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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


The management of Santa Anita, in association with horsemen, should demand an end to the state’s grandstanding with respect to racing.

“Work with us. Recognize the efforts we have made and continue to make to increase equine safety, which have produced encouraging results, or tell us we have to shut it down! The Limbo you have placed us in is not acceptable as a sound business model or a way of life for the thousands of people who depend on racing for their livelihood.”

The constant threats and bullying from Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Diane Feinstein and their media cheerleaders, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, have to stop.

“I feel like we have someone with a gun to our heads,” said Leandro Mora, top assistant to Doug O’Neill.

Sen. Feinstein said prior to the Breeders’ Cup that if there is even one more fatality, “it might be time to re-examine the future of this sport in our state and our country.” Unfortunately, Mongolian Groom was fatally injured in the BC Classic.

If Feinstein wasn’t merely blowing smoke for some face time on the evening news, it is time for that re-examination. If she is going to do it, she owes the more than 70,000 Californians who make their living in racing that it be done as expeditiously as possible. It not she should tend to more important issues in Washington, which is the job she was elected to do.

Santa Anita’s prime winter season starts Dec. 26. A shutdown now is preferable to one in mid-season.

An immediate closure would afford everyone involved time to make other plans. Gulfstream, Aqueduct, the Fair Grounds and other tracks would welcome California’s horsemen and racing stock. The situation would be far more complicated in mid-February or March.

It’s going to rain this winter in Southern California. The track won’t always be perfect. Occasionally there will be an equine fatality. This can’t be avoided.

Let’s put this into perspective. Mongolian Groom was the 38th death on the track this year. This is about three per month. There are 60,000 homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles. According to a story in the L.A. Times, three of these human beings die EVERY DAY.

Three horses a month vs. three humans a day. This is to say nothing of two million Californians having their power shut off to alleviate the threat of wild fires, which many say could be at least somewhat curtailed with better forest management. 

Somebody in government doesn’t have their priorities straight. Or are the attacks on racing a convenient distraction from these far more significant problems?

Graham Motion, one of racing’s classiest acts, summed it up well. “Sadly, this is not a perfect world. We put too much on ourselves if we think we can eliminate every single injury. Horses, like humans, get hurt.”

Those beating up on racing have to recognize this.

Everyone in racing had their hearts broken by the tragedy that befell Mongolian Groom in the final quarter-mile of the final race of a glorious Breeders’ Cup weekend. The fatal injury occurred in spite of new safety procedures, Lasix and whip restrictions, and the most thorough pre-race checks ever on the fitness of horses.

What more do those threatening racing want? If the answer is an end to the game, they should make that clear now. Otherwise, they should leave Santa Anita alone and tend to the real problems of what was once the Golden State.

Final BC thoughts

If a turf specialist can be Horse of the Year—I have no problem with that—why can’t a sprinter be Best Older Dirt Horse. My vote in this category goes to Mitole, who will also be my second choice to Bricks and Mortar for Horse of the Year.

To be consistent, I’ll be voting for another sprinter, Covfefe, for 3-year-old filly honors.

Here’s a subtle commentary on the quality of the sophomore class of 2019. It’s possible (likely?) neither the Kentucky Derby winner (Country House) nor Kentucky Oaks winner (Serengeti Empress) will be among the three finalists in the Eclipse balloting for 3-year-olds.

War of Will was so far over the top his head was in the clouds right next to his connections, who didn’t know when to back off a horse, who has been running in one big race after another since January at the Fair Grounds. This isn’t red boarding. I said the same thing in my BC previews. Maybe WoW was over-rated all along. That was one of the weakest Preakness fields ever that he beat with a perfect trip.

You think the Churchill Downs stewards are having second thoughts on the DQ of Maximum Security? War of Will might have been doing what became his characteristic backing out of it when Maximum Security allegedly bothered him.

I suspect Maximum Security will conclude his championship season in the Cigar Mile. But wouldn’t it be poetic justice if he did it in the Clark right under the noses of the Churchill Downs stewards who did him wrong?

