Where Are We Going?

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

I'm a glass half-full kind of girl when it comes to horse racing.  You would be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic supporter.  I admire that we are doing things to try and make horse racing safer for both horse and rider.  I realize they are the stars of the show.  I know that good research is being done at some of our leading universities.  I admire the people that are trying to find ways to fund thoroughbred retirement regardless of the times they get kicked in the teeth.  I admire their tenacity about what should be a no-brainer.  I know there are many caring people that have lobbyed and worked to get rid of horse slaughter.  To remove the loopholes that still see our horses traveling to other countries for just such a purpose.

But, do you ever feel like you are living in some parallel universe, a twilight zone per se'?  A place where there is no sheriff but Barney, Goober and Gomer are telling us all what we should be doing.

When did it become the law that everyone should be punished for the sins of a few.

When I heard Zell Miller tell Chris Matthews "I wished I lived in the day when you could challenge a man to a duel", I thought it was a ludicrous statement, I am beginning to understand what he meant.


I don't want any real bullets flying, but I can understand the effect it might have if you were forced to put yourself up as witness to your principles.  A little common sense and civility would go a long way in the gentleman's sport of horse racing.

Now I have taken everything in stride, except for a few whip misuses, until this week.

It all came to a head for me this week when an important industry message board was nuked due to a fight between a handful of posters.  Instead of making their problems their own, they took down the whole lot of us.  That was my one place where I could escape it all and be with horse racing fans.  You see, I don't live in a place where there is horse racing, I live in the middle of NASCAR Country, where they believe the only horses that matter are the ones that sit under the hood of a failing GM model car.  So my message board friends were my horse racing friends.

In today's world, there is nothing but bad news at every turn, but I could always go to the horse races and my horse racing buddies in cyberspace and be set free for just a short while.

I've watched tragic racing losses, track closings for no reason, ADW fights, people telling me what tracks I should bet because of the takeout, states looking to open humane slaughterhouses, people dumping their horses while those of us that could pooled money to rescue them.  We all cringed and befriended one another through everything.

I don't mind telling you that I feel a little like Howard Beale in the movie Network.  I don't want to take it anymore. 

So I'm going to lighten the load right here.  Let me just start right off with the ADW dispute.  I know where we are now, but can someone tell me if anyone benefited on the way here.  The "I won't share" theory, were there any winners?  Certainly not the wagering public.   I've forgotten how to handicap tracks like Churchill Downs and Calder, but I understand that Rolling Stones' fans like the track and American Idol auditions went off well.  Gulfstream Park will never be the same for me.

Secondly, now Bay Meadows is a pile of rubble.  The only benefit to that debacle is that the bankers that financed it to begin with won't need more TARP money to fund it.  While it sits there as a heap of history, Magna talks about "developing" Golden Gate Fieldss.  I hope that works out for them, real estate is something they definitely need to put their money into right now.

Speaking of Magna, there was no place I would rather have spent a winter day than the huge open-air grandstand at Gulfstream Park.  It was like a warm hug, even during a rainstorm.  When the antique lights came on, it felt like sitting in your grandmother's parlor.  Now with a $140 million renovation to "un" racetrack it, I don't even know what to call it.  Why not just spruce the place up, add a simulcasting and slot machine facility and leave the beautiful grandstand structure and paddock area as it was. 

Gulfsteam's turf course was expanded to host more turf racing and certainly made it an international surface, but there will be no World Championship at Gulfstream because you would have to sit people at slot machines just to find a place for them.  Who won here?  Turf horses, owners of turf horses get a slight win, but the people that sit and drop coins into machines like a Laundromat, someone needs to tell them that chances are they are losing money. 

The losers in Florida?  Too many to count.

Now we hear of horses that are found on feed lots in terrible shape, yet their owners show up at the racetrack to get their smiling faces photographed with their horses that are still  viable runners.  Horses that may someday suffer the same poor fate.  Meanwhile the owners that truly do care what happens give and give and the rest of the poor slob horse lovers try to scrape enough money together to buy them from killers and rehabilitate them, that is if someone can go and get them and has room for them.  It would be more merciful to euthanize them.  Why is that not an option rather than making them suffer?

Then there is one thing I've been hanging on to for a while.  This Eight Belles' situation and Larry Jones.  Larry Jones has taken every punch from PETA and an uneducated public.  Journalists that should know better write insensitive reports and find every fault they can with the connections, from her breeding to her exercise rider, the jockey, you name it.  Meanwhile, a truly good man for our sport plans to retire to get away from it.  Who wins there?  Certainly not the racing enthusiasts who know full well that no one hurt more after the loss of this filly than this man.  His owners will not find a better training combo than Larry and Cindy Jones.  They love their horses like children.  The racing public will have one less trainer that knows how to make a superstar the right way.  The winner of course will be PETA who will most definitely turn a profit on the whole deal.

I wanted to be positive this week.  I wanted to talk about Alysheba, the first Derby winner I ever saw, but I had just had it.  Just like Howard Beale in the movie Network I feel like telling you just as he did. 

"I want you to get up now.   I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.  I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'   

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