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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: HOW 2022 AMERICA NEGATIVELY AFFECTED ONE BREEDERS’ CUP FAMILY

The following Letter to the Editor was addressed to Thoroughbred Daily News and is represented here with their permission

By Dave Brooks

“I’m skipping the Breeders’ Cup this year. Or, if I allow myself a slight delusion of grandeur, I’m boycotting it. This is an action–consequential in my life–that I don’t take likely, especially given that Keeneland is hosting this year’s Holy Days of Obligation for people of my ilk.

“I had secured my tickets–great seats to take it all in–and had planned to take a road trip with my wife, a would be firster at Keeneland. But I won’t attend. Here’s why:

“I could not in good conscience spend my discretionary recreational and leisure money in Kentucky, whose statutes banning a woman’s right to choose are the law of that beautiful land. This comes, of course, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is no federal right that protects women’s ability to decide the question for themselves.

“Make no mistake: I have nothing against the Breeders’ Cup, though I hope they’ll consider placing future events in jurisdictions that recognize bodily autonomy, along with same sex marriage and contraception–the rights that are likely to be under attack next. (Put me down for next year’s red-letter November weekend, assuming it’s not at Lone Star, or Remington, or Oaklawn, or the Fair Grounds, or Gulfstream).

“And I certainly have nothing against Keeneland; to the contrary, the splendor and charm of that magnificent racecourse made me want in on this year’s Breeders’ Cup even more than usual.

“I know my decision doesn’t carry the weight of Major League Baseball’s moving last year’s All-Star game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s voting issues, nor professional organizations avoiding conference venues with similar social issues. But it’s something I must do.

“On a small scale, everyone loses. Wallace Station and the Keeneland backstretch kitchen will forfeit the venue that one large, appreciative racing fan would have generated, and I’ll miss out on the good eats. My Bourbon-drinking friends will lose out on my services as hooch mule, and the distilleries will sell less of what my grandfather used to call profit water. Old Friends will have two fewer carrot- and mint-toting visitors than it would have.

“I will lose out on introducing my wife to the setting I can’t or won’t shut up about. I’ll watch the races on television and lose intelligently on my ADW, but there’s nothing like watching in person as Songbird and Beholder throw down. Racing is (much of) my life. I don’t remember if I put shoes and socks on this morning, but I recall vividly my first day ever at the track, my first bet, and my first winner: the Jersey Derby at Garden State in 1975, Professor Joe in the opener, and A Musical Formal in the fourth, respectively.

“I walked hots at Belmont in the mid-70s, did an on-air racing analysis in the mid-80s, covered the sport for a daily newspaper, and have been to more than 70 Thoroughbred tracks in the nearly 50 years I’ve been chasing these magnificent creatures.

“These, losses, mine included, constitute collateral damage from the undeclared but unmistakable war our government has declared on half of us — more if you count men who care about propriety and justice. My support for women’s unfettered right to chose is absolute, and I’m unable to fathom why anyone would want to deprive women of that unfettered right.

“I do get to make one choice, and with some wistfulness, but a conscience that tells me I’m doing the right thing; I choose not to contribute to Kentucky’s economy or that of any state with similarly draconian laws even if it means that I’ll have to wait a year for an in-person Breeders’ Cup.”

Dave Brooks is a freelance writer and former PR professional and hot-walker emeritus — with a more than healthy love for Thoroughbred horse racing. His wife thinks he should find a new hobby, such as Parchesi.

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10 Responses

  1. Dave,
    As I explained to TDN Publisher and CEO Sue Finley, I wanted to do something on this topic but was unsure how to broach the subject with our audience.

    We are all so immersed in Thoroughbred racing as to use it as the highest form of intellectual escapism.

    Then along comes your well reasoned treatise, which because of your now canceled Breeders’ Cup plans, makes the horror of the Extreme Court’s decision relevant to racing for the benefit of our audience which at times has gone out of its way to object my political views.

    So thanks for taking me off the literary hook, and for a piece I’m proud to share with our audience. Thanks to you, and to Sue, for making this possible. Thank you both for providing a community service via the game we all love.

  2. When considering horse racing and highly contentious political issues, remember that the states committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose are also the states most hostile to horse racing.

    I hope Santa Anita and Del Mar are running horses in 2030, but given the political climate in California, there is cause for concern.

    1. Dan, you are right on that score. Note that four Senators ridiculed the HISA process in letters to organizations all came from those representing Red States. So you are correct. #FollowTheMoney.

      As far as SA is concerned, any future issues are related to real estate values. Can’t speak to Del Mar either way…

  3. Ed. Note: Recent comment in this space was deleted due to stereotypical inappropriateness

  4. from INDULTO via personal email

    Mr. Brooks,

    While I share your outrage at the SCOTUS decision, and am prepared to boycott any racing venue(s) at any time in order to achieve a level playing field for all horseplayers and/or restore integrity to the game, I find it hard to visualize a successful campaign to restore female health care and reproductive rights in Kentucky connected to horse racing unless the rate of abortions among females employed within racing/breeding there is higher than among that state’s female population in general.

    Thanks for an inspiring thought, though, as well as an interesting read.

  5. I,

    I don’t believe Mr. Brooks thinks his personal statement will result in meaningful change at the governmental level, but I take heart in the fact that decent people are wiling to make their feelings known to a shared community.

    As to the Extreme Court’s nullifying a legitimate fundamental right for the first time in this country’s history, I have no words. They no longer can be considered jurists above the political fray, only hacks doing the bidding of people whose wealth/power entitle them to act in a manner that is above settled law.

  6. from Indulto via personal email

    JP,
    I don’t question the seriousness of those willing to speak out against injustice, and try to respond thoughtfully when moved to reply to such commentary.

    Mr. Brooks’ reaction to the loss of personal freedom was thought provoking. Perhaps a boycott of Churchill Downs on Stephen Foster Day as we celebrate the birth of personal freedom in this country would accomplish more and sooner.

  7. I,
    Don’t know how much a one-day boycott would accomplish, but certainly would make a statement via conscientious objection.

    1. An ongoing boycott of travel to 20 states is unrealistic. It would fizzle out quickly. Looking at horse racing from a political angle, why boycott Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia ? Racing is not threatened in those states while racing IS under threat from radical political factions in California.

  8. Dan, with respect to California, the politicians are reacting to the demands of Animal Rights groups, the crux of which began with the voluminous number of breakdowns at SA three years ago. The publicity surrounding L’Affaires Baffert hasn’t helped the issue any…

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