Rah-Rah Sis-Boom-Ba, the beginning of something special
If you missed Winslow Homer & Jackson Bend battling through the final furlongs of Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park have no fear.
The two three-year-old colts will renew acquaintances during the February 20'th running of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes (Gulfstream Park).
Occasionally the world of Thoroughbred Horse Racing is subject to one star that shines bigger and brighter than the rest, for example Secretariat in 78' or Big Brown some thirty years later in 08', but usually it's a combination of two stars who drive each other and the storyline until eventually one horse can not be separated from the other.
Rachel Alexandra & Zenyatta battled throughout 2010' with each of these two impeccable ladies taking their successful shots against their male counter-parts. Despite never actually meeting on the racetrack Rachel & Zenyatta will forever be synonymous with each other.
Street Sense & Curlin 06', Saint Liam & Afleet Alex 05' as well as A Bit O' Gold & Niigon 04' from a purely Canadian perspective have all contest multiple races against each other well continually elevating the level of their competition.
Back in 06' Street Sense beat Curlin at Churchill to claim the first leg of the triple-crown. Curlin was surging, pressing, breathing down the neck of Street Sense through the final 100 yards of the Kentucky Derby, but a game Street Sense and a confident Calvin Borel were not to be denied. Curlin would respond by winning the Preakness, failing in the Belmont Stakes & Haskell Invitational before winning 7 of his last 9 starts including the 08' Dubai World Cup. After losing to Curlin in a head-bob photo in the Preakness Street Sense would avoid Curlin winning the 07' Travers Stakes before retiring to stud following his only off the board finish, a fourth place effort over a sloppy Monmouth Park main track in the 2007 Breeders Cup' Classic. These two, despite their separate successes will remain forever linked.
I wish I could present a marvelous account of the battle between Saint Liam & Afleet Alex but to be completely honest that year I had other less successful horse on my radar. I do remember Alex's heart stopping win in the Preakness as well as his troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby. Giacomo shocked them all that year winning the Kentucky Derby at odds of 50/1, but it was the regally bred Saint Liam who would represent Alex biggest obstacle. Alex coasted through the summer on a crash course with the older, bolder Saint Liam. A hairline fracture of the left front cannon bone would sideline Alex for weeks leading up to the big clash that would determine horse of the year honours. Alex recovered from his injuries in time for Trainer Tim Ritchey to drill two bullet works into his charge before finally deciding that the best course of action would be to give Alex a little more time off. Alex missed the Breeders Cup' Classic, which was claimed by Saint Liam along with horse of the year honours. Later that same year Alex was diagnosed as having avascular necrosis (the dying of tissue in the bone) as was retired from active racing.
In retirment both Alex & Liam would be involved in lucrative stud deals that would see them standing at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky & Lane's End Farms in Versailles, Kentucky respectively and that is were their two stories become forever in-twined, despite never meeting on the field of play.
Afleet Alex was forced to end a promising race career early. After compiling eight wins from just twelve starts and banking almost three million dollars Alex unlimited potential was cut short by injure. Although Saint Liam avoided a similar faith during his racing carrer a barn yard incident during the summer of 2006 left Liam with an untreatable tibial fracture. Liam would be euthanized at age 6 after siring just 115 foals.***
Unfourtantly these two horse will be forever linked if by nothing more then serious injuire.
I would like to regale you with all the one on one battles I've witnessed as a track-side pundit but too voluminous are those editions for here & now.
What I really intended today was to produce a little bit of Rah-RAh Sis-Boom-Ba for my favorite sport.
Rivalry drives sports!! Doubt me? Just see Magic Vs Bird, Ali Vs Fraiser, Feder Vs Nadal, Crosby Vs Ovechkin or any other high ranking rivalry. Michael Jordan would have been just another point guard if it wasn't for the likes of Isiah Thomas or Clyde Drexler. Likewise for Wayne Gretzky as it relates to Mario Lemieux. Ever ask your self how competitive the Yankees would be if the Red-Sox were in another division? or how about this one? Just how advanced would Ferrari be if it wasn't for the constant challenge of Mercedes & Renault.
Winslow Homer versus Jackson Bend has yet to develop into the kind of rivalry that drives innovation or athletes salaries through the roof. That will hopefully develop after the rivalry has been renewed a few more times through-out the summer.
But I must warn you this could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.
***One of Saint Liam's 115 foals was a colt by the name of Buddy's Saint has already won 2 graded stakes races & banked $210,000 in just three career.