Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Girl to Watch

Being a girl is tough in the racing industry although you can be just as good or even better than your male companions, rarely do you get the recognition. This is just what happened to Zenyatta.

Although placed in the running for Horse of the Year, she did not stand much of a chance again Big Brown or Curlin (both males). If she was a stallion, having a undefeated season, let alone an undefeated career, would have made her a shoe in for the honors. In the filly and mare races Zenyatta has won all the major races, including the Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic.

Now as a five year old she is expected to just as well as her previous seasons. Perhaps this time she won't be discounted or overshadowed by the boys.

Top Dog! er...Horse

This past Monday the Eclipse Awards were handed out to the top horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners of the horse racing industry for the year. For the most part, the award people generally can't wait for is the naming of Horse of the Year. This title, simply put, goes to the horse that has performed the best over the racing year. The winner can be male or female, and the horse does not have to be a certain age to win.

This year the three main contenders for the award were Big Brown, Zenyatta, and last year's winner Curlin. They all had their strong points. Big Brown was favored because he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes (I'll talk about those in a later post, I promise), while Zenyatta went the year undefeated (much harder than it sounds), and Curlin took the Dubai World Cup (arguably the biggest race in the world) as well as a few Grade I races back in the states. So who gets it? That's up to the voters selected from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers Association, and that Daily Racing Form. They all gather and debate which horse is best while comparing each horse's data.

And the winner is...

CURLIN! Yes, Curlin was given the honor of being Horse of the Year yet again. That's right, again. He is truly an amazing animal and I (along with other fans) are happy that the owners' choice of racing him another year paid off so nicely! Curlin had many accomplishments this year, two of the biggest being the Dubai World Cup and breaking the North American earnings record with $5,294,000 in won money. No horse has been able to win the repeat of the Horse of the Year title since Cigar won it multiple times over a decade ago. So in case you didn't think this was an amazing feat before, you should now. Not every horse has the heart to run the way Curlin can run, and possibly more importantly, not many owners have the faith and the desire to allow their horse to continue with their career long enough to get the chance for such greatness.

Kudos Curlin, it was an amazing year!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Needless to say, I am a horse enthusiast. I have been riding for enough years now that I have lost count and I have been watching the wonders of horse racing for almost as long. With this being said I have seen quite a few horses in my days, but never have I seen a horse and his doppelganger.

Late in the 2004 year I was given a totally amazing pre-Christmas present, a two-year old Quarter Horse gelding. After some deliberation we named the gelding Vader for a number of reasons I may share at some point. We bought him in the hopes that he would turn into a decent show horse and after years of work, he did.

After a year with Vader, and another year of watching horse racing, a new two year-old colt came onto the racing stage by the name of SweetNorthernSaint. Although I am normally interested in the new colts on the track, this one truly caught my eye, simply because he looked too much like my boy. I had found Vader's doppelganger.

This is SweetNorthernSaint....

And this is Vader...

Do you see what I see? Perhaps I am just being a tad overexcited, but I feel there is some definite resemblance there! The two are both tall, narrow chested, long necked, and thin legged, not to mention the coloring. Now, I have seen a lot of Brown/Black horses that kind of look like Vader, but rarely have I seen them also have that really light brown around their noses, in fact, I have been told that is how some of our spectators have recognized us from across the arena. Now, if you look at SweetNorthernSaint, he too fades into a lighter brown at the nose. Aside from the picky coloring, their chrome (white markings) are similar as well. They both sport a rather prominent blaze down their faces and the two also have the almost same markings on their feet which differ only by size on the front left.

Naturally I began watching SweetNorthernSaint like a hawk and I come to find that the horses have very similar personalities. Both horses are generally easy-going and both enjoy the company of their human companions. Just like Vader, SweetNorthernSaint has also been caught having an unusual fascination with his own species. During workouts both horses tend to stare after other horses as they walk by trying to figure out what that creature is. Meanwhile their handler (or me) is trying to regain the horses' focus while muttering "It's just a horse". The two also get distracted easily while on the job, whether it be in the show ring or on the racetrack. Although I can do nothing but mutter about this, the SweetNorthernSaint team decided to try blinkers, and the horse focused more and his performance greatly improved.

Again, maybe I am just taking too great of a fascination in all of this, and even so, this is quite a coincidence.