Jackson: Curlin ran in tougher BC Classic than Zenyatta

After Rachel Alexandra won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year on Monday night in Beverly Hills, owner Jess Jackson admitted he wasn’t as confident as the past two years when Curlin was honored with the award.

“This one really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said immediately after Rachel Alexandra was rewarded for her brilliant 2009 season. “I knew it would be close. I wanted to steal myself from winning it in case of the disappointment that Zenyatta would win.”

Jackson then went on to say he felt Curlin, who finished fourth in the 2008 Classic over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface, ran against a tougher band of horses than Zenyatta this past November when she became the first female to win the race and the first of either sex to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.

Both Curlin and Zenyatta ran against eight Grade 1 winners, and the winning time for the 1 1/4 miles when Raven’s Pass won in 2008 was 1:59.27. Zenyatta’s winning time this past year was 2:00.62.

“Curlin ran four ticks faster than Zenyatta this last race on that turf,” Jackson said. “This group of older horses was not the competition that Curlin had a year ago, at least as measured by time and the quality of horses in the race.”

Well, I don’t know how Jackson can claim the 2009 BC Classic lineup was not as tough as the group that Curlin faced, not when both fields included the same number of Grade 1 winners.

As for his assertion that Curlin ran faster than Zenyatta? The final time in 2008 was quicker, and Curlin lost by about 2 1/2 lengths. Was the track playing faster two years ago than last November?

There is no doubt that Jackson was very, very proud of Curlin, and rightfully so. He was an excellent colt. But there’s also little doubt that he used the synthetic as an excuse when Curlin finished fourth. He was right there at the top of the stretch and wasn’t up to the task. If he’d never threatened, I would put more stock into Jackson blaming the artificial track. There’s no doubt in my mind Curlin was not the same horse in the Classic that he was earlier in the year when he won the Dubai World Cup.

It was wrong of Jackson to skip the 2009 Breeders’ Cup with Rachel Alexandra because it was run on a synthetic. Curlin had never run over an artificial track, therefore they had every right to wonder how he would handle it. But Rachel raced and won over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface as a 2-year-old. Jackson claims he didn’t want to risk injury, but one week and one race over the track would not have been a huge negative in my opinion.

Jackson didn’t bring Rachel to the Breeders’ Cup because of how Curlin performed in 2008, plain and simple.

What do you think?

36 thoughts on “Jackson: Curlin ran in tougher BC Classic than Zenyatta

  1. Dear Mr. Wilson,
    Well said, and couldn’t agree with you more. Mr. Jackson seems to defend his horses whether the argument makes sense or not. What happened to the idea that GREAT horses need to compete for the fans? Seems to me I remember that he sang that song a lot in 2008. The song seemed to change in 2009, and we all know why. That big, massive girl called Zenyatta. Though I look forward to watching the girls run against each other this year, I will not be surprised if it never materializes. With Zenyatta moving closer to starting her campaign, having just worked a sparkling 5/8’s today, Rachel has yet to do any serious training. One has to only imagine what the plan is for Rachel, or if there is one.Jackson claimed he didn’t want to “risk injury” to run Rachel in the Breeder’s Cup..Sounds good Mr. Jackson, but what you really meant was, “don’t want to get beaten by a better horse”

  2. Mr. Jackson as usual likes the sound of his own voice.

    Think of it:

    The NTRA Moment of the Year, Zenyatta beats a two time Eclipse winner and the Eclipse champion 3 year old in the Classic.

    I am looking forward to watching Jackson zigs when Zenyatta zags in 2010. I would love the Mosses to declare that Zenyatta is going to the Apple Blossom and watch the excuses that come out out when Rachel Alexandra decides not to go to Oaklawn.

    Go Zenyatta!

  3. Susan — If both remain healthy, I’m confident they’ll face each other at some point. Rachel is scheduled to breeze for the first time in about a week and there has been some talk of her making her debut sometime in March at the Fair Grounds.

