The Week in Review: In Its Best Fillies, Racing Does Have Lasting Stars

|

Monomoy Girl | Fasig-Tipton photo

By

The announcement last week that GI Kentucky Derby and GI Breeders’ Cup winner and likely Horse of the Year Authentic (Into Mischief) had been retired was disappointing, but very much expected. It would have been nice to see him run another year, but it was never going to happen. From the business side of the sport, there was no other call, not when you have a son of super sire Into Mischief who will stand for $75,000 and likely go to 200-plus mares.

Unless there is a seismic shift in the economics of racing and breeding, the elite male horses will continue to have short careers, many of them not racing after their 3-year-old years. It wasn’t just Authentic. The Classic was the last start for Improbable (City Zip), Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) and Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike). Global Campaign (Curlin) is also headed to stud, but may first start in the GI Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Among the top five choices in the Classic betting, only Tiz the Law (Constitution) is scheduled to run next year.

But that doesn’t mean that the sport can’t cultivate stars. It just needs to look elsewhere.

While marquee males can’t be retired fast enough, the opposite trend is now taking place with the elite fillies and mares. We are seeing them come back at four, five, even six. Again, it’s a matter of economics. Even the very best broodmares aren’t worth anywhere close to what the best stallions are worth. With a rich slate of races available to them, it can make sense to keep the fillies racing.

Never was that more apparent than with the decision to bring Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) back. At just about the same time that Spendthrift Farm was formulating plans to retire Authentic, it was reaching into the ring at Fasig-Tipton November to buy Monomoy Girl for a whopping $9.5 million. Much of that investment will eventually be recouped through the breeding of Monomoy Girl but, first, she will return next year and race at 6. For good measure, Spendthrift also purchased Got Stormy (Get Stormy) for $2.75 million at the Fasig-Tipton sale and will race her next year, also as a 6-year-old.

Monomoy Girl, Valiance (Tapit) and Dunbar Road (Quality Road), the first three finishers in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff, are scheduled to race in 2021. So is Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil), who will be named 3-year-old filly champion. To start 2021, Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver will be the sport’s two brightest stars.

They continue a pattern that started to take hold with Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}). She raced through her 6-year-old season. Then came Beholder. Also owned by Spendthrift, she was a champion at two, three and five and still came back for her 6-year-old campaign in 2016. In one of the best Breeders’ Cup races ever run, she landed still another Eclipse Award when nosing out Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro) to win the 2016 Distaff. It had been 18 years since a mare five or older had won the Distaff. Fast forward to 2020 and four of the last five Distaff winners have been five or older and two have been six.

It could also help that the connections of both Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl either have or are ready to embrace the challenge of facing males. Swiss Skydiver already did it twice, finishing second in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. and winning the GI Preakness S. The 2021 racing plans for Monomoy Girl have yet to be revealed, but trainer Brad Cox has said there is a possibility she could be tested against the boys next year.

The most important, most scrutinized horses in training will probably always be the dirt males, particularly the 3-year-olds who spend five weeks under the glaring spotlight of the Triple Crown. But, considering the trends, the sport should do a lot more to promote racing for fillies and mares. The best place to start is by creating a filly Triple Crown. That’s a no-brainer. After losing so much in on-track revenues this year because of the pandemic, the Breeders’ Cup probably isn’t in a position to raise purses any time soon, but when it is, the first place to look at is the $2 million paid out in the Distaff. It’s far too important a race to have one-third the purse of the $6-million Classic.

We all wish horses like Authentic, American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) and Justify (Scat Daddy), would keep going well after their sophomore seasons are behind them. It’s just not going to happen, which is why the industry needs to do what it can to promote its distaff stars.

Revisiting Casse’s Remarks on Clenbuterol

If anyone thought trainer Mark Casse was guilty of exaggerating when he wrote a Mar. 2 editorial for the Thoroughbred Daily News that called Clenbuterol “the most abused drug in our industry,” they need to take another look at this controversial subject.

The bronchodilator was back in the news last week when New York State Gaming Commission Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer revealed that tests taken on horses trained by the individuals indicted in March for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs revealed that 77% of those horses had Clenbuterol in their systems.

“In the Thoroughbred breed, 77% of those horses [initially] had levels of clenbuterol in their blood,” Palmer said. “[We then] asked for the medical records on these horses. We haven’t gotten through them all yet, but we haven’t found any that had clenbuterol administration listed in their medical records. That’s a strong indication that this drug is being given for purposes other than the normal prescribed reason for giving clenbuterol.”

Casse and others have said that trainers use Clenbuterol for its steroid-like effects, which causes horses to artificially build muscle. Palmer’s findings strongly suggests that both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred trainers that were indicted were using the drug for something far more nefarious than its ability to treat asthma and respiratory diseases.

To its credit, the sport is clamping down on the use of the drug, but half measures aren’t going to be good enough. Casse had called for a total ban on its use throughout North America. Considering Palmer’s findings, that can’t happen soon enough.

A Gratuitous Plug for TDN Writers’ Room Podcast

The 2020 finalists for America’s Best Racing’s Fan Choice Awards have been announced and the TDN Writers’ Room podcast is among the choices in the Favorite Radio Show/Podcast category. Everyone at the TDN is proud of the podcast and would be honored to receive this award from the fans. The competition is stiff, so we welcome all the help we can get. To vote, click here.

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.