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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not Feeling the Love

- The crowds that lined the walking path in the backyard and the paddock which it leads to belied the disappointment of the crowd of 22,572 which showed up at Saratoga to see Curlin.

If Curlin is, as Tom Durkin stated after his hard-earned Woodward win, the "best horse in the world," then maybe, at least based on this performance, the world of racing really needs to stop and assess just where it stands. The presence of the defending Horse of the Year at Saratoga attracted no more than a relative handful of extra fans to the track. And 14 seconds to get the final eighth of a mile with some urging from Robby Albarado, are you kidding me?

Don't blame NYRA for the lackluster crowd. You can't market in a vacuum. Curlin has little buzz and panache beyond those who crowded the paddock or made the effort to view the race on one of the limited TV outlets. He hasn't raced nearly frequently enough - three times in this country in the last ten months - to establish anywhere near the kind of continuity that could generate press coverage and, more importantly, some rivals. He has no meaningful competition. But that said, the only times he's faced real adversity - a scrappy filly at a distance beyond his best capabilities, and a test on an unfamiliar surface - he's failed. He's never spotted 18 pounds to a speedy rival and had to run him down on a track he may not have liked. He's hardly an ambassador for the sport. And for all the notion of "that powerful strut of his" that Durkin promised as he rounded the turn, he hasn't really shown one since last fall, when he ran the two fastest races of his career in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the BC Classic. Given these circumstances, how does anyone think that Curlin is going to generate any mainstream excitement at all? These are the things that make for a true champion racehorse, one that the public wants to see. And it's mostly not the horse's fault, but rather the symptoms of a broken sport.

Of course, one good way to get some attention would be for Curlin to, as one would expect, proceed to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Personally, I think he does have something to prove at this point. Don't get me wrong, he's unbeaten on dirt this year and has won three Grade 1's; that's no small thing to be sure. But in my opinion, he hasn't shown greatness. Maybe we saw yesterday just why Jess Jackson doesn't seem to want to face Big Brown.


forego is my witness said...

I was expecting Curlin to run away turning into the stretch. Instead, I saw a horse trying very hard not to get beat at the wire. Anyone else out there get the feeling Past the Point looked like there was a final surge in him those last couple hundred yards? Considering the competition and considering how NTRA & NYRA wants us to think of Curlin, I was not impressed at all.

Here's what I'd put good money on: If Curlin and Big Brown were to race against each other with other horses, I'm bettin' on one of the other horses! They can both be beat.

Anonymous said...

At 9f Commentator may beat them both.

Cant believe how bad Divine Park ran, must be something wrong there.

Anonymous said...

Alan, nice to meet you, the Head Chef and family at the Spa on Woodward Day; hope we can meet again next year when you have time. Glad you had the opportunity to meet Randy McGlinn, the former co- owner (along with Bob Genovese) of Arrrrr, who had the creative sense and foresight to come up with the name; I've encouraged him to tune in to LATG and hopefully you'll add another knowledgable owner/student of the racing game to your reader base.

In re Curlin/Big Brown, remember that Curlin is the reigning champ- and champs don't challenge the challenger- the challenger, Big Brown, needs to step up and enter the race where Curlin is entered. That's the way I remember it works, right?

I still don't get excited about BB and his penny stock connections; he had two good races in a row in the spring, big whoop. As for Curlin's come home time in the Woodward, even the great Kelso didn't always look great but did what great race horses do: Enough to win- and the chart noted that Curlin was pulling away as they hit the wire. Perhaps the rider misjudged the pace a bit after being knocked around in the clubhouse turn? I would have thought that by now JJ would have switched to a veteran big stakes rider a la Prado, Gomez, Velasquez et al, wouldn't you?

Jess Jackson is still da Man- by the way, saw a security person at the Woodward winner's circle presentation on Saturday- looked like a Secret Service agent, you know, with the earpiece and then a small mic coming out of his suit jacket sleeve into which he spoke. Wondered if they were in JJ's employ? Does NYRA employ security for high profile owners and guests on big stakes days? As we know, JJ with his contrarian views, has made a number of enemies in the racing and especially the breeding industry.

