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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 2, 2021 —  Ever since Gulfstream’s Championship Meet began with the Claiming Crown program on December 4, my gaze was fixed on January 1, the day all babies turn three.

This always has been my time to spring forward into a personal favorite pastime, taking baby steps on the road to the Triple Crown.

As for Saturday’s feature, I’ve never missed a running of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, including its first in 2011 when the prolific race horse now sire Uncle Mo, took the inaugural. No, I never missed renewal, until yesterday.

And why?

Because you can’t be too careful living in a state whose chief executive cares nothing about the life of the citizens. It’s not that Governor Ron DeSantis has failed to lead. That would be bad enough. Rather, DeSantis has proven himself to be the antithesis of leadership.

Covid is everywhere in America, especially the Sunshine State, which set a record of 75,000 positive cases on New Year’s Eve, eclipsing the previous standard established the day before.

I’ve been vaccinated thrice but Omicron is persistent. Due to pre-morbidities, I have been, and remain, cautious beyond words.

Due largely to the Governor’s abdication of responsibility, only three of every five Floridians are vaccinated. The autocratic leader, known to the Twitterverse as “DeathSantis,” has not simply been absent. His anti-science stance has resulted in needless death and a health-care provider shortage.

He was AWOL almost two weeks until he made a New Year’s Eve speech made to an Evangelical audience, even as the Omicron variant continued leaping from host to host. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, from conservative friendly North Florida, called DeSantis out on his Cruz-modeled disappearance.

Gulfstream is my local track. It’s what I know and fans who are thinking about going to the races should know what I know. Despite the existing precautions in place, several people I know have tested positive. Why should Gulfstream be different from any other place people gather in Florida?

In early 2020, Gulfstream Park put stringent health measures in place based on CDC guidance. The track was closed to the public. The track was being good citizens who protected its customers. Only horsemen and related track personnel were allowed on the grounds.

My media credentials did not allow access to the Gulfstream Park backstretch. Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility 25 miles to the north in Boynton Beach, was also off limits to media. For any racetracker, early-day backside visits are the best part of a racing day.

Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, following mask and distancing mandates, kept the Thoroughbred industry alive while almost all major sports, including the rest of the country’s major tracks, were shut down. Vaccines were still in their infancy and had not yet been politically weaponized.

On my last visit I observed something very disconcerting. No one seated in the simulcast area took social distancing seriously, and virtually every other horseplayer was mask-less, even if social distancing should exist in all enclosed areas. Lack of leadership certainly has led to selfish, mindless behavior.

Some well healed players I know buy packages at the celebrated Christine Lee’s, no longer on track but in the Gulfstream Park Village restaurant adjacent to the walking ring. Two players I’m aware of there have tested positive.

This recent phenomenon first surfaced at South Florida casinos, including the glitzy Hard Rock, as was reported in local media. The surmise is that Gulfstream management felt economic pressure to compete for the gambling dollar. Neither did it doesn’t want to run afoul of state government.

There are many examples of DeSantis’ autocratic policy, such as paying a $5,000 bonus to police officers fed up with vaccine mandates or were guilty of misconduct in other states.

Last year, DeSantis hired a new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who believes that “practicing good health” can stave off Covid infection, and that schools imposing mask mandates were “rogues.”

In addition, private employer vaccine mandates were prohibited; employees can choose from numerous exemptions; employers must cover the cost of testing and PPE exemptions; those who violate employee health protections would be fined–$10,000 per employee of small businesses and $50,000 per employee for medium and large companies.

That’s not all: Educational institutions may not require students to be vaccinated. School districts may not have school face-mask policies. School districts may not quarantine healthy students, and students and parents may sue violating school districts to recover costs and attorney’s fees.

Explained DeSantis Friday night: “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida.” With this kind, it’s always the benjamins, never people’s lives.

Gulfstream did not create the situation it’s forced to deal with now. It’s only need is to follow the state’s lead. And therein lies the problem.

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23 Responses

  1. JP,
    It’s tragic indeed that many of those horseplayers you’ve described don’t share your will and knowledge for self-preservation. Should management bear greater responsibility than its customers given the governmental void in leadership and common sense? Lest we forget, this behavior extends far beyond the shadow of Pegasus.

    I’m curious as to whether smoking is permitted in the simulcast area, and if so, what percentage of those mask-less souls would you estimate had either lit or unlit cigarette dangling from their lips? LOL

  2. I, smoking is not permitted in the simulcast area. The situation is worrisome enough as it stands without also dealing with second-hand smoke. I am a former smoker, but I do vape which personally is not the best choice I could make for myself, but at least doesn’t impact the life of others…

    1. JP,
      Like BIll Clinton, “I couldn’t inhale,” but food has managed to ravage what tobacco and alcohol did not.

      Vice is versatile, but sin is rehearsable. LOL

      1. Whataboutism isn’t your style, I, I’m a little surprised…

        But even if that wasn’t your intent, don’t see any relevance to the subject at hand; dealing with a pandemic effectively.

