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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Per usual, a horse-playing pal called Sunday morning to discuss the big events of Saturday afternoon, a little red boarding, a little bad beating, a couple of I-Told-You-So’s.


But I did make a prediction: “I have no problem with anyone who votes Nadal #1 in the NTRA Poll because that’s the nature of this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game.”

“I’m still sticking with Tiz the Law at number one,” he said. “Me, too,” I answered. “Why should an accomplished horse lose stature because it hadn’t run in five weeks.”

In a perfect world, the top two poll horses would have finished in a dead heat on points.

Indeed, the NTRA Poll is a judgment that on balance combines accomplishment and opinion, so all any voter can do is conjure up is what’s in one’s mind at that moment.

Actually, each earned 19 first-place votes, but Nadal accrued more total points, likely because Charlatan might also have leap-frogged Tiz the Law as well given his four first-place votes.

I don’t know which one is better, though I agree with a handicapping buddy who says that Baffert is just so good at this and that Tiz the Law still races immaturely, to which I added that ‘Nadal is such a beast.”

But, of course, that’s why they run races.

Either way, Baffert has to be embarrassed by all his riches that include Authentic [one first-place vote] and other sophomore players to develop later.

And never mind how Nadal compares to Tiz the Law, he doesn’t know which of his proven colts are best, promising that he isn’t playing politics, either. The graceful Authentic? The brilliant Charlatan? The relentless Nadal?

A race on June 6 might provide another clue, the date of Santa Anita Derby should the Los Angeles County Health Department give the Arcadia track permission to re-open, and also anticipated to be Authentic’s next start.

For all three-year-olds, September is a long way off, so there may be some hope for the rest of the Top 10: King Guillermo is a solid fifth in the poll, followed in order by Honor A. P., Sole Volante, Ete Indien, Maxfield (getting close to his 2020 debut) and Basin.

But Could They Have Beaten Secretariat?

I have a confession to make, I loved the virtual Kentucky Derby and not because I picked the virtual winner, posted here in Marc Lawrence’s daily brief on Saturday morning. (I was awaiting virtual track conditions and late scratches).

And this surprised the hell out of me. The virtual race which pitted real Triple Crown winners against each other, with Larry Collmus lending some excitement to the cartoonish horse race, had movement within the race as dictated by an algorithm.

So, I was rooting for my “pick” and there were times, once or twice, when I thought there was a chance Big Red would be defeated.

My favorite horse of all-time, Seattle Slew, was hanging tough despite race long pace pressure, and Citation was beginning to launch after Secretariat had moved into contention on the far turn.

But, just as the mind’s eye had conjured it, Secretariat’s overwhelming power and brilliance won the day, holding a strong rallying Citation safe, a cold exacta in every sense of the term.

It’s amazing what a little creativity can do at a time when any reason to smile, no matter how small, is appreciated and welcome.

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9 Responses

  1. I wasn’t as high on the contrived race as you. But there was no other conceivable, acceptable result other than Secretariat winning. (I’m a Seattle Slew fan, too)

    Secretariat ran the fastest Derby ever, a record that still stands, and is the only horse to run each quarter-mile faster than the one before. Then he set records in the Preakness and Belmont, arguably the single best race ever run by a thoroughbred.

    Not even Bernie Madoff could have cooked the books to come up with any other result.

  2. For the reasons you list, TJ, it will never lose the sobriquet Greatest Triple Crown of all time. You mentioned Slew, too, and Affirmed and Alydar. I are able to say, arguably anyway, we lived during racing’s best decade ever.

  3. John: How lucky were those of us who grew up at the Big A and the Big B in the 70s. I took the A train to see Slew win the Wood. My all-time favs are an entry: 1 & 1A- Slew and Forego. The “race” last Saturday may have been a fantasy, but it was a welcome distraction for a virus infected world. Of course, Big Red won the race, and he is the greatest non-human athlete of the 20th century. However, if there is any horse, including Secretariat and/or Citation, who could run past Slew after 3/4 in 11 and change, I still haven’t seen one. One more thing, Billy Turner is in a Florida Hospital ICU for a fractured neck. Lets all say a prayer for one of the nicest and most underrated trainers of all time.

    1. I was at Aqueduct for Slew’s Wood. Paid $2.20 to win. Talk about locks. I travelled to Pimlico to watch him win Preakness. Got $2.60 for my trouble ($400 win bet). Friend told me before race to play exacta with Iron Constitution but I declined. Came in and exacta was in the $40.00 range. I was fine with it, ‘tho. Just wanted to see Seattle Slew do his thing.

  4. Yes, we saw the best of it in the 70s. Don’t take my word: The Chief, always a great visit, said that to me, I don’t know, 10-15 years ago. Miss him, and the 70s!

    I got a text about Billy early this morning, only about ICU but no other info. Thanks for sharing, and it doesn’t sound good. The late Steve Davidowitz and I campaigned to get Billy in the Hall, not only for his singular accomplishment but his work with other cracks; Czaravich leaps to mind, and there was a filly whose name I’ve forgotten, just a win machine.

    And he did it the hard way; I was a constant visitor and never saw a lot of vet work going on! He came from the steeple-chasing school; lots of real horsemen and women in that game!

  5. Framarco,
    I was spared from witnessing Slew’s first defeat live when parking was exhausted on and off-track several races prior to the Swaps at Hollywood Park. I never saw cars packed like that again, even at the two BCs hosted there.

    My best wishes for Mr. Turner’s recovery. I remember reading that he was against running the horse in the Swaps, and that the owners subsequently switched trainers, but never encountered any explanation as to why his career didn’t still take off after such an accomplishment. Any insights?

  6. I, the trainer switch didn’t come until the end of the year and Slew did have a great 4-year-old season with Doug Peterson. No knock soever but he was such a great horse who could have won with anyone, but Billy’s handling of a horse with great speed and will required a true horsemen’s touch, and Billy is a great horseman.

    He has had health issues for a ,long time but if the story about a neck fracture is true, at his age, close to our’s in any event, is very worrisome. I love Billy. Perhaps we’ll get around to a longer personal narrative one day…

  7. Wasn’t Jean Cruguet also removed as rider of Slew? There was a lot of drama going on with Slew Crew and Turner, Cruguet, etc. Then I think Slew Crew had a falling out and Taylors and Hills parted company. Dr. Jim Hill was a vet who spotted something at yearling sale. Bargain basement special at $17,500.00. One tough horse.

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