Let me first start by acknowledging that Peppers Pride is a remarkable horse. To win 16 races consecutively, no matter whether running against New Mexico-breds, stakes horses or claimers, is not to be taken lightly. She and her connections should be celebrated for their accomplishments and if they go on to win one more and break the mark for most races won consecutively by a North American Thoroughbred, they deserve to be in the record books.
But I must admit, what happened on Sunday rubbed me the wrong way. I am wondering how many of you feel the same way.
Peppers Pride was entered in the Lincoln Handicap at Ruidoso Down in what would have been her record-breaking attempt. Only, a couple of hours before the race she was scratched - due to a sloppy (sealed) track.
Trainer Joel Marr gave an explanation for his decision: "They've done a great job with the track, but it doesn't matter how good it is, if it's sloppy and slick you increase your chance of injury or something else happening. It just wasn't worth it."
Normally, scratching a horse because of the off conditions isn't a big deal. It happens every day. Only thing is, it's not every day that a horse goes for a North American record.
Far be it from me to tell Marr and owner Joe Allen what to do with their horse. If they want to scratch her, that is their choice. In my opinion however, the sporting thing to do would have been to run Peppers Pride.
It should be noted that Peppers Pride was the only one of eight horses in the Lincoln to scratch. It also should be noted that one race prior, an injured horse had to be vanned off.
Was injury a fear for Marr and Allen? I have no doubt it entered into their minds. But it also entered into the minds of every other owner and trainer who sent their horse to post on Sunday. My point is, the risk was no greater for Pepper's Pride than any other horse that day, as far as injury goes.
Trying to compare Peppers Pride to the four horses who she currently shares the win streak with - Cigar, Citation, Hallowed Dreams and Mister Frisky - is foolish. Everyone knows they are all on different talent levels. This is not about talent. This is about a record, sportsmanship and racing your horse even when conditions are not ideal. In my opinion, they owed it to the sport. Because although Marr said it was injury he feared, for me there is a lingering doubt that he didn't run her because he feared she would lose. She had never run on an off track before and he probably knows she doesn't particularly care for it. Again, if you are going for a record as big as this, I think you need to run your horse.
Looking back, I seem to recall Cigar putting his 11-race win streak on the line in the 1995 Breeders' Cup - while racing on a muddy track at Belmont. Were Allen Paulson and Bill Mott concerned about injury that day? I'm sure it crossed their minds. They made the decision to run him that day. And monetarily speaking, they had much more to risk.
Again, I am not here to denigrate Marr and Allen. Although I do not know them, I am sure they are respected horsemen. But horse racing is about facing competition. It's about showing up and racing, even when conditions are not ideal. Especially when a record is on the line. Just my opinion.