  4. Jess Jackson is an idiot.

    He forgets that Curlin got creamed last year (same track, same surface) and that Zenyatta won in another cake walk.

    Does anyone notice how Jess Jackson fails to mention that Rachel Alexandra was merely a member and a beneficiary of the weakest three-year-old crop in many decades?

    Jesus Christ, the best field Rachel Alexandra faced in 2009 had two opponents, in a race for which she was one-to-twenty on the board!!

    Run Rachel Alexandra against some real competition and then come around and talk about her running another “Curlin” dead-in-the-end race.

  5. In the last two years, Jackson has zero Breeders Cup wins but has 2 Horse of the Year titles. In the last two years, Zenyatta has two Breeders Cup wins and zero horse of the year titles. And there’s another thing that Jess and Rachael don’t have and can never possibly have: An undefeated record.

    The east-coast bias is obvious.

  6. Art, nice article with a lot of proof to back it up. Zenyatta is one of the best fillies/mares I have seen in a long time. I was blessed to witness both and the Big Z, is something to behold. Such presence… It took a lot of guts to win that BC Classic.
    It seems odd that Jess Jackson seemed to accept that mess in Jersey for the BC which as they were in the winners circle,George Washington was being euthanized on a track he did not belong. HIs owners never used it as an excuse.
    How can he can say that Zenyatta didn’t face the same horses as Curlin. The best in the world show up for that race or those that regard the classic as the big dance. After the Derby, all that is left for 3 year olds and older males is the Classic to prove they are worthy. It seems she was ready last year after a chip was removed for the Apple Blossom why not this year? Seems odd. Maybe Turfqueen is onto something.

  7. Rachel Fan Said,
    Rachel was justified to win HoY.I knew in my heart the vote would not be close.The Synthetic track will be a thing of the past as astroturf in baseball and football.Jess Jackson can say what he wants.If he was not the agressive owner that he is we would never have been debating anything this year.I laugh when people say Rachel cant beat Zenyatta or RA will never get the mile and a quarter.Never doubt Rachel.Maybe she can or maybe she cant.Let them both line up and hopefully we will see it happen this year.They are both great once in lifetime horses.I am glad I am alive to see them both race.I wish them both health and hopefully some more historic moments this year.

  8. Jess Jackson is smart in business, but I have never seen a smart guy put a foot in his mouth as often as he does. He has made himself over the years look like a bitter man. Enjoy life Jess, if its not fun all the time, look at your bank account, it should cheer you up!!

  9. Mike, how do you say sythetic will be a thing of the past? It has worked miracles at Golden Gate, Done what is was supposed to do at Turfway. It was just installed in Dubai a few weeks ago. Can you name one track that is going back on it besides Santa Anita? They obviously did something wrong there, if it was installed correctly there would be no changes there either.

  10. So now Jackson feels compelled to continue besmirching Zenyatta’s record. Zenyatta ran her 2008 distaff in 1:46 4/5 for the 1 1/8 mile. Curlin ran the 1 1/4 in 1:59 4/5. Does any one think Zenyatta couldn’t get home in 13 seconds for the last eighth ? Jess, you got what you wanted, but you don’t own now, or ever will own, a horse that will beat Zenyatta>

  11. To Pete M,
    Just my opinion.You here Sherrifs who is not a fan of it and it seems studies that have come saidthat synth is not all its cracked up to be.I referenced astroturf in baseball and football because owners of these teams wanted a surface that was durable,and more economical than a grass surface.Today its all about saving a buck and costcutting.Is synthetic really that much safer than dirt?Why would Santa Anita not try a different synth surface?Why are they going back to dirt?To get the Breeders Cup their forever?I have no problem with SA hosting the Breeders Cup every year if they went back to dirt.I just feel down the road synthetic will be a thing of the past.Or hopefully some person or persons will invent a surface that will truly help or prevent horses from injury or breakdowns.

