I awaited Saturday’s premier running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational with the same jumpy nervousness and trepidation that I feel each time I leave the kids with the babysitter. What was going to happen? Was everyone going to behave and do their thing or would disaster in some form ensue? I paced. I worked through the possible outcomes, steeling myself for the chance that my horse could lose. I promised myself that I wouldn’t jump up and down and scare my kids again like I did during the Breeder’s Cup Classic. Frankly, my bladder can’t take that much jumping anyway.
While I waited, I thought back to the post I published on Friday. Sure, the idea that the Arrogate v. California Chrome has parallels with Sir Barton v. Man O’War might seem tenuous, but I’ve been living with Sir Barton and his career for more than three years. I’ve been a thoroughbred racing fan for thirty years. Nothing in my time following this sport has been closer to what fans at Kenilworth Park witnessed on October 12, 1920 than we all saw at Gulfstream Park on January 28, 2017. The story of Arrogate v. Chrome played out much like the Kenilworth Gold cup did, with the older horse running at a disadvantage and the young speedster showing everyone yet again that he definitely deserves the title of Best Racehorse in the World.
Continue reading “Head to Head, Part Two”
It’s not a match race, really. When a race has twelve horses slated to start, each paying $1,000,000 for the privilege of running, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park is a true horse race. Twelve starters, many possible outcomes.
The coverage of the Pegasus, part of a slate of seven stakes races on Saturday, January 28th, pays lip service to the other ten starters, but really it all seems to come down to two horses: Arrogate and California Chrome. Arrogate, the four-year-old youngster, recently voted the world’s best racehorse by Longines, conqueror of the last year’s Travers Stakes and Breeder’s Cup Classic. California Chrome, six years old, on the verge of retirement and stud life, twice Horse of the Year, conquered by the upstart Arrogate both in the Classic and in the voting for world’s best racehorse.
The gate might hold twelve, but the world only sees two. Only two names matter.
Arrogate vs. California Chrome. Speedy wonder with only one loss in his racing career versus the veteran who nearly won a Triple Crown and beat all comers in 2016 except this newly minted rival. With one voted the best in the world, barely edging out the other, the question of supremacy becomes paramount.
Where have we seen this before?
Continue reading “Head to Head”
This past Saturday evening, thoroughbred racing gathered together to honor the best of the best from the past year with the announcement of the 2016 Eclipse Awards. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing, and the National Turf Writers Association created the Eclipse Awards, named for British racer and sire Eclipse, in 1971 to honor elite horses and their human counterparts each year. California Chrome followed up his 2014 Horse of the Year win with another Horse of the Year honor for 2016, after his record of seven wins in eight starts. His only loss came behind the speedy wonder Arrogate in the Breeder’s Cup Classic.
California Chrome’s 2014 Horse of the Year honor follows his unsuccessful attempt at winning the Triple Crown, when he came in fourth in the Belmont after a shaky start which saw him stepped on at the start by Matterhorn. Of course, the next year saw American Pharoah dominate all of the awards with his 2015 Triple Crown victory, the first in 37 years. The 12th Triple Crown winner was the unanimous Horse of the Year, the unquestioned best horse of 2015. Ending the Triple Crown drought and then following that up with victories in the Haskell Invitational and the Breeder’s Cup Classic sealed the HOY deal for Pharaoh. Our first Triple Crown winner was not quite so fortunate.
Newspapers of the time give Sir Barton three-year-old champion honors, though none of these awards were officially recognized until 1936. Despite winning the Triple Crown (as we know it now) and a number of other victories, Sir Barton’s record of 13-8-3-2 was not quite as stellar as another three-year-old, Purchase, who had a record of 11-9-2-0 for 1919. Thus, for some, the Triple Crown winner’s supremacy wasn’t quite total. The doubt came from July’s Dwyer Stakes, where Purchase beat a sore Sir Barton, who was carrying nine more pounds and turned a shoe during the race. Despite winning four races in thirty-two days and setting a precedent that is racing’s central focus for the first half of each year, Sir Barton was not good enough for some in his own time to be unanimously the best of his class.
Years later, of course, Sir Barton was awarded both his Triple Crown trophy and Horse of the Year honors. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in its initial class in 1957 and then into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976. It speaks to the difference between Sir Barton’s time and ours that America’s first Triple Crown winner didn’t quite dominate the minds of racing back then as he might have today.
When American Pharoah crossed the finish line at Belmont Park on June 6, 2015, the new King of the Track, the 12th Triple Crown winner, it was a given that breeders would be seeking the chance to catch their own bit of history by pairing their mares with the horse that broke the thirty-seven-year drought. Sure enough, in early 2016, American Pharoah covered a number of mares and, this week, the first of his foals made his appearance.
This little guy, as yet unnamed, is but a harbinger of the potential to come, the promise of another American Pharoah that, given the right time and connections, may bring us more of the excitement his sire showered us with.
For Sir Barton, his time at stud was more average than anything else; he produced a decent number of stakes winners, but none duplicated his success. Easter Stockings won the 1928 Kentucky Oaks, among her many career wins, and stands as probably his most successful progeny. Sure, he had others, but, compared to the pedigree legacies of his rival Man O’War, his stud career was deemed a failure. Though he may not have a produced another Triple Crown winner, he was a good enough sire that the word ‘failure’ belies the truth of his time. His final years were spent with the Remount Service, where he served his country by siring more horses for the military.
I look forward to the successes of this new little guy and all of American Pharoah’s foals to come. I hope they bring us as much joy as their sire did for his shining year on the Triple Crown trail.