SARATOGA SPRINGS–Saratoga puts the lie to so much of what has been roiling racing this year. All you have to do is breathe in the atmosphere and look around at families having a glorious day at the races, creating memories that will endure a lifetime and something that has been lost in recent hysteria becomes obvious: thoroughbred racing is not facing any existential threat, not now, not in the foreseeable future.
There are threats: the declining foal crop and related overly cautious training tactics and the expansion of competing gambling opportunities. But the tragedies in California are not going to bring the game down.
This is not an off-the-cuff prediction. It is an observation based on American history and behavior. Horse racing gives people pleasure and this almost always outweighs everything else.
Tobacco takes 480,000 lives a year, an estimated 10 percent from second-hand smoke, a slaughter of the innocents. But you can still buy smokes over the counter.
The toll from alcohol related deaths is approximately 88,000 annually. Well-meaning people tried outlawing alcohol. How did that work out?
Auto fatalities are in the range of 40,000 per year. We wouldn’t have to ban cars to end this carnage. All we would have to do is lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour or stop building cars that can break speed barriers. But we love driving and a lot of us love driving fast so this is not even a consideration.
The nation is in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana, which has no societal value beyond lots of people enjoy it.
Human athletes die in boxing–two succumbed in the past couple of weeks. Auto racing deaths aren’t quite commonplace thanks to safety measures that have been devised. But they still are not rare.
Most significantly, there is now indisputable evidence that football destroys brains and accelerates death. Yet there is zero chance the game will be legislated out of existence. Why? Americans love it. They count down to the start of a new season.
Horses have suffered tragic mishaps in every racing state for more than a century. Some years are worse than others. Kentucky, unofficial home of thoroughbred racing, has the worst fatality rates but no one is talking about ending the sport. For all its problems, racing endures everywhere and the only jurisdiction that is talking about ending it is California, a case unto itself. More about that in a bit.
Each horse death is heart-breaking to those who own them, care for them and, yes, bet on them. Everything that can be done should be done to make each death the last one, although realistically we know that cannot be the case.
As mentioned, the certainty of racing’s future might not apply to California, where loony activists, incompetent overseers and their political man-servants are capable of all manner of mayhem.
There are 60,000 homeless living people in the streets of the Golden State’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These unfortunate souls have daily bowel movements in the streets, salted with discarded heroin syringes.
This has created a population explosion of vermin and with it threats of plagues we thought had been eradicated in the dark ages. This peril has begun to intrude into the lives of every citizen.
Goodness knows how many homeless have been found dead on sidewalks in the last six months. One thing is certain. It exceeds 30, the number of equine deaths that have mobilized Gov. Newsom, Sen. Feinstein and the Los Angeles Times to call for at least the temporary curtailment of racing. There are few greater examples of manipulative distraction and political grandstanding.
New York had an uncommon spate of race track fatalities 2011-12. But not even Gov. Andrew Cuomo, no friend of racing, made a serious stand calling for an end of the sport. Responsible safeguards were created and the issues faded from public scrutiny.
So could we stop the doomsday predictions of an existential threat to racing. The verbiage might make you look smart but the reasoning produces a different conclusion.
To borrow a phrase from a neighboring state’s advertising slogan, what happens in California racing stays in California racing.
BC sells its soul
I thought racing had hit bottom when it allowed a fast food company to attach its name to the Kentucky Derby, the world’s most prestigious race.
But the barrier has been lowered with the Breeders’ Cup accepting Big Ass Fans as a corporate partner and name sponsor of the Dirt Mile. I can’t wait to see how NBC handles this.
This is not a criticism of Big Ass Fans main products, cooling devices, just as I have no issue with any of the Yum Brands menu items. It’s the corporate branding of Big Ass Fans, which is clearly intended to attract attention, apparently successfully so.
But there is an unavoidable secondary interpretation, which those outside racing often attach to some people who enjoy racing, a very unflattering one. What’s next, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff presented by Big Boob Bras?
To put it in another context, if an owner tried to name a horse Big Ass Fan, The Jockey Club would dispatch a rejection notice by return mail. If the name is not acceptable for a horse, it surely doesn’t belong attached to one of racing’s most important events.