Thursday, June 28, 2012

Putting Some Perspective On I'll Have Another Going to Japan

Last week it was announced that Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another is going to Japan for his stud career. While the news was predictably followed with dismay, there were also many hateful comments such as "He'll just suffer the same fate Ferdinand did" among others (to learn about Ferdinand's story, click here) so I did a little research on some of the top stallions in Japan and how many are directly connected to the United States.

(Thanks to Tachyon from Thoroughbred Champions for the list)
9. Victoire Pisa(USA) (Neo Universe) (Shadai) 3,500,000 (43,750)- raced outside the US
11. Empire Maker(USA) (Unbridled) (JBBA) 3,000,000 (37,500)- Won Belmont, Wood, Florida Derby
12. Kurofune(USA) (French Deputy) (Shadai) 3,000,000 (37,500)- not raced in US
13. Conduit(IRE) (Dalakhani) (Big Red Farm) 3,000,000 (37,500)- Won BC Turf twice
16. Johannesburg(USA) (Hennessy) (JBBA) 3,000,000 (37,500)- Raced mostly in Europe but won BC Juvie
19. Symboli Kris S(USA) (Kris S) (Shadai) 2,500,000 (31,250)- not raced in US
 
As you can see from the above list, out of the top 21 stallions in terms of stud fees, five are U.S.-breds and one more made history here with his two Breeders' Cup wins. 

In addition, the best stallion in Japanese history, Sunday Silence was a U.S. bred and won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup Classic, etc. My first post on this blog also showed even more Triple Crown race winners that have spent time in Japan.

It should also be noted that a buy-back clause to bring stallions back from international destinations should they no longer be wanted is also a normal procedure these days. The horse will also be checked on at least annually by Three Chimneys staff (farm where I'll Have Another's sire Flower Alley stands) when they visit their office in the country and check on other horses over there, such as Silver Charm.

Yes, losing another good horse to Japan isn't ideal for fans who wanted to visit the horse but it's almost guaranteed that I'll Have Another will get more quality mares there than he would here. It is also extremely doubtful the colt will end up in a slaughter house if he is unsuccessful.

Japan has MANY United States stakes winners and even Eclipse winners in their country now. While they can't be monitored as closely by fans as they could in the United States, there is little doubt that I'll Have Another will not suffer at the hands of the country. 

If fans want something to complain about when it comes to the Derby winner, they would be much better off pointing their anger somewhere else, because after looking at "Big Red Farm's" website, I'll Have Another will be living in a luxury that most humans can only dream of.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Horses Need to Race Past Their Three-Year-Old Year

In a sport dominated by two and three-year-olds, it's hard to believe that older horses have any place in this fast paced world. But while many popular three-year-olds retire with just a few starts in their career, a horse running at the upper levels for multiple years gains a massive following.

One only needs to look at Zenyatta to understand that a horse that spends multiple years in the spotlight can attract a massive following. Another example would be the European supermare Goldikova, who had American fans clamoring to see her at her yearly appearances in the Breeders' Cup races she ran in during her career.

While both example cite successful mares that defied the odds by either taking on males or keeping a winning steak alive, it also proves that fans can be attracted to the track.

In the past few years, we have seen healthy, or slightly injured, horses leave the track at three-years-old because they "have nothing else to prove" or they are offered lucrative stud deals. While this idea is good for breeders, in the long run it is harmful to the sport.

Yes, a horse's three-year-old season is it's most lucrative but their four-year-old and beyond careers can do just as much for their record, especially if they aren't in demand as a stallion prospect.

The horses that continue to race well past the Triple Crown are those that have the potential to become the most popular with both regular horse fans and even those casual fans that may tune into racing once or twice a year.

So instead of racing to the breeding shed at the first sign that something is wrong, we should be looking for ways to market the horses that return month after month at the highest levels of competition. Not only is it good for the horse, it's good for the sport as well. And anything that is good for the sport is good for those people in it.

Any way you look at it, continuing to race horses past their three-year-old year is a win/win that should be considered when any decision are made about rushing horses off to the breeding shed.

If the trend of retiring horses at a young age can be turned around, there's no doubt the sport has a fighting chance.

The major question is: Will breeders take the initiative to take a year or two out of the breeding shed in order to try and save their sport or will we continue to see three-year-old retirement notices all over the racing publications in the coming years?

It's definitely an interesting question to ponder and one I hope we get a positive answer to very soon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Triple Crown Disappointment Just A Small Part of the Season

If you've been in racing long enough, you know things can change quickly in this industry. In only a month, the hero can fall into the trap of being forgotten about and an unknown horse can turn into the next hot thing.

In January, Hansen and Union Rags were the big three-year-olds to watch and over the last five weeks, very few words have been uttered about either until yesterday's Belmont.

I'll Have Another seemed to burst on the national scene in the G1 Santa Anita Derby when he beat Creative Cause by a nose (however, the colt won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February before that win) and captured even more attention when winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown. 

The racing gods determined that another Triple Crown winner was not to be this year when the Flower Alley son was scratched from the Belmont and retired due to a tendon issue, sending a sober atmosphere over the running of the last leg of racing's biggest challenge.

However, in the big picture of this year, this isn't something to dwell on for a long time. There is another hero waiting to pop up around every barn door.

For example, Hansen and Union Rags look to continue to build their stories as they prepare for the rest of the season. And with the Triple Crown Trail over, it looks as though the flashy pair will get a chance to shine in two different divisions and allow fans to cheer for both.

You also have the Zayat pair of Bodemeister and Paynter. They not only led their trainer, jockey, and owner to Triple Crown history by finishing second in all three Triple Crown races, they look to be developing into top contenders for the big races in the coming months.

Going through all the talented three-year-olds that look to make the second half of the year exciting would take 5,000 words in itself so instead, I'll also mention the strong older horse and mare & filly divisions. You have the multitude of colts that came back after a three-year-old season last year, the mighty Get Stormy and his foes on the turf, the awesome group of three-year-old fillies and once again, a strong group of older mares to keep us on our toes.

I'll Have Another's scratch in the Belmont will go down in history as a major disappointment but in a year that still has a long way to go, other horses look to try and make up for the racing gods' cruel joke. It won't be easy and we will look back fondly on the run "Cookie" gave us all. 

But for hardcore racing fans, the rest of the year looks pretty bright and exciting. Not only are the horses mentioned above returning for another six months of racing, two-year-olds looks to make their debuts soon as well, if they haven't already. And who knows, the next Triple Crown winner may be training for a start in just a few days.

Racing may have suffered a disappointment this weekend, but like every other year the sport will rebound. And with so many amazing animals still racing, it's time to focus on the future and not what could have been. We owe that to those animals still on the track.