Another Grade I at Belmont, another win for the longest shot on the board. Didn’t have this one, unfortunately, though I’m a little mad that I didn’t, as my eyes kept going back to Frost Giant in the program, and I dismissed my interest. Woulda, coulda, shoulda…but not nearly as bad poor Patrick’s day.
I saw Richard Dutrow on my way out of Belmont yesterday, and while I’m sure that a win in the Suburban with Frost Giant doesn’t quite take the sting out of the Belmont fiasco, he looked like a pretty happy guy. He was out by the paddock on his cell phone, grinning from ear to ear, and saying, “Yeah, thanks, babe” to whoever was on the other end. And I am NOT making that up.
In the winner’s circle after the race, I don’t know who was happier, Dutrow or Rudy Rodriguez. Based on the statistics in yesterday’s program, Rodriguez had six wins from 104 mounts at this meet, and it’s not too often that he’s on a live horse in a big race—or maybe in any race. As Rudy got off Frost Giant after the race, Dutrow picked him up, hugged him, and swung him around, before dropping him and giving him a playful shove, affection written all over his face. It was a great moment, and replayed at the end of Thoroughbred Action, NYRA’s race replay show, with Jan Rushton commenting, “Congratulations to Rudy Rodriguez, Rick Dutrow—first Grade I for Rudy, we all love him!”
Ernie put it the best: “I’m sure you were all very moved by the hugfest between jock and trainer after Rudy got his first Grade I. Rick even gave Rodriguez a humongous luv shuv, as if to say, You sumbitch, you just got your first Grade I!” Exactly.
I can’t even believe that I’m going to say this, but I’m starting to kind of like Richard Dutrow, or at least to dislike him less. Maybe it’s because I can be something of a contrarian, and as the tide turns inexorably against him, I want to find a reason to go against the prevailing wisdom; maybe it’s because after the blitzing success of the spring, he’s now becoming something of an underdog, and I’ve always rooted for the underdog.
While finding outrageous some of what he said in his post-positive interview this week, and wishing that he could somehow find a way to make his point without offending everyone within earshot, I thought Dutrow made two points worth noting:
1) Racing media and fans choose targets for their mistrust and dislike while giving others a pass. True, Dutrow has brought much of the scrutiny and criticism on himself, but he is getting excoriated in a way that Asmussen and other repeat offenders have escaped, largely due, I believe, to his personality, rather than his behavior. Those with a likeable personality get a pass, while those we find distasteful get our scorn.
2) Dave Grening in the DRF reported that Dutrow said,
“Everybody looks at me like I’m a drug kind of guy, and if you’re a drug kind of
guy you’re going to go out there and watch your horses break down. I want
anybody here right now to tell me the last time you’ve seen one of my horses
break down in the afternoon. You’re not going to be able to find it because I’m
safe, I’m sound, I protect my horses.”
Dutrow said the last horse of his he recalls breaking down on the track was Lake Pontchartrain, who was vanned off following a last-place finish in the James Moseley Stakes at Suffolk Downs on June 2, 2001.
If that’s true, then it seems a pretty remarkable statistic, and it seems like it should be part of the conversation. If I didn’t have a job, I’d find a way to research this, along with any Dutrow training breakdowns. This is not to excuse Dutrow’s multiple violations, or to suggest that he should carry on, business as usual, without some tidying up in his practices and at his Aqueduct barn–just that, perhaps, there are other elements to bring to the conversation.
Unfortunately, Dutrow brings so much negative attention to himself that we have a hard time looking beyond his graceless behavior. But I might try. And like I said, I can’t believe I’m saying that.
In other contrarian news, I’m not with those who believe that the length of Jeremy Rose’s suspension is appropriate; lively conversations on this topic have been taking place at Green but Game and Curb My Enthusiasm. I support animal welfare causes with both time and money, and I am as troubled as anyone by instances of animal cruelty. That said, I think Rose’s suspension is way too long. I’ve watched the replay, and it’s hard to believe that the act was, as Rose said, an accident. I just don’t see what is gained by having him sit out for six months. A hefty fine, yes, and at least thirty days, maybe more. But the six-month suspension seems to me to be an over-reaction in an atmosphere in which people are posting hysterical comments in their hundreds on discussion boards across the country, and in which racing is terrified of bad press. Did Delaware Park make a statement with this suspension? Sure. Can they be said to be acting on behalf of equine welfare? Yes. But in this situation, Rose is a public martyr for an industry desperate to salvage its image.