…as viewed from home in Brooklyn:
How cringingly uncomfortable were we all when Jerry Bailey kept calling Big Brown “Barbaro”? I scared my cats off the couch when I yelled out loud, “Stop, Jerry, stop!”
In a related note: I continue to grumble over the re-naming of the Sir Barton. It seems historically unjust for the first winner of the Triple Crown to have his eponymous race taken away so unceremoniously. I get that Pimlico wanted to name a race for Barbaro, but why the Sir Barton?
Nick Zito was thoughtful and rather courageous, given the current climate, when he said, in response to a question of synthetic surfaces: “The game is bigger than all of us. This is American racing. It’s not English. It’s not French. And we race on dirt here.” He backstopped his comments by saying that if synthetic surfaces do indeed save horses’ lives, he’ll be all for them, but that the information that we have now isn’t enough to jettison 200 years of racing history. He is one of the those in racing who consistently reminds us of the importance of that history, and who honors it in word and deed.
I preferred the NBC discussion on safety issues to ESPN’s. ESPN’s seemed quite managed to me, rather scripted, while folks got pretty worked up over at NBC. Gary Stevens was the very definition of “eyes blazing” as he challenged William Rhoden, who on more than one occasion demonstrated how little he knows about the sport he vilifies. Stevens took on Rhoden over the latter’s contention that horse racing is analogous to bull-fighting and dog-fighting, and Rhoden didn’t have a good answer; in fact, he couldn’t offer any real answer to Stevens’s challenge. Stevens took that round, and Larry Bramlage backed up Stevens, albeit more reasonably and less emotionally.
Rhoden got it wrong again when discussing two-year-old racing. When it was pointed out that younger horses need to train and race in order to be sound; and that horses who race at two break down less frequently than those that start racing when they’re older; and that delaying the start of training and racing is rather like telling high school kids that they can’t play sports until they’re in college, Rhoden lashed back, “Yeah, but would you play a high school kid against the Packers?” Larry Jones then rather gently informed Rhoden that two-year-old races are age-restricted, and that young horses do not race against older horses. You could practically see Rhoden go, “Oh…oops.”
Why was Sam the Bugler at Pimlico on Friday and Saturday? Doesn’t Pimlico have faith in its own bugler?
Enough with the Desormeaux story hard luck story. OK, so the guy had a hard time getting mounts after he won the Derby twice; he now rides first call for one of the best barns in the country, and came within one win of the Saratoga riding title. An underdog he is not.
It was outrageous to have Molly Dutrow on camera to talk about the murder of her mother.
When informed that the NTRA would like to see steroids banned from racing by January of 2009, Dutrow responded: “Whatever the guidelines will be, we’ll follow them.” Riiighht…just as you always have.
Those human interest stories about the connections of Big Brown didn’t quite have that same heart-warming thrill as they did in recent years. I mean, who couldn’t love Roy Chapman and the Afleet Alex guys and Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Sackatoga Stable? Those stories made us root for those horses, made us want to see them again. The coverage of Iavarone and Dutrow made me want them to disappear from the face of racing as soon as possible. What’s to root for with these guys? An overly-stylized owner who sees his horse strictly as an investment opportunity? A trainer who puts drugs in his horses, then declares he knows nothing about the drug’s benefits (“I give my horses steroids because my vet tells me to. I don’t know what they do”)? Iavarone wore sunglasses in the shady winners’ circle. Ugh. The only good thing about Big Brown’s early retirement will be that with luck, we won’t have to see these guys all summer.
And then, in the trophy presentation, we get to be reminded that Pimlico is owned by Stronach, who has perhaps done more single-handedly to ruin racing than anyone in the country.
Was that our friend John Hennegan behind Iavarone as the latter was being interviewed after the win?
Racecar Rhapsody was fourth again. How unbelievable is that? Fourth consecutive race finishing fourth, and he was given the fourth Prime Power rating on the Brisnet past performances.
At least all the horses got home safely, and I guess that a potential Triple Crown winner is good for the sport. I’m unconvinced. More on that to come…