Why Can't Racing Generate America's Next Great Hero?

By Gene Kershner, EquiSpace

I'm thinking the timing is right.

A-Rod (I refuse to call him A-Fraud) is campaigning for forgiveness for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Michael Phelps has potentially lost millions for his recent appearance with that piece of equipment that rhymes with "wrong". The NFL is a daily police blotter, this week alone, Marshawn Lynch, Ahmad Bradshaw and Super Bowl winning kicker Jeff Reed were in the news for being on the wrong side of the law (and the law won). Lest we forget to mention what Michael Vick has done to his fans. How 'bout the Plaxico fiasco? Basketball is not exactly unscathed, I've run out of fingers to count the number of paternity suits currently pending. The closest we can come to the Great American Hero out of the four majors is Lebron James, and we'll see what the King does to his hometown Cleveland when the Big Apple comes a callin'.

So with all of the bad news out there in sports lately, isn't the timing perfect for a horse to capture a nation and propel our sport back on the front pages? The question we face annually, is whether there is a horse out there that can corral the Triple Crown, one of the most challenging feats out there over a timeframe from May 2nd to June 6th. When I googled "Triple Crown Hero", the horses who show up, first and foremost, are Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew. Horses that did the trick back in the 70's. So who is it? Old Fashioned? Not sure he can go the mile and a quarter, especially if he gets hooked into another speed duel up front (highly likely) in Louisville. What about one of the SoCal horses (The Pamplemousse, Pioneerof the Nile or Chocolate Candy)?

How about a jockey? When I googled hero above, the only jock that showed up was Stevie Cauthen. That's right, the 1977 Sportsman of the Year who has four SI covers under his belt. Can you believe it's been 32 years? With the new Animal Planet series bringing jockeys to the forefront of reality television, is there any chance a jockey can capture the hero role this year? Garret Gomez will most likely be on Pioneerof the Nile for Bob Baffert, can the two time Eclipse winner grab the spotlight by winning his first Derby? Last year Desormeaux and Big Brown had it within reach, only to pull up short, but the major sports weren't on the downer they are mired in the controversy they are in today.

Our pal Ernie Munick has suggested many times in the past a big race at halftime or intermission of a major sporting event (i.e. Curlin vs. Big Brown match race on Thanksgiving Day??) could generate a new hero or rooting interest for our sport.

The Vacancy light is ON, I just hope, for our sports sake, there's a horse or jock out there that flips the switch. Whaddya think?

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