by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

By Ray Paulick
Racing fans have read the superlatives or come up with their own adjectives in the wake of super filly Rachel Alexandra’s dominating victory over a very good field of 3-year-old colts at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park in Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, her eighth consecutive victory. They’ve also heard the declaration by majority owner Jess Jackson that he has no intention of running the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup, because the event’s traditional “dirt” races are being held for the second year in a row on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park in Southern California.These are heady days for Jackson, who has his sights on a third consecutive Horse of the Year crown, following Curlin’s titles in 2007 and ’08. Jackson blames Curlin’s fourth-place finish in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic on the track that he calls “plastic,” and it’s harbored within him a grudge against the synthetic surfaces that the California winemaker just won’t let go of. The defeat didn’t cost Curlin the second of his two Horse of the Year titles—he’d done enough earlier in the year to warrant the award—but Jackson remains convinced that it was the track surface alone that forced the son of Smart Strike to ride off into the sunset of his outstanding career with a stinging defeat.

In truth, Curlin’s performance level was in decline when he came to the Breeders’ Cup. The trip to Dubai for the World Cup has taken a toll on many winners, from inaugural hero Cigar, who wasn’t quite as invincible after his victory there in 1996, to Well Armed, the 2009 victor who finished last in Sunday’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, his first start since his record-setting 14-length World Cup win.

Yet Jackson ignores the fact that Curlin was hard-pressed to beat Past the Point and Wanderin Boy–two horses who had never been in his class—in his final two starts before the 2008 Classic, the Woodward at Saratoga and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. And Robbie Albarado, a fine rider who fit Curlin well, rode him like a 1-9 shot at Santa Anita, as if he were up against a field of allowance horses or minor stakes winners. Given the circumstances of Curlin’s demanding campaign, the overconfident way he was ridden, and the quality of the international field he was facing in the Classic, there should have been no disgrace in defeat. Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen chose to make the synthetic track the scapegoat, however, and they haven’t let up since.

Anyone who’s had their hands on a good horse, much less an extraordinary one like Rachel Alexandra, knows it presumptuous to point for a race too far into the future, but that’s what Jackson is doing. He’s trying to dodge criticism from ducking this year’s event by saying he’ll run Rachel Alexandra in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on a conventional dirt track. Everyone hopes she stays healthy and sound for that long, but, realistically, what are the chances of that happening? Distant, I would think, especially if she continues to race on conventional dirt tracks that have been sealed in advance of rain, as Monmouth’s was on Sunday for the Haskell. Much as Jackson disparages synthetics, I would think he’s been around this game long enough to know that a sloppy, muddy or sealed racetrack is probably the most dangerous on which a horse can race or train.

I’m not here to defend synthetic surfaces. They have their detractors and defenders among people who know more about them than I do. Perhaps some horses do not race on synthetics as well as they do on a conventional dirt track. All synthetic tracks are not alike, either, and how they are maintained can be a critical factor in their ability to provide a safe racing surface. The debate over perceived difficulties in handicapping races on these surfaces is a completely separate issue. The idea behind synthetics, first and foremost, is to promote safety for horses and riders. Their use should begin and end on that subject alone. The installation of synthetics was done with what may have been a false sense of urgency. In hindsight, it would have been better to conduct research and compile data on their impact on musculoskeletal injuries.

Breeders’ Cup officials had their reasons for holding the event at Santa Anita in consecutive years, and I think that decision was a mistake that will not be repeated—unless either Churchill Downs or Keeneland become the permanent site for the championships (an unlikely move, at least in the near future). Having said that, though, the competition at last year’s two-day event was outstanding and, for the most part, formful.

Jackson doesn’t owe the fans anything. He’s put up his money and can do whatever he chooses with his horses. But for him to boycott the 2009 Breeders’ Cup with the sport’s biggest star, despite evidence that Rachel Alexandra has performed well on synthetics over Keeneland’s Polytrack, reminds me of the spoiled kid who didn’t like the way a game was going and decided to take his ball and go home.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report

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  • Jackson has power and he knows how to use it.

    As much as the man has his detractors, I think all racing people would agree that the sport owes him a debt of gratitude for taking Rachel Alexandra away from her previous owner and trainer, so that the filly could show how good she is and, in the process, return our sport to the spotlight of the media.

    The man has brains, balls and good instincts.

    The Breeders’ Cup is a wonderful event, but it does not and should not define racing in North America, let alone the “World” (ha ha ha), because it is just one race on one day under specific conditions, some of which are not representative of racing as a whole.

    I for one applaud Jackson for what he has done both in buying the filly and skipping the Breeders’ Cup.

  • Andrew A

    The Pro Ride surface is Hocus Pocus Junk in my opinion. It is an “extreme” surface and it plays more like Turf than any other synthetic surface. Very few that run on or near the lead are successfull over it. How many closers won last years Breeders Cup? The closers won every race. It is also absurdly inconsistent producing nearly 50% carryovers at the last meet. That carryover rate is unheard of. Most importantly it is not the same surface that was first installed. It has ground up and degraded because of usage, weather, and maintenance.

    Jackson is right to speak up against synthetic surfaces. In a recent poll nearly 3 or 4 experienced Handicappers hate them. Synthetic surfaces are a blight on Racing except in areas that experience as many rainy days as sunny days.

    Most objective people are now admitting these surfaces were a big mistake and Jackson is doing Racing a favor by not bowing to the pressure!

  • Yes, Jackson has paid his dues and can do whatever he wants with Rachel – what U.S. race fans need to take into consideration is the bloated importance BC has on year end honors. We’ve seen year after year, European invaders come in, win the turf races and be crowned champions based on this one race. The Eclipse Awards have become nothing more than a popularity contest – there is no judging criteria – we need to take this away from the Turf Writers and establish a standardized point system.
    That being said, I applaud Jackson for stating an unpopular opinion – and sticking by it. He’s had a bad experience on synthetics and isn’t going down that road again. Much more monumental decisions have been based on less.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Jackson displayed a complete lack of class when he accepted Curlin’s Eclipse Award by offering “congratulations” to the foreign runners for winning on faux dirt. Why did he not simply thank the voters and talk about his own horse? He’s as much a bad winner as he is a sore loser.

    He hasn’t needed to make any excuses for Rachel Alexandra yet, but he still feels compelled to take constant shots at the Breeders’ Cup and synthetic surfaces. Personally, I think the Cup made a terrible decision to run the event at Santa Anita two consecutive years, but there were few other options since tracks were hardly clamoring to host the event at the time the announcement was made (why the Cup did not wait until NYRA’s situation was stable is beyond me).

    If Jackson doesn’t want to run Rachel in the Cup, fine. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t like the synthetic surfaces and that’s fine, too. But why must he continue to refer to them as “plastic” every single time someone sticks a microphone in his face? I’m completely fed up with his childish behavior and, frankly, don’t give a damn anymore about what he does with his filly or if she ever races anywhere again.

  • Margaret

    Barry’s got it right on all counts. And I further believe that the Breeders’ Cup must earn its way back to the pre-eminent position it once enjoyed — before diluting its product over two “championship days”. It’s not up to owners like Jackson to prop it up, particularly if he thinks to do so is to the detriment of his horse.

  • Ghostzapper


    Your blog is interesting. Your depiction of Jackson, particularly the picture, is appalling. Get off the BC bandwagon and let the man do what he wants. The mystique of a Zenyetta/RA showdown is as GOOD as it is going to get. Imagine the hoopla of a race involving these two horses and it turns into a flop. Then what? Another black eye for our industry? Cant afford it. Leave it alone Ray, this story is stale. Get off the hackwagon and write something newsworthy. Like Quality Road running one tick off the world record yesterday off a substantial layoff due to injury. Now that is racing news. BTW Jackson is setting this filly up for a run in Dubai. You heard it here first.

  • Benny the Bull

    When Jackson opens his mouth in post-race interviews his inexperience and lack of knowledge shows. His difficulty with basic racing terninology is cringeworthy. His comment that Munnings will be “the short speed champion at the Breeders Cup” A headshaker.

    Yet he continues to act like he is a sage of the sport while taking shots at all and sundry.

    Green as Grass.

