. dirt racing. Bob and John, Point Determined, and Cause To Believe have been unable to replicate their California form outside of the state (Bob and John's strange, wet-track Wood notwithstanding). Bernardini beat Bluegrass Cat, Lawyer Ron, and Brother Derek; and I think few would argue that he'd have had any difficulty beating any others on the list that I haven't mentioned. So, I don't think this is a significant statistic in deciding the Eclipse.

An emailer (who told me to get a life!!..oh man!) pointed out that Barbaro's time in the Derby was better than Invasor's in the Classic. That's an excellent point, and I have to admit that I didn't notice that. Barbaro's Derby went in 2:01.36 (final quarter 24.34); while Invasor finished in 2:02.18 (final quarter 25.59). I could quibble and point out that Invasor earned a better Beyer (116 to 111), and talk about ground loss and the alleged inside bias, but there's no doubt that this comparison attests to the tremendous quality of the Derby winner.

However, I'm still not persuaded that Barbaro earned the three-year old Eclipse over Bernardini on the racetrack throughout the year. Even if I accept the argument that Barbaro's Derby was better than any of Bernardini's races, that doesn't mean I think that the award should go to the former based on a single race. What if Discreet Cat shatters the world record for a mile on Saturday while Garrett Gomez takes a nap on board? Should he then get the Eclipse?

Look, I am not anti-Barbaro! (And I apologize for writing that Bernardini "made a mockery" of the Preakness without acknowledging Barbaro's injury) If I was voting, and I decided to do so from my heart, based on my admiration for his amazing courage and the efforts to save him, and for what he's done for the sport; or to express my opinion about how Bernardini's owners conduct their business, I'd vote for him too! If the voters do decide that they believe that Barbaro demonstrated that he was a better animal than Bernardini and vote him the Eclipse, then I'd disagree with that assessment, but I'm not going to whine about it. In fact, I'd get a certain amount of satisfaction.

If Barbaro gets the award because voters are going along with the attitude of the likes of Gary West, and casting an activist vote as a commentary on Bernardini's early retirement and/or the so-called "checkbook horsemanship" of his owners, then that would be pleasing to an extent as well. Perhaps if voters did that consistently, it would discourage owners from rushing their horses off to the riches of breeding. (Or maybe it wouldn't matter a whit.)

But if he does get the Eclipse for that reason, then there is going to be a very difficult question to answer, namely this: Why is it that those business decisions, in addition to, as one commenter pointed out, some questionable aspects of the last two horse of the year winners (a prominent drug suspension of Saint Liam's trainer, and alleged collusion before the Classic between the connections of Ghostzapper and Roses in May), have been tolerated by Eclipse voters in the past, but not now, in a year in which the owners in question are Arab? That's one question that you'll have to go to someone other than me for an answer.

- Your continued comments are welcome in the comments section (click on "#" comments below the post....the registration, while a slight hassle, prevents bulk spammers from attacking the site), or via email. But I already have a life, thank you for your concern.