You heard it last year when Curlin won Horse of the Year and your hearing it again this year as many Californian champions fall short of an eclipse award. Ever since the outcry for a match up between the two most popular fillies in racing arose the west cried out about the supposed West Coast bias. What this is, for those of you who don't know, is when the East coast does not take some or most of the West coast horses seriously, for a number of various reasons. For the last two years the cry from the west has been getting louder and louder, and I am finally getting tired of it.
From my perspective there is a bias both ways. The east normally gets all the attention, and is at times considered deeper in talent, than the divisions out west. The west, understandably gets defensive in return, and starts to look east coast horses less rationally and more critically. Personally I am not bias in the least. I see a horse that I like, and I'll stick to it. I liked Brother Derek a couple years ago, and this year I like Rail Trip and Zensational. All were California based horses.
More recently the west has gotten more defensive because their unbeaten champion female, Zenyatta, lost in the Horse of the Year voting, last year, to the 2007 Horse of the Year, Curlin. The debate of who should've won still rages on. Those on Zenyatta's side believed that her unbeaten record, which was compiled mainly of starts in California, and against fillies, should've been enough. Curlin's camp argues that a more ambitious campaign which required him travel to the Middle East, back to the east coast, then all the way out to California, overall, outweighed Zenyatta's unbeaten record. This year, was going to be all about Zenyatta, until Rachel Alexandra showed up. Again the west argues Zenyatta's unbeaten record, and the remote possibility she may win the Breeder's Cup Classic. As of now, though, Rachel Alexandra has had the most testing season of the two, racing eight times, three times against colts, and one against older males.
Up until a couple years ago, I could understand California's defensiveness towards the east in regards to the bias. The west coast races were just as prestigious and just a tough, competition wise. After California rushed into synthetics, though, they lost all credence. Some people will tell you synthetics are the same as dirt, yet many dirt horses switching to the synthetics don't reproduce the same dominance they asserted while racing on conventional dirt. The synthetics are one of the reasons why, even when Curlin lost the Breeder's Cup Classic last year he still won Horse of the Year over Zenyatta. Before California switched to synthetics, the historical presence and prestige of their richest races was just as great a the east coast tracks, but after they switched California, does not hold the same historical significance that tracks like Churchill Downs and Saratoga give.
I am not saying I despise all of California and that I can't stand all their owners, trainers, jockeys and horses, that is not my point at all. In fact their star sprinter, the speedy Zensational should be among the finalists for the Eclipse Awards best three year old male. Well Armed was a favorite of mine, up until his injury. Pioneerof the Nile was my Kentucky Derby pick, and Rail Trip is one of my favorites for the Classic. My point is this whole bias thing has gotten way out of hand, and if the West really wants to start being taken seriously again, they should lose the synthetics, and the defensiveness along with them.