JJ is also doing the right thing by dissing the BC, the Super Bowl created by his old KY breeder adversaries. So I will say it again: Need to replace the BC, Super Bowl mentality with the season long mentality as the only way to re-build general fan interest. And that goes for reducing the one race mentality of the general public vis-a-vis the KY Derby -t ime to get competitive again and rebuild the equally, perhaps more, prestigious Belmont and Travers. NY racing primus inter pares! /S/ Green Mtn Punter.

ljk said...

"...Jess Jackson doesn't seem to want to face Big Brown".

That's nuts.

Haskell Beyer 107
Woodward 112

Winners of the Woodward: Kelso, Forego, Damascus, Seattle Slew, Affirmed...

Winners of the Monmouth Stakes: ???

Jackson's not afraid of BB but is reluctant to take him on on a surface neither has tried. What's surprising about that?

Glimmerglass said...

Let's see - which was more of a lackluster win: Curlin's Woodward or Big Brown's Haskell? Neither should be anything to crow about.

Regarding Curlin at 4 if any human with a pulse cited his name in the same breath at Spectacular Bid's 4-yr old bone-crushing rapid fire victories then that person should be banned from watching racing henceforth. He's a good horse but no way in the same league of a superhorse. Yet some still talk about him like he's a walking equine god.

Frankly this should give pause to either Churchill or Suffolk from offering a fat 'showing up' money to either connection to grace their tracks. If Curlin isn't good for 10k extra in the seats (and at the windows) then what's the point?

Had the Woodward not been 126-lbs across the board and the race a handicap then I doubt Curlin would've won over that field. If this was his 'bounce' fine, otherwise his connections should be damn concerned at the JCGC with a handicap.

As for Curlin's security it's been cited in a few places (with a couple of articles) that he indeed has a security agent. A woman in fact ...

Brett said...

"Perhaps the rider misjudged the pace a bit after being knocked around in the clubhouse turn? I would have thought that by now JJ would have switched to a veteran big stakes rider a la Prado, Gomez, Velasquez et al, wouldn't you?"

You don't think Robby Albarado is a veteran big stakes turf rider? He may not be Prado, Gomez, or Velasquez but he is damn good. Top 5 I would say. And you can't really beat that.

Anonymous said...

Robby Albarado should be asked some questions by Jerry Bailey on the next ESPN broadcast.......and he CAN'T duck them!

"Robby, who is the better horse, Curlin or Mineshaft? You rode both. Mineshaft lost to Perfect Drift in the 2003 Stephen Foster, but won the Woodward later that fall and never made it to the Breeders' Cup. If Curlin skips the Breeders' Cup, and Big Brown runs and wins, should Curlin reap the rewards like Mineshaft; that is, of course, he wins this year's running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and nabbed the Stephen Foster and Woodward. So, who is the better horse you have been on? How about a match race between you and Desromeaux to decide this. You're both Cajun guys, first to suck down some a gallon of gumbo.

From 2003 L.A. Times' article...and this is why the Breeders' Cup motif of "Super Bowl of racing is worthless."

Mineshaft’s racing career came to a quiet end at Churchill Downs on Friday, leaving the Breeders’ Cup with a $4-million race that will be run with the likely horse of the year on the sidelines.

Mineshaft, who won seven of nine starts this year, including his fourth Grade I stake in last Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, would have been a heavy favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run three weeks from today at Santa Anita.

But the 4-year-old colt has bone chips in two of his ankles, trainer Neil Howard said, and a knee that could be a problem, so Will Farish, the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain and one of Mineshaft’s owners, made the decision to retire him. At a stud fee of $100,000 per mating, Mineshaft will stand next year at Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Midway, Ky.

There were indications after the Gold Cup that Mineshaft might be retired, but Breeders’ Cup officials, who have already lost at least three other standouts for the Classic, were hoping that Farish’s horse might make the trip to California. With Candy Ride, the best older horse on the West Coast, and the stars of the Triple Crown, Funny Cide and Empire Maker, not running, the favorite for the Classic will either be Ten Most Wanted, a late-developing 3-year-old, or Medaglia d’Oro, who finished second in the race last year.

Bobby Frankel, who lost Empire Maker to retirement Tuesday, also trains Medaglia d’Oro. Frankel said that Mineshaft is the favorite for horse of the year, but added that three other horses – Medaglia d’Oro, Perfect Drift and Azeri – might outvote him if they win the Classic.

