Sunday, October 4, 2009

Best horse you won't see at the Breeders' Cup?

Sea the Stars was the smashing victor of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Sunday at Longchamp.

But his connections, including owner Christopher Tsui and trainer John Oxx, are likely less than convinced that he should race in the Breeders' Cup Classic next month at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in California. Or, perhaps, ever again.

And can you blame them?

The 3-year-old colt by Cape Cross and whose dam, Urban Sea (Miswaki-Allegretta, by Lombard) also won the Arc, has done everything asked of him.

His only loss was as a first-timer -- fourth in an 18-horse field at The Curragh -- in a talented group that included winner Driving Snow (stakes winner, G3-placed), Black Bear Island (G2 winner, full brother to High Chaparral) and Freemantle (G2-placed), all finishing less than a length ahead of him.

The spectacular half-brother to champion Galileo has won eight in a row since, six straight Group 1 races, including the English Derby-Guineas double (a first since Nashwan in 1989) and beating the best older horses Europe has to offer.

"Does he need to achieve anything more? I don't know. It's questionable," said his jockey, Mick Kinane, upon winning the Arc.

No, it isn't questionable. There's nothing more to ask of this horse. At least, certainly not at age 3. And certainly not shipping to California to try and win a Breeders' Cup race on a synthetic surface.

"He's a phenomenal horse," said Kinane. "You'd hate to do anything wrong by him."

I'm not saying that running at Santa Anita would be "wrong." Only needless, particularly in the Classic. I don't see how it raises his stud value one iota to be the best horse in the world on both turf and synthetic. ... Dirt might be a different story, but the Breeders' Cup has seen fit not to give us dirt, two years in a row now.

Europeans, at least, agree.

"They can go to America if they like, but I just hope he never runs again," said four-time Arc-winning rider Pat Eddery. "He's got nothing left to prove."

"I don't know why they would want to go to America," said ex-jockey Geoff Lewis, who won the 1971 Arc aboard Mill Reef. "... He's done enough already."

I disagree with Eddery in that I would like to see this horse run at age 4. From a breeding perspective, I would prefer knowing that a horse had more than nine lifetime races in him before standing him at stud. I realize that doesn't seem to bother a lot of other people, including most of the horse people with considerably more money than I.

So if Sea the Stars doesn't run at Santa Anita -- and I think that he won't -- will he be the best horse not competing in the Breeders' Cup this year? Or does that title go to Rachel Alexandra, who is almost certain to be the Eclipse Horse of the Year without setting foot on a track during Breeders' Cup weekend?

I'm asking that question in the polling space at left, and also giving you a choice of "Some Other Horse." If you vote and choose neither Sea the Stars nor Rachel, do me the favor of posting the non-BC-bound horse you believe is best instead in the comments section for this post.

So I can scoff at you.

No, seriously. If you think it's some other horse, I'd like to know which horse.

And what in the world you might be thinking. Or have been drinking.


  1. Hi Glenn!! As a long time race goer I will have to disagree with some of the comments made here. I'm always for what is best for racing, which needs all the help it can get right now.That well worn comment "what does he have to prove" makes me angry. Who cares if he has nothing to prove. How many more people would show up at the BC if Sea the Stars and Rachel were both entered in the Classic?? I know I would make the trip to see that race. Racing and breeding are in big trouble but no one seems to want to do anything about it. I'm so glad that I am old enough to have experienced horseracing in the late 60's and 70's when major tracks drew large crowds every weekend (and 10k during the week)to see the best horses in every division fight it out to see who was the best. Sad to say that those days are gone forever. That's what the BC was designed to do but it doesn't seem to work anymore, does it?

    BTW this is a very interesting site. I have it marked and will return. Nice job!!! Best of luck with your breeding operation. It sounds as if you are having a lot of fun.

    Rich (Litbitfarm)

  2. Hi, Rich. Glad you came over!

    Just as I'd like to witness a 4-year-old campaign by Sea the Stars, I can understand why having him at the Breeders' Cup would be great for racing. But I don't see how it serves him or his connections. If it were a dirt race this year (the Classic), I could understand it helping his value.

    Giant's Causeway's incredible beaten-a-neck finish to Tiznow in the 2000 Classic (along with his Storm Cat lineage) probably got him placed in Kentucky as a stallion, though U.S. breeders are hardly keen on turf sires. It showed he could be (was?) a great horse on dirt, too. ... And yet -- surprise, surprise -- roughly two-thirds of his progeny earnings are on grass.

