What'd You Win is far more important than Who'd Ya Beat

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

December 4th, 2014

I loathe the question, “Who’d s/he beat” when someone attempts to throw shade at the accomplishment that is a Grade 1 victory. To me, race success is binary: either you win or you lose, and it’s not the obligation of the connections of a well-regarded horse (such as California Chrome) to ensure that the best horses show up in a race they’re targeting.

The Grade 1 stakes race is the pinnacle of North American Thoroughbred racing, and while not all are created equal (e.g. the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands > the Cotillion) and there are too many of them, the system mostly works in that a Grade 1 race is more prestigious than a Grade 2—especially at the divisional level (e.g. the Wood Memorial is a more important race than the Gotham).

When it comes to the Grade 1 level, if you win the race you get the spoils and that’s the case with California Chrome’s Hollywood Derby as much as it has been throughout history even with such superstars as Point Given’s Haskell, Mineshaft’s Suburban, Rachel Alexandra’s Mother Goose, or Zenyatta’s Clement Hirsch.

I mean, seriously, look at this field Point Given faced in the Haskell en route to his Horse of the Year campaign (over two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow) and tell me with a straight face how it’s any different than California Chrome’s Hollywood Derby. It’s not. Both are Grade 1 races that likely would have attracted deeper, more talented fields if not for the presence of a dual classic winner.

None of this is to suggest that California Chrome is the only option for the Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old male. The case for Bayern is still strong. California Chrome is my choice, but I could understand why someone would go with the horse who beat Chrome 2-to-1 including in the richest race in the Western Hemisphere against all comers.

But let Bayern’s accomplishments be your rallying cry, not some misguided notion that the Hollywood Derby wasn’t “a real Grade 1”.

It’s real, and it was spectacular.