  • Ray,

    Although I can agree with some of your article the headline and the crying child smacks of something Indian Charlie would come up with, and not to your higher level of journalism.

    I actually propose a different mythology of getting Jess Jackson to run in the Breeders Cup, I’ve written an article listed at: oddsonfavorite.blogspot.com, your mentioned in it Ray, take a look.

  • bill

    I applaud Jackson for not running in the Breeders’ Cup. Why should he put his filly’s reputation on the line on an artificial surface? Let the Breeders’ Cup and all of racing realize that the ‘plastic’ surfaces do nothing to forward or enhance the sport. And players, no matter what level, shouldn’t have to handicap the biggest races of the year on synthetic surfaces. Breeders’ Cup officials should have seen such a circumstance involving a potential champion coming at some point by running these races on synthetic surfaces. Instead,like so many who lead this sport, they blindly plodded along.
    There is no leadership, no forward thinking, no creative marketing. Margaret is correct: It isn’t up to Jackson to do the job of the Breeders’ Cup or NTRA. Run the Breeders’ Cup at real race tracks, then everyone shows up.

  • Race

    I am another one who applauds Jackson for not running in the Breeders’ Cup.
    Run the Breeders’ Cup on dirt & turf then every one will show up unless they are a
    artificial surface specialist.

  • Jeff

    Jess Jackson,The Breeder’s Cup ???????????

    Unfortunately the Breeder’s Cup has lost more fans of racing amongst other things.Taking it off of a National TV audience has hurt both racing and The Breeder’s Cup.What once was a great set of races has become a joke in the industry.2 years at Santa Anita on a track that favors turf runners (Europeans) who obviously have bought the powers that be that run The Breeder’s Cup.The European Runners have complained for years that the Breeder’s Cup is too American oriented.Gee whiz,crybabies—it was created for American Breeders and did have a lot more followers than what it has become now.

    I don’t agree with everything Jess Jackson does but I have to agree with him on this one.He’s going against the so-called powers out there that synthetic services are the answer to current breakdowns.Breeding has more to do with it than anything and if there is no difference between dirt and synthetic then why is it when you look at the leading sires they are classified as dirt or synthetic sires ?He’s thinking of his horse,and not those that think they know what’s best for her.

    It’s also been a travesty that the Breeder’s Cup has been considered as the one race for Championship honors.It should be based on a point system of 12 months out of the year.I look at Zenyatta (A wonderful mare that picks her competition) and Rachel (A filly that is destroying what is supposed to be the best 3 year olds in the nation,she’s notches above the fillies and definitely is better than the colts out there-The Oaks,The Preakness,The Haskell—she doesn’t need The European Breeder’s Cup to be run in California again this year.

  • Tiznowbaby

    As has been written elsewhere, I think Jackson is afraid to to Rachel to the BC because he believes she will win — which is what Curlin didn’t do. I think he thinks it would make Curlin look like less if he took Rachel there and she performed well.
    He can have his grudge, but, I too, wish he would quit referring to synth as plastic every single time he opens his mouth.

  • Richard Coreno

    If Jackson hadn’t purchased RA, the fans and media would have had no idea how dominate she really is…since that apparent backroom deal was struck to keep her out of any Triple Crown races. And who can forget – or deny – how games were initially floated to manipulate the Preakness field to prevent RA from stepping foot onto the track. I say do right by the horse and if that means not running in the BC, so be it.

  • Woody

    Yes, Jackson should do what he wants with RA and his other horses; yes he should stop dissing the synthetic tracks. Is he a crybaby? If so, he’s joining a very large group of people in the industry who carry on that great tradition.
    One note about Barry Irwin’s comment – Hal Wiggins did a beautiful job with RA and Irwin’s implication that she wouldn’t have been able to display her greatness while in Hal’s care doesn’t really have anything to do with Hal’s training job. Wiggins is a very good trainer and one of the few gentlemen left in the sport. Trying to think of the last time he had a suspension . . . hmmm . . . I’m thinking . . . . still thinking . . . .
    Yes, Asmussen is a very good trainer and, as far as I know, a gentleman, too. But our sport has pretty much lost it’s integrity. I know it’s all about winning, but winning a game that no longer has any integrity with a trainer that is headed down that same road if he’s not careful is not a game in which people will retain interest.

  • doc

    I love what Jackson has done with Rachel Alexandra and applaud his decision to skip the Breeders’ Cup (which needs serious house cleaning at the executive level).

    The Breeders’ Cup was once the definitive championship of American racing. Now they want to be the championship of the world but have ended up being the championship of nothing.

    It’s a nice day of racing, but holding it on a synthetic track has marginalized its importance. And they’ve watered down the fields by adding too many races.

  • Barbara

    The BC should do something really ballsy, inconvenient, out of the box, and …expensive. So cut the rest of the purses. Skip Friday. And move the BC Distaff (I can’t say the new name) and a few other races (Dirt Mile anyone? BC Sprint? Juvenile?) to CD on the same day. This year. Now. Yes, it requires ESPN to cover both and would be expensive. Complicated. Tickets. Cause new issues to chew on. But with the 2 hour time zone difference between LA and LV the two track BC could be done. Hell, CD could even have lights set up and it could run the Distaff and Classic in prime time;)

    If Jess takes her to Dubai (a big if that far off) to race on Tapeta next spring – then he will look like a hypocrite.

  • Alexis

    Your article nails it on all counts. Thanks.

  • bullring

    Why not try her on the turf then?

  • Scarletnandgraypimpernel

    First, thank you for explaining Curlin’s run in last year’s BC. That hit the nail on the head. It was the form and competition in the Classic that led to that result…not the track surface.

    I have no problem with Jackson not wanting to run Rachel on synthetics if she doesn’t care for the surface. It happens with turf horses all the time, especially in Europe. Sea the Stars scratched from the Irish Derby because the ground was too soft. His connections are making noise about bypassing the Arc and pointing for the BC because it is usually wet in Paris come October.

    The question, however, is does she not like the surface? She won at Keeneland. So she has a win over a synthetic. It’s not Pro-Ride, but synthetic nonetheless.

  • Freespirit

    I think the point is we all want to see Rachel and Zenyatta race, and it’s a great disappointment that we are not going to see it in the Breeder’s Cup. I think this article was simply to kind of goad him into it, which he clearly won’t change his mind. Maybe the real cry babies are us that are having a hard time with his decision. Bottom line, it’s his horse and we have to respect his decision, whether we like it or not. It is kind of a bummer to think the probable HOTY is not going to be in the championship races.

  • Picksburg Phil

    It doesn’t matter now. The return of Quality Road changes everything.

  • I propose a compromise why not “goad” Jerry Moss into shipping Zenyatta east to face Rachel and the boys. In return Jess Jackson ships Rachel west to face Zenyatta and the girls in the Breeders Cup.

    Article about this idea at: oddsonfavorite.blogspot.com

  • Alison Thompson M

    I agree with Barry Irwin, who has raced throughout the world. Jackson’s decision is a consequence of BC’s decision to run back-to-back at a track with a new racing surface. It was a horrible decision when it was made several years ago (at the time, when the first racing surface was a disaster, the choice was almost comical). So we, the breeders, gamblers and fans, are paying for it. Oh well!

  • John S.

    Who knows what Hal Wiggins would have done with Rachel if he had kept her? It wasn’t like he was ducking stakes, but he may never have found out she was THIS good. Maybe. But Jackson has found out — the Preakness win was a master stroke and the Haskell — which everyone, if they don’t already, should recognize as one of the greatest and most prestigious races in the country — was electrifying. What a performance. I truly hope we see her in one of the big 4 races she qualifies for next at Saratoga — Alabama, Travers, Personal Ensign or Woodward. Hell, I’d take her in the Ballerina. Sure, it would be a drag not to see her at the Breeders’ Cup, but there are plenty people that genuinely don’t like those artificial surfaces, including a lot of West Coast trainers. Rachel appears by far to be the best horse in training. Honored to watch her run, or even walk, anywhere.

  • Dylan Thomas

    Why race her anymore? She has nothing left to prove and Jackson doesn’t need the money. His purchase of RA was simply a media purchase for Jackson. He can’t stand not to be the mouth piece for whatever the racing world “needs” (just like other so called experts). I think it was the worst thing to happen to racing this year when she was sold.

