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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Dreaming....

- I guess my position on this Big Brown-Curlin thing has evolved in the last week considering that I recently criticized the Big Brown team for ducking Curlin in the Woodward. It's just that it seems obvious from the sound bites coming out of IEAH that their presumptive three-year old champ isn't yet ready for the challenge. I also think that Iavarone makes a valid point in saying that the Woodward isn't the proper time on the calendar for a climactic showdown of this kind. Besides, I don't personally believe that Big Brown has even earned, as of yet, such a meeting with the defending HOTY based on his beating up on the anemic three-year old crop. Let's see him defeat even mediocre older horses first, whether on dirt or grass.

But even if Jess Jackson really doesn't run Curlin in the Classic, there would be a great way to settle this once and for all. This is really getting ahead of ourselves....but say Big Brown really is the goods, and he takes a Curlin-less Classic at Santa Anita. How cool then, would this be: Five weeks later, Thanksgiving weekend, at Churchill Downs or Aqueduct, a match race, on natural dirt, at a mile and an eighth. Let the two owners make a sizable wager with the loser donating to charity. Turn that NTRA marketing machine loose, find a slot on one of the networks not carrying college football, and watch the sparks fly. The two horses' styles - the tactical speed of Big Brown and the midrange stalking style of Curlin - are perfect for such a race. It would be one of the most anticipated and highly charged horse racing events of recent memory, and I'd bet that the ratings would be through the roof.

Of course, arranging such an event would require the industry to break free of the shackles of match race doom that have been in place since Ruffian, and to consider the endless possibilities instead of moping over what could go wrong. It might very well require the owners to selflessly agree to put off their future plans for one last big hurrah - willing to take one for the sport if that's the case. It may necessitate the de facto central power to use all its powers of persuasion, both with the connections and the TV networks. It would require all things, including those beyond human control, to fall neatly into place.

In other words, it will never happen. Nice to dream about though.


Anonymous said...

The chances of Big Brown winning the Classic and not being retired immediately afterward have got to be in the neighborhood of 0%. The chances of him winning the Classic (period) aren't much higher. I have my doubts that he'll even take part in the race, and even if he does, he looks the part of a longshot right now. I can't imagine that would change with a single made-to-order grass prep, either. Of course, he would be heavily supported on name recognition alone, but that's neither here nor there.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, i was thinking about something ther other day. Remember all the problems Big Brown was having with his foot heading into the Belmont? The whole think with the quarter crack, and the patch, and the way they delayed putting the patch on until the last minute (which was a deviation from their original plan). Why is that not talked about when people speculate about his poor performance in the race? All i remember hearing about afterward was the heat, the "bad ride" by Desormeaux, the displaced shoe, etc. I think maybe his feet did him in before he ever stepped into the starting gate. And along those same lines, note that Big Brown's final workout before the Haskell came on grass, which could be construed as an attempt to protect his feet. And now they want a grass prep race. Do you see what i'm getting at here?

El Angelo said...

I'm hoping BB wins his prep race and runs in the Classic. He'll be a fantastic bet-against at 3-5.

Anonymous said...

Why would Big Brown's people waste their time? For starters, I don't believe they'd even want a match with Curlin. For another, the only way such a challenge between the two is remotely viable, is if Curlin comes back at 5 and Big Brown doesn't retire at 3.

IEAH isn't interested in proving beyond 3 that Big Brown belongs in the pantheon of greatness, they're interested in not blowing the windfall of stud duty. Curlin's owner has one eye on what's good for the sport, and one on what's good for the horse, and might be ever so slightly more amenable to changing his mind---his horse has done most anything asked of it since last year's Triple Crown trail, he's got not much to lose. But it's not going to happen, as long as owners keep more of the younger and fresher talent one step from retiring at 3 or even earlier.

Incidentally, I don't buy the argument that a horse who just had his first start in seven weeks couldn't squeeze the Woodward into his plans. The problem with the argument is that he'll have had a month to recoup from a Haskell he'll have needed going forward. Most other horses, even with racing every several weeks like most "stars" do anymore, can swing it; the only reason for Big Brown not to is money. And if they want to be considered the best horse of the year, or the best horse in recent memory, or whatever they're hoping to accomplish, the big payday without racing trumps proving their horse is best on track.

Racing may have changed some since 1987, but with IEAH on Wall Street like the Gordon Gekko's they are, greed is good, more good than proving superiority on the track.

Anonymous said...

If they did somehow get convinced to match each other in a handicap race like the MassCap - what would be an honest handicap for each horse?

I'm thinking BB would get 120 and Curlin 130 to keep things competitive.

Nobody is going to saw they should be assigned the same weight so there has to be at least 8-lbs between them to make it anything but a blow out.

Anyone else?

By the way to save face, if I was Jess Jackson, if donate the $50k he originally cited as being the kitty to the charity.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the two of them race in any scenario, because they are the only two marque names in the sport right now. But really, does anyone think BB can hang with Curlin? I understand the reluctance of Curlin's connections to run at Santa Anita, because Curlin would sink like a stone on a soft surface, but I really hope some deal can be made to get them together. On dirt, I'll mortgage the house on Curlin. On grass...I'd still mortgage the house (it ain't much of a house).