This year’s Breeders’ Cup renewal will be viewed with at least as much anxiety as excitement as what’s left of America’s top thoroughbreds will be tested over surfaces where seemingly excessive numbers of on-track equine deaths have occurred since Accelerate won last year’s Classic.
LOS ANGELES–Racing’s newest Big Cheese is pizzeria proprietor, Patrick Battuello, who may one day become known as the person who broke down horseracing’s resistance to revealing information regarding equine breakdowns.
Whether or not one agrees with his objectives, however, one should appreciate his accomplishment in compiling a valuable subset of that data on which the industry continues to deny access by the public in too many racing jurisdictions, and thus in the aggregate as well.
If all such data were readily available through official sources, many believe that not only could causes of “spikes” in occurrences of breakdowns be found more rapidly but also new practices preventing them — and proof that progress was being made in reducing them — could be developed.
Unfortunately, Mr. Battuello’s remarks in his Letter to the Washington Post editor also revealed an intention not to fix what’s wrong with the sport, but rather to eliminate it altogether.
Unlike some other horseplayers, I can’t simply dismiss such animal rights activists despite their questionable tactics. I believe extensive reform of horseracing is clearly necessary, and if it can’t be driven from within, then it must be imposed from without.
That the game’s decision makers are inclined to make poor choices could not be clearer than in the Breeders’ Cup’s decision to not allow trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to participate in their events.
By extending The Stronach Group’s controversial ban of Hollendorfer from its individual tracks to an independently conducted event of national if not world prominence, opportunity, and entertainment — without credible justification or proof of wrong-doing — shows that even that body has become tainted by the same lack of integrity and transparency found in some regulatory bodies in other individual states.
Make no mistake! Statistics can be either a weapon or a beneficial tool depending on the circumstances and their interpretation. Where were the specific rules that defined Hollendorfer’s fourth breakdown at the Santa Anita winter meet as a career-ending violation?
Racing has attracted or repelled a variety of people for a variety of reasons since long before I first became involved in the ‘60s when Kelso was “The” Champion, but now the opposing groups can communicate quickly and widely 24/7; both among themselves and with the general public.
When people still had to attend racetracks to bet legally, playing the races was a more social experience. New customers were more readily recruited to replace those it lost. And if one went to the track alone, one might actually make a new friend.
Under racing’s monopoly on legalized gambling, most factions were relatively content with their share of the pie. There was little incentive for institutionalized edge-taking, and forms of misrepresentation and/or abuse were limited or at least virtually invisible to the general public.
What we have today is a state of increased agitation to complement the ever-present disharmony.
Today fewer and less-enthusiastic horseplayers are pounding their keyboards as they watch in high-definition detail the unwarranted race riding, questionable steward’s decisions, and gut-wrenching injuries to jockeys as well as horses.
They, and even the game’s non-participants, are further aggravated by a mainstream media manipulated not only by politicians but anyone with an agenda and their own version of “supporting facts.”
Indeed, we have arrived at the Age of Misinformation or, worse, Disinformation. Even past performance data from racing’s “Bible and its competition,” are not considered as reliable predictors as they used to be.
Even figure-makers themselves occasionally find erroneous measurements and observations requiring multiple interpretations.
The disadvantage of these flawed tools is dwarfed in consequence for today’s recreational bettors as they attempt to compete on a playing field tilted in favor of rebated professionals; including some with special access to parimutuel pools information at the last minute.
I have to admit that my appetite for both pizza and betting Graded Stakes in 2019 has contracted as I can almost spot the footprints among the sausage and mushrooms of those trampling the pastime I used to pursue with passion.
I do, however, still look forward to joining a few old friends on SKYPE for a foray into the BC Classic vertical exotics. I won’t bother asking Mr. Battuello his opinion; I already know.
May everyone return home safely.