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Posted By Dix,
Jun 7, 2014 at 6:55 PM
I admit to not being a fan of horse racing, big time.
But, I watched Secretariat.
And they're off !!
I love horse racing... well, more specifically the history of the sport is endlessly fascinating for me. My interest dates from the late '60s when I read Walter Farley's wonderful "Man O' War". Yesterday, the good man looked over at me and said, "OK smartypants, list the Triple Crown winners". I did, including the years they won. I watched Secretariat blow Sham away in the Belmont, I watched Seattle Slew win the TC, and the next year I watched Affirmed do it.
I am dismayed by shoddy breeding practices (cheap "speed horses"), the fact that no one races a top quality 3 yr. old as a mature animal (4 yrs. and up) because they're afraid of the rigors of the handicap division. It's all about the money now... "protecting their investment". But what that means for the vigor of the Thoroughbred breed is increasing frailty because the real mettle of racehorse is how they mature and handle increased distances under handicap weights. That so many of these horses end their lives in trucks bound for Mexican slaughter houses is a disgrace and a stain on the sport. The tragic end of Alydar (Affirmed's arch rival and a magnificent animal) speaks volumes to greed. It is believed his injury was staged so a struggling stable could collect insurance money... this is all too common in the high stakes world of international competition.
I was particularly saddened when the last bastion of the handicap races, the Jockey Club Gold Cup was reduced from 2 miles to 1 1/2 miles. I watched the magnificent Shuvee (mare!) win that race two years in a row. Before that, the great Kelso won it 5 times! There is no longer a 2 mile race in the USA... none of the owners of "great horses" have the sac to send their "cash cows" to the post. The late owner of Curlin' was a notable exception (bless his heart) and he testified before Congress on the subject. I believe it followed the injury to Barbaro; who was not, IMO a great horse. A good one, yes... great? UNHUH.
We've never been a horse racing family (in fact, I don't watch any sports outside the Olympics), but thru various friends I've been to a few races, including the Kentucky Derby. We usually make it a point to tune into the Kentucky Derby each year, perhaps more of an excuse to enjoy some mint juleps, than anything else...
Well, this year my 4 yo was watching with us, as they paraded the horses one by one out to the starting gate. The kid has always seemed a little psychic, often talking about events for which he wasn't present, or telling us of things he thought already happened, which would then happen hours or days later. So, I ask him which horse will win, and he watches them parade out. He days, "the purple one." I say, "which purple one?" He says, "number five." That was Calif Chrome.
Guess I should've put some money on it...
Chrome's owner really stepped in it during a post race interview.
I agree with CC's owner. A few things need to be fixed in the "Triple Crown". 1.) Run all or none. No show the Derby and you fugidaboutit. 2.) Take Pimlico out of the series and replace it with a decent track. 3.) Put a few more weeks between the three races for the horses to recover from the prior race and shipping.
What needs to be "fixed" with the Triple Crown are the present breeding practices of the Thoroughbred industry! Once upon a time the 3 races were run within 1-2 wks. of each other (did any of you know that?). I don't see how more "rest time" is going to improve the "result". 3 wks. "rest" is insufficient for a 3 yr. old race horse in peak condition between races? gimmee a break! the horse can either do it or he can't! This is the real "proving ground" for the worthiness of future breeding stock, you guys! And this is where the spectre of "syndication" rears its ugly head. And this is why none of the "great" 3 yr. olds ever enter a starting gate at 4yrs. old. Why "risk" the astronomical syndication fees?? How about because the integrity of the Thoroughbred is at stake? how about because it's what is necessary?
I can assure you none of it will staunch the flow of horses with a 250+ yr. pedigree to Mexican slaughter houses. Horses bred of sound lines and bred to "go a distance" and sensibly brought along to face the challenge of the 3 yr. old "Classics" will always deliver a competitive field (cheap speed horses should stay in the barn)! But the distance races have been reduced to a paltry 1 1/2 miles. Some of us believe we need to get back to breeding for strength, STAMIMA, and the ability to run and carry weight over distance! If you don't understand how the two are interconnected you're clearly in the majority. No Triple Crown winner in 36 yrs.. Look at what the majority as wrought in 40+ yrs.. I want to see a Belmont victory and I want to see that horse race as 4 yr. old in the handicapdivision When network TV shows the same deference to the 4 yr. olds. and the handicap division as they do to the "Classic" 3 yr. old races we'll be on our way to improving present breeding practices and shout out and thank you to Frank Deford who had a great essay on NPR. We no longer have any connection with horses and that's why racing has declined. Smart guy, very perceptive, and he always asks questions that make us wince a little teeny bit.
Guess I am glad that I didn't suggest cutting the Belmont to a mile and a quarter.
As they said, the fact that these dudes got a one-in-a-million horse for peanuts is going to be the biggest boom to the sport ever! Now everyone is gonna think they can do it too!