  12. Of course Curlin faced a tougher field in his BC Classic.
    Are you kidding me using a blunt, out of context, “number of grade I winners faced” stat? Newsflash, NOT all grade I winners are the same or even CLOSE in ability to each other; in fact, most are very different and most couldn’t even win a grade 2 on a given day.
    Curlin faced Raven’s Pass AND Henry the Navigator, two of England’s best who are SO MUCH BETTER than the imports Twice Over and Rip Van Winkle (he slept through the entire BC race!)that “ran” against Zenyatta. The ONLY decent synthetic horses that Zenyatta faced was a TURF horse, Gio Ponti and the past-his-prime (but much beloved) Einstein.

    Zenyatta fans really do her a disservice when they try to overhype her. She’s great but she ran in only ONE competitive race last year! That is pathetic (not of her but of her “caretakers”). I am having a big change of heart with respect to Moss and Sheriffs now that they are racing Zenyatta as a six year old but I really want to see them SHOW HER OFF. This year, they have the opportunity to leave NO DOUBT in the minds of those who do doubt Zenyatta’s ability due to her overly conservative handling. If the only reason that she has done so well is because she is so lightly raced (even though perfectly sound) then, by comparison, she is not one of the all-time greats. I personally think that she could race every six weeks and blow away any horse in the country with the possible exception of Rachel Alexandra.

    Jackson was totally right not to run Rachel in the BC Classic as a 3YO filly. I’ll go so far as to say OF COURSE ZENYATTA WOULD HAVE BEATEN RACHEL. DUH. A 3YO filly who had the most grueling campaign of any 3YO filly in the past 25 years is going to face a 5YO mare AND older males AT the LONGEST distance she would ever have run??? She would have LOST! (If she didn’t then she is every bit as good as Secretariat; no horse is Secretariat though, so you see my point).
    Rachel easily gets HOY BECAUSE of her AMBITIOUS and undefeated campaign, EVEN if Zenyatta beat her in the BC. There’s an easy precedent for that- Affirmed was easily beaten by Seattle Slew but nobody in his right mind was going to deny the newer Triple Crown winner his HOY award. Compared to Zenyatta, Rachel did so much more in 2009, especially given the context that she was a 3YO filly.

    As for 2010, if Moss and Sheriffs map out a somewhat ambitious campaign for Zenyatta, the HOY should be in the bag. Zenyatta doesn’t even have to go undefeated! She just has to do her thing most of the time and, if she can get by the now bigger (and maybe better) Rachel, then nobody will deny Zenyatta her Eclipse ESPECIALLY not Jess Jackson, who OVERLY-graciously wanted to share the HOY award BETWEEN Rachel and Zenyatta. He is unbelievably sporting and it makes me SICK when I hear horseracing “fans” take shots at him because of their zealotry for a horse who doesn’t even know them.

  13. Jess Jackson is a charming, great promoter of racing. I adored Curlin and preferred a co-HOY for RA and Z.
    Since Jackson won HOY with RA, it would have been more gracious and diplomatic NOT to use Curlin to take potshots at Z. It is petty.

  14. Instead of emotional protectiveness of Zenyatta how ’bout an actual examination of the fields. Zenyatta faced off against the winners of 14 2009 G-1s (and five 2007/2008 G-1s) a total of 5 multiple G-1 winning horses. Curlin faced the winners of 16 2008 G-1s (plus 3 2007 G-1s) and six multiple G-1 winners. Did Jackson use a little hyperbole? Sure. But at worst the fields were reasonably comparable and at best Curlin’s field was marginally deeper.

  15. John C.

    You’re a moron:

    “”” A 3YO filly who had the most grueling campaign of any 3YO filly in the past 25 years”””

    There was nothing “grueling” about waltzing through the poorest 3yo crop in several decades, and then barely winning at one-to-five when facing older foes for the only time.

    Rachel Alexandra has been nothing but the most over-hyped, over-blown myth in modern racing. There is zero chance that she belongs among the top 100 runners of all time, and probably not the top 1000 runners of all time. One need only call up the records of the pond scum who beat Rachel Alexandra decisively in 2008 to discern as much.

