TV Time Out

Thank goodness for these two girls

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

In case you missed it, and I'm certain 99 percent of Americans did, two of the best thoroughbreds in history raced over the weekend. And won. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are two of the best ever to break from a starting gate. Unless you were tuned to TVG or HRTV, you had little chance to see the two most-talented horses currently racing.

In case you missed it, and I'm certain 99 percent of Americans did, two of the best thoroughbreds in history raced over the weekend.  And won.

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are two of the best ever to break from a starting gate.  Unless you were tuned to TVG or HRTV, you had little chance to see the two most-talented horses currently racing.

Rachel Alexandra has received the most fanfare, thanks in part to her astounding victory in the Kentucky Oaks.  Her romp led many to wonder how she would have fared against the boys in the Kentucky Derby.

So good is Rachel Alexandra, that Jess Jackson, owner of Curlin, bought the filly for what is rumored an extraordinary price, wanting ultimately to breed the two in hopes of producing a superhorse. 

Zenyatta is a champion mare and currently is undefeated in 11 starts.  Zenyatta is just two wins shy of matching Personal Ensign's perfect 13-race career. 

So good is Zenyatta, that on Saturday, she won the Vanity Handicap, beating five other mares, but carried 129 pounds on her back, the most by a winner at Hollywood Park in 32 years.

I was fortunate enough to eyeball both of these great athletes during the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  Both are freakishly big -- Rachel Alexandra measures more than 16 hands, while Zenyatta is an astonishing 17 hands high (17 x 4" = 68" to the withers, or neck muscles). 

So good is Rachel Alexandra, that Calvin Borel jumped off the back of Derby champ Mine That Bird to ride the filly in the Preakness.  Rachel Alexandra became the first girl to win the Preakness since 1924.  Heck, even a group of owners leading up to the race were alleged to have plotted against the connections of Rachel Alexandra, trying to keep the filly out of the race.

Rachel Alexandra has won every big race there is for fillies, so it remains to be seen whether she'll race again against the boys. 

So good is Zenyatta, that she has been unable to hook a competitive field the past couple of years.  The Eclipse winner has scared off the competition, much the way Rachel Alexandra will in the future.

Already, there is talk that any type of match race between the two, which would create an incredible buzz around the country, has been shot down by the owners.  You'll recall Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure went head-to-head in a made for TV event, in which 18 million viewers tuned in to CBS to see the match race.

Horsemen and industry officials here in Kentucky say thoroughbred racing, at home and throughout the country, is in financial trouble, due to dwindling attendance and betting handles.  They argue that other forms of gambling, located at the tracks, would attract more fans and create other revenue streams.

In a simplistic world, horse racing needs more stars, like Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.  Or at least, the industry could do a better job of marketing such stars.

That the two best horses are female is an inherent problem the industry is slow to overcome.  The sport is dominated by the boys, because traditionally, females aren't big enough, or strong enough, to compete on the track in the same race.

I admit, I have little working knowledge of the thoroughbred industry, nor do I claim to be an expert in the solutions to the problems that plague it.  I am, however, a fan of the game and enjoy placing the occasional $2 bet.

The horse racing industry somehow must take advantage of its stars, like Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.  After all, horses of their caliber don't come along every day.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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