        1. Sorry my attempt at levity only irritated you, JP, but what DeSantis and others like him are doing is a sin by my standards, i.e., callously endangering lives rather than taking responsible steps to try and prevent their loss.

          Ironically much of his political support appears to be coming from anti-vaxxers whose religious objections are based on stem cell use in developing the vaccines as well as religious denomination members who insist on congregating at any cost. It would probably be easier to get recreational betters to boycott bet-takers than change those voting groups’ thinking.

          1. It’s ironical, and stupid, that anti-vaxxers on religious grounds were the same people who objected to stem cell use in its infancy. Got to love hypocritical CINOs!

            I fear for the world my children are having to deal with.

  3. I’m not a big political guy, but I gotta say that when I hear DeSantis speak I’m pretty sure I lose brain cells.

    Flightline is a son of Tapit out of an Indian Charlie mare. Life Is Good is a son of Into Mischief out of a Distorted Humor mare. It would be an understatement to say their stud future is quite promising.

    Speaking of races that add extra zeroes to stud fees; If there is a lord above, Flightline’s connections will get him on a plane heading east and give the world what they deserve Memorial Day weekend.

  4. Doc,

    Is the Met Mile back on Memorial Day? If so, I missed the memo; that would be great. And if the matchup stays together and both remain healthy and unbeaten, that will be the buzz race on the first Saturday in June, not the Belmont, sans Triple Crown attempt, obviously

  5. Jesus, I forgot it’s an opening act for the Belmont now. My bad. I must be in denial, since I will never ever accept that.

    1. Completely false equivalency but admittedly disappointed re: POTUS bipartisan priority. He had best come down hard on the side of voting rights, or it’s autocracy forever beginning the first Wednesday in November.

      Again, the focus here was health of Floridians and its effect on Gulfstream attendees.

  6. If it comes as any consolation, researchers at the University of Johannesburg estimated the Omicron infection fatality rate to be 53 deaths per 100,000 infections, making Omicron less dangerous than the typical seasonal flu. However, the supermarket model of low markup, high volume will make the next 6 weeks especially difficult.

    The science has been twisted on multiple occasions. The J&J vaccine was billed as “one and done”. That was an outright lie.

    There will be plenty of time for assessing all aspects of the Covid outbreak after it ends. Looking forward to several days at Saratoga this summer. In my amateur opinion, the widespread immunity conferred by Omicron will allow for a normal Spa experience.

    “We entered the outbreak with a notion that we knew the cause of the disease, and were quite sure we knew how it was transmitted from person to person. Perhaps, if we have learned anything, it is that we are not quite sure what we know about the disease.” Dr. Milton J. Rosenau, on the Gallops Island Influenza experiment, 1918

    Good health to all.

    1. The quote in your last sentence is very true. But understanding a new disease through that lens, I don’t see how someone could categorize the J&J being billed as one and done as “an outright lie”.

      First of all, the J&J single dose vaccine works; it reduces the probability of the recipient getting dangerously ill to a degree many many times that of non vaccinated. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work as well; they do the same. Such new information as vaccine recipients needing boosters is not evidence of an outright lie having been perpetrated early last year by countless infectious disease research scientists and doctors (which would be quite the overwhelmingly large conspiracy). In my opinion, It just reflects the nature of a new virus, such as Dr. Rosenau stated.

      It’s certainly possible I am misunderstanding what you meant by J&J one dose being an outright lie; your post was well written, and if it weren’t, I would not have taken the time to respond.

    2. Sadly, Dan, in an age where truth/facts are under siege, there’s unintended bad information and outright lies. Reasonable people try to do the best they can. The purpose of the piece was visual evidence that state policy that puts lives at risk did not remain outside the gates of Gulfstream Park.

      And to think that the variant is predicted to peak next week. Schools in four states are going back to remote learning. If this were a sci-fi movie I would have walked out for the preposterous nature of what real life looks like now.

      This is not a new year; this is 2021+

        1. Surely hope you are right Mark. Just find it damn hard to be optimistic about anything these days. Stay safe…

    3. We may not have learned much about this particular disease as of yet, but man we did learn something about freedom, and how easily it can be lost.

      1. …Which hopefully means I can be free to live my life knowing that my fellow Americans are taking common sense measures to protect themselves and their families which, by extension, help protect me and mine.

        The fact that reasonable health care, measures that have been effective in the past; vaccines, masks, distancing, has become
        weaponized is horrifically mind-boggling. This isn’t about one side “owning” the other. It’s about the welfare of us all.

  7. On a lighter note, RIP Da Hoss. He came back from multiple injuries to win his 2nd Breeders Cup Mile on my wedding day, November 7, 1998.

    1. Sigh RIP Da Hoss – I remember seeing his 2nd BC mile win from my vantage point in the Aqueduct simulcast area outside the Equestris. What a great story he was

  8. We love intelligent exchanges. No one has all the answers but lovers of the game have an obligation to attempt elevating the discourse. Thanks gents!

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