LOS ANGELES–In her Brooklyn Backstretch blog, “Breeders’ Cup shows sport I love – and hate,” Teresa Genaro provided some moving insight on how difficult it is to continue embracing the game given its lack of cooperative and united leadership in the absence of uniform regulation:
“The future of the industry seems to be in the hands of people who don’t spend a lot of time at the racetrack, and the fact that that is really the industry’s own fault is a bitter irony…
She questioned whether “… Those of who participate in it implicitly endorse it as ethical. Or … acknowledge…hypocrisy? denial? wishful thinking?—that allows me to wrestle with my concerns about horses’ welfare, especially as that welfare is in the hands of an industry that so often proves itself to be haplessly, carelessly arrogant and unaccountable, preferring, time to time, to close ranks, stifle criticism and to keep quiet and hope that nobody notices what’s really going on…”
Like Ms. Genaro, I was completely focused on the winner of the BC Classic, and missed the actual breakdown on the live telecast. It wasn’t clear whether her short-lived enthusiasm was also wager-enhanced.
Personally, I was distracted because I was alive in multiple horizontal exotics singling him in the final leg and what is the Breeders’ Cup if not the world’s best two-day betting extravaganza.
Consequently, I was initially spared the blunt of the devastation experienced by most when the news of the breakdown and its video review were presented.
In its aftermath, however, the loss of joy and celebration — too rarely experienced — can culminate despite painstaking prediction and cautious optimism, was palpable. Ms. Genaro’s piece moved me to unlock my own emotions regarding my future participation in a pastime that produces increasingly less pleasure in its pursuit.
Frankly, I felt robbed of the sustaining satisfaction that for me — as a recreational bettor — transcends both my infrequent financial successes and repeated failures.
If that comes off as “crying all the way to the bank,” it doesn’t reflect my investment of time and enthusiasm when handicapping, betting, and viewing (including pre-race activity without audio distraction) the races that pique my interest. But I digress.
It is indeed sad to see a form of entertainment woven into a way of life that is in danger of ending because there’s no cure for greed. The only aspects of high finance that have “trickled down” to racing from the real world are unbridled capitalism at the very top and political obstruction everywhere.
I have no tears to spare for on-track equine deaths while humans perish in mass shootings or live in inhumane circumstances that prevail among the underprivileged in the wealthiest country in the world.
Having made little impact on the latter, Senator Feinstein and Governor Newsom of California have inserted themselves into the former with limited awareness of the extent to which racing requires and can benefit from meaningful reform.
What angers me most, however, is the sense of entitlement and power wielded by horsemen, track operators, state regulators and even professional bettors that too often results in maintaining the status quo.
Consider the track, bet takers and state regulators who fail to hammer out uniform rules of racing and wagering, opting instead to consistently tweak those currently in effect.
Not only have they failed to properly police the game, they’ve instituted practices such as rebating that funnels money to deep-pocketed and/or professional bettors at the expense of recreational players, their core audience.
I wasn’t surprised by a rumor that whispered the new handle record set on BC Saturday was achieved with the aid of enhanced rebates offered by The Stronach Group to select bettors.
It galls many of us non-rebated players to be charged usurious takeout rates by bet-takers in order to offset the revenue they divert to rebated players. Another prevalent rumor is that rebates are not taxable. Consequently, high-volume bettors can accumulate profits that are unattainable directly from parimutuel pools just like the rest of us.
I’ve read that weekday handle now predominantly reflects the handle of rebated players since most stakes races are relegated to weekends. If that’s true, then racing at its lowest levels — where it likely involves its most infirm competitors — is conducted primarily for their consumption.
How does that benefit the industry, the sport but mostly the welfare of the animal?
When one further considers the variations of fraud perpetrated on some horse buyers by some horse sellers—we acknowledge this is an old story– how can one genuinely expect ethical treatment of animals in the absence of its practice on humans?
The Breeders’ Cup tragedy will surely be portrayed ad nauseam that authorities fiddled while Mongolian Groom burned. The Breeders’ Cup supported Santa Anita and took a gamble. The issue has exploded beyond “zero tolerance” versus “verified prevention.”
Videos of the horse’s workouts strongly suggested that he was unsound yet escaped the observations of any of 30 vets and Santa Anita’s Chief Veterinary Officer who has the power to scratch any horse at any time for whatever reason.
Eight did not pass the exam, but one more should have failed.
Perhaps Santa Anita is waiting for the findings of Dr. Bramlage’s investigation to be published before banishing Enebish Ganbat to the TSG purgatory along with Jerry Hollendorfer.
Until such proof can be presented, all trainers should be subjected to enhanced scrutiny from which no one should be exempt. Meanwhile, what now?
The only way to get states and racetrack owners to achieve reform cooperatively is to force them to but only the Federal Government has that authority.
I believe the Feds should suspend simulcast betting everywhere until industry stakeholders define and implement a single nationwide regulatory body that would implement uniform rules subject to Congressional approval and legislative support.
The function, structure, representation, and funding of such a body could be determined in a process resembling a modern-day constitutional convention. Membership, staffing, and objectives could be approved by stakeholders at various stages as is necessary.
Once the Interstate Horseracing Act has been amended or replaced to enable a new central racing authority agreed to by the industry and ratified by legislation would simulcasting be allowed to resume.
There must be total transparency from day one. Perhaps California’s progressive but appallingly pro-PETA politicians can be convinced to position themselves behind meaningful racing reform, one that minimizes abuse by any of its participants.