Good morning racing fans!
In the NFL they began looking into changing the helmets recently. The league wants lighter, safer helmets, with sensors built in them, to look at sensory data in game situations. In major sports, or any business really, policy, rules, safety issues and the like are looked at discussed and changed. It's usually done quickly, with a CEO-led approach.
In racing, of course, it's not quite like that. The discussion goes on and on and on and on, and nothing really changes much.
If changing a helmet was like changing a racetrack surface, we'd have people talking about soft tissue neck injuries, the tradition of the modern helmet, or the fact that players - since about age eight - only know how to play in one type of helmet and it is unfair to ask them to try a new one.
There'd be stories on the Ham and Egg Football report asking overseas football players about the softer helmets. A football player would be interviewed on a pro anti-safe helmet website saying how much he doesn't like it. A bespectacled trainer for a big market team would give interviews saying the helmet will cause him problems. Data would be taken from one game where a one player on one play turned his head to tackle - because according to him he didn't feel right playing in it and it changed his game - and he got a stinger. That would be used to say how stupid the new helmet idea was.
It is similar with rule changes, that happen every year and we're seeing talked about this year in the NFL. There might be squawking, but in the end it all works out, like the clothesline rule 30 years ago. It won't go on for years.
Sausage making in regular sports or business is not made like it is in racing. It's made behind the scenes. The science is discussed by a steering committee with smart people, and it takes some time. Then the CEO decides if the policy makes sense, is workable, is implemented, or not implemented. Then it is or it isn't. The sausage is made by people who know how to make it, then it's sent to market.
Racing makes their sausage in the opposite way. The process is filled with commentary from a lot of people who have no idea how to make sausage. The ingredients, the machine, and the people who are selected to make it are rarely ever even assembled. In the end the sausage is not likely ever brought to market, but even if it is, it's not edible.
Yesterday's Harness Racing Update (pdf) was excellent. It had full coverage of Rock n Roll Hanover's death with quotes from many, like former trainer Brett Pelling.
Also in the pub, Bill Finley looked at Gural's letter asking for entries, and tore a hide off that, in a pretty interesting way. His last line in the article was thought provoking as well. What if the M gets slots? Would Gural say "you're not welcome here because you didn't support me when we needed you."
Fantastic article on Lasix by Joe in VFTRG yesterday. He goes through its politics, its history, and exposes it for what it's really about: Money. To think there was a time where horses who bled badly were not allowed to race. Some of the same people today who say it's cruel to not allow lasix were the same people asking for the bad bleeder exclusion policy of the past to be reversed. Common sense has left the building, and reading the commentary out there, it's not close to returning.
Finley looked at Verrazano at ESPN this week, with thoughts from Jerry Browne at Thorograph. Having a horse so on his toes, so primed, so sharp and so ready for his first start is the way of the modern trainer - in thoroughbred or harness racing. It just was not like this years ago.
We see the awful early death of Rock n Roll Hanover, but it reminds us of his trainer - Brett Pelling. Pelling could train a thoroughbred or a standardbred or a quarterhorse. He was, in my opinion, as good a horseman at knowing how to train and manage a horse that there ever was or is. He always had his stakes colts peak, and last an entire year. Rock n Roll Hanover qualified in 1:55 and raced his first tilt in 1:54 only seven years ago. He raced five or six seconds faster about five or six times after that, in big races. This past year, no fewer than 10 colts qualified four seconds quicker. None of them were near as good, or raced as soundly as Rock did. The modern trainer, in my opinion, can learn a lot from Brett Pelling.
Have a great day everyone.