Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breeder's Cup Sentiments

I wanted to write something for the Breeder's Cup but didn't want it to be the same old pro or con analysis of the new, expanded program format (already done that). But what then, race analysis? Nah. Perhaps another time. So I decided to just let it be (there's always a Beatles song that applies somewhere). That is until I read Mary Rampellini's piece on Cash and Steve Asmussen on the DRF site. The Asmussen's are only one of hundreds of great stories in horse racing. I think that most fans are just as intrigued by the people in the industry as they are by the horses. And, almost all of these stories evoke some emotion. They often tell more like the tall yarns spun in folklore than slices of someone's reality. So there I had it, my subject, emotion. Even to those whom find fault with the Breeder's Cup they are passionate about how it can be improved. I am no different.
This year I have been feeling a little ambivalence leading up to the B.C. for many of the reasons I and others have voiced. However, as the day(s!) draw closer (T minus 1) I can feel the usual excited anticipation. Reading about the Asmussen brothers and how they have made their dreams come true prompted me to access old dreams of my own to one day be a trainer competing right there where they are now. For anyone who has shared such dreams you know the imagined campaign of your horse. You know that no equine ailment will occur to ruin this imaginary dream (sorry Red Giant, Indyanne). And if something does occur your skills or your horses superiority will somehow win the day. That's the dream they are all dreaming now. That's the dream we are all unconsciously involved in with them. That's the Breeder's Cup!
I have a tangential association with the Asmussens having briefly worked for them down in Laredo. To me they are a family that is bigger than life, characters of folklore, "carved out of wood" my friend would rightly say, while being so human at the same time. Several weeks ago after Curlin broke the earnings record at Belmont I went and congratulated Mr. Asmussen (Keith) on another family accomplishment. While I believe I saw the wheels of recognition turning in his head I knew that even if he did remember me it would be memory of a face, not a name, not of another carved of wood. But I had expected this as it was a long time ago and thousands of faces later for him. And it doesn't take away my memories, just adds to them. Also I think most of us think that those 'at the top' are somehow islands. But I think that no matter who you are it has to be a joyful experience to know others share in your joy. I know with absolute certainty how much Keith Asmussen enjoys the accomplishments of his family. And I know that the top is not where the family began. Keith and Marilyn got the family in the gate and class prevailed.
I know it is a business just like show business but for almost all of us that love the game it is much, much more than that. It is emotion more than all else. The Breeder's Cup, for me, has become a cathartic event. I relish and experience the joys of all the winners and feel the depths of the momentary despair of the losers. These feelings are the same toward all regardless of if the connections are my favorites or my least favorite; at least for the day(s). There is only one other event when this phenomenon of good will toward all holds sway and that is the Kentucky Derby. For me perhaps the most poignantly emotional moment of the year is when My Old Kentucky Home is played before the Derby. Just thinking about it fills one with what I think the English refer to as the brown study.
Horseracing is a state of mind and it's personal. We all take it personally when it gets slighted as it often does. Even the Breeder's Cup, it seems, has to play second fiddle to an infinitely less important telecast (see Left at the Gate). Now my intention is not to upset the NASCAR fans out there but even you must admit that a lead in show to some qualifying races does not have the same gravity as a Championship day. Speaking of gravity comparing NASCAR and Horseracing is a little like comparing Bud and Miller to a Gueuze or Framboise. Okay that was a little bit of a shot but not like having your chosen sport rescheduled!
The Breeder's Cup is not just another day(s). It is truly a spectacle of sport at it's highest level. In U.S. sport it is also the closest thing we have to a true World Championship of anything. It deserves to share the spotlight with any sport. Here's to hoping that all the emotions we experience over the next two days will be positive ones. But in the event something unwanted happens I know that is unwanted. I know that everything that could be done to prevent anything bad from happening was done. And even when such sad situations do occur and we all are feeling the pain I am reminded so much of why I love racing. In the end racing is a microcosm of life. We can never avoid the pain of loss in our lives, and our greatest moments of joy can't be held onto forever. Welcome to horseracing, life as it should be! Real! Enjoy the B.C.

In the event you did want B.C. picks go to to see many of the TBA member's B.C. choices.


Steve Zorn said...

Nice comments about the Asmussens, George. Keith Asmussen is still one of the hardest-working guys in the business, even at age -- whatever age he is. When I'm working the Keeneland September sale, he's one of the few who's out there every single day, trudging through the barns, looking at all the horses. It's hard work, and it's paid off for the family.

George said...

Steve, When I was at El Primero Keith was the first one on every new two year old. Or so it seemed to me. And being a training center there could be several hundred horses at the center at one time. Of course they don't all arrive enmasse. Even if it isn't a fact it has to be close to the truth and demanded a super effort. From what I observed the entire family is cut from that same cloth. They have earned and deserve all of their accolades. It was an honor to have worked there. -George

addendum: I appologize if this same response comes up three times as every time I posted it Google said the service was unavailable. So it may end up printing each time I wrote it.