Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jackson Adamant: No Breeders Cup for Rachel

Jackson Adamant: No Breeders' Cup for Rachel | BloodHorse.com

I'll admit to a couple of things here:

1.) I'm thrilled that two of the most exciting horses out there right now are fillies--major kudos to both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta (and their respective connections) for the class with which I think they handle these two athletes.

2.) I'm fascinated by the turf vs dirt vs poly debate.

Since I've only ridden horses on your general and basic ground (read as dirt, grass, bridle paths) I'm very curious as to the pros and cons of the dirt vs polytrack discussion. I was at the New England Turf Writers banquet a couple of weeks ago and even when querying the most experienced horse people, no one could really say what the benefits of one was over the other or how if really impacts the horses.

Understandably (and just as humans have preferences for various types of tracks/surfaces when they run) some horses are more comfortable or confidant on one surface than another. I get that. What I don't get is what the X-factor is for arguing against the polytrack.

It seems to me (begging the pardon of Monsignor Habiger for the use of his opening line) that the safety and well-being of the horse is paramount. So if polytrack isn't any safer for the horses...what is it for? Did the officials in California jump to conclusions when they put the surface down at their tracks?

There are still catastrophic injuries to horses and jockeys and I haven't seen any evidence that the poly surfaces mitigate that fact at all. Rather, what I do see are the European (especially UK and France) courses being much safer for horse and human alike. In many cases the races themselves are over long distances (albeit on grass) and even in jump-racing the horses seem to fare better over longer hauls then some horses do here in the US.

I'm partial to turf racing, something about the lush green grass and the way the horses move over it. And the sandy, wide turns of Belmont, well, I love 'em.

All this to say that I understand fully Jess Jackson's decision to not run Rachel on the poly track at Santa Anita. Although she's proven she can run on it (she did, after all, win the Kentucky Oaks in great style on the polytrack) he clearly feels it's not her best option. Too boot, I'm thrilled that he wants to keep her running for another season, giving us all more opportunities to see her compete. I fully support (for whatever it may be worth, LOL) the choice to do what's best for the horse. It is after all, about the horse. She's a highly trained, highly skilled athlete and to all appearances that is how she is being looked after. I hope that's the case because she's special, in the same way Ruffian and Regret were special. (Photos at the top are of Regret and Ruffian, respectively.)

I for one will be glued to the television this weekend for The Haskell at Monmouth, not just to see Rachel, but some of her fellow competitors. She'll face Belmont winner Summer Bird as well as Papa Clem and some other talented boys. Should be a wonderful race!

For a little further reading--and really good reading at that--go to Steve Haskin's article on European vs American racing. Even the follow-up comments are educational and interesting.

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