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New Year’s Horse Racing Resolutions

2013 BlogWe all make them – Lose weight, get out more, travel, kick the bad habit – and we’ve all broken one at some point. While the sport of horse racing has made some vast improvements and successfully embarked on some new safety initiatives, there are just some things that don’t seem to change…

Here are some New Year’s Resolutions for Horse Racing that are long shots to make it through 2013:

1. Triple Crown Contenders will make it to the end of the year – This year in particular depleted the 3-year-old crop early. Both classic winners failed to make a start after their final wins, with much of their competition following the same path to stud. Three of the past five Derby winners have made two starts after the TC campaign, those being Big Brown, Super Saver, and Animal Kingdom. Big Brown of course won his two starts after the Belmont bomb, but was whisked away to stud much like Super Saver. He failed to win after the Derby and quietly slipped into retirement. Animal Kingdom has not retired but took off after the Belmont for the rest of the year. Mine That Bird kept right on chugging but most geldings would have. It’s easy to see why the 3-year-old Eclipse picture gets muddled when 30 names could get tossed into the hat at any given time and retired the next day. Which brings us to….

2. Eclipse Award Voting will go smoothly – That ugly term “East Coast Bias” seems to get slapped on every horse that wins from east of the Mississippi by Pacific coasters. Voters from the East yell “SCOREBOARD!” and go about their day. They claim it is fair, but the East just continues to churn out champion after champion. Yet in the past 10 years the West Coast has the same number of winning representatives in Horse of the Year, Older Horse, Older Female, Turf Male, Turf Female, and Female Sprinter: One (Zenyatta won Older Female three times but was the only mare from California.) The Juvenile categories seems fairly divided, with the fillies right down the middle and the males  swinging 6-4 in favor of the West. That’s about where the equality ends in winners though, with the overwhelming balance awarded to those lining the Atlantic. For the most part the horses from the East were simply best, but there are some tough calls along the way that make one wonder how fair the voting really is. It’s a debate that rages on year after year and never finds a different answer. The end does not appear to be within walking distance.

3. The Breeders’ Cup will stay the same – What was so broken about the concept in the first place? Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup has been a marquee event for deciding year-end Championships and seems to have covered most categories, while forcing some out of their comfort zone but into the Winners’ Circle. However, over the past few years what was a five-star, eight course never-changing menu has sort of taken on Burger King’s “Have It Your Way” approach. Year by year, the BC has changed like so:

2007 – The Breeders’ Cup hit a swampy Monmouth Park for the first time and introduced its two-day format, focusing on Friday as “Ladies’ Day”. This particular edition didn’t sit well with me, as the new races added took some intrigue out of certain races. The Dirt Mile stole some 7 furlong type horses from the sprint that always came flying and occasionally got up. The Juvenile Turf made some sense, but all but eliminated the chance of young grass stars from Europe ever trying the dirt again. The Filly & Mare Sprint especially got my goat. Fillies and mares have held their own just fine in the Sprint, and although the distance is different only the severely distance challenged mares will ever face the boys again in November.

2008 – When it rains, it pours. Three more races joined the party in 2008, creating an overstuffed two-day festival of every condition a horse could hope for. The turf sprinters no longer had to face milers, and also had to navigate one of the trickiest turf courses in America (of course a local won). A tiny bunch to begin with, the juvenile turf horses in this country were split by sex. An even smaller group of marathon dirt horses got their own race too. Is it possible that one day Breeders’ Cup races will outnumber bowl games?

2009 – Another new precedent came about – Santa Anita kept the Breeders’ Cup for two years in a row. While this raised few complaints from Europeans (they thrived on the synthetic surface the year before), many American runners began to cry for dirt racing and did not run as a result.

2010 – Dirt is what they got the next year, but the racing card took a new twist and finished at night under the lights at Churchill Downs. It’s hard to gauge how this impacted the card, as America came out to see its girl Zenyatta no matter what time she ran. Although she took defeat, yours truly cannot recall a more excited Clubhouse than the night she took her only defeat. The card dragged on and much of the energy associated with the Cup was absent until the Classic. The Classic went a bit later in 2012, but most of that must be attributed to the venue.

2011 – Just what the Breeders’ Cup needed, another race, the Juvenile Sprint. With endurance problems rampant among American horses, a short race with a huge purse seemed an odd solution. Not that speed isn’t good, but why draw it out of the Juvenile?

2012 – Lasix is no longer allowed in two-year-olds on Breeders’ Cup day. While it’s a nice gesture, most horses in this country run on it and this is not a day for experiments. Debate can be tossed around about race day medication until doomsday, but Lasix is the touchiest of medications. Mike Repole boycotted the Breeders’ Cup with this rule, and with the way his horses ran at Aqueduct they most likely would have added some spice from the East.

4. The UAE Derby will finally produce a winner of the Kentucky Derby – With the new rules for the 2013 Kentucky Derby tossing graded earnings out the window, this race loses even more prestige. It used to be a free ticket for a Godolphin runner every spring, but its history hasn’t exactly got the pulse racing. Seven winners did not even contest the Kentucky Derby, as they either stayed overseas or were too old to compete (Southern Hemisphere winners). Of the contestants that did brave the trip, their finishes have ranged from sixth to twentieth. Whether it’s the ship, the change in company or just bad luck… this race just hasn’t made the impact it was created for.

What do you have to add to the list? What other horse racing events are we unlikely to see in 2013?

Best of luck to all in the coming year at the races!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.