Sunday, February 22, 2009

2008 in Review

As I attempt to resuscitate this blog, I feel I should completely wrap up the 2008 season. I've picked three topics to discuss starting with the 2008 Horse of the Year, Curlin.

Pt. 1
The Greatness of Curlin?

To be fair you don't hear much chatter of him being a great horse after his flop in the Breeders Cup Classic but his long term standing is worth discussing.

Being the all time earnings leader in most cases is a claim for greatness. While its certainly an excellent feat, in modern racing with inflated championship purses earnings have never meant less in assessing a horses career. (as if it matters to an owner)

At the end of the day his 4yo career comes down to two things. One, he beat nothing of consequence. Two, he lost both races where there was a challenge to overcome in either the strength of opposition or the running surface. Sure he won the Dubai World Cup, the Stephen Foster etc. but who did he beat in doing so? Wonderin Boy? Fairly underwhelming.

To be fair the horse was facing his stiffest challengers in races where he was also running over new surfaces, but surface alone doesnt give him a free pass. Zenyatta was every bit as good on dirt as polytrack. Big Brown might have actually been better on turf than dirt. The list goes on and on.

His 4yo career did not show us anything new about the horse. Its arguable he was any faster as a 4yo than a late developing 3yo. He didn't defeat a horse of the caliber he defeated and lost to as a 3yo. He overcame no great hurdles.

So where does he stand? Its tough to rank him because on accomplishments he was certainly a distinguished runner. On ability he was questionable even amongst high caliber horses of his era. I have no doubts Ghostzapper or Candy Ride would run him off the track. Those horses were dynamic and amazingly fast. Of course they were as fragile as a glass chandelier but on pure ability they were notch above Curlin. I also question whether as a 4yo he could defeat or shall I say routinely defeat the likes of Mineshaft, Congaree, Medaglia D Oro or Pleasantly Perfect. I have real doubts whether Curlin wins the Dubai World Cup if he runs with Roses In May.

So, id probably put Curlin 2nd behind Ghostzapper for horse of the decade. Ghostzappers ability puts him above Curlins accomplishments. Its debatable and many would not agree but Zapper in my opinion won just enough to warrant a ranking based on his freakish ability.

I have no problem putting Curlin above the rest based on his accomplishments, despite the fact that I believe quite of few of them would give him more than he'd want.

1 comment:

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