Sunday, November 2, 2014

Racing Put on the Defensive - Again

I’d love to just recap my picks yesterday (not bad but not great), throw in Maryjean’s win Friday night (just great!) and add in the wonderful hospitality of just about everyone at Hawthorne Race Course where we spent the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday. 

I’m no Chromie, but California Chrome ran big.  Main Sequence and Untapable were tremendous.  The upsets and payoffs throughout the BC were amazing!

However, the cloud hanging over the Classic unfortunately needs some discussion.

Fortunately for me (we have a 7 hour plus drive ahead of us to western Iowa today!), Bill Finley summarized very well the reasoning why Bayern should have come down.  You can read that here. I do disagree with his assessment of the Horse of the Year voting, but otherwise I’m right there with him. 

I would add a couple of points of my own to the discussion as well:

There are those who argue that the race was long and there was time to make up the setback at the start and the others just couldn’t do it.  I would come back with not only Finley’s argument that the entire complexion of the race changed but would also add then that you’ve opened up the start of a horse race to all kinds of antics.

Picture this conversation in some paddock in the future: “Our main competition is on your inside.  When you break, dive in hard – don’t topple him or anything, just knock him off stride.  The race is a mile and a sixteenth so the stews won’t bother you and we get clear sailing from there on out.”

Is that just “race riding”?  Or is it setting a very dangerous precedent for horse and rider?  Is that just “playing the game”?  Is it cheating?  Rubbin’ may be racing in NASCAR, but it’s not in horse racing.  Jostling happens but taking out your rivals…that needed to be called.  Bayern probably just got away from Garcia, but that doesn't make it okay either.  And I would ask those defending it, just exactly where is the dividing line between where it matters and where it doesn’t?  A mile?  Five furlongs?  Just Quarter Horse racing so Thoroughbred racing should be an anything goes slugfest?

I’ve watched the head on too many times now and there are two things I DON’T see that everyone defending the non-decision says happened: I did not see where Garcia tried to correct immediately and I certainly didn’t see where an alleged “slow break” by Shared Belief cost him.  In watching the replay, Beyern never took a straight step.  He angled left right away.  How Mike Smith was supposed to be at fault for not getting him out of the gate is simply contradictory to the video evidence.

Additionally, the stewards can NOT wait 90+ minutes to issue a statement.  You made the call now explain it to everyone right away.  On the video monitors.  Clearly and concisely.  Go all John Madden and use a telestrator to illustrate your points.  Don’t run away and then leave it some PR guy to spin the decision for you.  You should be able to explain that decision right away.  Folks may not agree with you but it certainly alleviates any allegations of fraud, favoritism or collusion.

Which leads me to my final point.  Several folks who are casual fans at best connected with me after the race and wanted to know if that was REALLY legal in horse racing.  Can you really just take out part of the field and then pocket $2.75 million dollars? I didn’t really know how to respond.  It’s legal because the judges there said it was.

“What was their reasoning?”

“No idea.  They don’t have to tell us.”

“Really?  That doesn’t seem right.”

On our biggest stage we can’t help but shoot ourselves in the foot.  It simply never, ever fails.  We follow up a 2013 BC Classic that was for the ages with this debacle.  The game keeps making itself harder and harder to defend.  Yesterday for the first time after 30 years as a fan, nearly a decade as an owner and going on four years as a turf writer, I was embarrassed to be part of the industry.  Nobody really won that race yesterday and, in some ways, we all lost.

1 comment:

Sandra Warren said...

Before the first Breeders Cup in 1984, the California stewards gathered all of the trainers and jockeys together and made it very clear in that meeting that they weren't going to stand for any shenanigans during the Cup races. No one should think they weren't willing to take down a horse in a million dollar race. Then in the very first race, they disqualified Fran's Valentine (a California bred!) for a pretty minor infraction, and later had to adjusted a difficult end to the first BC Classic. The rules had been made clear to everyone: there's a lot of money on the line, but we are going to be more strict, not less. If only racing could return to those glory days at Hollywood Park. They're gone in more ways than one.