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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Money isn’t everything. This is never more true than when it comes to ranking the best of thoroughbred racing.

Strictly based on earnings, Midnight Bisou is about to become the fifth greatest horse who ever lived and the all-time best filly or mare, ahead of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Personal Ensign, Ruffian, Songbird, Goldikova, even Monomoy Girl, who outran her the past four times they met. (Monomoy Girl was disqualified to second in one of those races.) Midnight Bisou is good, just not that good.

The ranking isn’t official yet. In light of the scandal surrounding Maximum Security, the Saudi Arabian Jockey Club has announced it is reviewing the results of the $20 million Saudi Cup. This, of course, is a nation where allegations are tantamount to conviction.

Jason Servis is lucky he got out of Dodge quickly. In America, he’ll probably get a swat on the wrist. In Saudi Arabia, he might have been beheaded by now. Maybe beheaded and crucified. The Saudis do that.

When the Saudis finally go through the formality of declaring that Maximum Security cheated and take him down, Midnight Bisou’s second-place prize of $3.5 million will be elevated to $10 million and her career earnings will swell  to $13.75 million. She will have made $185 more in one race than No. 10 Cigar earned in 33 starts, 19 of them victories.

For further perspective, Midnight Bisou will have earned more money in the Saudi Cup than Secretariat, Kelso, Forego,  Dr. Fager and Spectacular Bid did in their careers–combined. Earned might be a generous term. She will have been elevated to first for an infraction that had nothing to do with her performance on the race track.

The reason for the disparities are obvious–inflation, casino doles and Middle Eastern oil nations trying to buy undeserved respectability.

Be that as it may it doesn’t change the fact that career earnings have become an interesting but not particularly relevant statistic, kind of like including the race-to-race weight of thoroughbreds in the past performances.

Nevertheless, breeders, the bandits of racing, will continue to trumpet them as it serves their purposes, another example of how statistics can be made to say anything a person wants them to say. Consider this: If Midnight Bisou’s sire, Midnight Lute, has 100 offspring racing in 2020, their average annual earnings in a breeding ad will be inflated by $100,000.

None of this is meant to diminish the achievements of Midnight Bisou, an exceptional filly, who would rank with the best of recent years if she had never made the trip to Saudi Arabia.

The point I’m trying to make would be just as relevant no matter who had been declared the official winner of the Saudi Cup.

‘It is not post time’

Any hope that Gulfstream’s post times will ever again bear any relation to reality have been dispelled during the coronavirus scare.

Gulfstream has been racing without spectators since the middle of March. Ergo, there is no chance fans will be shut out waiting in line to make a bet. So the disingenuous explanation that posts are being dragged so that people are not shut out has been exposed beyond dispute.

Almost all betting now is being done on ADW sites via computer. There are no lines on personal computers. Bets can be made seconds before the field is released.

The sad reality is fans have become so accustomed to races going five or six minutes after the listed post that it would probably take months to retrain them that post time means post time.

Let Preakness be Preakness

The Maryland Jockey Club doesn’t know when the 2020 Preakness will be scheduled. It doesn’t even know if the race will be run. We can only pray that this cursed virus will be overcome by the targeted new Sept. 19 date and we can resume the lives we are learning should not have been taken for granted.

The one thing the MJC does know is that if and when the Preakness is run, it will be without the customary InfieldFest. In most cases, an announcement such as this would be a step toward sanity. But the concerts, inventive game-playing, such as port-a-potty surfing, and other Woodstock-type excesses are a big part of Preakness Day. 

They are more of a draw to young fans than the horses in the feature race. A Preakness with the infield closed is like Mardi Gras with Bourbon Street closed.

The worst part is the decision makes no sense. If it were done because the youthful lunacy has gotten out of hand and detracts from the dignity of the event, it would be justifiable. But this isn’t the explanation being offered. It’s the coronavirus, which has taken a fierce toll on many of the beloved events of Americana.

