With the debate raging about Rachel Alexandra not going to the Breeders Cup because her owner does not want to race her on polytrack, it is pretty interesting to see the difference that we are afforded with harness racing, when compared to our blue-blooded cousins.
Although owner-speak is alive and well in harness (especially with Breeders buying into stars early now and wanting them protected), it is nowhere near what it is in the thoroughbreds. Will Muscle Hill miss the Breeders Crown? Of course he won't; it is our end of year championships. If by chance a horse misses it (see Windsongs Legacy) they will pay for it at the ballot box for HOY, or with fans. Muscle Hill, barring injury or sickness, will race in the BC, and many other races too before the year is over.
I enjoy following both sports, but for pure frequency of racing, there is nothing like harness. Over the next three months we will see a horse like Muscle Hill at several venues, for big money. He will be in Ontario, Lexington, maybe Illinois, perhaps again in New Jersey, and hopefully New York before the year is out. For several of those races he will race two times at each venue. At one, he will race at least two times in one day. Rachel won't go to the Breeders Cup where the world will be watching because her owner does not like a track. I wonder what he would say if she had to race twice in a day :).
Our game has been brought closer and closer to the runners of late. Several horses are so protected that it seems they race not more than a half dozen times, or (and this is huge with some trotter connections) they avoid a half mile track like the plague. But they still tee it up and let it fly.
I hope Muscle Hill from here on out travels everywhere and lights each venue on fire. I understand the reticence about half mile tracks, but if we are to crown him a champion, should he not race on them? The last two three year old trotting colts of the year avoided them like the plague. Let's hope Muscle Hill breaks that trend. He clearly does not have much to fear, and it helps with a horses lore, and in my opinion, should help, not hurt any stud value.
I think Beach setting a WR on a half placed him well ahead of many other stallions. A long-gaited horse like Beach, if he did not try a half mile track, would have people wondering "could he handle it?". Well, watch the Confederation Cup or the Messenger for that. Handle it he did. I want Muscle Hill to go blow the doors off a half mile track to nip any criticism in the bud.
Regardless, I will probably be watching the Breeders Cup this year, like everyone, and wondering "what could have been." I don't think we will be doing that in harness racing with Muscle Hill. And thank god for that.
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