The inimitable Chris McGrath, writing in the UK's Guardian, provides an excellent summary of the debate overseas about the Breeders Cup status of the sensational Arc winner Sea the Stars; especially handy for those of us, including admittedly myself, who haven't been paying proper attention to the runup to the event for whatever reason, be it what one sees as the lack of depth and quality in most of the (too many) divisions this year, or if one is perhaps instead paying attention to the high drama of America's pastime.
Americans and Europeans often don't see eye to eye, and those differences in opinions and perspectives regarding horse racing are especially stark. In McGrath's article, we once again see the wide gulf in opinion about synthetic tracks. I've often mentioned how I'm taken aback by the furious invective we hear against the surfaces here; as if its proponents, in striving to make the sport safer, were doing something unimaginably awful and horrific. Y'know, like trying to make health care fairer and more accessible to those who presently can't afford to have it. Or, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for the mere suggestion that his country is willing to seek consensus and compromise rather than unilaterally and forcefully imposing its own solutions....thus reforming and reshaping its image throughout the world almost overnight. Oh, the horrors!
If you instead prefer to exhume the carcass of poor George Washington, moreover, you actually turn the moral imperatives in favour of running Sea The Stars.Imagine, using the word "visionaries" to describe those responsible for the "plastic" over which the Breeders' Cup horses (which of course won't include America's most renowned star) will compete! It's a sure bet you'll never hear that here. That's a word usually reserved for Nobel Peace Prize winners.
For the loss of George Washington, in a vile slop at Monmouth Park, was one of several grotesque accidents that shocked American conservatives into acknowledging the need for the sort of synthetic surface introduced at Santa Anita. It is only the coincidence that the Breeders' Cup comes to the same venue, for the second year in a row, that makes it a remotely palatable project for Sea The Stars. In 2010 it is back on dirt, in Louisville, where it would never have been remotely entertained.
This process of integration was first embraced, against colossal vested interests, by American visionaries; and then by the trainers who favoured the Classic, for Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, over the Mile on turf. Back in fourth last year, however, was Curlin, whose connections are so disgusted that the Classic will again be run on "plastic" that they have vowed to keep away their outstanding filly, Rachel Alexandra.
In that context, Oxx might sense a responsibility to the future of the sport. The Breeders' Cup already lacks one marquee name; to miss this one, too, would be poor reward for its wholesome renewal. [Guardian UK]
- We've spoken quite a bit over the last few years about the demise of the handicap division for older horses; and it lays in virtual ruin this year. But the other end of the age spectrum is suffering as well in my opinion, and that's illustrated quite well by today's Champagne. Just six horses, two of them coming straight out of maiden wins, all but Dublin eligible for entry-level allowance races. "Grade 1" doesn't mean much when it comes to juvenile stakes this time of year. For all we know about these horses, the next Derby winner could be just as likely to come out of the maiden race in the second. The list of Champagne winners includes Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Easy Goer, Forty Niner, Riva Ridge, Stop the Music, and Alydar. Hard to imagine that any of today's entrants will accomplish as much as any of those. Possible of course, but no way to tell now.
But when Alydar defeated Affirmed in the 1977 edition, we already had a good idea that they both would be special. They had already won eight stakes between them (five by Affirmed), and were meeting for the fifth time. It's highly questionable if Dublin and Aspire will even meet five times in their careers! And whether either of them turns out to be of any consequence next spring simply remains to be seen.
Remaining to be seen in this post is the 1977 Champagne, well before the bubbly became stale...and with the late, great Chic Anderson in the announcer's booth.