Monday, May 5, 2008

It's a Shame

It's so unfortunate how much negativism is occurring because of Eight Belles breakdown. I know those of us who are fans don't enjoy seeing them happen (breakdowns), but I suppose we accept them more easily than the non-fan. Acceptance is not the same as callousness. We are not immune to the tragedy, nor the emotions or empathy that any human would feel under such circumstances. I am also surprised at how much criticism is being thrown around about the handling of the tragedy and not just at the industry in general. It's been aimed at everyone and thing from NBC to Donna Brothers to Larry Jones. Richard Sanomir and William Rhoden's articles in the NYT are certainly making the rounds. Alan Left at the Gate mentioned Rhoden's article yesterday and I more or less expected that was the last I would see of it. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I went to visit another of my favorite blogs - The Frontal Cortex, not horse related (usually) - and I was again faced with Rhoden's article. Jonah Lehrer writes a terrific blog and he has a great book out, Proust Was A Neuroscientist, and I urge you all to give it a visit. However, I obviously disagree with his opinion (he is in agreement with Rhoden) on this issue. Yesterday, I didn't comment directly on Rhoden's comments at Allan's blog because I didn't really think them worth response. But, today, encountering the article again, in a completely different context and arena, I felt more compelled. So rather than repeat myself here's the link: The Frontal Cortex.

**For convenience I have added the text below -with some spelling corrections-on 5/12/08. But please do visit Jonah's site, it is very good.The Frontal Cortex.

Jonah, I don't agree with you or Rhoden at all. I think that it would be an enlightening experience for you to work at a track for a while and then see if you still feel the same way. You obviously have diligently applied yourself in the areas of your choosing. I'm certain your experiences in those areas have informed your opinions; from your time and experience in the lab to that of the kitchen. It's very easy to criticize the worst part of anything, it's the worst part of it! But I have experienced more heart and soul in the race industry than anywhere else. Risk is inherent in almost everything. There is more in horseracing; some activities do present greater risk than others. No one in the industry wants injuries to occur nor are they immune to the tragedy. They are an unfortunate reality that is part of the business. The more an activity is performed the more every possible outcome will occur. But make no mistake, the horses are very well trained and cared for athletes, especially those running at the level of the Kentucky Derby. The argument that these horses are forced to do this I can't address. No one can really know what their thoughts are, but I do know many seem to love and thrive on the competition. Rhoden's comparison of racing to bullfighting is just absurd. As to the question of why is H.Racing given a pass? I think the question is phrased so there can't be a proper response. It implies guilt. Again, I urge you to go work at the track for a bit. While there are good and bad (people, systems and intentions) in every aspect in life, I certainly have not seen any hint of ill intent by anyone I have encountered in the industry; there is no guilt that I have seen. Again this is not to say the industry does not have serious issues they need to deal with. Perhaps as an industry there is some guilt in not dealing with those issues as one body, but that is off point here. Horseracing does have wonderful tradition and it does generate lots and lots of revenue for state and local governments. Since when are they bad things? I can't talk to the issue of dog racing I have no knowledge or experience of it. I like many others have heard the hearsay, I don't know the facts. In his article Rhoden also wrongly attributes intention to Larry Jones' (Eight Belles trainer) comments when he writes "But even through the grief, Jones instinctively toed the industry line about racing." I think it's irresponsible reporting. It should have properly been attributed that in his (Rhoden's) opinion that was what Jones' was doing. Again a sentence phrased so as to imply guilt. Just irresponsible (and this is in The NYT). Jones has been in the sport a long time. We all are familiar with the downside of whatever profession we work in and Jones obviously was dealing with a highly emotional and difficult situation. Rhoden's portrayal of Jones would make any reader think that Jones' grief was less than sincere. It also makes it seem that Jones' response was defensive as if he believed he needed to defend the industry he has dedicated his life to. In my opinion, if Jones was defensive I believe that Rhoden likely made him feel that way if indeed he actually was the one interviewing him. Racing is a wonderful sport that has inherent in its nature, the risk of very tragic events. It is very unfortunate that one of those occurrences had to part of the Kentucky Derby.

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