  • steve

    I agree with Jess Jackson and disagree with all these whiney sportswiters.

  • bill marshall

    Let’s hope the use of synthetic surfaces ends soon. Maybe we can get back to “racing as it was meant to be.”

  • Glimmerglass

    Barry Irwin made this praise with reference to Jackson and his decisions with Rachel Alexandra this far “.. return our sport to the spotlight of the media.” Oh how I wish Jess would apply some of his marketing/economic/self-promoting might to coaxing the television media of the big three networks to pick up a race like the Haskell.

    I’m sure folks would be quick to call such a move conceited but it appears the powers that be at the NTRA have little interest in getting the sport back on an NBC/ABC/CBS and into the living rooms of *most* Americans. Seeing a replay on youtube is nice but why does that have to be the vehicle for most people? If the Haskell had been on ABC Sports this past Sunday – even just a 30-minute show – it would’ve done more for expanding and solidifying interest in racing then any entry into the BCC.

    I cannot say that Jess Jackson with a mic in front of him doesn’t say some very odd things. And as much as we’d (or rather I) like to see him more like the late Harry J. Aleo he simply isn’t. That said if Jess Jackson did put RA in the Woodward Stakes that should earn him a heck of a lot more praise then putting her in the BC Ladies Classic.

  • Dustin Stones

    Hey, y’all, if you owned a great racehorse, you’d race it whenever and wherever you and the trainer agreed to. The point about Jackson is that he’s eventually going to get Rachel beat racing against male horses. Frankly, I thought it would be in the Haskell. Maybe later at Saratoga.

  • smithy

    you see it alot in racing where the horses have more class than the owners

  • Michael Cusortelli

    We can make all the judgements we want — and, through the anonymity of the internet, Lord knows we will — but the bottom line is Jess Jackson can do whatever he wants with his horse.

    When one of us pays millions of dollars for one horse, we’ll have the same privilege.

    But the interesting thing is, Rachel does have a win on a synthetic track. She won an entry-level allowance at Keeneland last year, going 6 furlongs in 1:09.73. She has proven form on synthetics.

  • Victoria

    I think you’re wrong on several counts, Ray.

    First, it’s hardly acting like a “spoiled kid” when the BC takes all its dirt races off the dirt. Jackson gets a lot of heat for skipping the BC, but the list is long of nice horses who will likewise not be going to this year’s BC, only due to the surface.

    Second, I can say with absolute surety that Raven’s Pass would not have won the Classic last year had it been on dirt, given that he wouldn’t have even been entered the race had it been on dirt.

    And last, jets don’t just fly into California, but they also fly out of California. It’s absolutely fair of Jackson to want a match-up between the two fillies to be held on dirt. If you’re going to talk of Jackson acting like a spoiled child, then you should also be willing to say the same of Zenyatta’s connections.

    This is totally the fault of the BC, who has done its level best to destroy what was the best event in racing. You simply don’t put championship dirt races on another surface until/unless such time as racing’s horses have made a full transition over to the new surface.

  • Nancy P

    As Ray Paulick notes, the idea behind synthetic surfaces is to promote safety for horses and riders. And they are certainly an improvement over dirt tracks in that regard.

    As for “form,” who cares if speed figures don’t work anymore? Who cares if front-end horses don’t win all the races? Racing is certainly more interesting now.

  • Joe

    First to please Roger: JJ should call “plastic” kitty litter.

    Second to please JJ and lure Rachel: The BC should make Kendall-Jackson the official vino for the next 3 years and/or offer a one race sponsorship if Rachel races against Zenyatta in the BC pending her being healthy.

    Perhaps JJ carries a serious grudge against the KY Boys who control the BC since he discovered that he had been fleeced by his sweet-talking bloodstock agent and the slick fleecing of nouveau deep-pockets, like a pride of lions stalking the next prey, reached deep into the KY breeder and consignor scene. JJ fought hard to set solid rules to protect buyers at horse sales, but the KY Boys passed flimsy rules far below what JJ wanted.

    Horse owners and JJ owe us nothing. We should be grateful that JJ has raced Rachel twice against males already. Zenyatta is 5 and Rachel 3. They race on different coasts on different surfaces. Should they meet, wherever it may be, there will always be questions about the trip, the surface, the age, the weight, the ride. Even if the gazelle and the cougar meet, it won’t be enough for those spoiled press-brats who believe owners owe them spectacular fireworks. Should they meet, the whiners would want a rematch… Should they meet, racing R and Z on grass sounds fair.

    The only figs publicly disclosed about California plastic are on-track fatalities which favor synthetic especially when comps for Del Mar are based on the highest 2006 fatality figs to help show improvement on synthetic. Should the CHRB ever disclose its season-ending and career-ending injury figs, a far more troubling picture would emerge. Since soft-tissue injuries are more prevalent on “plastic” it allow more horses to be shipped out alive. Whether they die later at vet hospital, rehab farms and slaughterhouses, they are not counted as training and racing fatalities though they should.

    The dirt was used as a scapegoat. Keeping the official fatality figs low on plastic helps save the face of those who choose to blame the dirt then mandate plastic rather than blame owners, trainers, vets, track owners and face their wrath by mandating that they change in order to help prevent catastrophic injuries.

  • Another Margaret

    Pardon my bluntness but this article reads like a spoiled brat wrote it. It comes across like the author is mad because he won’t get to see Rachel run in a certain race (the Breeder’s Cup). And since he’s not going to get his way, he’s decided to stomp his feet and accuse the horse’s owner of acting like a spoiled kid. That to me is much more childish behavior than Mr. Jackson’s decision to not run Rachel in the Breeder’s Cup.

    The near constant browbeating of Mr. Jackson that you racing writer’s/bloggers have engaged in is whiny and tiresome. Personally, I don’t care if Rachel runs in the Breeder’s Cup but I am dying to see her race at 1-1/4 miles or longer. I’d also like to see her race on grass. And although that’s my personal wish list for Rachel races, I’m not going to castigate Mr. Jackson or call him names if I don’t get my way.

  • Victoria

    As Ray Paulick notes, the idea behind synthetic surfaces is to promote safety for horses and riders. And they are certainly an improvement over dirt tracks in that regard.

    I’m all for increasing horse safety. That said, it’s incorrect to state that synthetics are an improvement. Without even getting into the recent deaths at Del Mar, here’s what Scollay reported in mid-April 2009 (though interestingly, I’ve not seen this reported anywhere else):

    Audio of a Scollay lecture in Apr. 2009:


    Around 32.30, Scollay says: “Injury rates that were initially significantly improved when racing over synthetic surfaces are now starting to equilibriate. It now appears that those numbers are coming back up to some pre-synthetic installation rates.”

    So, the facts do not indicate that synthetic surfaces are safer, at least not thus far.


    Ray, I usually like your blogs, but this time I have to agree with the majority here. Calling Jess Jackson a crybaby just makes you sound like a crybaby.

    Rachel is being challenged and providing some needed excitement right now. Heck, even Entertainment Weekly picked up her win the Haskell, because it was on the east coast against horses who had run in the TC, and mainly because, once again, she beat the boys.

    The BC is not that big of a deal to the casual fan — and quite frankly, two looooong days of races on TV, with way too much time between races (4 minutes of action every hour), is not something that is going to captivate an audience and turn non-horse racing fans into avid horse racing fans, regardless of how many human interest stories ESPN/ABC run over and over and over and over.

    The BC has made numerous mistakes in marketing their event — Ladies’ Day Friday for starters. I really don’t think Jess Jackson’s decision to run or not run Rachel in this year’s event is going to have that much of an effect.

    If Jackson doesn’t want to run Rachel on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface, so be it. He is not the only one who did not or will not be shipipng a horse west on BC day because of the surface.

    Zenyatta scratched from the Louisville Distaff on Oaks day because of the condition of the track. That was their choice for Zenyatta on that day. It was disappointing, but so be it. I would be surprised if they are not keeping a close eye on the condition of Del Mar’s Polytrack (any more injuries or fatalities) before they commit Zenyatta to run on Sunday.

