Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

28 September 2010

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Rachel Alexandra has been retired and her 2010 season was far short of expectations set by her connections and racing fans. This year started off with the prospect of a showdown with Zenyatta that looked like a lock until March 13th when Rachel Alexandra was bested by Zardana, a stablemate of Zenyatta. From that point on her season was about getting her back to the 2009 form that netted her Horse of the Year honors and not about a race against her chief rival. Rachel Alexandra's struggles at the track this year are not about who was truly worthy of Horse of the Year honors from the previous year, but about the tough task of defending a championship.

Gio Ponti can be seen as another example of the demands of defending a championship, after winning the Eclipse honors for best older colt and best male turf horse he was sent back into training with the immediate goal of the Dubai World Cup and the long term goal of returning to the Breeders Cup. Gio Ponti's 2010 debut was at Tampa Bay Downs on February 20th in a listed stakes that was meant as a warm up race for the World Cup, he lost that race to Karelian who went on to capture the grade one Maker's Mark Mile. His race in the Dubai World Cup was a close fourth place finish, followed by a narrow loss to long shot stablemate Winchester in the Manhattan. He returned to the winner's circle in the Man O' War where he barely defeated 50-1 long shot Mission Approved and his last start was a narrow loss in the Arlington Million, a race he won last year. In five starts since his 2009 championship season and he has only one victory.

Forever Together won the 2008 Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf en route to end of the year honors as the best turf female. She is on a seven race losing streak with her last win being the Diana Handicap on August 1, 2009. Her record is ten starts with two wins since clinching the 2008 Eclipse honors.

Street Sense turned in dominant performances in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby against the likes of Curlin and Hard Spun. Curlin improved from his Derby outing against the champ to win the Preakness in a photo and from that point on Street Sense was never the same. He was all out to win the Jim Dandy and Travers before going down in defeat in his last two starts to the same three year olds he whipped in the Derby.

Zenyatta is a freak of nature, she successfully defended her Older Female award last year and is four for four this year with all of the wins being in grade one races. There have been different tactics that have been unsuccessfully used in trying to defeat Zenyatta boxing her in, floating her wide, and going extremely slow up front all come to mind. What she has accomplished in her last three years starts looking better and better when compared to how others have fared. There always have been questions about the quality of the competition she has faced, but the important factor is she has turned them all back so far.

Being a defending champion is a tough task to take on, there is new competition to take on and horses age differently. A championship campaign means that is when a horse was at their peak at the time of the honors. Duplicating those type of performances a year later with new variables is a challenge that is among one of tougher feats to accomplish in this sport.

No comments: