It's three and a half hours to the first race in the Breeders Cup 2011 series and that makes a good place to begin this blog. I'm not going to pick winners (I've never been able to adequately separate the horses I think will win from those I'd like to see win, so I tend to hold on to my money).
Mares have taken center stage again this year and people have finally noticed something I've been saying for years: among horses of similar class, there's no automatic superiority of male over female in most racing categories. There's one notable exception. Among pacing Standardbreds, females tend to be a little slower. In trotting, I don't believe there's any difference, and if there weren't any filly and mare races, females would win in similar proportion to the number of entries.
Twenty years ago, when my book The Performence Mare was published, I qualified my opinion as to Thoroughbred racing. I believed that male and female sprinters were pretty much equal, given class equality, as were distance horses (look at all those Arc winners--another one this year). I said, though, that male horses might have a slight advantage in the middle distances.
I may have to take that back. The great French miler Goldikova will be going for her fourth straight Breeders Cup Mile tomorrow. Havre de Grace will be among the two or three favorites for the $5 million Classic, a race won in 2009 by Zenyatta, who then finished second last year in one of the great performances in the history of American racing.
Zenyatta, whose best distance was probably 9 furlongs (although she certainly could get the ten of the Classic) was Horse of the Year last year, following Rachel Alexandra's 2009 title. Rachel could win at 9 1/2 furlongs, but she was probably best at a mile. Havre de Grace will probably be Horse of the Year for 2011 if she wins (although she too is probably best at 9 furlongs).
By the way, the current Australian Horse of the Year is a mare, the magnificent Black Caviar, but she's a sprinter (although I'll bet she could get a mile). Anyway, today is Ladies Day at Churchill Downs with all the filly and mare races scheduled. The two big girls go tomorrow.