    If a Zenyatta / Rachel matchup is what is needed to boost horseracing, then maybe Zenyatta needs to leave California. Having both in the Woodward would be amazing!

  • Aunt Bea

    A thought provoking article on several counts. I’m going to call you out on the comment about synthetic track “safety”, in regards to RA running on an off track at Monmouth.
    After the wettest spring/summer meet in recent New York history, shouldn’t horses legs be snapping left and right by your theory about track surfaces? Please compare NY dirt breakdown figures with those on CA synthetics and tell me there’s not a human management/ attitude component involved in a Big way!

  • GeorgeB

    Paulick i don’t want to lose respect for you, please tell me you’re joking with this entire charade. Horseplayers DONT WANT to bet on synthetics and trainers dont’ want to run on them, they are being forced on us plain and simple. thank god for guys like jess jackson who have the guts to stick it in the establishments faces. Santa Anita is going to be deprived of a Rachel v Z matchup because of car keying richard shapiro. Shame on you california and shame on you breeders cup for running your races on this hokus pokus junk (stole that one from andrew a)

  • Pine Island

    I am sick and tired of Mr. Jackson and other synthetic racetrack detractors referring to the tracks as “plastic.” Especially when they are not solely made of plastic! Use of this term comes across as derogatory, insinuating that the synthetic surface is a negative.

    Let’s face it: the most important factor that the racing industry needs to deal with is the public’s perception that racing horses is cruel. They think it is cruel mostly because of the gruesome breakdowns and accidents that occur. Synthetic surfaces are here to stay because they are safer for the horse to race and train on and therefore are also safer for the jockeys as well. Mr. Jackson has stated that one of the reasons that he doesn’t want to run Rachel over a synthetic surface is because of the soft tissue injuries that can occur on them. But these synthetic surfaces reduce catastrophic (and fatal) injuries by 40% (according to some studies). If Rachel is unfortunate enough to get an injury, then I would rather see her get a bowed tendon and retire happily to the breeding shed then have her risk a devastating bone fracture and death. What do you think the public will think of horse racing if Rachel Alexandra suffers a catastrophic breakdown and dies on the track?!

    Racing cannot afford another Eight Belles or George Washington or Pine Island. There were no catastrophic or fatal breakdowns at last year’s Breeders’ Cup over Santa Anita’s synthetic surface. This should be commended and should be a wake up call to all who value horse racing in this country. If we want to continue to have our great sport, we have to show the public (and Congress) that we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of our horses and riders. When I hear Mr. Jackson rail against synthetic surfaces and insist that he will not race his great filly over them, all I can gather from that is that Mr. Jackson must not value his horse’s safety above everything else. This seemed to be corroborated when he allowed Rachel to race over the sealed track in the Haskell, even after tragic breakdowns had occurred earlier on the card.

    When is this sport going to learn that the horses’ and jockeys’ safety have to be put first, even if that means that the desires of the handicappers, owners, trainers, etc. have to be secondary! We ask these horses to run their hearts out for us so it is the least we can do to try to provide them a safe return to the barn after the race is over.

  • Victoria

    Pine Island, please see the link 4 posts above yours. The data thus far does not indicate that synthetics are safer than dirt. Also, jockeys report that it’s much tougher on them when they land on synthetics than dirt due to hitting and “sticking” on synths while they hit and slide on dirt.

  • GeorgeB

    pine island synthetic tracks are a band aid to a larger problem. Horses dont break down because of dirt. American tracks have been running on dirt for centuries and now all of a sudden its a problem? racing is breeding weaker horses, trainers are using illegal medication by the bucketfuls, jockeys are physically bigger and stronger than ever before and the list goes on and on. horseplayers dont want to play the races on that junk, its up to the trainers to not put unsound horses on the tracks, it shouldnt be up to the horseplayers to have to put up with plastic handicapping just because the racing industry doesnt want to address a larger problem.

  • Jack Mehoff

    Jackson showed his class when he held the gun to the head of Monmouth for an extra $250,000. Nobody likes the guy including Assmussan. The Mellons, Markeys and Englehards have been replaced with the Jacksons, Ramseys and Ivarones of the world. Check please

  • Joe

    Good point about JJ being willing to risk Rachel on a sloppy-sealed track. Synthetic doesn’t get sealed or sloppy.

    A surface isn’t as important as those who control horses. Those who choose to use drugs to mask pain, over ride exhaustion, boost performance and fill races, those who choose to drop lame horses into claiming races and continue to drop them as they get worse, those who choose to take the chemical gravy train to maximize the exploitation of horses in a minimum amount of time hurt more horses than any racing surface, including synthetic, can save.

  • What an interesting read today , a cross between a good novel and the game of CLUE.
    I love it !
    My comments are based on what I have read today.
    One of the first comments that come to mind, is the comment #3. ,…. where was stated that the Europeans come over here and steal off with the purses on the Turf and longer distance races., they are given honors by the Breeders Cup…stated as “Un-deserved” by writter of comment #3.
    I congratulate these visitors, and welcome them anytime. They win because they are excellent horsemen and horsewomen , in not only in their choices of pedigree for true Classic horses, but for their intolerenece to drugs and for their sportsmanship.
    I look forward to racing against these horsemen as I too am breeding horses you can ride for the Doctor on.
    In fact , I can hardly wait ,because for the majority , the out of country competition is racing for the same reasons I will race…for the Sport of it. and for the love of the Thoroughbred,

    Concerning the two days of racing vs. just one day at the Breeders Cup Ltd. World event.
    I, as a nominator welcome two days of racing 100%. As a nominator , this gives me a bigger chance to actually compete in the World Event, as there are varied races and more race cards to fill. IF there is only one day of racing,fewer of us will have a chance to enter as the race card will be filled quickly.
    Perhaps the Breeders Cup was thinking of the nominators when they chose to have a two day go-round.
    ( By the way, have you heard that the Breeders Cup ltd. has saved we, the nominators nearly one million dollars by offering their “Early 2009 foal nomination reduction ? AND has a record for theses early nominations- I’d say it is clear that they do have the support and respect of quite a few nominators !!!…including me & proud to say so )
    Lest I digress ;
    When you have a young horse, who is to know at what distance he will run best , having a larger card of varied races would give a Breeders Cup nomonator more options.
    The Breeders Cup ltd Stakes program & Challenge, Win & Your IN “does the same thing…..considers the nominator….and levels the playing field.
    The world Event and the host track would be best served by two full days of racing as would the one who travels to the event , such as horsemen and the betters.

    As for the poly track , well, I remember reading only a year or so ago , about how this new surface was designed & touted to help keep the horses safer. I wondered if more research should have been done , but this discussion of these matters will most certainly spur on such research..
    I highly doubt that the decision of the Breeders Cup to run a second time in Santa Anita was soley based upon the track surface. Ca. has good turf and many other amenities, weather in Nov. also being of consideration.
    If I wanted to know the reasons that the Breeders Cup chose Santa Anita a second time, then I would ask them. I’m sure you would receive a reply. Shouting accusations isn’t becoming of a Sportsman., NOR is using such comments to further ones politcal agenda.
    I’m just glad that the saftey issue of poly tracks IS being discussed. I also hear a lot said of a dirt track , of a turf track…. I don’t see any one as being perfect and without risk.

    As for the comments for or against the choices of Mr. Jackson, This wonderful filly belongs to him. I would hope that he will be considering what is best for her . The thing I enjoy about being in the Thoroughbred industry IS this ability to make my own choices.
    Only he and his connections really know what may be best for this filly , and imagine his total excitement to be in a position to decide !
    If that girl goes to DUBAI , then she also represents the Breeder in America. BEST OF RACING LUCK ” to you !!! Don’t forget to be a good sport , as you represent us all.
    Congratulations on all of the past wins with your filly, and CURLIN…. GO WIN !

    Well, time to get back to the horses, I know I “Thoroughly’ enjoyed reading todays comments and opinions., thanks for reading mine.

