Early Retirements Hurt The Sport
EARLY RETIREMENTS HURTING THE SPORT
I thought that the downturn in the economy would decrease the number of stakes horses being retired early. Instead, seemingly as fast as the Breeders' Cup Classic was made official, the top four favorites in the race -- Zenyatta, Lookin At Lucky, Blame and Quality Road -- were all retired.
It has been a discouraging aspect of racing that once a horse establishes stardom, he or she immediately disappears to the breeding shed.
I thought this negative trend would abate with stud fees dropping, sales prices falling and fewer racehorses being bred each year. It has not.
Another reason this trend won't change anytime soon is that the largest increases in stakes money are going to 2- and 3-year-old horses. Common sense should dictate that older horses who have proven themselves should have the incentive of racing for a lot more money.
Meanwhile, the Triple Crown can be counterproductive because it's a meat grinder for talented young horses. Of the three Triple Crown race winners, for example, only Preakness victor Lookin At Lucky survived to make the Classic field. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Belmont Stakes champ Drosselmeyer were retired. This, unfortunately, is the norm.
There was some positive news: The 1-2 finishers of the Turf Mile, Goldikova and Gio Ponti, are returning. Both are star 5-year-olds with nothing left to prove. Goldikova will be trying to win her fourth consecutive Turf Mile, a feat that would rank her among the greatest horses of all time, if she's not there already.
Gio Ponti will point to the $10 million Dubai World Cup as well as other grass and synthetic stakes races in 2011. Owner Shane Ryan told the Thoroughbred Times that "it is an exciting time to have a tough, consistent horse in training as prize money is generally one of the more lucrative sides of our business."
These things underscore how special it was to have Zenyatta race as a 6-year-old mare.
And finally, it irks me that horses such as Zenyatta and Blame are being criticized for winning Grade I stakes and accused of beating nothing. It's not totally their fault. There are many factors in play, including a lack of quality depth in older-horse divisions due to so many early retirements.
by Richard Eng
GIO PONTI TO RACE NEXT YEAR
Dual champion GIO PONTI (Tale of the Cat), a candidate for a third career Eclipse Award as the nation's top male turf performer of 2010, will stay in training next year and be pointed for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). The announcement was made Tuesday by Shane Ryan, the President of Castleton Lyons, who campaigns the five-year old.
"We at Castleton Lyons are delighted to announce that we have decided to keep our dual champion Gio Ponti in training for one more year, with the 2011 Dubai World Cup as our main aim," Ryan said. "It is an exciting time to have a tough, consistent horse in training as prize money is generally one of the more lucrative sides of our business at the moment.
"We would like to thank all his fans and well wishers to date. It is our hope that we can continue to campaign him with imagination and of course, success."
A trip to Meydan racecourse in Dubai would be Gio Ponti's second trip to the Middle East after contesting the same race this past March. His fourth-place finish over the Tapeta surface was his only unplaced effort in seven starts this year, as he claimed victories in the Man o' War S. (G1) and Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and placed second in the Tampa Bay S., Manhattan H. (G1) and Arlington Million (G1). In his final start of the season, the Christophe Clement trainee finished second, 1 1/4 lengths behind Goldikova (Ire) (Anabaa), in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).
Gio Ponti was named champion turf male and champion older male in 2009 after winning the Frank E. Kilroe Mile H. (G1), Manhattan, Man o' War and Arlington Million, and placing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
His record currently stands at 23-11-8-0, $5,037,800.
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