Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Standard

As an added bit of fun and interest, fellow TBA blogger, and our intrepid leaded (and founding father I think) has posted a response arguing against my post. I have included a link to his response at the bottom of the post. (I've got to try to get you all to read it!) My thanks to Patrick. This is a previous entry that was reworked for the TBA blogspot space on The Blood-Horse site and ran 10/19/2008. After the previous three entries I thought it apropos to re-post it today.

I know that trying to change something in racing is like trying to stop the tides. But if I could there is one regulation I would like to see the industry impose upon itself: No horse can stand until he is a horse (5 year old). I think this would have a positive ripple effect throughout the industry and here's how.

It would have the positive effect of horses having longer campaigns. This in turn will have several positive consequences. First, a horse will have to prove his durability and superiority on the track for more than a season or a season and a half. It will nurture new fans because they will be able to follow and root for a horse for several years. It would also create rivalries, so rare these days outside of the triple crown events, further nurturing fan interest.

What about a horse that is injured? Implement a standard that makes the horse sit out one year after it's mishap before standing. So, for example, a horse that is injured at 2 would have to wait until its' fourth year to stand. I think this would be a propitious standard because it would forestall the mysterious rash of injuries that would almost certainly occur for most successful three years olds! Certainly it would not benefit anyone to feign injury and sit out a year therefore taking a chance that the shine may fade from the star. It would also have the further effect of allowing time to impose its' propensity to allow clearer vision of value.

To do this would not curtail business one iota. I'm certain bidding for future stallions would be just as heated as ever. However, I think it would have some positive effects. One being somewhat reduced prices paid for a future stallions -with a ripple down effect through the industry - because to buy a colt at three would now carry more risk. The risks are manifold. The most obvious risk is that a colt does not continue to be as dominating a runner as it matures. There is also the risk that a colt from the next year's crop may become the shiny new gem outshining the previous year's model. And of course with every start that proves durability comes risk of injury. It will also result in something that we rarely see in racing anymore, it would oblige the best horses from different crops to compete against each other to prove superiority. So if the connections of a colt risk racing a horse into his fourth year before selling its' rights and it does prove to be dominant that huge payday will still be there. But the difference would be that we could be more certain a horse is worth the price. This year we would have had an example of how this would play out if Big Brown and Curlin met in the B.C. Classic. If Big Brown did win the race he would, in my mind, be absolutely the best horse running. If he lost to Curlin but ran well it would hardly diminish his value (of course this is assuming Curlin wins). However, next year we would be able to see if BB would maintain his dominance when he ran against the best of the next crop at year's end as well as maturing horses of his own crop. We would also get to see if his negative traits would be his undoing or not. This year, such a regulation would also have had the effect of assuring fans that they would get to see BB run again, as his injury is not career ending. In turn the answers to these questions would truly inform us of his value as a stallion to promote the well being of the breed. This last point may be the best result of this scenario: it would have a long term positive effect on the durability of the breed. And added durability is something that almost everyone would have to agree is desirable.
Perhaps one other positive is that it would prompt more discussion of which horses are superior through time as there would be the much more tangible thread of competition between crops. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that the best representatives of three crops may meet. Though unlikely it wouldn't be nearly as impossible as it is now. This would provide kindling - and results - for the flames of opinion. Any time there is disagreement of opinion among fans it's good for the sport.

Admittedly there are some negatives to this plan also. One of the most obvious is that it may result in a later start for some horses because there would be less need to get horses to the track at two. I happen to think that is a positive but I know many – especially owners – will see it as a negative. I know we have recently heard from Dr. Bramlage about the positive effect racing at two has on the longevity of a horses career. But I for one don’t believe it to be true. And in a letter printed in the October 11 issue of the Blood-Horse, Dr. Mark A. Rothstein (BH4890) points out one of the most obvious reasons; (paraphrasing) there’s usually a good reason a horse doesn’t start at two and that reason is more likely the reason that those that start later don’t last as long. In short they were flawed from the beginning.

Another negative might be a lighter schedule for many horses. Again, I would look at this as a positive. I'd sacrifice a few races per season for the benefit of following a horse through a longer career. Especially when it would result in the type "inter-crop" competition I have already mentioned. While I’m certain other’s will have a longer list of negatives I think the positives are far more plentiful.

This could all be accomplished without anyone ever missing a beat in the industry. It would not cause one problem if the next crop of new stars of the breeding industry had to wait an extra year to start their service. There are enough stars in that universe already, no void would occur. This idea limits and possibly eliminates the need for anyone to lose. It would just cause a one year delay in reaping rewards.

And now to the rebuttal at Handride .

1 comment:

Superfecta said...

Great post.

This is why I would like to see financial penalties for stallions retired at three - raising their Breeders' Cup nomination fees would be a start, but I like your idea of forcing them to sit out if injured.

Ideally the Jockey Club would get in on the action too and, down the line, not accept registrations from horses known to pass on unsoundness as many other breeds do - but that's a longer-term goal.