Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Here in Virginia, a lot of people will be pulling for native son Quality Road to end his career with an upset of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I am one of those people.
Let the hate mail begin.
I also have two gripes about the great Zenyatta and neither is her fault.
First, I’ve heard a bunch of folks say recently that it will “be good for racing” if Zenyatta wins the Classic and goes to 20-0. Of course, on many levels this is true and certainly nothing bad will come of her winning the race in terms of publicity for the sport.
My gripe is that this notion demonstrates once again industry insider’s inclination to embrace “conventional wisdom.” We constantly hear that one horse or another over some defined period of time is going to revitalize racing. He or she is not. Let it go, people.
But for years we have heard that the superstar horse engages the public and converts fans to bettors to the overall benefit of the racing and breeding industry. We hear about engaging younger fans, we hear about technology's role in our game and we hear about quality racing with high purses fattened by alternative forms of gambling. Only the technology piece of the puzzle is moving forward with minimal downside and that may well be because outside agents are the driving force.
So, here’s my pitch for “propositional wagering” and I’ll get off my “damn conventional wisdom” stump and back on Zenyatta. After all, she (and her connections) can carry the weight and handle the pressure.
That said, I think such wagers would also appeal to neophyte Baby Boomer bettors as well as to the youngster demographic. To me, again in defiance of conventional wisdom, the Boomers are important to our game for the simple reason that they already have two things that are critical for either going to and/or wagering on horse races – time and money. But, I digress…
My other gripe is not so much with Zenyatta but with owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs. Surely, between them they had enough frequent flyer miles to move their fabulous mare freely about the country? How about a trip to Arlington or Keeneland? Wouldn’t she have garnered national media attention by running (win or lose) at Saratoga or Churchill Downs?
(OK, other than the simple fact that she beat everybody they put in the gate with her! But you know what I’m saying, racing primarily in California against a limited talent pool on synthetic tracks makes it hard to know just how good she really is when compared to the top handicap horses and some pretty darn good three-year-olds.)
As a result, other major racing markets never saw this amazing racehorse in person. The fans and bettors in those places never got to say to their non-racing friends, “Hey, lets’ go to the track on Saturday and see Zenyatta.” “Who’s Zenyatta,” the non-initiated would ask, leading to a complete explanation and subsequent eye-opening trip to the racetrack.
Enough complaining, back to Zenyatta.
She may well be the best mare to ever look through a bridle. Jockey Mike Smith, who is headed for the Hall of Fame and has won every major race we can think of and some 4,000 more, recently used her name in the same sentence with Secretariat. That’s heady praise.
With her resume, conventional wisdom may be right. Simply put, Quality Road has his work cut out for him on Saturday evening. The daunting task recenlty prompted trainer Todd Pletcher to say "Thus far it's been impossible to beat her. We're hoping a dirt track will help us. You have to get a little bit lucky and have a good trip."
Hopefully, both will get good trips and run good races, and, when it's all over, both old and new fans will be talking about this race for years to come. – Glenn Petty
Posted by GP at 5:13 PM