  • mybigred

    I Praise Jess Jackson for having the Guts to stand up and say he does not want to race on the Pro-Ride Plastic and I don’t blame him. After the tragedy at Del-Mar last week on the Polytrack, I don’t like the plastic at all. But then again, I grew up at Hialeah in Miami where they had the BEST Cuban Natural Dirt in the whole world. After all, he wants to take care of this AWESOME Lady. I just wish everyone would leave Jess Jackson alone. Rachel Alexandra is HIS horse & he has the right to decide where & when she will race. I myself, I am content to see Rachel race anywhere Jess feels comfortable to race her.

  • Steve Shaffer

    Q: Is Jackson acting like a spoiled kid?

    A: No, but you are. Your opinion piece encompasses everything it accuses JJ of doing, meaning it’s presumptuous and juvenile. It’s presumptuous in that you present your OPINION on why Curlin finished poorly in the BC as pure fact. It’s juvenile in that you resort to name-calling and other silly tactics because you’re not getting what you want.

    I’m one of JJ’s former detractors. I’m still not a big fan, but I have to admit that I’m starting to see him in a new light with the way he’s been handling RA and the media this season. If I had to put up with all the whiny press that’s been directed at him over his BC decision, I’d have slapped one of you writers by now.

    Sorry, but don’t ask a derogatory question like that if you can’t take the heat.

    Of course, JJ doesn’t owe the fans anything but here’s my unsolicited advice anyway – Let’s see how good this girl really is and run her at 10 furlongs, 12 furlongs and on the turf. My opinion is she can get it done at 10 furlongs and on the turf, but 12 furlongs is questionable.

    As for the Breeder’s Cup – who cares? Lots of owners are probably going to skip this year anyway.

  • takethat

    He has said he will run her in 2010 at Churchill. Given how hard it is to get a horse to the race track I would say his reasoning (so far) is bizarre. If she is fit and ready to race in the the first week of November she should go and run. After all she has already won on Polytrack. Anything could happen over the following 12 months as we all know. He is making himself a hostage to fortune and may come out of this looking an idiot.

  • irabird

    Hell, man! It’s his horse! He paid for her–he doesn’t owe you or anyone else a damn thing!

  • Barbara

    Poly is not Pro Ride. Jess can do what he likes. And has. If she is still owned by the breeder, then this conversation is muted because I doubt she would have even run against the colts yet, but you’d all be happy because she was pointing to BC “Ladies’ Classic” after thumping fillies or “winning” walkovers by now? The mainstream casual fan is far more interested in her beating boys than in seeing her race Zenyatta. Now maybe if Moss would take on male horses with his super mare instead of protecting her win streak we could talk;)

    Goading Jess is not exactly the tactic I would take if I really wanted to change his mind, either.

  • racefan

    As I think somebody else mentioned, there is a long list of top dirt horses that are skipping BC this year, and they are skipping it t avoid the “artificial surface”. There. Are you all happy I didn’t call it “plastic”?? Jeez, is this a joke??

  • Thehorses

    Breeding practices in this country have led to so much unsoundness that some people think it unlikely a great filly could stay sound long enough to run next fall. I think that is a major trajedy. Hopefully one day people will again breed for soundness and expect horses to stay sound. Horses racing sound for years should not be considered unusual. Unsound fracture prone stallions and those that sire unsound fragile offspring should be pensioned and replaced with sound horses. Soundness should be the norm not the exception. Say Florida Sandy retired sound after 98 starts and got a Ragozin # 0. There are a number of horses that retired sound that were fast. The horse that retires early with a fracture because he is fragile should be gelded. There are lots of stallions and lots more being added every year. No matter what the surface fragile horses break down. Fragile horses are the fault of breeders. Fragile should not be considered normal or acceptable or desirable. Fast and sound can and do exist in one horse just like fragile and slow can be found in one horse. The idea that a horse “could not run fast enough to hurt himself” is bogus. Slow horses have suffered catastrophic breakdowns and fast horses have stayed sound. Rachel Alexandra so far has demonstrated both speed and soundness. It is a shame that some 3 year old colts that could not will be siring foals.

  • Erin

    Hmm, it’s been raining at Saratoga like crazy since the meet started last week, yet no breakdowns morning or afternoon.

    There is more reason to believe that freshly-laid and exquisitely-maintained tracks are safer, and it’s not an argument of artificial vs. dirt. But no one thought enough of that idea, or any other, to actually study it before the CHRB and others threw the baby out with the bath water.

    JJ should use his influence to denigrate the surface and the BC. It seems that’s the sort of action that gets anything done i n racing – a change in the tide of popular opinion/”peer pressure.”

    I am so thankful JJ owns Rachel, for a multitude of reasons.

  • Sam

    Why does Moss get a virtually free pass over Zenyatta while Jackson is barraged with criticism over Rachel? I have read two articles mildly critical of Moss but I’ve lost count of those heavily critical of Jackson.

    Both owners have every right to race their horses when and where they want. It’s nobody else’s business. But since the turf writers have taken it upon themselves to blast Jackson on an almost daily basis, why not even the score now and question Moss?

    Let’s examine their records: Since Jackson bought Rachel he’s raced her in three states at three different tracks. They’re all dirt, but had varying surfaces and weather conditions. He’s raced her at two distances and the Preakness distance she had never tried before. He’s raced her against the colts twice. He’s raced her against the Kentucky Derby winner, the Belmont winner, the Santa Anita, Arkansas, Illinois and Louisiana Derby winners (among others). His comments indicate he intends to step her up in distance in the near future.

    This year Zenyatta has raced twice at her home track, at two distances. She had already won at both distances. She shipped to another state once but was scratched because of the track condition. Every indicator says she will not leave California again this year. Though she carried much heavier weight in the Vanity, her competition was extremely questionable. Now it’s highly questionable if she will ever race in a handicap again. It’s also appears that she may not ever race against males or past the 9 furlong distance.

    Again, since turf writers have taken it upon themselves to question and criticize, in examining the records of these two owners, who is more deserving of this criticism? In my book it’s Moss, hands down, but I’ll be surprised if we ever see an article as critical of him as they have been of Jackson.

  • geep

    Jess Jackson has done more for the Thoroughbred Industry than anyone I can remember in the past 25 years and I am not referring to his horses. He has made it clear that he is not running in the BC; therefore the press should stop hounding him. He makes his own decisions and is in total control of where his horses are going. More owners need to follow
    his example

  • Rommulus

    Jackson is getting old and rumored has health issues. He could of gone out and bought a Yacht. So he buys Rachel for around ten mil and now he is enjoying himself. Let him woof all he wants. Thats what makes racing great. Need more woofing in this sport. He payed to play so l et him play.

  • Richard R

    Why don’t you user your energy and influence to address things that matter to ALL horseplayers instead of poking your nose into issues that are none of your business? Give this man a break. He will run the horse where he wants, when he wants. He doesn’t owe you, me or anyone else, SQUAT. . Meanwhile, every time a horseplayer cashes a bet he/she is screwed by a process called breakage. That amounts to something over $100 million a year that would be circulating back through the pools and increasing handle. Yet for some reason nobody wants to visit the issue. It must be really sacred stuff.

  • GeorgeB

    Sam’s post 53 makes good points, Rachel ran in the slop and Zenyatta did not. (in fact, wasn’t the track fast by the time Zenyatta was supposed to run at CD that particular day she scratched?)

  • BobbieB.

    This is one of the few times I’ve disagreed with Paulick !

    I think more owners should boycott Santa Anita and refuse to run there.

    So far this year , 13 horses have died there. 13 horses . It’s like they are disposable.
    And how many have died at Del Mar and other Ca. tracks ?

    I agree with your idea that more data and info should have been gathered before installing these surfaces. Also , these tracks are better for those who practice on them all the time in Ca. and for European turf horses who have conditioned the same muscle groups.

    Why should American horses , traditional dirt horses of American racing , be subjected to these
    arbitrary surfaces which are dangerous and also put them at a disadvantage.
    I’m glad Jackson is protecting Rachel and thankful that she has someone looking out for her.
    I don’t think they are afraid of Zenyatta or anyone else. Rachel has nothing else to prove, she has beaten all comers already. Long live Alexandra the Great.

  • Margrethe

    The horses that “practice ” over California tracks do not have an advantage. There is a huge attrition rate among young horses that train over these surfaces. They are not safer for horses, and any jockey or exercise rider will tell you how unforgiving they are when you hit.

