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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


I really enjoyed the horse racing on Saturday but upon awakening this morning I felt guilty about that. I’m wondering how many other fans and players feel the same.

I’m guilty because I’m excited about something most people deem frivolous when compared to the news that 50,000 of our countrymen have been taken by a blood-thickening virus that attached itself to their lungs and attacked their hearts and kidneys with impunity.  

I’ll probably need to seek guidance from someone above my pay grade once I learn it’s safe again to go outside again, which I fear will be a long time coming.

Until then, I suppose this immersion into horse racing is as permissible as any other coping mechanism these days.

I know it weren’t for the game I would have been binged myself to death by now. I’m having a current love/hate relationship with Netflix similar to that I often have with horse racing.

So, for all those who may be in the same equine boat, with a tip of the cap to a late racing writer, Clyde Hirt, here are some impertinent questions that help me whittle away the time:

I loved seeing a gorgeous three-year-old colt break maiden on seven-furlong debut after enduring a trip that would defeat most horses, but am I now supposed to put Basquiat on some Derby futures list?

Should I start following Maxfield’s workout regimen a lot more seriously now and what if he doesn’t make the transition from 2 to 3; are his talents simply the result of youthful precocity?

I know on that on paper he often was riding the best horse, but is Irad Ortiz Jr. really that much better than the competition, or does it just appear that way?

Did you think that Luis Saez’ lean-in race-ride aboard Attachment Rate that put Irad Ortiz aboard Dr Post in a precarious spot was some kind of Derby redux, only to learn it was Ortiz who initiated contact, twice?

And does Dr Post’s courageous victory mean that recent workmate Gouverneur Morris is the one they must beat in the Arkansas Derby?

Has the winner of Gulfstream’s seventh race on Saturday, recent Danny Gargan claim Venezuelan Hug, stopped re-breaking yet?

Does Dr Post belong on the Kentucky Derby futures list, too?

Isn’t strong-rally Ashiham a certain maiden breaker given similar dynamics next time out?

Wasn’t Stanley Hough’s preparation of Global Campaign off a nine- month break a thing of beauty, and isn’t his return to graded stakes imminent?

Would the Arkansas Derby have been split were it not for the fact that Bob Baffert, King of the Hot Springs Ship-Ins, had a favorite for each division?

Can we please stop the hype surrounding Bellafina, a very nice juvenile and early season three-year-old that needs everything to go her way, including permanent quarantine in Southern California?

Not for nothin’, but after her poor start in the Carousel did Joe Talamo have to return to his days of riding like a 10-pound bug boy?  

Under more patient handling, don’t you think that the rider cost Bellafina a share of the trifecta?

Does Gov. Beshear’s ‘back and forth’ about the return of racing to Churchill Downs have more to do with CDI’s donations to the McConnell reelection campaign than it does the industry?

Wazzup with Eight Rings?

With the Honey Ryder, English Channel and Big Drama scheduled for Saturday at Gulfstream Park, did someone extend the championship meet while no one was looking?

If Noble Drama, a half-sister to Big Drama, wins the Big Drama on May 2, is that equine nepotism?

Anyone besides me think that even if Long Weekend keeps moving forward, he won’t be able to beat older horses come the fall?

Can Mia Mischief become the female Mitole of 2020 if kept around one turn?

Do you suppose Ricardo Santana will begin his 10-day suspension the day after the Arkansas Derby, or the following Monday [asking for a commissioner]?

Can’t decide which of the two Baffert Arkansas Derby favorites is better, Charlatan or Nadal?


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16 Responses

  1. JP–
    You have done Clyde Hirt proud!!
    One further impertinent question–does Oaklawn Park feel it is advisable to conspicuously thumb their nose at the CDC by refusing to adhere to any social distancing protocols or masks in the paddock?
    Chuck from Saratoga

  2. You know Chuck, that was on top of the list but I had senior moment and “thought” I wrote it because I thought it. Will get into this on a deeper level tomorrow. Thanks for the wake-up call.

  3. It takes about 60 people to get a 12-horse field from the paddock to the gate–12 grooms, 12 trainers, 12 outriders, 12 jockeys and 12 valets. This doesn’t include the horse identifier and the vet at the gate. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone.

    You are either going to have racing or you’re not.

