Who Will Step Up to Save the Game?
LOS ANGELES, October 15, 2014--Catching up on my reading after weeks of contemplating Florida sunsets, I found a few items worth examining more closely.
The first was Churchill Downs Incorporated's announcement
that they had restored the Hollywood Futurity -- citing its production of six previous Derby winners -- to its list of Kentucky Derby 2015 qualifying preps after dropping it from the original line-up last year.
Shared Belief's victory in that race's final renewal in Inglewood earned him 2013's two-year-old championship; a consequence that could have proven an embarrassing oversight by CDI had an injury not forced the champ off the Derby trail.
The new home of the Futurity is Los Alamitos Racecourse -- not yet a Grade I venue, but a candidate for national recognition should Shared Belief collect a $5M bonus for winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in addition to both the Los Alamitos Derby and the Pacific Classic.
According to Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery, "The robust commitments by the team at Los Alamitos suggest a strong desire to be included in our series, and we’re confident the race is likely to attract aspiring and compelling Derby prospects…We’re delighted to welcome the Los Alamitos Futurity to the Kentucky Derby ‘Prep Season."
The preceding congeniality, however, still doesn't flow in the direction of Hawthorne Racecourse whose Illinois Derby was rendered virtually meaningless by CDI when it changed the basis for Derby eligibility from earnings in any graded stakes race to points earned in races it designates.
That competitor-crippling action was uncalled-for, and surely emboldened CDI rival The Stronach Group to deploy similar tactics to eliminate racing competition at Calder which succeeded this year.
Indeed, CDI's karma is presently so bad that it just announced it will add an executive position charged with improving its image in the wake of handle losses suffered at consecutive Churchill meets and at its Arlington Park property. CDI is also facing intervention from the state of Louisiana regarding its Fair Grounds property that has already lowered purses for their next race meet.
As CDI is now considering selling the above properties, an era of new civility might best be initiated by negotiations with Hawthorne to add the Illinois Derby-- at least as a second 2015 wild card qualifier two weeks before the big dance.
Given the cold shoulder it has given boycotting horseplayers in the past, it was a pleasant surprise to see that Daily Racing Form
commented positively on the effectiveness of this grass roots movement:
Standing Up for Horseplayers Everywhere
OLDSMAR, FL, September 1, 2014—Watching and wagering in air-conditioned comfort while my wife enthusiastically engaged the tropical humidity of a Tampa summer elsewhere, I couldn't help wondering why horses were still forced to compete when and where the weather is inhospitable to both man and beast.
As I lounged, listening through my laptop, my fellow horseplayer advocate and friend, Andy Asaro, stood in front of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) last week and experienced how difficult it is to effectively deliver a message challenging the status quo; particularly as an individual--an independent one at that.
The experience led me to conclude that chilly receptions for some horseplayers aren't just limited to wintertime. It's not easy being a stand-up guy.