* …that Indian Charlie would share with me his recipe for making a living as a writer in this sport.
* …that Johnny V. would invest in Velcro for the Saratoga meet in August—assuming that there IS a Saratoga meet in August.
* …that starters would get the props they deserve, doing the Most Dangerous Job in Sports.
* …that breeders would stop thinking of Thoroughbreds as Xerox machines, crankin’ ‘em out at record speed. Take a cue from Sheikh Hamdan, and SLOW DOWN. You’re killing your stallions, and watering down the breed. The world doesn’t need more cross-eyed, bow-legged, developmentally-disabled rejects who end up at New Holland: leave the Mass Production Handbook to the Quarter Horse People.
* ...and that owners of a great horse would take a step back, BREATHE and realize that their Great Horse will still be capable of reproducing AFTER the age of three. You wonder why fans aren't flocking to American tracks? Blame the owners who rip their horses off the track after a great three-year-old season so they can hit the breeding shed. Fans fall in love with a horse; buy t-shirts, baseball caps and pictures of the critter--then are denied the opportunity to see their rock star horse race because s/he's been transformed from a Great Horse into a Cash Cow. Of course I wouldn't keep a horse on the track who's been injured, or is sick...but fans are now so used to the Early Retirement Plan that they're not investing their hearts--or their money--in the horses. Kudos to the owners of Better Talk Now and Azeri for keeping their horses on the track and building the fanbase. Sure, BTN is a gelding, but I suspect that, if he'd been intact--they'd still have let him keep doing his thing. And the mighty Azeri? Her first race wasn't until the November 1st the year before she officially turned three. Hugs to Bushwood Stables and Michael Paulson for displaying Uncommon Wisdom in this age of greed and lack of insight.
* …and I surely do wish that the Jockey Club would administer that “no dirty words” rule in a manner that’s fair to ALL. The rules should apply across-the-board. Either it’s OK, or it’s not. Besides, I plan to name a filly, “Bodacious Ta-Tas” in the near future. (Mad props to Jay-Dog for the idea.)
* …that Natural Horsemanship would become The Norm: working WITH your horses and not AGAINST them, cooperation, not domination—will win more races and fans than a sport marked by allowable cruelty, doping and indifference.
* …that this is the year that The Whip goes out of style. Every time I see a jock smacking a horse, I want to beat the crap out of the jock. For the jocks’ sake—and to keep me from doing time for assault—outlaw riding crops.
* …that LeRoy Jolley would get all the stalls he needs at Saratoga. The Hall of Famer won two Kentucky Derbies, and knows more about racing than all the others, put together. He’s an inspiration and role model—if he doesn’t deserve respect, I don’t know who does.
* …that Sheikh Mo would hire me to write for all his US operations. Or at least that he’d adopt me.
* …that hardboots would learn to respect horsemen and –women from other places. A knowledgeable horseman in New York, Delaware or Illinois is just as smart and capable as a Kentuckian. (Did I say that Out Loud???)
* …and that Kentuckians would stop asking me if I’m a Yankee. The war’s over. We won. Work through it.
* …that we’d see more beautiful Black faces in the Clubhouse. African-Americans should be in winner’s circles as owners, trainers and breeders, and our sport’s not truly egalitarian until we figure out how to market it as a viable enterprise to EVERYONE.
* …that racing folks would grow some smarts, and create the aforementioned (in this column) Racing Commission, and appoint a viable Commissioner. NOT someone who gets the job because of connections, or because of the fat roll of cash in their pockets, but because the KNOW the sport; and love and respect the horses. Please, my brothahs and sistahs in racing—let’s establish the American Racing Commission in 2008.
* …that My Main Man, Curlin, will be crowned, “King of the World.” I told you, back in the Spring, that he would prove himself—AND that he’d win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Horse of the Year should go to the Thoroughbred who’s built a career and shown her/himself to be sturdy, strong, fast and smart. HOY should NOT go to a horse who races twice, then HAPPENS to win the BC Classic. Curlin established himself early in the year, and built his accomplishments in a fashion that shows that truly, he’s got The Stuff.
* …I hope, indeed, that the word, “Freak” will fall out of common parlance—especially in reference to fillies and mares. Being strong, fast and capable does NOT make a female Thoroughbred a “Freak”—it makes her a racehorse. And besides, that word, along with the OTHER f-word, is used entirely too often in our sport. Every third horse is NOT a Freak: the word has no meaning anymore because of overuse. The last Freak in racing was Secretariat. Don’t agree with me? The NEXT time a horse wins the Belmont by 31 lengths…call me.
* …I also wish that more women with access to power in racing--those with money, experience and knowledge—would step up to the plate and help women and girls who want in. The infestation of nouveau riche babes with squared-off fingernails and perennially-frozen Botox faces in the Clubhouse makes me wanna pack up my silicone bra and retire.
* …Oh, how I wish I’d thought up the phrase, “Crazy as a rat in a coffee can.” One of the funniest images on Earth—again, props to Indian Charlie.
* …I wish I had John Pricci’s knowledge, insight and ability to communicate it. Damn, John, you really ARE The Man. I respect you more than you’ll ever know.
* …most of all, I wish all of you out there in world Thoroughbred racing a year of prosperity, fulfillment, joy and personal accomplishment as we plug away together to promote The Only Sport Worth Watching.