Social distance spacing isn’t possible in the packed Pimlico infield. But at least it is out in the fresh air. It is unfathomable how it’s considered preferable to herd people into the confined quarters of the glass-enclosed grandstand, the most decrepit facility for a major sports event in America, where people have no alternative to being elbow to elbow and the same air keeps recirculating.

It’s not a stretch to assume that all plans for the Preakness are dependent upon the coronavirus plague having gone into remission and all the restrictions we are living with being lifted, common sense being the exception.

In this case, the Preakness should be allowed to be the Preakness. If we aren’t all reasonably safe, there should be no Preakness.

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9 Responses

  1. Is any feedback available as to how many people may have contracted the virus AND visited a racetrack since the outbreak?

    If racing can be run safely anywhere without spectators, then I hope it will be, but primarily to keep the animals and their caretakers safe and not lose the racetracks. However, I don’t see how that can be done near hot spots. What is the situation in Baltimore?

    Now that we know the virus is an engineered biological weapon, shouldn’t we assume it could have other effects scientists don’t know about yet? Genetic effects on victims’ offspring need to be considered, both from the disease and its cures.

    Perhaps we should also consider mobilizing/recruiting healthy food industry workers to staff new controlled processing plants, and distribute food safely and equitably to a shut-in population until we have proven capable of detecting, isolating, treating, tracking, and preventing the disease; with confidence.

  2. I, it’s such a multi-faceted problem, isn’t it? I don’t have reason to doubt the Wu-Han lab experiment gone terribly wrong but would like to have more verification.
    However, if indeed true, the Intelligence community may justifiably be reluctant to talk about it and since our diplomatic core has been gutted like everything this guy touches, I’m taking a wait and see…
    Even remember (some months ago?) that it was our lab invention we exported to China. I’m not giving anything any credence, just trying to keep things real.

  3. TJ, your purse points are well made, we’ve talked about this often in the press box. But isn’t there a simple fix, which I first saw in a snarky tweet re the FBI investigation that stud horses trained by Servis and Navarro (if proven beyond the shadow of doubt to be guilty [shouldn’t be hard], along with the names of other super-trainers being monitored) that there should be an asterisk next to their name in the sales catalog. Like I said, snarky.
    But this topic is harmless. Could there be an asterisk here, with a notation that includes mega-purse dollars, or Rate of Inflation with a year? Or if this is thought to be sophomoric, comparison to a great with longevity, pick one–Kelso or Forego, or Shuvee on the distaff side–as a historical base.
    Or maybe we all just have too much time on our hands these days, though the HRI Faithful does keep me hopping here in Plantation, a blessing.
    (More than going to the races, except event days, I miss the a.m. visits to the backstretch or Palm Meadows or … )

  4. TJ, Everyone I know or care about personally has thus far escaped the plague, thank God, but I can’t blame Indulto for going there.

    There’s just no escaping it in our daily lives, with its impact on every living human’s behavior, right down to the simplest of chores…

  5. …And if this space provides an opportunity for racing minded people to vent, so much the better…

  6. TJ,
    I thought the first two sentences of my comment were on-topic with questions you might be in a position to get an answer to.

    The remainder, though not horseracing per se, is not political, but rather an extension of the point you were making which I interpreted as that the Preakness should not be run without live spectators, i.e., anything worth doing is worth doing right.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Racing and many other endeavors will never be the same again. I believe racing could actually become more popular without live spectators if it could actually be conducted with integrity and transparency and more sophisticated technology.

    I’m a little surprised at your “disappointment” at my previous comment to a piece containing the following eloquent expression: “We can only pray that this cursed virus will be overcome by the targeted new Sept. 19 date and we can resume the lives we are learning should not have been taken for granted.”

  7. Never understood what the amount of the purse had to do with it; when a trainer meets the conditions of a race (few readers will know what ‘conditions’ mean, Alice) his/her plodder is ‘in’ and it’s a horse race to wager on for those inclined. Unfortunately breeders and their supportive media (turf writers, Alice) have made the size of purse a measurement of just how worthy a race is for wagering purposes.

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