Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I'm an ambivalent horseracing fan at the moment. Not because of the tragedy of Eight Belles. I accept that breakdowns are going to happen. And it's my opinion that they will happen to the best horses more often because they are the ones pushing the limits of their physiology. I didn't spend my life in the sport but it did dominate my life for some years and I know that we will never be able to eliminate them. In an article I read this week someone had said that the thoroughbred industry was working to get the number of breakdowns to zero. I wish I remember where I had read that. I don't see how anyone could bring up zero; it's never going to happen, never! [If I find it again I'll update this entry with the link.] Like almost everyone, I believe we should try to do all we can to minimize their occurrence. But the dominance of this conversation has me about worn out. Even many in the industry are reacting as though this has never happened before! Is it any wonder that those outside the world of racing and it's fans are disillusioned? It must smack of condescension. It has left me feeling a lack of enthusiasm for the Preakness.

As superior a colt as Big Brown appears to be I find myself not rooting for him. I wasn't following racing when Seattle Slew and Affirmed won the last triple crowns, and was too young to have appreciated Secretariat when he raced and won his triple crown. So one can imagine how I have eagerly awaited 'Next.' I could never have imagined I wouldn't be rooting for lucky number 12! Strangely enough in a conversation with a good friend she also expressed the same sentiment. Makes one wonder doesn't it?

There are some things that the racing industry just absolutely has to clean up and others that they should. Again a lot of this I have touched on before, but bear with me. The first most pressing issue, and I think most will agree, is the drug issue. I think the fact that Richard Dutrow has been cited for the use of illegal substances in the past makes it hard for me to root for him. I don't mean to make him a villain. There are many others that have also been cited, but I think it projects a bad image when those individuals are allowed to continue and end up winning these races. People may not say what they're thinking, but they're thinking it! I for one don't believe for a second that Big Brown needed or had any 'extra' help. At this point he is just better than his peers. I think Dutrow is a very good trainer but even his own reputation will not be what it should or could have been because of his past. That's too bad. But what's even worse is that it leaves a black mark on racing. We need strict drug laws in the game and we need them now. And the very first law should state anyone found violating the following laws is out, FOREVER!

Syndicate racing; I don't like it. I think it too, is bad for racing. Too many bosses. And out of those bosses too few recipients. I've met Cot Campbell, he is a very nice man and a very good salesman. He was very creative and very innovative with his vision. And the industry that he created resulted in a boon to the breeding industry, but, in my opinion, also promoted the industry tendency toward "fashionable pedigree's." The need to 'win now' and 'win early' became more critical. But, I've said it for years and I'll stick by my opinion: this type of ownership puts too much pressure on the trainers and the horse. I guess IEAH is another reason I'm not rooting Big Brown. I don't root for those guys on Wall Street to find new ways to profit at everyone else's expense and I can't root for the 'Wall Street' horse.

I could recite a litany of problems and many would give the appropriate response. I know there are a lot more issues. But I'll touch on just one more: Whipping. I guess we have all seen occasions where we felt it was over done and it probably was, but outlawing whipping isn't something I think is necessary. Stan Bergstein wrote a very good column in the DRF today (5/15), I agree with almost everything he said (especially about drugs) but not about the whipping. I watch a good amount of racing from Europe and I don't agree with his assessment. They do use the whip in Europe but the types of races where you don't see much whipping is routes on the turf, which they run much more often than in the U.S., so toward the finish the jockey can probably feel the horse is spent. As the saying goes 'there's no use in whipping a dead horse.' We run a much more intense form of racing here which lends itself more to using the whip.

These issues are foremost on my mind when it should be racing! We have a triple crown in progress. I do expect Big Brown to win the Preakness. I won't be devastated if he doesn't. However, if he does go to win the triple crown I fully expect that I will feel extremely elated and happy for the horse, his connections and for experiencing it myself, because I know, somehow, it will be end up good for the Sport.

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