……if I’m not all that interested in this year’s Breeders’ Cup?
I assumed that I’d be psyched as it got closer; plenty of the horses entered interest me, horses I’ve seen and admired: Music Note, Indian Blessing, Doremifasollatido, Ginger Punch, Wait A While, Dynaforce, Colonel John, Better Talk Now, Thorn Song, Shakis. I should be thrilled, salivating with anticipation at the chance to see them in action on racing’s biggest day, with so much at stake.
But here we are, two days out, and I gotta say, I was more psyched about last weekend’s NY Showcase Day at Belmont than I am about this weekend’s racing.
Maybe it’s because I think it’s fundamentally wrong that year-end championships may well ride on the way horses perform on a surface over which they’ve never previously run. As Andy Serling put it on Thoroughbred Weekly, speaking of Curlin, “It would be a shame for this Breeders’ Cup, and maybe his career, to end with a loss because of a racetrack, and not because a better horse beat him.”
Maybe it’s because I think it was unnecessary and unwise to award the Breeders’ Cup to the same track for two consecutive years.
Maybe it’s because I won’t be able to see the horses that I am most interested in seeing, because they’ll be running on Friday when I’ll be working.
And before you start scrolling down to click “comment” to tell me that if I were a real racing fan, I’d take the day off—don’t bother. Don’t presume to tell me that I’ve had plenty of time to plan, and that, hey, it’s only one day, and really, I could just call in sick.
I should pay for the Breeders’ Cup folly by taking a personal day or by lying to my employer? I should pay for the Breeders’ Cup folly by working extra on Thursday or Sunday or Monday so that I can stay home and watch television?
If the folks at the Breeders’ Cup really wanted me—or anyone else—to watch—and bet—they wouldn’t have scheduled premier races at a time when the great majority of us can’t pay attention.
In my e-mail box on Monday, I got a Thoroughbred Daily News update with the headline, “Believe in Hope, Communique, J Be K Out of Breeders’ Cup.” They are only the latest in the line of horses who won’t be hitting the track this weekend, for a variety of reasons, and while I’m certainly not happy that injuries are preventing horses from running, I can’t but feel the teensiest frisson of satisfaction as horses defect.
I don’t want this “championship” meet to succeed; I don’t want these decisions to be validated; I don’t want the Breeders’ Cup folks to be able to reflect with self-satisfaction and self-importance on what they’ve created. The Breeders’ Cup has already wreaked havoc with the traditional stakes schedule and with historical races; it has already diminished a horse’s year-long accomplishments. Now, it’s asking us to disregard the way dirt horses have performed all year, and to guess at how they might perform on a surface that’s completely untested in this country, and to reward horses for taking to it immediately.
I’ll be at Belmont on Saturday, I’ll be watching, and I may be betting. I’ll be hoping that this year, the Breeders’ Cup will end with all horses having come home safely, and that we will have a chance to see epic, memorable performances. But the surface and the segregation will, to my mind, always put a “qualified” before any “success” that might be ascribed to these championships. And if any horses perform well this weekend, beyond how they’ve performed all year, and garner year-end honors because of it, these races will be revealed for the anomaly that some of us suspect that they are.