What a show it would be

Little Mike had his first workout of 2013 Sunday and Wise Dan's return to serious training probably isn't too far behind. Both are tremendous horses. But who's better? Hopefully, racing will get lucky enough to have that question answered on the racetrack in 2013.

There's nothing more exciting in this sport than rivalries, where great horses meet and superiority is settled. But they don't exist anymore. Top horses don't run enough and when they do their owners and trainers often have their eye on the easiest spot possible. Case in point: Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra never met, and that's something that could only happen in the most dysfunctional of sports.

Wise Dan versus Little Mike may not be Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, but a showdown between the two turf stalwarts would be great theater, likely the race of the year.

If the Little Mike camp wants to prove they have the better horse and were robbed at the Eclipse Awards then they should be up for a challenge. Go wherever Wise Dan goes.

And this time, it could actually happen.

Both are older, male grass horses. And while Wise Dan won the Breeders' Cup Mile and Little Mike won the Breeders' Cup Turf at a mile-and-a-half, Wise Dan can go longer and Little Mike can go shorter.

If healthy, both are likely to make a lot of money in 2013. If that's all that matters, they'll avoid one another, pile up victories versus inferior competition and then go their separate ways in the Breeders' Cup.

Perhaps, though, these owners will try to balance sportsmanship with the bottom line. Don't they want to find out who is truly the better horse, Wise Dan or Little Mike? Why wouldn't they welcome a challenge? Being 1-5 in a five-horse field only proves so much.

I would think that Little Mike's owners, Priscilla and Carlo Vacarezza, would be particularly eager to face Wise Dan. Little Mike is one of the best horses never to win an Eclipse Award and the reason is that he happened to show up in the same year that Wise Dan, also a grass horse, put together an outstanding season.

If the Little Mike camp wants to prove they have the better horse and were robbed at the Eclipse Awards then they should be up for a challenge. Go wherever Wise Dan goes.

The right spot for the two to meet is the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. It's a rich race ($500,000), a Grade 1, takes place on a huge stage and the distance (1 1/8 miles) suits both. Little Mike will be stabled at Churchill Downs and Wise Dan will be just down the road at Keeneland.

Who would win? I honestly don't know. But I sure would like to find out.

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That the Jockeys' Guild has endorsed a proposed set of medication rules devised and supported by the Jockey Club is a powerful statement. These are the men and women who put their lives on the line every time they climb aboard a horse. They are asking the sport to make the game as safe as possible and obviously feel that means limiting the use of legal drugs.

"Our unanimous vote to support these rules should send a strong signal that the Jockeys' Guild is united in efforts to make racing safer for both jockeys and horses," said the guild's chairman, John Velazquez, in a press release. "This is our livelihood, and we strongly encourage these efforts which will strengthen the integrity of racing."

The horses can't speak for themselves, but the jockeys can. They want integrity and safe conditions and their message should not be ignored.

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The Meadowlands, which has gone through some difficult times and almost closed before being rescued by Jeff Gural, is enjoying a resurgence. On Saturday, the Big M handled $3,711,378. That's not much by thoroughbred standards but it was huge for the Meadowlands as it was larger than any nightly handle in 2012, with the exception of the Hambletonian card. Not bad for a frigid winter night in January.

Handle is up 37 percent on the year.

Their secret? It's actually quite simple. The Meadowlands has been offering full fields and competitive racing on a nightly basis. It's all about the product.

Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at wnfinley@aol.com.