Saturday, January 24, 2009

Forgotten Superstars-Skip Away

We leave the human division of the Forgotten Superstars universe today for the first time as we look at perhaps my favorite racehorse ever- Skip Away.
"Skippy" raced for 4 years from ages 2 to 5 and racked up 4 Eclipse Awards,which are the racing versions of winning MVP's only in specific categories.
Skip Away was the 3 year old of the year for 1996,won the Eclipse for top older horse (4 years and up) for 1997 and 1998 and was Horse of the Year (kinda like Best of the Champions) for 1998.
Skip Away also is the third highest money winner of all time,although one can make a real argument for being the top money earner in North American history ( and Bill Finley does here) as the two horses ahead of him on the earnings list (Curlin and Cigar) both inflated their earnings by winning highly overpriced purses in Dubai to boost their totals and without those wins,neither would have finished ahead of Skip Away...

So why isn't a horse such as Skip Away remembered by the average or casual fan?
Well,I think it comes down to one reason-he hated the track surface at Churchill Downs.
Skippy ran two races at the twin spires and was well beaten in both the Kentucky Derby at three and the Breeders Cup Classic at 5.
Most of the general public believes that racing begins in May at Louisville and ends in June at Belmont,so the poor Derby kept him out of the public eye and the loss in the 1998 Classic was the difference in catching Cigar for the top spot in money earnings,as Curlin would race after both had retired.
Wins in those two races would likely have made Skip Away the most remembered horse in the last twenty years.
When you add his close seconds in the Preakness and Belmont to the equation,his Q score among sports fans just doesn't add up.

Skip Away would charge up late in his three year old year with wins in the Ohio Derby,Haskell Invitational,Woodbine Million and in his only meeting with Cigar,defeated him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Skip Away's win over Cigar cemented him as the better horse(in our opinion) as a great older horse usually has the edge over a great three year old.
Look back to 1978 when 4 year old Seattle Slew beat 3 year old Affirmed and a year later when the same Affirmed nipped 3 year old champ Spectacular Bid for just two examples,so when the three year old wins,it says it all.
Cigar fans point to the five pound weight difference as the factor in their horses loss,but watch the replay,Preakness winner Louis Quatorze presses Skip Away the entire race and gave him anything but an easy lead and that contributes to the greatness of the victory.
Watch this classic below!

At four,Skip Away was not as dominant as the handicap division was as strong as it was in years with powerhouses such as Gentleman,Formal Gold,Will's Way and Skippy swapping wins and losses with each other.
Skip Away still added wins in the Massachusetts Handicap,Suburban Handicap,a repeat win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and this dominant win in the Breeders Cup Classic to nail down the Eclipse for top older horse.

At five,Skip Away was just about unbeatable in winning his first seven races of the year,five of which were Grade ones before running into an sloppy track in a third try at the Jockey Club Gold Cup and then his final visit to Churchill Downs.
Wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup in his only race in California in 1998 were in addition to wins in the Donn and Gulfstream Park Handicaps,the Pimlico Special,Mass Cap,Iselin Handicap and my favorite a win against the best field of the season to date-a dominant win in the Woodward Stakes below.

Skip Away was retired after the loss in Kentucky and currently stands for $10,000 at
Hopewell Farm in Kentucky,where his numbers as a stallion are solid,but not spectacular.

Was Skip Away the horse of the nineties?
Well,we think so,but he certainly deserves the recognition and entry into our universe as a Forgotten Superstar.

Bullpen Notes

Big fight in Los Angeles tonight as Antonio Margarito defends his WBA Welterweight strap against Shane Mosley at the sold out Staples Center.
This shapes up as a top action fight and we like Margarito by either a late round stoppage or unanimous winner.
The fight will be televised live on HBO.

The Cleveland Browns fired Pro Personnel director T.J. McCreight as the George Kokinis train prepares to arrive by the lake.
McCreight had a background of working with Kokinis and was thought to be a strong candidate to stay on in his position,but Kokinis must think that he can do that job himself as he handled those chores in Baltimore....

Until tomorrow!

Photo Credit

1 comment:

Shawn said...

From Cherie:

I remember "Skippy" & I hope he's living a happy life. I love your horseracing tributes to these athletic beautiful creatures that too many forget too soon.

Would love to see more!