  16. Mike, You are right about one day hope we can really find a perfect track that makes racing as safe as possible. Racing in CA is dying and I am sure many trainers are wondering why they dont have enough horses, some like John Sheriffs do not like synthetic. I respect him and think he always does right by his horses, track surface dirt or whatever and his horses do not breakdown. Richard Mandella who is equal in my eyes to Sheriffs believes just as strong about sythetic. If you ask 10 well respected guys it would be close to 50/50. If you go down the line to guys who are struggling in CA I think many would probably side with dirt, just because they think there business started to die with synthetic, bottom line is purses out here stink and you could bring back dirt and with the low purses and sky high expenses out here they are close to being out of business. I think they could run on a feather bed here and without purses going up 50% racing is in big trouble in CA. Pull up pps from Penn, Philly, Charles Town, there are 100’s of horses running there that were here. 4K claimers running for 25K, that is all you need to know. Woodbine was about the only track (beside boutique Keeneland, Del Mar meets) that did not have to cut purses, handle is up there because there are full fields due to the huge purses.

  17. For whatever it’s worth, Raven’s Pass got a 110 Beyer in 2008 Classic and Zenyatta got a 112 in ’09. Looks like Santa Anita was playing quicker on BC day 2008.

    I don’t think Curlin faced a tougher field. Before the ’08 Classic, Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator were seen as classy milers who might or might not handle 10 furlongs. In ’09, Zenyatta beat winners of several 2009 Grade/Group I ten-furlong races.

  18. I believe Tiago finished ahead of Curlin in the 2008 BCC and I doubt if Tiago’s connections (Moss/Shirreffs)ever imagined that Tiago could defeat their mare.

  19. C’mon Lowdown … Hey, I think Zenyatta deserved HOY in 2009. I thought she deserved HOY in 2008 as well, probably more than she did this past year. But to disparage what Rachel Alexandra accomplished in 2009 is just plain wrong. Let’s face it, we’re blessed to have two of the greatest distaffers ever to come along at the same time. How rare is that? Frankly, I’m tired of supporters of each horse often times trying to disparage the other. It just defies logic. I’m all for healthy debate, but let’s try to keep it respectful. These are both great horses.

  20. Lowdown,
    Your own comments prove just how warped and pathetic you are. That’s what you call horses? “Pond scum”?
    I’m glad that you think I’m a moron; I’d be insulted that someone like you would agree with me.
    Lowdown- an appropriate name for you.

    By the way, who WAS that 3YO filly who, after running a half in 44 and 3, had to be held under tight wraps and geared down to avoid BREAKING SECRETARIAT’S 9F RECORD ?!!!

    Who WAS that 3YO filly who got thrown into the Preakness on two weeks rest and won it in 55 flat from the 13 POST?!!

    Who was that 3YO filly who blew away Summer Bird in the Haskell after being forced wide throughout and ripped through a half in 46 and 2??? Oh yeah, Summer Bird is a member of “the poorest crop of 3YO’s in decades”. That’s why he took the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. THAT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR.

  21. I beleive Rachel was all in after the Whitney. However how can dirt championship’s be run over that garbage of a surface.

  22. Pace makes the race, Mr Jackson. You cannot compare apples to oranges. He just can’t stand getting beat and he will make up any sort of excuse to say why his horse got beat. Jeeeeeez, I’m awfully tired of this “sportsman” who’s got an answer for everything. Why not just let the horse speak for himself? He got BEAT! End of story, Jess! He was an awfully nice horse, but they don’t always stay unbeaten. Get over it.

  23. You Californians are all the same but I understand your bias. Outside of Oaklawn Zenyetta is a fake dirt specialist. You cannot compare her accomplishments to Rachel. Rachel ran on multiple tracks facing 3 year old and old males. I don’t blame Jackson for not running her on fake dirt. Maybe Zenyatta will leave the comfort of her fake dirt tracks and venture East in 2010. The Breeder’s Cup will be on dirt this year at Churchill Downs. We’ll see what she does then.