    The same might have happened for Sakhee the following season, but his pedigree is a lot more grass-oriented on its face. And last year, Raven's Pass -- who is by a U.S. stallion in Elusive Quality -- heads back to Ireland to stand at stud because his smashing Classic win came against a champion in Curlin who was struggling over Santa Anita's synthetic course.

    I'm not sure that I'd never go back to a track with a synthetic main surface for a Breeders' Cup. But I think, particularly because of the repeat trip, it has really discouraged some folks with main-track contenders, who feel their horses are getting beat on "plastic" by turf horses in races that were meant to be for their division. ... And it's a fair contention, albeit off the point a bit regarding Sea the Stars.

    I just don't think it serves him at all to race the group who would be in the Classic. In fact, I think he'd prove just as much or more by shipping all that way and beating Gio Ponti, his recent "upsetter" Interpatation, west coast turf specialist Spring House and whomever else shows up for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

    Again, thanks for dropping by. Keep reading.

  3. Hi,
    Well, i think that if he wants to get horse of the yr. in NA, he'll have to compete in the BC. I think- (not sure), but i think a horse has to race here at least once to get the title. I agree that not racing him as a 4 yo would be even more of an injustice to racing and to the horse. He was bred to run, he might be one of the best in history, but if he does a Secretariat and stops at 3 we'll never really know. And, neither will they. At least Ghostzapper, while racing only 11 times, did run until he was 5. Obviously, he had issues, but they at least kept him in training. jmo, but unless financially strapped, and i don't think these people are, why not take the high road like Jackson? I give him alot of credit for what he's done for racing.

  4. I chose "Some Other Horse"- the 4yo Sicotico, 23 straight wins, multiple track records in many G1 races. He won the Clasico de Caribe in Puerto Rico back in December against the best 3yos in the Caribbean. He's won at multiple distances, often in extremely sloppy conditions. He can win from the front or off the pace. His only loss was when he bucked off his jockey in his debut. He's not BC nominated nor has he run in any of the "win and you're in" races, so the cost to supplement him probably prohibits his entry into the Classic.

    Fortunately, horses from his country often run many seasons before being retired to stud, so we'll get many more chances to enjoy him. Search Sicotico on Youtube, many of his races are up. It sounds crazy to say that a horse from the Dominican Republic is the best in the world, but this horse refuses to lose.

  5. I think Caribbean racing doesn't quite get the respect it deserves -- at least, some of the best horses probably don't -- but I'd have to see Sicotico in against better to place him at or near this level.

    However, you've made a case for Sicotico that shows you're clearly not drunk. :-)

  6. Glenn,

    I think Sea the Stars should not run in the BC Classic this year, but not for the reasons expressed. Having run on Oct 4th, shipping thousands of miles west through 8 time zones and changing surfaces (albeit not much of a change, but hey, it's a different color!) is too much to ask for a Champion race horse to do in ~34 days. It's especially foolish, in my opinion, to ask of a horse with 6 races since May, all in Group 1 company. That's one a month for six straight months. If was going to race as a 4 year-old, I'd say it's time to turn him out for the winter.

    I couldn't care less about "proving something". This is a sport, run for the purposes of sport and for financial gain. The connections will do what they think is best for the horse, for the sport, and for financial gain purposes. I think the horse is not well served by shipping so far so soon.

    Finally, the reports from the jockey and trainer are that his winter coat has started to come in. He should not be raced in Santa Anita with a winter coat. Last year's on-track temperature for BC Saturday was 128 degrees.

    Just my opinions :)

  7. Glenn, the writer above has made some good points. I think the horse will be retired.

    As an aside, I bet your numbers are going through the roof with the amount of times you are featured on Paulick's report.

  8. The numbers wax and wane, Sid.

    They certainly are the "waxingest" when I make the featured sections of

  9. I am an American who grew up with Dirt racing and have fallen in love with Turf racing after moving to England.
    Saw all Sea The Stars races this year and agree with those who say he has nothing more to prove.
    He works on all-weather in Ireland and is rated as high as he possibly can be--given that he has beaten every good horse around.
    I wouldn't want to see him risked in a seventh Group/Grade 1 race this year after long travel.
    But, being close to him so much, I suspect he would say "When's the plane?" and give a buck and kick to make his point.


I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.