The Ky Derby Did Not Help Horseracing

Happy Woolworth’s Day everyone…

I need to hop around the sporting world today to clean more stuff off my clipboard because I will be going on hiatus after today. Let me begin with the Kentucky Derby last weekend…

Horseracing as a sport is in severe decline in the US and the pace of that decline seems to be accelerating. Last weekend’s Kentucky Derby did little to help. The field of 3-year olds that entered the starting gate was about as insipid and uninteresting a field as I can remember – – and my first recollection of watching a Kentucky Derby was in 1953, the year that Native Dancer lost the Derby by a nose to Dark Star. That was the only time Native Dancer ever lost a race. Using basic handicapping tools, this year’s winning time 2:02 1/5 seconds would lead the handicapper to believe that this year’s winner, Animal Kingdom, would be 15 lengths behind Secretariat in the same race. Not only had the field not been impressive leading up to the Derby, the winner of the Derby loafed over the mile-and-a-quarter distance and still beat this field of plow-horse shudda-beens..

Having said all that, Animal Kingdom might just enhance the demise of horseracing. Animal Kingdom ran only 4 races prior to the Derby; his last race was six weeks before the Derby. Racing is a copycat sport; there will be other trainers who will take this avenue to get a horse to the Derby next year. That will be bad for the sport because it will put the top young horses at ages 2 and 3 on the track only a few times and the sport will only grow if it can put competitive fields of good horses on the track more often than happens today.

Now imagine that Animal Kingdom wins the Triple Crown… Since there are no good horses in this year’s crop of 3-year olds, it could happen. If that happens, next year’s Kentucky Derby will see a plethora of unseasoned and impossible to handicap horses in the starting gate. That is exactly what horseracing does NOT need…

At age 48, Evander Holyfield won a boxing match in Europe last week with a TKO in the 10th round. To be sure, that is a better outcome than if Holyfield had died in the ring, but not a whole lot better. Holyfield says that he wants a chance at another heavyweight championship bout and that is about the last thing that the moribund sport of boxing needs right now. Let us say it takes a year to put this championship fight together and a 49-year old Evander Holyfield enters the ring. Imagine the outcomes:

    1. The current champion – – 20 years or more his junior – – humiliates him and beats him like a drum.

    2. The champion beats him so badly that Holyfield suffers more brain damage than he has already suffered in his career and so he has to spend weeks or months in a hospital – – or worse.

    3. Holyfield wins and in the post-fight press conference, he exhibits such slurred speech that it takes a computer algorithm to put his verbalizations into English for the reporters in the room.

The sport of boxing needs any of those outcomes the way Frankie Valli needed a Fifth Season.

Here is an interesting comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald, which points very clearly to the real interest in one of the Olympic sports:

“The USA Diving Grand Prix ends Sunday in Fort Lauderdale. Dear event: Americans only care about diving two weeks every four years during the Olympics. And even then we’re sort of pretending.”

More scandal is surfacing at THE Ohio State University. I am putting the over/under at 4 days until Jim Tressel states unequivocally that he knew nothing – – NOTHING – – about how this one car salesman in the Columbus area happened to be able to sell cars to a whole bunch of football players. More importantly, I am sure he will be totally dumbfounded as to how the title for the car sold to one of his players – – a 2-year old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles – – shows a sales price on its title as $0.00. You can find the whole story here.

It would seem as if USA Today was on a roll over the weekend because it also had a story about Dave Bliss. If you have forgotten about Dave Bliss, you are fortunate. Dave Bliss was the basketball coach at Baylor when one of his players was shot and killed – – one of the teammates would subsequently be tried and convicted of murdering of murder in this matter – – and Bliss got his players and coaches to paint the murder victim as a drug dealer and that his killing was part of a drug ring confrontation. All this happened in 2003; Dave Bliss was a slimeball then and nothing would have convinced me that he had evolved to anything higher on the evolutionary ladder since then.

Now, it turns out that Dave Bliss is coaching high school basketball in Texas at a private school. Why a high school would even think of hiring this guy is beyond me, but that is the case. And surprise of surprises – – there is a scandal at the school in Bliss’ first year there. The best way for you to get the story and the context of the story is to read about it in USA Today.

Finally, here is one more item from Greg Cote’s column over the weekend in the Miami Herald:

“Miami Beach is hosting the Exxxotica adult convention, whose guests include former Tiger Woods bedmate Joslyn James. A press release on that referred to Woods’ real first name as “Eldridge.” (It’s Eldrick). I tell you, the lack of accuracy really diminishes my respect for this Exxxotica event!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Patrick Mottonen  On May 10, 2011 at 6:10 am

    I love sports, I’m old so I remember listening to the Clay-Liston fight on the radio with my dad. Imagine listening to a boxing match on the radio.

    On Derby day we all gathered in the living room, some of us on the sofa that was wrapped in plastic. We would all pick a horse and bet a nickel.

    Years later I was at Hazel Park outside Detroit. I put down $5 on Rosy Martini the bigest bet I ever laid. She came up lame before the first turn and had to be trailored off the track. When I left her cold dead body was laying behind the barn. I never bet on another horse.

  • Anthony  On May 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Horse racing is so boring…the all day coverage is unnecessary, as a half hour to hour before the actual race would be more than enough to pointificate the upcoming snooze fest. Horse racing is an rich person’s NASCAR…and still a boring “sport” to watch a race around a circle. SC, I know you hate televised Poker, but it is leaps and bounds more entertaining (and intersting) than horse racing.

  • Peter  On May 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Holyfield’s opponent, Brian Nielsen, was 46 years old, making a combined age of 94. Nielsen also had been retired for nine years before deciding to fight Holyfield.

  • ballyfager  On May 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

    While Animal Kingdom would be fifteen lengths behind Secretariat, he would also be ten lengths AHEAD of last years winner, Super Saver. This year’s Derby was not slow.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Patrick Mottonen:

    I did that too. I remember Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannson on the radio and Patterson/Liston too.


    Poker on TV has more action – – there are lots of hands to be seen in any 30-minute segment. In racing – – and on Derby Day to be sure – – the thought of having more than one race per 45 minutes is absurd. Nonetheless, after about 10 minutes of TV poker, the drama and excitement of the programming there is not significantly greater than the stylized nonsense leading up to a Derby race.


    The promotors of that fight ought to be ashamed. Anyone who paid real money to see it ought to be institutionalized.


    The fact that Super Saver walked through last year’s Derby does not change the fact that Animal Kingdom would have been far behind Secretariat plus several of the “also-rans” in the 1973 Derby. This year’s race was in fact – – – slow.

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