While I was gone, a few more horses died – or more accurately had to be euthanized – at Santa Anita. I believe the number of fatalities at that track now comes to 30 horses since Christmas 2018. The LA Times has called for the track to cancel the rest of its meeting which the track has not done. That “difference of opinion” is small potatoes compared to one that could arise very soon.
A little more than 4 months from now – on November 1 and November 2 – the Breeders’ Cup Races are scheduled to take place at Santa Anita. The Breeders’ Cup attracts the best thoroughbreds in training every year and the races provide for two days of TV pageantry and spectacle. Now consider two ‘possibilities”:
- You are the owner of one of the 50 best horses in the world; you have a chance to win several million dollars in a Breeders’ Cup race; your horse is one of the top 3 Morning Line favorites in his race. You also know that your horse is going to haul in several million dollars in stud fees even if he does not win this Breeders’ Cup race. Question for you, Mr. Owner is simple: Do you ship your horse to Santa Anita even to work out on the track and risk that he becomes another notch in the barn door there?
- The horses are in the gate for one of the races on Saturday. You are at home watching on TV and have been regaled with all the important – and non-important- stuff about this race for the past hour. The gate opens and sometime in the first furlong, right there in the middle of the screen, one of those horses breaks a leg and goes down. On national TV, one of those “noble steeds” effectively dies in front of everyone watching the races.
Horse racing is a sport in serious decline. If a bunch of owners decide not to “risk” their prize horses on this pinnacle of the racing year, how can that possibly help put the sport on a more positive vector heading? Even worse, if one of the top horses in training breaks a leg on this track that has seen such an abnormal breaking of equine legs this year, might the hue and cry that arises take horse racing from a sport in serious decline and send it into a death spiral?
- [Aside: Do not underestimate the fallout from an equine death on TV. Remember when Barbaro broke its leg in one of the Triple Crown Races and the controversy it generated. And, Barbaro’s demise predated the time when every yahoo with Wi-Fi access who wanted one could have a Twitter account to announce whatever comes to mind in the heat of any moment.]
Since the powers-that-be at Santa Anita still have no idea what is the root cause of these equine deaths, these questions loom over what is left of the sport for the next 4 months. Imagine you had the deciding vote as to where this year’s Breeders’ Cup Races should take place. Would you keep them at Santa Anita – or move them somewhere else?
In tracking down some of the info about Santa Anita and racing there, I also ran across something else that should concern the folks who are proponents of thoroughbred racing; this does not indicate good health for the “industry” as a whole. Suffolk Downs will cease to have live racing at its facility as of the end of this month; it will stay open as a simulcast facility where folks can bet on races taking place elsewhere. Suffolk Downs is in Boston close by Logan Airport; it has been the top racetrack in New England for about 75 years. Suffolk Downs never achieved the recognition that Saratoga did nor was it ever comparable to the NYC tracks in prestige. Nevertheless, it hosted its fair share of “great racehorses” over its time. Now, it is going to be a simulcast facility and the land will be developed into a new Boston neighborhood.
While focused on events in the Boston area, let me turn to a comment recently by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton-Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Bottom line: Forbes has put out another list of the highest-paid athletes. It’s the usual dull cluster of dollar signs and numbers, but with one amusing twist. Strictly by salary, Tom Brady ranks fifth on the list — among Boston athletes alone. The top paid Beantown jock is Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, followed by teammates Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Red Sox left-hander David Price slips into fourth place. Not taken into account is the cash value of six Super Bowl rings.”
I had always marveled at the fact that Brady was not one of the top QBs in the NFL in terms of salary given his record of getting teams into the playoffs and the Super Bowl and then to win Super Bowl Championships. However, I had never thought to compare his salary to other athletes who toil in the same city. Here is a tip of the hat to Professor Molinaro for that perspective.
The NBA Draft will happen tonight. Amidst and among all the reports about trade rumors and who will draft whom, there is a sidelight to the draft that seemingly has only drawn attention here in the DC area.
- The Washington Wizards – soon to be nicknamed the Woeful Washington Wizards – do not have a General Manager who will run this draft with some of his “personal skin in the game” so to speak.
About 2 months ago, the Wizards fired Ernie Grunfeld from that job. That was a decision that should not have caused the owner, Ted Leonsis, even a moment’s confusion. An NBA team has an opening as its GM; even though the Wizards are not a good team and are in a salary cap Hell that even Dante Alighieri could not have imagined, this is still a GM position in the NBA. Notwithstanding the title and the position, there have been no hirings and there have been no public expressions of interest in the job for the whole time it has been vacant.
By the way, the Draft is tonight AND the NBA free agency period will begin 10 days after the Draft. Even in something less than an ideal organizational situation, you would think that having an incumbent GM to navigate the free agent marketplace for the team would be a good idea, no?
Finally, since I spent time today with regard to sporting stuff in the Boston area, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about another Boston athlete:
“Just-retired tight end Rob Gronkowski put a big dent in the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl trophy when he wielded it like a bat to bunt a pitched baseball before a Red Sox game.
“In fact, one could say the chrome football atop the Lombardi now looks a bit … deflated.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………