Perfect Drift’s trainer, Murray Johnson, had been adamant about skipping the Breeders’ Cup – his horse is a gelding and cannot breed – but this week, with other horses dropping out, he indicated that his owner, Dr. William Reed, might reconsider running in the Classic. Perfect Drift is one of only two horses to beat Mineshaft this year.

Azeri, last year’s horse of the year after winning the Distaff, had her 11-race winning streak ended by Got Koko at Santa Anita last Sunday and came out of the race with an infection. Her status for the Breeders’ Cup hasn’t been determined, but if she runs it is likely to again be in the Distaff.

“Mineshaft is a great horse, and he ran some great races,” Frankel said. “The [speed] numbers he ran say that he’s a great horse. But in his last few races, he didn’t beat much. There weren’t any of the top horses behind him. Medaglia d’Oro’s only lost one race, and if he won the Classic, he’d deserve a shot [at the title].”

Frankel said that he might also run Peace Rules, the Blue Grass and Haskell winner, in the Classic. Frankel is likely to pre-enter Peace Rules in both the Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Mile, on grass, and then decide by entry time Oct. 22 about which race to run.

“Mineshaft was a great horse,” said Wally Dollase, who has been training Ten Most Wanted at Hollywood Park. “He would have been tough to beat if he had run in the Classic. As for horse of the year, I haven’t given it much thought. I’m just concentrating on getting my horse ready, and I like the idea that he’ll have five weeks between races. I guess if Ten Most Wanted won the Classic, voters would have to consider him.”

Pull the Pocket said...

I don't know why any owner with a horse trying to win any end of year award, or seed a stud deal does not want to take a shot at the BC this year. If you lose, you just blame the track.

Anonymous said...

It is simple to figure the reasoning for skipping the BC.

Browny has an affinity for the turf, which is proven.

Curlin did not handle the turf.

Turf form is a proven indicator on the carpet fiber crap.

So why face Browny on a surface that should in all liklihood favor him?

Then again, perhaps they are just afraid of Casino Drive?

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm just a dim-witted two dollar bettor. I don't quite get it. "Curlin didn't handle the turf." in the Man O'War. Okay... but he DID finish a close second to Red Rocks, a BC turf winner, and ahead of Better Talk Now, another BC turf champ. Not exactly the same as being pulled up in the Belmont against a lackluster bunch of 3YO's. What if Red Rocks comes back and wins the BC Turf again this year? How does that make Curlin's performance appear? His loss to Rags to Riches by a neck in the Belmont? He did the the Triple Crown Death March, she came in fresh. How's that count against him? Big Brown gets way too much love, Curlin, not enough credit. The fact that he's racing as a four year old, instead of being with Bernardini and Street Sense and the rest on the farm, should be cause for appreciation, if not celebration. Yeah, he doesn't race every three weeks, but at least his races give me something to look forward to.

libby said...

Left at the Gate is just what you are allan.

Anonymous said...

anon706, not me that said Curlin didnt handle the turf, the owners did by changing plans.

Makes no sense to ruin his entire reputation running on that crap, although in truth this is also a case of Jesse taking a stand against the stuff in general.

My general point is that Big Brown is the one ducking Curlin, not the other way around, and Curlin should therefore not chase him and face him on a surface likely to favor Brownie.

Agree, Brown can not hold a candle to Curlins accomplishments, he not even the best three year old colt. Can't wait to bet Casino Drive in the Classic, and Music Note and Proud Spell might just kick his butt too if given the chance.

Anonymous said...

Curlin was HOY 2007 and should be HOY 2008. Brownie is just another 3 YO pretendah, barely a contendah! Curlin is the champ, along with Jess Jackson. JJ could be an even bigger hero by bringing Curlin back in '09 as a 5 YO to head up a renewed handicap division, just like Calumet did with Citation. Leaders lead by setting the example. Are you listening JJ?
/S/Green Mtn Punter

kevin morris said...

Alan, I respect you and your observations about horseracing a great deal, HOWEVER, your criticism of Curlin p#$@%es me off! His opponents did everything but throw a rope around him in this race, and he still persevered. He took on any and every horse in the world in Dubai (without drugs!) and won going away. He has never been out of the money because he doesn't quit when things get tough. No, he isn't Secretariat, but he's the best horse we've seen in years, and deserves the accolades he's been given. I really hope his connections have the guts to run him in California.