Sunday, January 29, 2012

Horse Racing, by Definition, Invites Skepticism

There was quite the chat on twitter a couple of evenings ago regarding Rachel Alexandra and her new foal. Apparently, according to her caretakers, they were taken to the clinic but later proclaimed fine.

On the surface that all sounds normal.

But to some, with a lifelong history with horses and caring for them, there were holes in the story. They wanted to know more and they weren't taking this at face value.

Others thought the old horse racing line "it's their property and it's none of your business" should reign supreme. That was the crux of the twitter battle.

Not siding with anyone, or any side in this debate, and just speaking generally: Not taking things at face value in horse racing is pretty much what horse racing is. The culture of our sport - buying, selling and caring for horses - has a history that invites it.

If a house seller does not disclose the 1930 wiring that can result in a fire to a willing buyer, he may find himself waking up and starting his day by saying "good morning Mr. Madoff".

If you and I have a commercial business for sale and we don't disclose revenues or the lack thereof, we're also in big trouble.

Conversely, if you claim a horse with a broken knee after being told he's just fine, it's buyer beware. The trainer who sold the horse is considered "sharp".

If you give a horse up for retirement and he ends up on a van going to Canada, well, "these things happen".

If you don't disclose what's going on with a sire or horse for commercial gain, it's "part of the business".

Horse racing's culture makes us skeptical. If you are not skeptical, you are probably broke.

In many ways we're the old west or the rural east, just like the sport started and we intended it to be a century and a half ago.

It's true. Horses and horse racing in general are personal property and "none of anyone's business". But when something happens with horseflesh in our sport - whether it's innocent or not - we shouldn't expect people who've lived and breathed racing for decades to not have a healthy dose of skepticism.

1 comment:

Cangamble said...

The racing culture is to blame. Trainers don't become trainers because they took a college course on training. They generally start off as grooms and hotwalkers, and learn from the trainers that employ them who keep many things from them with respect to exactly how they train, what they use to treat horses, and of course, to shut up if a horse is either really sore or looks like it is improving a lot (in order to get the best price on the horse at the windows).
The racing culture is such that it is totally disadvantageous for honesty and transparency to reign supreme. If you were the only honest horse owner or trainer who was an open book about a horse's problems, you are guaranteed to lose money (if you are an owner) or have a stable with 1 or 2 horses tops (if you are a trainer).