  24. Tony Clifton, remember this: A win in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, A win in the Breeders Cup Classic. Can Rachael’s resume match that? Oh yeah, Zenyatta is UNDEFEATED against some of the best horses in the world. Rachael won impressively in 3-year-old restricted races and she defeated the older male “Macho Again”.

    There’s no comparison. I guess you didn’t watch the BC Classic. I was standing right by the finish line when Zenyatta whizzed by. She turned Santa Anita into a rock concert.

  25. Every horse RA beat this year could have run for $100k claiming at 1 time or another in its career and not been haltered. Jackson is stuck big time on her in a sinking yearling market and stands no chance to get out. Curlin caught a perfect trip in the BC and puked against turf milers. Together, they could run a relay and stand no chance against a killer predator like Zenyatta. Hope the free wine doesn’t run out; the brain dead MSM might fall off the wagon.

  26. JOHN C: Yes you are right. Just like that GRADE 2/3 WOODWARD pretending to be a grade 1 race. Seriously, Rachel raced against the worst 3 year old ever and the worst handicap horses in MachoAgain and Bullsbay. The only reason Rachel won is because of the traditional dirt biased east coasters. You know that bias is obvious when these east coasters talkingheads laughed at the notion that Zenyatta was entered in the Classic and crowed “no way”, “throwout”. But when the mare won, they whined and cried that ‘it’s the synthetic’. Give me a break!

  27. Alright I’ve been reading a lot of your comments about who’s better between the two. I even read someone trashing Zenyatta saying that the field she ran against in the BC was not a good one (that’s just plain stupid come on).
    Now here’s my opinion, we should take that field and put it against the one RA ran against in the Preakness, (which I strongly believe is the race that won the HOY for her), and let’s see one particular horse that ran both races and use him as a point of reference. That horse is Mine that Bird, in all honesty if he would’ve had at least another 1/4 furlong in the Preakness he would’ve beaten RA in that race, I mean not even that much I would say probably another 30 yards and the race was his. He was right on her tail when they crossed the line. Now a few months later, which did not hurt him at all, he went and faced Zenyatta in the BC in a much stronger field and what did he do? NOTHING, he could’t even get close.
    Truth be told, the only way RA can beat Zen is if they race less or no more than a mile, if it goes over that, then she’s done for.
    Beware of another filly that might race in the Apple Blossom and that is the Caribbean Derby winner Bambera. I believe she is as good as RA, I don’t think she can take Zenyatta, but she’ll be right there with RA. I see the AB in April going RA and BAmbera leading all the way until the final furlong and Zen beating them at the end. That race will finish like this

    1- Zenyatta
    2- Bambera (because she can run that distance with very little effort)
    3- Rachel Alexandra (she’ll duke it out with Bambera all the way but in the end she’ll come short)

  28. Dirt horses historically do not win on synthetic surfaces unless they train on a continual basis on that surface. There is a lot of opinion that the synthetic surface is a composition that is heavier and the animal has to work harder to cover the ground, ergo, they build more strength and learn to cover the ground more efficiently. That is why a synthetic horse can cross over and transition to dirt easier than a dirt horse can cross and transition to synthetic. So in the Zenyatta and Rachel race due to come up- the greater odds of win will go with Zenyatta, as she has already indexed her muscle mass and is on a shorter layoff than Rachel.
    I personally would like the division for horse of the year -to be split between dirt and synthetic/grass.
    But, alas, I dont think this will ever come to fruition.

  29. The simple facts are as follows:

    Curlin was beat by a female (Rags to Riches). Quite embarassing for a two-time “Horse of the Year” (especially when that female beat him at a mile and a half).

    Zenyatta has never been beaten by a male.

    Zenyatta took those males by their neck and never let them up.

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