The State of Racing’s Union: It Is What It Has Become
As the 143rd Kentucky Derby looms, the state of the game is teetering, fighting to remain popular with even with its staunchest allies while simultaneously efforting to remain relevant to a much wider audience. Like world events, these are worrisome times.
How troublesome? Well, it’s so bothersome that no less than one of the world’s most brilliant comic minds and huge racing fan, Mel Brooks, took to Twitter for the purpose of castigating the Los Angeles Times for “eliminating daily coverage of horse racing.”
At issue is the recently jettisoned daily listing of entries and results. Brooks’ tweet was enough to elicit a comment from his long-time friend and collegial comic genius, Carl Reiner, who replied “anything that upsets my friend Mel upsets me.”
Lamentably, they are not alone, and not everything can be explained away with kneejerk retorts that it’s simply a sign of the times--that encapsulated agate of entries and results has gone the way of classified ads and stock listings.
While comprehensive racing data lends itself well to the endless boundaries of cyberspace, as long as mainstream media and journalistic standards exist, I refuse to acknowledge that mesmerized smartphone habitués can’t learn to appreciate the feel of paper between their digits.
While the world moves forward--whatever your definition of “progress” is--Thoroughbred racing remains frozen in time. Tracks compete with each other at the bottom line and in the equine talent pool, a world that fosters competition, not cooperation.
New Wrinkle Meets Old School in Arkansas
The King Lives! Long Live the King!
It is only fitting that in this topsy-turvy runnerup to the 2017 Kentucky Derby everyone tethered to the Thoroughbred had to await until the last hurdle was cleared to find some clarity.
And we hope that we have seen the last of the impending-danger type drama that has accompanied this winter-racing season and that pre-Derby workouts, good and bad, all go without major incident.
There are no remaining prep races in the three weeks until reaching post time for Derby. But in the next two weekends, morning trials are needed to solidify what has been, to say the least, one of the more baffling playoffs season for three-year-olds ever.
Before examining the nuts and bolts of Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, a word about the team that surrounds the 2016 juvenile champion.
We’ve known trainer Mark Casse, the son of legendary horseman Norman Casse, for nearly four decades, when he first went out on his own with the Calumet horses, back in the day when they were festooned in the devil’s red and blue.
At my age, this gives me the right to say I’m very proud of the work he’s done with Classic Empire, without throwing shade on any other horseman I know and respect as they slouch their way towards Louisville, efforting to win nothing less than “America’s Race.”
However the future of this sport plays out, that tradition will continue. Many eyes will fill 10 minutes to post when a country hears “that song,” as the jockeys refer to the Stephen Foster classic ode to days gone by.
It takes creativity and confidence to deal with the never-before-seen circumstances that arise in this most unusual of pastimes, this unusual way to make a living. It also takes balls.