JC / Railbird



Take care, race promoters, Steve Crist has a peeve:

The word “champion” has a very specific meaning in Thoroughbred racing: The winner of a year-end divisional championship. The Breeders’ Cup has done its best to devalue the word by referring to any winner of a Breeders’ Cup race as a “Breeders’ Cup champion” whether or not that horse also wins a championship. Now Monmouth Park is also misusing the word in promoting the principals in the Aug. 2 Haskell as “Preakness Champion Rachel Alexandra” and “Belmont Stakes Champion Summer Bird.”

Rachel Alexandra is 1-to-100 to be the champion 3-year-old filly of 2009, and Summer Bird is a possible contender for the male version of that award, but until the Eclipse Awards are announced next January, neither should be called a champion.

While on the topic of language usage, how about banishing the phrase “taking on the boys” (and its variations, “running against the boys,” “battling the boys,” “facing the boys,” etc.) from turf writing? It was a hoary phrase before the “Year Era of the Chick” began, but with Rachel Alexandra making a habit of stepping outside her division, and a number of other distaffers doing the same recently, its use has tipped from colloquial cutesiness into egregious abuse. I know it can be tough to write about a subject repeatedly without resorting to cliché — how many ways are there, really, to talk about a female horse racing in open company? — but this is one that needs a rest.

Related (if you’re into such things): A bracing excerpt from Kingsley Amis’ “The King’s English.”

Pre an Also-Ran

An apt use of racing terminology in an unrelated context: “An ‘also-ran’ is, literally, ‘a horse that does not win, place, or show in a race.’ The world loves an underdog but it never loves an also-ran. It forgets about an also-ran.”