The brilliant runner who flies the quarter in 21.1 and a half in 43.2 is a horse that - under nearly every circumstance - is incapable of staying a classic distance. An analogy might be a baseball pitcher who lifts weights and becomes too muscular.. At some point, the over-muscling prevents fluid action and motion in his pitching arm. The more powerful his arm becomes, the more his velocity suffers. In fact, some weight lifters can't throw a ball at all. Why is it that a man with big strong arms can't throw as fast as some skinny dude with not much muscling at all?
In breeding, there is often similar occurrence when thoroughbreds are bred speed on speed. They tend to be too physically powerful, too blocky, and often suffer from a lack of fluidity and symmetry - not to mention that they are nearly all unmanageable front runners who won't easily rate or cooperate. Too much of one thing denotes too little of another. That's why we never see our Olympic 100 meter dashers, competing and winning the mile races, nor do we see our best sprinters running in the classics. It's not that they cannot try, but physically they aren't capable. So, when we mate, we try to add to what the other lacks, not double up on it. Zensational to Indian Blessing (as is said to be in the works) does not expand either horses class, it limits it.
In handicapping, betting a horse to stay a distance of ground who can keep up with with the early pace of very fast sprinters will earn you a one-way ticket to the poor house. It is a near physiological impossibility for a horse to have the power and sheer speed to shade or come very close to a 44 half, AND have the inherent stamina to run 10 furlongs in top company. Remember this as you survey the youngsters who will attempt the classics.. A few of the great speedsters like Dr. Fager and Seattle Slew may have come close to combining the attributes of both sprinter and stayer, but both had vulnerabilities in this regard. Neither would beat Safely Kept. Only another sprinter of her class, who could keep her in range could beat her, not front-running classicists like Slew or Dr. Fager. I remember seeing the top class handicapper and champion, Ack Ack, tackle sprinters in a race at Santa Anita. The race was at 7 furlongs, a good compromise distance for both the speed of the sprinter, and the routing speed and class of Ack Ack. I thought he was the cinch of the century.. The others were peons compared to him. Well the long and short of it was that when the Grade 3 sprinter, Right or Wrong, unleashed a half in nearly 44, the great Ack Ack was very hard pressed to stick to him. He was absolutely all out and very hard ridden from gate to wire to beat the "inferior horse" a short nose. The point is that Right or Wrong was not nearly the horse that Ack Ack was at the routing distances, but when Ack Ack played his game, the class distance between them shortened to almost nothing. Ack Ack was not a better horse than Right or Wrong at that distance - he was an equal. I was dead wrong. At 6 furlongs, Right or Wrong would have probably beaten the mighty Ack Ack.
While watching that particular race, the lesson was learned; No horse can do all things with equal aplomb. On the spectrum of speed and stamina, the more
that a horse performs to one side or the other, the less he is likely to excel as he moves to the opposite side of that same spectrum. All of this
will be true whether we are discussing mankind or the tortoise and the hare. It is an easy concept to grasp I think, but applying it absolutely
to horses is sometimes difficult, particularly as they change company.. A sprinter can get a route distance if he lands in a race of inferior company, and a router can win sprinting in the same circumstance. Though Zenyatta won sprinting as a maiden, she would have been unable to do so when she developed further and ran in the Grade 1 races. Nor would she have beaten Rachel Alexandra in the shorter races. At 9 furlongs, in my estimation, they come together.. On the other hand, Rachel Alexandra if trained to do so, might give top sprinters a good run for their money. But if pitched too far, she will come back to the classic field. It is not a criticism of either to say they cannot do all things equally well, it is the limitation that nature imposes.
And such is the reality of the racing horse and the handicapper who tries to understand them.. Speed is the element that makes the race horse great, and when endowed with too much.. it is also the element that limits them.