Why Nobody Else Uses a Circular Firing Squad Anymore

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 reality.

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 stud career?

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 get it.

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.'

Oh, wait...

Michael Nikolic blogs at Gathering the Wind

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