Friday, 26 June 2009

BC Thoughts - Early Edition

Whatever you think of Jess Jackson’s decision not to run Rachel Alexandra in this year’s Breeders Cup, or of his tirade against synthetic surfaces (my take: there is a distinct smell of "sore loserism" lingering in the air), the one thing we should agree upon is that his argumentation was disingenuous.

Those types of "plastic" are too different from each other? “Man interfering with nature”? You might wanna take a closer look on that Churchill surface, it’s not your average mid-Kentucky soil either, nor is it identical to the surfaces at Gulfstream or Belmont. Mr Jackson, after all, has become a billionaire “interfering with nature”, as in artificially creating vineyards, where he grows genetically modified grapes that have little more to do with their ancient ancestors than a Tapeta track has with the sand at Del Mar beach.

I’d like to see the BC as an event as close to an American Open Championship as possible, but I'll just skip that argument for now. Interesting takes in support of Jackson’s decision can be found on The Aspiring Horseplayer and Foolish Pleasure blogs. I still disagree, for reasons stated there, but even before reading those I felt far less passionate about the topic than, say, the prospect of Rachel following up her Oaks romp with another one in the Acorn. This is largely because, for all we know, a RA v Zenyatta duel would have only been likely if both had chosen the Distaff, which would have opened up a whole new can of worms.

The self-proclaimed “World Championships” (never mind the title) have recently revamped their Win & You’re In list for the third time in three years, and in the process created a hodge-podge of American and Overseas races that are unlikely to have promotional value and are hard to follow even for the most dedicated fans. If I understand their website correctly, most of the added International races won’t even be broadcast in America. It’s also not quite clear why we need BC W&YI’s at all. Unless you simultaneously limit the BC to a maximum of 10 runners per race, its just an unneccessarily complicated way to determine about half the field (less in some cases).

The most interesting aspect is hidden in the details: not a single one of the races on Dubai World Cup Day will carry W&YI status. Is there any reason other than animosity towards the world’s other “Thoroughbred World Championship”? I don’t think so.

A second line of criticism has focused on the BC’s ignorance of the labels assigned by the American Graded Stakes Committee. True, some of the new W&YI races are entirely ungraded and the grades obviously didn’t play any major role in determining the races, but really, the AGSC’s work deserves to be ignored. Its pattern system is entirely useless to identify the most important races, unless you think that the Prioress, Kings Bishop and Santa Maria really are more prestigious than the Suburban or Oaklawn Hcps, that the Ark Derby and Lexington Stakes are on the same level, or that there really are no less than 115 races in the US which consistently attract several runners of the highest caliber.

Plus, increased incentive even for non-graded niche stakes, especially in the Turf Sprint and Marathon categories, is a good opportunity for all those upstart racinos to establish meaningful races without simultaneously watering down the quality of already established stakes elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. you are correct about the american graded stakes committee -- not very smart.