  4. JP–
    So glad you brought up the tough trip Dr. Post had. At the top of the stretch, I was ripping up my electronic win ticket on Dr. Post , and yet he miraculously came on and pulled away at the wire. Ultra-impressive!
    Chuck from Saratoga

    1. The recoveries from that kind of trip in a half-century of race watching can be counted on one hand. He still needs to move forward of course but it appears he will do just that. A 3YO to follow for sure…

  5. John: You wrote an article last week about the pros and cons of conducting racing at Saratoga this summer. We now have two very important players, on the record, as to this summer’s meeting. Marty Panza, in the TDN, was very emphatic that the Spa “brand” almost mandates that racing be conducted on Union Ave, with or without the patrons. This afternoon, Boyd Browning announced that the two Spa Fasig-Tipton sales will be held in Kentucky this September. So, John, the question is, without spectators, and without the sales, what will a Saratoga Summer look like? I just don’t buy the notion that having a”red” banner vis-a-vis a “green” banner, on the TV screen, will have any effect on handle. What will be the purpose of transporting all of the people and horses necessary to conduct a spectator-less race meeting 200 miles up the Thruway and Northway? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make any sense, and I have not missed crossing the Twin Bridges since Angel double- crossed Laffit in the ’78 Travers.

    1. My opinion re racing at Saratoga in 2020 continues to evolve. My problem is introducing visitors from all over the world into that relatively small town. With respect to the pandemic, July is not that far away and …

      I’ll have more to say on this I’m sure.

  6. John, I replied just now to your previous post – sorry I was so late! I appreciate it – I can’t wait to hear your comments about Creed; no rush! I do love those Honor Cpdes! Another question – do you think John Shirreffs should have shipped Honor A.P. to Arkansas? He seems to think that SA will reopen and the SA Derby run soon after, but…that’s far from a certainty. He certainly knows what he’s doing – and if he prefers not to ship his colt now, ok (though HAP is doing so well now, and I’m dying to see him run again), especially since there’s nothing after AR Derby anyway.

    I don’t think Eight Rings matured since his early form, and others have….

    1. Bets,
      The Eight Rings effort, with or without added maturity, was not a good one.

      I’ve been so buried myself recently. Every day a battle to keep up so no, have not seen Creed.

      I wondered about Honor A P/OP myself. Saw a recent workout on XBTV, can’t remember the date. But the image was of a big, strapping colt blessed with power. John Shirreffs is correct to take his time, IMO. There will be other opportunities to run before the SEP-scheduled Derby. I’m a fan of both horse and trainer.

      1. Hey John

        I have to separate my impatience with wanting to see Honor A.P. run with my knowledge that JS is one of the best, lol. He’s done a fantastic job – and I trust him to do what’s best for the horse, which is the most important thing. Honor A.P. looks great…in lieu of racing, I enjoy following him on Xbtv, which is a fantastic resource. They’ve been doing periodic updates with JS about HAP, and I’ve learned a great deal…not just about the colt, but racing and now trainees think. It’s very cool.

        Thanks for responding !!

        1. Betsy, I certainly hope that racing authorities hear your words. Yes, learning about horses and how their handlers think is very important.

          Among all the approaches racing has tried to appeal to a wider audience, they have failed miserably in this one key area: Sports fan education. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Chuck,

    The recoveries from that kind of trip in a half-century of race watching can be counted on one hand. He still needs to move forward of course but it appears he will do just that. A 3YO to follow for sure…

  8. John, here’s my outline to return NYRA to racing:

    Belmont (May 22 – July 12; assuming no fans in attendance)
    Saratoga at Aqueduct (July 16 – August 30; also without fans for part or all of the meet)
    Saratoga (September 4 – October 4; fans return to the track)

    Saratoga would operate this late-Summer into early-Fall, on a once-in-a-lifetime schedule, provided the town could handle the added inflow of visitors. 24 racing cards (just like in the old days), Monday (except for Labor Day) and Tuesday would be dark, race Friday through Monday (Labor Day) followed by four weeks on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule.

    Whitney (8/1) and Travers (8/29) Days would, therefore, be run at Aqueduct. Expected crowds would not match levels of recent years, so social distancing can be maintained. Saratoga Live plans for 2020 get scratched if fans are not permitted to enter and the meet returns to Belmont instead on September 4. October 10 could potentially become the new Belmont Stakes Day.

    This works for me, maybe with a tweak or two. Your thoughts?

  9. Not finished clearing a busy inbox at the moment but want to give this some thought, sir. First impression? I like the way you think.

    However, the most important part of the plan is your posit “provided the town could handle the added inflow of visitors.” What I might to that sentence, is if town is “able and willing.”

  10. Hope the few horseplayers that visit this site are paying attention to Fonner Park. Solid racing and terrific handle. Purses are funded from handle/signal fees and not from casino dole – imagine that, like it was at all racetracks back before Atlantic City stole the ‘fans’. No Baffert or Pletcher, no Ortiz brothers, no Paco, or Luis. No blue blood owner who’s horse finished fifth or eighth, beaten many lengths, receiving a check for several thousand dollars as you toss your ticket on the floor. Just racing that can be handicapped by me with most winners actually figuring. Refreshing, indeed!

    1. I promised myself to check this out as I’ve noted the handle figures are very good but haven’t had the time to do it right. But a worthy suggestion. Thanks WMC

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