Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thoughts on a Match Race: Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta

The latest in a series of guest posts

By Vic Harrison

We've discussed video displays, breakage and outs issues, past posting, starting gates and past performance info.

This week we turn our attention to Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra.

Understatement Department:
"It sure would be a good race."

Obvious Statement Department:
"Rachel (R) is faster than Zenyatta (Z) and, on paper, should be favored and win."

Curious Statement Department:
My bottom line: Z beats R.

My qualifiers:
  • Z likely wins at any distance over 1 1/16.
  • R likely wins at 1 1/16 or shorter distances.
  • In either case, the races would create a sensation for our industry – a cryin’ shame that it may not manifest.

The intangibles:
  • Smart (or not) decisions by the jockeys
  • Track surface – dirt, grass or synthetic
  • Track condition
  • Trouble at the start or during the race
  • Whether I, Vic Harrison, the favorite killer, wagered on the horse.

I am of the opinion that, generally, the classy older horse beats the younger faster horse.

BLOGGING is not my full-time job. (“Thank God,” I can hear some of you say.) I try to squeeze out a BLOG or two every month or so. I tell you this in an attempt to lend credence to my excuse that I haven’t adequately performed research. I don’t have the time - You do it! Find match races or full field races, even, where two high profile horses square off against one another. I bet you find, in instances where the ages differ, that, more often than not, the classier older horse wins. What does “classier” mean? Honestly, in this case, I don’t know. We could talk consistency, earnings, number of wins – What I’m not saying is that Z is classy while R is not – she’s just, uhhhh…classier.

Too Much Information Department:
I was living in Orange, NJ in 1975 when I was introduced to horse racing by a girlfriend who attended Sullivan County Community College and had become a fan of harness racing at nearby Monticello Raceway. What an introduction she gave me, so to speak – a double-header: daytime Harness Racing at Freehold and evening Thoroughbred action at the Meadowlands. This was my first day ever at the races. All I did that first day was to hook up likely odds combinations in the exacta pools – In the same race, I’d hook up the 6-1 shot with the 9-2 shot and a 12-1 shot with a 3-1 shot and so on. By the end of that day I had $700 additional dollars and became a fan for life. Naturally, I’d spend thousands over the next few years actually learning how to handicap. The point here is, I lived in northern NJ and cut my teeth in the late '70’s at the Big M.

Whilst at the Meadowlands, I saw:

Cam Fella beat It’s Fritz. Both were aged 4 but you would say that Cam Fella was the classier of the two and It’s Fritz was the speedball.

The battle of the FS’s: Forest Skipper beat Falcon Seelster. Again both were 4 YO’s and again Skipper was perceived as the classier and Seelster the faster.

In 2003, Bunny Lake, aged 5, beat Worldly Beauty, aged 4.

These are examples on the Standardbred side that left me with the indelible sense that, all things being equal, class beats fast and Z beats R.

Until next time...

-- Vic

For more information about Vic Harrison, see Contributors on the About tab.


Valerie Grash said...

Historically in match races, the horse that gets the early lead wins; with Zenyatta's running style, it would be virtual impossible to catch a front-running Rachel Alexandra, regardless of the distance, IMHO.

I don't want a match race. I want a real race, in next year's Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, or at Churchill in May.

Anonymous said...

I love Zenyatta!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't be much of a match race, as Rachel Alexandra would cross the finish line 20 lengths ahead of Zenyatta. Remember, RA always speeds up on the stretch, pulling away, she's not just an early speed runner.

Vic Harrison said...

Yes, I'd much rather see R. and Z. hook up in an actual race with other horses.

Anonymous said...

I would NOT want to see another 2 horse field match, however, with both fillies entered into an open race as depicted above, at for instance, Belmont Park, where "true" racing luck or obstacles could come into play...that I'd like to see. For all we know, neither could be in the money, or both could even dead-heat! One can only surmise but the imagination is unlimited in possibilities.

Regardless of whether or not they ever hook up, both are in a league all their own, and both are absolutely sensational and deserving of honor and praise! Why must we humans render one better then the other, why can't they just be apples and oranges? In this case, they could both be apples, but why steal one's thunder of accomplishment by having to "find out for sure" in "one" instance, who would beat who; what would one race prove anyway? Whatever happened to the intrigue of mystery? "Why can't we humans be content" would be a better question? Thanks for the post, S.J. Koster

Vic Harrison said...

Anon, Now you're talking my language - humans (almost as interesting a species as horses)! A few years ago I read the life changing 'The Power of Now' and now I'm reading Eckhart Tolle's follow-up 'A New Earth'. I think we now need a healthy discourse here on your apples to oranges comment re R. and Z. In fact, while they may both appear apples, they both may be oranges or, in my world, a morning blend - something akin to Mott's A.M. Vic

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