Speaking of the Derby, does anyone think Storm the Court is the horse to beat next May? To put it another way, if the BC Juvenile was run again and both were even-money, who would you take, Dennis’s Moment, who ran last, or Storm the Court, who got home first?

Dennis’s Moment could win every one of his Derby preps by a pole and it will still be hold your breath time for those backing him on the first Saturday of May. In four races, he found a way to beat himself twice. This isn’t confidence inspiring.

Peter Miller is the Jason Servis of the West Coast.

McKinzie is the Tin Man of racing. Two wins and five seconds is not an accident. Almost every time another horse looked him in the eye in the stretch, he gave it up.

Uni beat the boys in the Mile and Belvoir Bay did the same in the Turf Sprint. When will American racing join the rest of the world and acknowledge that there is no significant difference in talent between the genders?

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10 Responses

  1. You saved your best for last. Remember huge media frenzy over Ruffian vs Foolish Pleasure in “Battle of the Sexes.” What a joke. Ruffian, Genuine Risk, many fillies and mares (not smart enough to name ’em all) have won big races. Thank you for making this salient point.

  2. …have won big race vs colts and older horses. I heard that the “fix was in” for Billie Jean King to win vs Bobby Riggs, ‘tho. Riggs was the pre-match favorite at Houston Astrodome, ha, ha…Probably untrue.

    Zenyatta ran past boys in BC Classic and narrowly missed at wire against Blame in her finale. In the words of Trevor Denman, “Zenyatta has sprouted wings…” Your example of Uni also a good one. Monster closer. Probably commonplace in England for the girls to beat the boys, huh?

  3. “Uni beat the boys in the Mile and Belvoir Bay did the same in the Turf Sprint. When will American racing join the rest of the world and acknowledge that there is no significant difference in talent between the genders?”

    Tom, you can’t be serious. Certainly, generally speaking, although their are extraordinary female performers who are able to compete with males, generally speaking, as with humans, females are physically inferior. I realize that radical leftist social justice crackpots will not agree, and I don’t paint you with that brush, but must tell you I am astounded by your statement.

    TTT – Heman

  4. TJ, knowing you’re laissez faire when it comes to government intervention, I question the sagacity of poking the political bear that has all the power. The pressure on racing today goes far beyond Santa Anita and the state of California.

    Please see the email I printed here from an involved person who lives in Saratoga, and a comment to that post received from yet another Saratogian. My point? If this issue is troublesome in Saratoga, it’s problematic everywhere, including Australia, where people are fanatical of horse racing and wagering.

    As far as Sen. Feinstein is concerned , I would argue that she is “doing her job,” following the fine example set by her colleagues, Senators McConnell and Graham.

  5. And apparently the context my point was trying to provide… Picket signs at the Melbourne Cup? Well, that’s a first…

  6. If we let a few pickets intimidate us, we might as well put the chairs up on the tables.

    Did you miss the wackos this week calling for an end to Thanksgiving because the people who travel to visit family are causing global warming.

  7. Guess you no longer allow links. Here it is:

    Body Positivity Advocates Call For Inclusion Of Plus Size Race Horse Jockeys

    November 5, 2019

    Body shaming has become all too common in recent years, and body positivity advocates say the horse racing industry is partly to blame.

    “Horse owners need to start using jockeys with varying body types,” says Jean Hall. “Most jockeys weigh around 50 kgs. For many, this is an unattainable and unhealthy weight.”

    She’s among the hundreds of body positivity advocates using Melbourne Cup Day to express their concerns about race horse jockeys.

    “There’s a huge amount of pressure on jockeys to stay thin. It’s cruel and dangerous,” says Jean Hall. “For too long the racing industry has been promoting poor body image.”

    Ms Hall has started a petition urging the industry to change its ways. It’s understood the petition has garnered more than 3500 signatures so far.

    “The fashion industry has already begun making important changes in celebrating all body types, we hope the racing industry will follow suit.”

    The racing industry is already under fire after the ABC exposed mistreatment of race horses at a Victorian abattoir.

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