    Zenyatta should have been Horse of the Year in 08. She traveled and won on both dirt & synthetics. Curlin defeated a questionable field in Dubai, beaten on the grass, and finished ahead of mediocre horses in his sole U.S. win. His run in the Classic did not appear to be the result of the surface. Mr. Jackson maintains a public relations firm and lavishes cases of wine.

    There is certainly a problem with Jackson having purses supplemented in order to have his horses run. This is at the expense of other owners losing money from overnight purses. Not the mark of a consummate horseman.

    RA is a lovely horse that we all enjoy and admire. It’s too bad she includes our having to endure Jackson’s endless “press conferences”

  • Bob Hope

    Do we really want to question Jess Jackson’s legitimacy or welcome into the sport ? Do we really want to blame him for choosing against what has been a failure and choosing what has been the traditional surface and base on which to run.
    Why don’t we question the legitimacy of the mandate of artificial surfaces and the fact that the BC condoned them for their premier presentation two years in a row at a venue that had filed for bankruptcy and in a state that could not guarantee freedom of a seizure of tax money from out of state participants. You bitch and moan about all sorts of ridiculous topics but don’t recognize that stakes run on synthetic surfaces and bases should not even merit graded stakes consideration. How does that happen ? If you are going to comment intelligently, think about what is good for the game and not how the participants quantify or qualify. Let’s raise this discussion to a level of respectability for the game and not petty animosities.

  • Sam

    Margrethe: I’m not sure what you mean by Curlin’s “sole” US win last year. He won here three times at age 4: the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1,9F), Woodward Stakes (G1,9F), and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1,10F). He carried high weight in his 2 handicap wins. He finished a respectable second to an experienced multiple turf winner in his first try on that surface. He also won twice at 10 furlongs in Dubai. And though he finished 4th on the pro-ride at Santa Anita, he at least tried all three surfaces. He also broke Cigar’s earnings record last year. Not bad for a horse who, according to you, didn’t deserve Horse of the Year.

    Zenyatta, on the other hand, never went past 9 furlongs last year and raced outside her home state once. I’d hardly call that impressive compared to Curlin’s campaign. If her owner’s want Horse of the Year, they need to stop mollycoddling the horse, but it looks like that isn’t gonna happen.

  • Pine Island


    The only published scientific studies that have been done DO show a 40% reduction in catastrophic (usually fatal) injuries. As for the reference made complaining that the CHRB is not counting soft tissue injuries as on-track fatalities because those horses end up being sent to a vet hospital or rehab facility where they then die, I offer this: those horses often do not die as a result of their injuries but rather as a result of their owners choosing to euthanize them because they are not willing or not financially able to allow the horse the time and veterinary care necessary to heal it well enough to live out its’ natural life. Extremely few horses are injured severely enough to actually need euthanasia because of soft tissue injuries! In my opinion, those deaths should not be counted by the tracks as fatal injuries when the horse was capable of living with and recovering from the injuries and simply died due to a choice made by the horse’s owner.

    George B:

    It is true that it is not suddenly a problem that we have horses breaking down. It has been an ongoing problem for decades. For instance, I’ll never forget the Breeders’ Cup of 1990. And you are very correct when you say that injuries are not solved by the synthetic tracks. I agree that there are far too many unsound horses being bred and also far too many pain-masking drugs being used by unscrupulous trainers and both of those practices invite fatal breakdowns. I would love to see all race-day medications banned from the sport (as it used to be in New York and still is in many other countries) and if there was a way to stop people from breeding unsound horses I would be for that too. Since these issues are still as of yet unresolved, at least we have the synthetic tracks to hopefully mitigate whatever fatal injuries we can. Synthetic surfaces are not perfect nor are they a panacea, but they are a tool in the fight to save more racehorses’ lives.


    You are absolutely right about the unsound breeding practices that are commonplace in the sport due to the money machine that is the sales market. As a careful Thoroughbred breeder myself, it is very frustrating to watch fellow breeders make horrible choices in mating unsound horses with unsound horses simply because the breeding is fashionable or commercially hot. Hopefully the one silver lining of this nasty economy will be to thin out the greedy breeders who were only breeding Thoroughbreds to make a quick buck. And hopefully future breeders (and buyers) of Thoroughbreds will have a chance to see the value of breeding the sounder type of horses when many of the current racehorses remain on the track longer due to the currently unfavorable commercial market.

    To all of the irate handicappers that hate synthetic surfaces:

    As a successful handicapper myself, I really do not understand the uproar over synthetics from that perspective. If you take the time to carefully handicap a race, and do not solely rely on speed figures, track biases or favoring certain trainers, then you should have success. In fact, you may be able to get an “edge” when handicapping synthetic surfaces if you consider the breeding of the horses, their running styles, or even their previous turf form. And is it so horrible to even out the biases of tracks? I personally prefer a race where all running types have a chance to prevail based on the pace scenario that unfolds due to the horses entered, rather than just picking the horse that prefers a speed-favoring track or a “golden rail.”

    And plenty of dirt horses can run on synthetic surfaces or turf (ie. Colonel John) just as many turf horses can run on the dirt too (ever heard of Cigar or Barbaro or the turf-to-dirt angle?). Some horses do prefer one surface to another, but does that mean that we shouldn’t have turf racing because too many dirt horses don’t like it? Does that mean we should run a special race dubbed the Turf Kentucky Derby because it is unfair that turf-favoring horses may not like the dirt surface at Churchill Downs?

    I simply just don’t see how the handicappers are being “punished.” Maybe it is time that handicappers go back to the tried and true methods of figuring out a race instead of being so dependent on certain “tools” that really just exploit unfair advantages or somewhat dubious logic. Do your homework!

    And to get back to Mr. Jackson and the point of this discussion regarding his choice to keep Rachel out of the Breeders’ Cup. She is his horse and obviously he has every right to do with her what he wants. I personally don’t mind if she doesn’t ever run in the Breeders’ Cup or even if she never faces Zenyatta. But I do wish that Mr. Jackson would stop his PR campaign against synthetic surfaces. Everyone knows that Curlin did not lose the Breeders’ Cup because it was on a synthetic surface. More likely it was because his form was already tailing off, perhaps even due to Mr. Jackson’s admirable decree that his horses (including Curlin) no longer receive steroids. Curlin was actually suited for the synthetic tracks, due to his breeding and his very respectable placing in his only turf start. Rachel is also suited to race on synthetics due to her pedigree and her previous win over a synthetic surface.

    My only objection is that Mr. Jackson has said that he doesn’t want to “risk” Rachel over the “plastic” because he is afraid she might get a soft-tissue injury. Well, as I said earlier, I would much rather Mr. Jackson risk Rachel over a surface that has been proven to be less likely to cause a CATASTROPHIC injury. If she suffers a soft-tissue injury and cannot return to the races, at least Mr. Jackson would still be able to take her home and breed her to Curlin and Rachel herself would be able to live out her days happily.

    In my opinion, it is more important to do everything humanly possible to keep Rachel (and all other racehorses) from suffering a fatal catastrophic injury than it is to risk a non-life-threatening career-ending injury. If Mr. Jackson doesn’t want to race her in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita then so be it. But for Mr. Jackson to state that he doesn’t want to race her in that Breeders’ Cup because he believes that she is more likely to suffer an injury over it is ludicrous. She is far more likely to be seriously injured, perhaps catastrophically, while racing over conventional dirt surfaces…especially if she continues to race over sealed, sloppy tracks. Her previous owners and trainer were carefully managing her campaign in order to keep this superstar filly sound for as long as possible. I sincerely hope that Rachel is sound enough to last through her current connections ambitious campaign for her at the very top of the sport while racing against the boys. I know she has the talent to prevail. I just hope she doesn’t kill herself while proving it.

  • Curlin ’08

    Ray – you are 100% correct on your Curlin analysis from last year.

    Regarding Rachel – She has been running and shipping around the country since February so, of course, shipping to CA in the Fall with the heat on a foreign surface against worlds best wouldn’t make sense because of the schedule she’s been keeping. Too much to ask…..obv, he’d never say that…

    And, really do we expect all the breeders on this site to love synthetics? They’ve been breeding for dirt for hundreds of years so. They care about their bottom line and that’s the bottom line.

