Courtesy of Michael Nikolic
As a rule, I never get lost.
If I did, which is patently absurd given the aforementioned rule, I certainly
would never stop and ask for directions; some might characterize my behavior in
such situations as willfully obtuse. They are obviously out of touch with
I find, within the ranks of
horse racing's executive council, a kindred spirit. They clearly have their finger on the
proverbial pulse of the industry and are within their rights to discount every
single suggestion that is presented to them.
After all, they have taken this game, so rich in tradition, and done an
exceptional job of stewarding it.
Quick question(s), off the top
of your head, who won the Santa Monica Handicap this year? The Donn? The Belmont? If, without Google, you named more than the
last one, go get yourself a cookie.
Is there any correlation
between the number of graded stakes, over 460 this year, and the fleeting
careers of horses? What about to their
I don't think that I am going
out too far on the proverbial limb to say that there would be no game without
horses. Given that, it obviously stands
to reason that we should breed as many of those quirky equines as fast as we
can and for as much as we can get some poor bastard to pay for them. If only we could also devise a system where
mediocre horses could command obscene stud fees after forgettable racing
careers and perpetuate the cycle.
Enter the AGSC and TOBA.
This incestuous and nepotic
symbiology has conspired to perpetrate a fraud on the racing public.
'Breed the best to the best'
has long been the mantra of the breeder.
What better way to determine who the best is than to have a series of
races that are clearly defined as 'the best'?
We know they are the best because the people carding them tell us they
are and they have no reason to lie. And why not make so many of them that good
horses don't have to actually run against each other while still collecting
their own testament to ignominy? Why not
card them at various distances, divorced from any standard or reason?
Should graded status be
awarded to races as if they were trophies in little league baseball? Shouldn't the winning of a graded stake
actually mean something? If an owner is
able to collect a few graded stakes early in a horse's career, what possible
incentive could they have for keeping their charge in training instead of
sending it off to the breeding shed?
The Breeders' Cup, created as
an international day of champions, has soiled itself with its latest
iteration. In what can only be described
as a command decision reminiscent of Michael Brown during his FEMA tenure, the
Breeders' Cup chose to pander to the AGSC/TOBA and dilute its product. Kennedy's
Corridor has an excellent piece on the dysfunction.
Carding fourteen races over
two days at every conceivable distance and on every surface, except dirt, is
nothing but a sop to the owners and breeders.
The first goal, in the TOBA mission statement, calls for the improvement of the economics for breeders
and owners. Integrity and pleasure follow in the rear; exactly where the fans
Dilution, contrary to popular
nostrums, does not give you more of a product; you can just peddle the tonic to
more people. Well, I have had my fill
and the BC lost my vote and furthermore, they lost my money. The Breeders' Cup card can usually squeeze
$1000 from me and several of my friends, through the Pick Six and individual
wagers. This year I will not drink the Kool-Aid.
We are all made cheaper by the
adulteration of the Breeders' Cup and even more so by the relegation of the
Distaff to Friday. Graded races should
be hard to win. Winning them should mean
something. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in A league of their
own, 'The hard...is what makes
them great; if it were easy, every one could do it.'
Michael Nikolic blogs at
Gathering the Wind