Trixton & Great Horses

Hambo Champ Trixton broke Saturday evening at the Canadian Trotting Classic, and his future is in doubt. He might have re-injured the ankle he had surgery on last year. In HRU, Takter noted that this horse, off that surgery, has had to be babied a little bit. It's "one of the reasons I drive him", he said. Catch drivers can be incredibly hard on horses - the aggressive drivers win more races - and with a horse like that, Takter (wisely, imo) took matters into his own hands.

I was reading a book recently (A Few Seconds of Panic) about being inside the NFL.  It was a good tome that touched on the fans and media, and their proclivity to bumper sticker the intricacies of the game. Often in the stands or in the media, a guy is a dummy for throwing a pass or missing a block, but we have no idea what happened behind the scenes. With zone blocking, 150 plays a game, dozens of schemes and reads each play, players in the book said the breakdown often occurs with a player or mistake that the media does not see. Funnily enough, some of the players said in the book that 'former players are as bad as anyone' because they have to pile on to get noticed.

We see it with talk radio guys, and others all the time. There are some people out there who believe Eli Manning is better than his brother because "he has two ringzzzz". Football, a team game with 60 players, is never about one guy. Bounces, defensive plays, thousands of other factors result in wins and losses. There is no universe, here or in fairyland where Eli is "better" than his brother - a brother who fought through an injury that should have him at a stud farm somewhere, too - but it's a narrative. 

Racehorses go through the exact same thing.

Trixton is judged with wins and losses. In the stands people scream "put a driver on him Jim". In real life this is a horse with issues that has fought through them to become an 8 for 11 winner this season, who captured the World's biggest trotting race for three year olds in 150.3. He did it on talent, guts and mettle. He did it on the toughness that standardbreds are known for. The story with this horse is not Jim Takter's driving, if Father Patrick is better, or how he did last night. Trixton's story is Trixton.

We see this with plenty of horses with or without issues. The bar is set by a "he's got ringzzzz"public, and it's completely unreasonable.

Zenyatta was looked at by "speed figures" and people were talking about her "racing on plastic". This mare, growthy, not manageable early, who really should not have amounted to much, raced twenty times, won 19, came second once (where the winner got a beyond perfect trip) and raced for close to four seasons. She won 13 Grade I races over that period, on two surfaces (she probably could've won on three if they tried). She did it by being a closer in a speed game. She did it by being babied (does anyone out there really think she wins more than one grade I race in a factory stable rushing her, or trying to race her 12 times a year?). She didn't have a down year like so many. The "transition" from year to year was similar, not an anomaly. She never threw in a bad one like happens almost all the time, and an excuse is not needed when horse's show up every race, at any racetrack, on any surface.  That's a remarkable career.

Suntracer won the Kentucky Turf Cup last weekend. Byron King noted on twitter the colt lost an eye and wears googles. He fought through it.

There have been good horses who raced with bowed tendons, off knee surgeries to take out chips, off sickness, or allergies or 100 other maladies. Some of them became very good or great horses, and we have never even known about their issues. When a colt throws in a clunker, some fan with a sports radio sensibility might call him a "rat", when in fact the knee he has fought through his whole life to run those big speed figs was a little sore. He's the exact opposite of a "rat".

Father Patrick might be a better horse than Trixton. Maybe if Trixton had a top driver he would've won in 1:49. It all doesn't matter, because what horses like Trixton do and what they've gone through to succeed is often remarkable in its own right. A lot of time we just don't know about it.


ron said...

I'd say she ran on 3 surfaces. Delmar poly was unlike anything else in Socal. They may have all been synthetic, but the poly was much different. She's underrated for a horse with such a great record. It seems only those who compute closing pace figures understand her true greatness.

Anonymous said...

If this is the end of the line for Trixton, he finished his career with a single meaningful win--the Hambletonion. And Broad Bahn, Shiaway St Pat, Chip Chip Hooray and Amigo Hall also won that race. To what end?

He had no stakes wins at two and most of this year's wins were in second and third tier races like the Reynolds, Goodtimes, Simcoe and the NJSS.

As Bill Parcells said, you are what your record says you are.

Trixton gets points for overcoming adversity, but he gets no points for the powder puff schedule he followed.


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