    Btw, Pro-Ride is 87% dirt and doesn’t get sloppy.

  • Pine Island wrote

    I simply just don’t see how the handicappers are being “punished.”
    Maybe it is time that handicappers go back to the tried and true methods
    of figuring out a race instead of being so dependent on certain “tools”
    that really just exploit unfair advantages or somewhat dubious logic.


    Tried and true methods for main track racing should be complementary to turf racing.
    That is Early Speed on the main track and late speed on the grass courses.

    Artificial surfaces have failed to simulate the racing conditions required for traditional main track racing. A vast majority of followers know that there is something lacking in a one run horse like a Zenyatta when she’s not campaigned in the manner of a Lady’s Secret or a Serena’s Song or a Rachel Alexandra. She lacks early speed !

    What Zenyatta’s connections have done is to rest their laurels on beating a runnerup in the Apple Blossom named Brownie Points. A race that featured a “bounce” race by Ginger Punch. To hang their hats on one dirt race like that did not win many Horse of the Year voters last year
    as Zenyatta faltered to Curlin 153 to 69 votes. And Rachel’s exploits this year far exceeds Curlin’s campaign.

    Right now the state of California has built up a colony of turf specialists many of which readily take to one or more of the main tracks which feature artificial surfaces. After November 7, 2009
    the rest of the nation is going to care very little about racing in the state. Isolationism is going to set in.

    The medication policies in California must be addressed along with a plan to replace their main tracks with a modernized dirt course. A true “all-weather” course is one that does not melt in the heat. Only then would the Breeders Cup Ltd. ever be interested in a California venue.
    Jiggy with it California !!

  • Barbara

    Moss gets no pass in my book. He is full of it about “honoring the Breeders’ Cup” as a reason to not ship his mare east of Arcadia this year. This entire year.

  • ctscoots

    I just want to add my voice to the supporters of Jess Jackson. He is taking an important and (IMHO) necessary stand against an organization that is not concerned with racing, fans, owners, breeders and racetracks. The litany of charges against them has been detailed above, but diluting fields with extra races, threatening to pull the plug on the stakes program, awarding the “Championship” to a racetrack with an unproven surface for TWO YEARS, strong arming host tracks so that they lose money to host the event, choosing to switch TV coverage from network to cable – I can go on. The Breeders’ Cup is not the be all, end all of racing. Like many others I am tired of horses being rewarded for skipping most of the year in order to point to one day. I realize the BC is not responsible for Eclipse Awards, but perhaps if more owners follow Jackson’s lead by screaming loud and clear that there are important races all year and that a good horse should be seen participating in them (BC be damned) then perhaps we’ll see some excitement return to this sport. Stay strong Jess Jackson!

  • Don Reed

    Jackson – a wealthy cipher – were he not the owner of RA, wouldn’t attract the attention we spend on potato chips.

    And yet he’s the subject of intense – and in this case, eloquent – debate.

    Imagine the level of interest we would have & could sustain if Rachel, instead, were owned by Thomas Jefferson.

  • Bob Lee

    Does Jess Jackson have every right to race or not race RA wherever he chooses? Absolutely.

    Is he acting like a spoiled child? Absolutely.

    Are his stated reasons for refusing to run Rachel at the Breeder’s Cup hypocritical? Absolutely.

    1. Ray, your analysis of why Curlin did not win last year’s BC Classic is spot on. Ironically, while Jackson and all of the “true believers” continue to blame it on the “plastic” they conveniently overlook the fact that Curlin’s time that day was as good as any he’d ever run at the distance. He took to the surface just fine. I think Curlin (a horse I greatly admire) was the victim of a long and tiring campaign and a terrible ride by Robby Albarado.

    2. Pine Island’s post (#63) is a nearly perfect summation of my opinions and eloquently stated!

    I would only add that it is particularly hypocritical of Jackson to infer that Rachel would somehow be at greater risk of serious injury by racing on SA’s surface. What a crock! This from a man who had no qualms about racing her in the slop at Monmouth on a day when two horses suffered catastrophic breakdowns on the undercard. Exactly how many horses suffered breakdowns at last year’s two-day Breeder’s Cup event at SA?

  • Michael Cusortelli

    One of these days, we in the racing industry are going to stop whining about what we don’t or won’t have (e.g., Rachel vs. Zenyatta) and start appreciating what we do have.

    I sure hope I live long enough to see that.

  • wesly

    Funny Jess didn’t mention plastics when he was rambling in front of Congress last year.

  • Indulto

    Mr. Jackson is not the savior of the sport of racing. Those who view racing as having benefitted significantly from his involvement should carefully weigh the circumstances and consequences of each perceived benefit. On the other hand, he seems less a liability to the sport than many of his fellow owners and breeders; and probably doesn’t deserve most of the derogatory remarks directed at him.

    He is certainly where he seems to want to be — in the center of attention with the media marking, masticating, and manipulating every word he utters. And why not? He’s a very shrewd individual whose wealth enables him to indulge his every whim. He is to owners what whales are to players.

    Based on his proven ability to locate and acquire ready-to-race, championship caliber competitors, he is now the E.F. Hutton of racing — when he speaks, everyone listens. No Green Monkeys and procurer pork for this Cat without a Hat, but he’s capable of as twisted a tale as Dr. Seuss.

    Before making any future bets on the BC or HOTY, one should review Mr. Jackson’s position last summer about running Curlin in the not yet plastic classic. The same arguments and apparent resolve echoed through cyberspace then, but with Curlin’s main rival for HOTY out of the picture, strategic safety subsequently took a back seat to synthetic sportsmanship in the spotlight. By not taking on the BC when it counted, he is now just another wealthy man of whimsy.

    What bothers me about this repetitive first act is that last year, Jackson could have made a real impact as a person of principle following his leadership in sales reform and Congressional testimony. This year, there is speculation that he extracted an unnecessary purse increase at the expense of less wealthy horsemen, and further that he was forced by that misstep to run his $10 Million Dollar Horse under less than the safest conditions. I personally doubt either is true, but neither would have even been suggested last year.

    If people want to hang on the man’s every word until the second week of November, they are welcome to do so, but can we at least be spared by the more influential bloggers? After all the huffing and puffing here, Rachel is still only the best three year old; having possibly dodged a bullet in the slop because Mine That Bird’s connections Missed That Boat.

    There are still plenty of graded stakes to be run and won. Let’s hear more about what possible paths other potential HOTY contenders could take to bring them into serious contention for the honor. Let Mr. Jackson pay for his own publicity from now on.

  • hank

    no Jackson didn’t mention track surfaces during his congressional testimony nor did he mention the fact that his trainer has 74 RCI violations – 24 for medication..

    More hypocrasy from racing’s power players — if Jackson is the best thing to happen to racing in 25 years well then, good luck ..

    The track surface question is just another red herring that detracts and distracts from a host real issues plaguing racing – most notably drugs, legal and illegal…

    There is little research that suggests that fatality rates are less with synthetics. What research exists indicastes a negilible difference at best – and yes soft tissue injuries may well be come undercounted euthanasias later…

    What we do know is this — Race Horses are dying at astounding rates on dirt on turf on synthetics. The most comphrehensive study indicates 3 per day nationally and that is an extreme undercount.. Horses that linger with racing injuries and are later euthanized, horses hustled off the backside to slaughter trucks ALL should be included in this death toll..

    Until the NTRA finally takes its “Welfare and Safety” Summits and rubber-stamp accreditations seriously, until racing is fully committed to serious medication bans with enforcement and real penalties, until there is a committment to an anti-slaughter policy with funding for retirement, until the vets stop sore horses from racing rather than enabling big pharma, this carnage will continue..

    In the meantime, all this huffing and puffing about the promise and/or perils of dirt versus synthetic is just more smoke and mirrors…..

  • FourCats

    Mr. Paulick, I agree with almost everything that you said here. My one disagreement is your comment that the industry should have gone slower with the synthetic tracks “in hindsight”. It was not “in hindsight” to many people. Many raised the issue beforehand that the industry should go slow and do proper research. However, those people were shouted down by others who cared only that they were perceived as doing something and could care less that what they did was well thought out and valid. Much like the actions taken by our governments (both federal and state) on many issues.

