In US thoroughbred racing there will be an interesting Horse of the Year vote coming up. We all know the two protagonists – Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Who will win? The vote is more than likely pretty close.
As most know, Jess Jackson bought Rachel earlier this year. He raced her in a great many tough tilts, starting with the Preakness and ending her season with the Woodward at Saratoga. All season fans lobbied him hard to race her in the Breeders Cup (hopefully against the undefeated Zenyatta), but Jackson was having none of it. He was not racing her at Santa Anita, and he used something as a crutch that many found curious – horse safety. “My concerns are well known about the tracks in California," Jackson said in a statement. "These false tracks create potential for injury, a risk that I am not willing to take with Rachel."
Funnily enough, last year Mr. Jackson sounded none of these alarms when the decision was made to race Curlin in the Breeders Cup at this exact same racetrack. "I owe it to the horse. Curlin tells us he's fit. He loves to compete," he said.
When Curlin retired not long after that, Mr. Jackson wrote a special piece on the Bloodhorse entitled “Pure Sport”. In the piece Mr. Jackson highlighted this about Curlin: "I especially want to extend my deep gratitude to Curlin’s fans. In the end, we ran Curlin as much or more for the enjoyment and inspiration of the fans and sport than for ourselves. He ran on all surfaces, in all weather, against all competition."
In the very recent past, Mr. Jackson not only listened to the fans, he did everything he could to cement his horses' legacy by racing him in end of year events, regardless of the venue, weather, or competition. Most gave Mr. Jackson a big thumbs up for his sportsmanship, his love of racing and his support of the racing commercial that is the Breeders Cup.
What happened then only a few months later with Rachel and the decision to not go to the Breeders Cup? It seems that same sportsmanship was gone, replaced instead by Shakespearean-type diatribes about unsafe “plastic racetracks”, under the umbrella of horse safety. It appears that she was turned into a political pawn against Santa Anita and the Breeders Cup.
I personally do not have any problem with Mr. Jackson’s choice with Rachel – she's his horse and he can do what he wants with her - but I do have a problem with hypocrisy. I think I am not alone in that. I believe it might cost Rachel some Horse of the Year votes; not because it is right, but because voters can play politics, too. The only thing different is that they won’t be using a horse to get their point across, they will be using a ballot.