- With nothing else worthwhile on their schedule during the winter months, TVG is all hepped up for its exclusive Eclipse Awards telecast on Monday night. Don't know how Todd Schrmmppff could possibly ramp up the drama anymore than he usually does; it might be a good idea to have some paramedics on hand in case he implodes. Of course, the rest of us might be fighting sleep after the nearly three hours (plus the hour pre-game show) of awards which nobody cares about which will precede the climactic Horse of the Year announcement at around 11 PM. I myself will be seeing Dinosaur Jr. at Brooklyn Bowl that night, but I'll be able to follow the action on Twitter (ha ha). There's been speculation that Zenyatta is not really retired, but I think she's just working out for her acceptance speech after she wins in a mild upset (and she probably has Peter Rotondo's phone number too).
The inimitable Chris McGrath of the UK's Independent hopes that, whatever the result, the sport of kings takes a wider view.
In refusing to run Rachel Alexandra on what they disparaged as "plastic" at the Breeders' Cup, her connections significantly retarded the American sport's painful journey towards a more humane racing surface. A year previously they had embraced the same gamble with Curlin - and done so pointedly, too, for the good of the sport. After his defeat, which may or may not have revealed him to be less formidable on a synthetic track, they got their retaliation in first with Rachel Alexandra. At the very moment when her story was beginning to intrigue a broader public, they vowed she would never set foot in Santa Anita and would instead reserve her Breeders' Cup debut for the dirt at Louisville in 2010.
In the no less regrettable absence of Sea The Stars, the great carnival faced a crisis - rejected by the champion three-year-olds of both Europe and America. And then along came Zenyatta, whose sensational performance turned everything on its head. Where the Breeders' Cup had seemed diminished by the absence of Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars, suddenly the reverse seemed true.
While it was undeniably a "home game" for Zenyatta, her connections had been just as bold as Rachel Alexandra's had claimed to be with Curlin. With a record unbeaten career on the line, she could have lapped her rivals in the Ladies' Classic. Instead, with the stakes at their highest, they took on all comers and showed the spirit of adventure required to overcome powerful vested interests in American bloodstock.
For now, the anguished schism between conservatives and pioneers will doubtless be replicated among Eclipse voters. Significantly, Jess Jackson, who campaigned both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, has not even been nominated for Owner of the Year. But the big one will surely be close.
There will be an East Coast bloc, cherishing Rachel Alexandra as a modern great in the traditional theatre of dirt; and Californian voters will register their admiration for Zenyatta, a poster girl for the obligations they sense to the welfare of the breed, and the integration of its different cultures. Bystanders over here will be united in the hope that a majority bring themselves to see the bigger picture. [The Independent (UK)]