  • Bob Hope

    Change one dynamic and all of this rhetoric would have been unnecessary! No synthetics! I haven’t heard of anyone not going to the BC or the triple crown because it was being held on a conventional dirt track(other than the Brits with a turf horse!) If any of the decisions to have synthetics or to race the BC over them, were well researched by educated horse racing professionals we wouldn’t be having this discussion on personalities….just good horses. Think about it after the barbecuing is done and we will understand that we have (had) a people problem more than a horse problem. We are suffering from intellectual rationing devoid of common sense!

  • Alysheba

    I agree with Pine Island and her supporters.

    Jess Jackson is “green as grass” indeed and repeatedly shows his inexperience and arrogance.

    I have been involved in Thoroughbred racing for nearly 30 years in nearly all aspects of the sport and still feel I have barely scratched the surface in the knowledge department.

    But this much I know for certain: Do not tempt the racing gods. All track goers know in their hearts Jackson has committed this sin by saying he is not running on “plastic” because he won’t risk injury. I held my breath as I watched his magnificent filly run around a sealed racetrack, just hoping she held together. A more dangerous track in the world, there is not. Just ask George Washington. (Oh you can’t, because he’s dead!)

    We have a superstar here. The entire country is excited about Rachel Alexandra. She is now a pop culture phenomenon. If she breaks down in front of a national audience, we are finished.

    Will someone in the industry please inform Jackson that this story is no longer about him. It is about racing. Whether he likes it or not, the fate of the entire industry is in his hands.

    He has been bamboozled by some pretty slick willies before and it appears he is being bamboozled again. Hal Wiggins was managing that filly very carefully because she was so great. The great ones will run through the pain, so much so that they will kill themselves trying to win.

    Somebody better tell Jackson that before it’s too late. The racing gods will humble this man soon. They always do. I just hope they don’t take the sport with him.

  • Joe

    Synthetic is definitely safer than a sealed and/or sloppy track. Under such dangerous circumstances the industry and its participants become highly questionable… JJ is talking from both sides of his mouth, being willing to run Curlin and Rachel on dangerous sealed-sloppy tracks while saying that synthetic tracks are not be good or safe enough for Rachel.

    I appreciate all efforts accomplished to boost equine welfare principally the banning of anabolic steroids on race day and reducing the size of toe-grabs in most racing jurisdictions. However, I do believe that dirt was used as a scapegoat in California following catastrophic years, to avoid major confrontations with uncaring and greedy owners of claiming horses, sub-par and cheating trainers, drug-selling vets and racetrack owners in need to maximize revenues off “the inventory”. Racing has a long way to go and it is stunning to me that corticosteroids IA injections which have evolved from a worthwhile, occasional therapy to a scourge were not banned along with anabolic steroids.

    Pine Island said:
    “The only published scientific studies that have been done DO show a 40% reduction in catastrophic (usually fatal) injuries.”

    Who did these scientific studies? Where were they published? LINKS PLEASE

    WHO PAID for these studies?

    Did all these studies show a 40% reduction?

    Did these studies factor the QUALITY of horsemen? Horses? Pre-race exams?

    The 2008 BC was safe. The highly questionable Cost of Freedom was an official vet scratch. California deployed an extraordinary army of examining veterinarians several days prior to the big races to thoroughly examine, test horses and err on the side of caution. I believe that such outstanding injury-preventive measures were paramount to the absence of catastrophic injuries, not the super-hot synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Turf races were safe too because of the strong injury preventive measures in place before the event.

  • Margrethe

    The main reason for catastrophic injuries on dirt or synthetic surfaces is the over use of corticosteroids.

    The problem with synthetics is no give and they alter a horse’s stride.

  • Ida Lee

    Very interesting reading. But I do disagree with the spoiled rat label. First, let’s not forget that Mr. Jackson is the owner of Queen Rachel and thus can do whatever he wants with her. Personally, if she was mine, I’d retire her now, take her to her “fiance”, the -Golden God known as Curlin, and wait for the most beautiful and talented babies in the world. But, I know she’ll be raced again and I do believe the Haskell proved that this incrediblely beautiful and talented Filly is the best racehorse on the planet. She does not have to prove anything to anybody anywhere anymore. I could not believe my eyes when she took off and left the likes of Munnings and Summer Bird behind with a “eat my mud suckers” kick. Mr. Jackson knows what he has and he’ll do whatever is best for his Superstar. He’ll pick whatever race will enhance her chances for HOTY honors (if she doesn’t have it already) and guarantee her place in horseracing history. If it’s good for him too, great – I won’t begrudge him a thing as long as he keeps her best interests at heart and keeps her healthy and as safe as he can. He did it with Curlin, he’ll do it with Rachel. P.S. Keep up the good work. I love my daily dose of the Paulick Report.

  • GeorgeB

    Did Jess say he doesn’t want to race Rachel on synthetic because he was fearful of injury? I was under the impression he wasn’t racing because he just doesn’t want to race on a track that his horses might not handle. With all the discussion here about injuries, now i’m confused as to the exact reason why Jess isn’t racing in this years BC.

  • runnin’ on empty

    1.He has a grudge against the Breeders Cup for not allowing him on as a board member.

    2.He was a proponent for synthetic race tracks as a member of the TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of CA) at their inception. (I understand everyone reserves the right to change their mind, but don’t pretend you’ve been against synthetics along, especially with self righteous indifference.)

    3. This man is no hero. He touts himself to be a sportsman, well, alot of good he is doing racing by keeping this horse away from the Breeders Cup. And, he announces it in June. Why? Because he wants to desensitize all of the Eclipse voters. He isn’t even giving her a chance. For all he knows, she would relish the surface. At least go out there and work her over it before making a decision. And, that decision should be left to the trainer. I heard Jess Jackson say that they were planning to work Rachel “3/5ths” sometime after the KY Oaks. The guy doesn’t know anything about training horses.

    4. If he had the best interest of the horse in mind, he wouldn’t be quoted as saying “you know me, I like to push them”. The horse dictates when it is ready to run. Ask any real horseman.

    5. The horse is brilliant, but neither he, or his people, selected her as a yearling, developed her, or had anything to do with her rise to stardom. She was already made when he bought her. It’s easy for a billionaire to buy anything they want. I don’t understand why he should get a metal for it. (see George Steinbrenner).

    6. As great as it is to see this horse run, the main motivation behind her campaign is Jess Jackson’s unconscionable ego.

  • GeorgeB


    Good post, i disagree with you on #5. There are plenty of billionaires in the world, but only one stepped up to the plate to gamble with 10 million, for that, JJ gets credit.

    As far as Jackson’s ‘ego’ goes, its all good for racing. It keeps us talking about the people and the horses in the sport, it keeps us on the front page. Publicity like this is good pub, it keeps racing in the news. Controversy sells and right now, racing can use all the ‘selling’ it can get.

    No need to take a shot at geo steinbrenner without taking a shot at the owners of the Red Sox, they too are trying to buy championships, its not just george.

  • August Song

    If Rachel was my horse, I would do the same as Jackson.

    John Gaines would be turning over in his grave to see that the Breeders Cup awarded Santa Anita and Pro Ride the BC races 2 years in a row. Absolutely criminal in my opinion! California with it’s hard as rock dirt surfaces, decides to go synthetic, rather than make any effort whatsoever to “soften” and improve it’s dirt surfaces. Who got the money in California’s quick to adopt sythetic surface overhaul? And with Santa Anita’s failed first synthetic surface, who got the money when the Breeders Cup awarded Santa Anita the Breeders Cup series 2 years in a row, on a surface and track no horse had ever run on at the time that the decision was made. Any Breeders Cup organization and Board that allowed that decision to be made about running Breeders Cup races 2 successive years on an unproven and untested track should have all been fired for incompetence. Was it any wonder how many members of the Breeders Cup Board were not re-elected at the next election. Criminal, absolutely criminal! No one in their right mind would have allowed those decisions to be made, unless …………….. So, my question remains, “Who got the money?”

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