A Glimpse of the Future


So what just happened over the weekend? I’m not entirely sure but there’s definitely a lot to think about.

Regular GbG commenters Jason and John offer some points I hadn’t yet considered.

Jason says:

Bottom line, this BC was a disaster. Let’s see how many East Coast horses show up next year. I’m guessing between 3-5 and they will all be turf horses.

Fair point, I wouldn’t send my dirt horse next year without a real prep over the surface but I wasn’t convinced that made it a disaster as much as a monkey wrench in the wheels of determining a champion.

In my mind Curlin is still a dirt champion. He was beat on a new surface by some very talented turf horses that he probably would have beaten on conventional dirt. Good for Jackson & company for not shying away from the challenge. While I would have loooooved to have seen Curlin win, Jackson has done what fans have been asking owners to do… run your horse regularly and challenge them.

And building on some of Jason’s points, John aptly puts it this way:

Finally, the artificial surfaces have thrown the American game into an identity crisis. Our horses, finally being weaned, I assume, from their drug regimens, were teetering on the stage of world class to begin with; now, however, we’re split on what an American race horse is. The division of synthetic runners and dirt runners further muddies any conclusions we might want to make about who is the best of the best.

We have effectively divided the union via surface civil war.

But is change really so bad? Jessica plays synthetics devil’s advocate:

Let me play devil’s advocate here … what would be so bad about dirt racing disappearing, leaving synthetic and turf surfaces only?

And regular commenter, o_crunk shares this thought:

BC may be on to something longterm on synths, certainly leaves TC events with a musty old smell. Things change, maybe this *is* better?

I’m not against synthetics as much as I am in favor of doing everything possible to create and maintain safe dirt surfaces. I’m also not against the challenge of trying to figure out how handicap the synthetics. But, it’s gonna to be a long strange period of having “dirt” horses and “synthetic” horses while all of these issues get ironed out. If we do move away from dirt, is there really any reason to race on anything other turf? Did synthetics seem different enough from turf to warrant maintaining two types of surfaces? I don’t know and perhaps only time will tell.

Since the TC, the last bastion of conventional dirt, is a bigger driver of the breeding industry than the BC, it should be interesting to see how this past weekend will start to affect the status quo re: breeding. Jason raised the same question:

I wonder how this is going to affect the Breeding Industry. The next time (after 2009) Santa Anita is announced as the site of the Breeder’s Cup, who is going to pay big money for the traditional big dirt sire yearling’s?

Val at Foolish Pleasure takes up this issue and more with her stellar post entitled Death Knell of Dirt Racing. As always, she’s a must read.

Crist has done a great job providing detail on the 2 day handle that the BC proclaims to be a success. Friday’s breakdown can be found here and Saturday’s here. Other’s have also addressed the blantant spin. Crist promises to do more analysis in the coming days but a quick apples to apples look at the Classic notes the numbers at $37,748,057 for 2006 at Churchill, $30,988,618 for 2007 at Monmouth and $24,282,451 for 2008 at Santa Anita.

Frank of That’s Amore Stables sums up some of what I’ve been thinking, that Fillies & Mares and Invaders were real stars of the show (and notably, no invaders won on Friday… although Heart Shaped almost did!). Princess Haya goes one better by showing who wears the horse picking pants in the family at Darley!

As others have noted, having the Fillies & Mares on Friday deprived a whole lot of potential new fans (and many existing ones!) of a true showcase of greatness. Kevin of Colin’s Ghost sums it up:

Missed opportunity with Zenyatta especially with her possibly returning next year. How many “new fans” watching on a Friday evening?

And in closing, in case it wasn’t already clear that changes are a foot, look no further than this… something we all can agree on!