Multiple Breeders’ Cup winning trainer Peter Miller and his veterinarian have strongly urged that Stormy Liberal, back-to-back winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2017 and 2018, be retired but that’s not going to happen.
David Bernsen, co-owner of the 7-year-old gelding, sees things differently. He bought out his partner Rockingham Ranch, whose Gary Hartunian also favored retiring the former $40,000 claimer, who has earned more than $2 million.
Reportedly, a spot is waiting for Stormy Liberal at Old Friends Farm retirement facility, where he can live the rest of his days in a bucolic, caring atmosphere. He has earned it.
It’s time. Stormy Liberal closed his 2018 campaign with four straight wins, including his score at the Breeders’ Cup. However, he is winless in seven 2019 starts.
Bernsen intends to send the colt to Ocala to be thoroughly checked over before a decision is made on his future. Bernsen has not said Stormy Liberal will return to the races. But the fact that Miller,his vet and Hartunian, his former partner in Stormy Liberal are advocating retirement puts Bernsen in a ticklish situation. If he continues to race Stormy Liberal, he comes off as a bad guy, whether this is fair or not.
It’s clear Stormy Liberal can no longer compete at the highest level. This necessitates a drop in class, God forbid onto the claiming race ladder.
In the midst of the contretemps over equine deaths, if tragedy were to strike Stormy Liberal in a race or in training, the story would become a national cause celebre. Joe Drape of The New York Times and Bernie Goldberg of HBO would be all over it. The story would become a black eye racing can’t afford.
There is a solution. Racing secretaries have the option to refuse the entry of any horse. If Bernsen tries to put Stormy Liberal into a race anywhere, his entry should be refused.
Accentuate the positive
Racing can be its own worst enemy.
It appears the New England Patriots have been caught cheating again. In the wake of Spy-gate and Deflate-gate, a videographer was nailed last weekend shooting sideline footage of the actions and signals of the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff. This has to be the dumbest overkill since Watergate. The Bengals, the Patriots’ next opponent, have won one game; New England is 10-3.
The Houston Astros, thrice division winners and twice American League champions in the past three seasons, are being investigated for stealing signs electronically, a big no-no.
But you don’t see the NFL or MLB groveling for forgiveness, self-flagellating and requesting the federal government take control of their sport. Only racing does that.
Racing acts as if it is the only sport in which participants cheat. It airs its dirty laundry in public symposiums, round tables and hearings and issues mea culpas, which serve only to undermine the game.
To be sure, horsemen taking illegal edges is rampant. Racing is striving mightily to identify cheaters and punish them. This is what the leadership should be stressing.
What’s more there are plenty of positives racing’s hierarchy should be talking about: the beauty, the pageantry and all out will-to-win of the competitors. The love horse people have for the animals.
If all the leaders talk about is what is wrong about racing, how can you expect the public to have positive feelings about the sport?
The Saudis got us again. Yet there still are American horsemen planning to go to Saudi Arabia for a new richly endowed race, whose sole purpose is to burnish the image of the viciously cruel and backward nation. Apparently the attitude of these horsemen is that blood money spends as well as any other kind.
The assassin who gunned down three young Americans at Pensacola Naval Base last week came from the same country that was home to 15 of the 19 killers who pulled off the most deadly attack ever on the mainland of our country on 9-11.
Our government has disgracefully vigorously withheld information of how deeply involved the Saudi government was involved. There is little doubt important Saudis were up to their turbans in planning and funding the attack.
A word of advice to reporters intending to cover the race. Don’t write anything bad about the Saudis. U.S. based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Arabia and its leadership, was grotesquely murdered and his body dismembered last year. According to a United Nations report, Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”
It was also reported that there is credible evidence Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other high level officials were individually liable. The Crown Prince will be the one taking the bows at the big race.
Writers who are gay also might want to think twice about going. Members of the LGBTQ community are subject to whipping, torture and execution in Saudi Arabia. Granted, it is unlikely any outsider there for the race will be targeted. But a writer’s presence amounts to saying, “As long as it doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t matter.”
The Pensacola atrocity wasn’t the work of a disgruntled loner and loser. He was a pilot in the Saudi Arabian air corps, sent to America for flight training. In other words, he had been thoroughly vetted by his home nation. What’s more, this wasn’t a random act of violence. There is ample evidence the attack was premeditated, and possibly known about by fellow Saudis.
Sports should be kept separate from politics. But the new Saudi Cup is not a race that happens to be taking place in an outlaw nation. It is being sponsored by the government solely for the purpose of trying to convince the world that it is not what it is.
Any American horseman who participates is spitting in the face of the families and friends of those slaughtered on 9-11 and the young men who died last week in Pensacola. They deserve ostracism and shunning when they return.