Friday, January 16, 2015

Assmussen Cleared, But We're Not Sure of What

The big news in horse racing land today is signal impasses, lost handles, infighting, fewer owners, that the Steve Asmussen "investigation" has been wrapped up. For a good read about it, the TDN had a good article.

For those of you wondering what he was cleared of, well, I am too.

Unless butchering the english language is a crime, the PETA video and expose didn't show any rule breaking, as far as I could see. There was no magic potion, devlishly being injected at post time to snare a big cash and laugh all the way to the bank. There were no mob contacts, trips into dark shadow basements to buy the latest synthetic EPO, or meetings with shady figures.

There was a stable doing every day business.

Big stables nowadays - I believe this, but it might be naive - do not deal in magic potions. Asmussen, and those like them, run large enterprises and make a lot of money doing it. They'd have to be nuts to risk it all. What they are doing - and this is what rubs everyone the wrong way in some form - is running a business.

As shown on the video regarding unloading a "rat" to trainer Rudy Rodriguez, patch them up, jam them, get rid of them and replace them, is the business-mantra of the modern large stable. That's the way the game is played. That's the way, in 2014, owners are attracted to buy more horses.

Yes, there are still many horsemen who would rather wait on horses, nurse their lesser stock back to perfect health, and play the game that way. But the problem is: They're the ones that don't have owners.

I think some people that want to see racing changed at a fundamental and cultural level - to better protect animals, and to make the game better for new investment - were in some strange way hoping that the commission and others found some sort of smoking gun; as the now Chicago Mayor once said "never let a good crisis go to waste". But that's not fair. Steve Asmussen did not create the modern horse racing stable, he is simply filling a demand driven niche, and he doesn't deserve to go down for the failings of an entire industry.

Horse racing has many, many issues. Good investment is on the sidelines. There are too many  stables that treat animals like commodities. There are those who think a racing license and a few dollars in their pockets gives them a right to be in the business, rather than a privilege. That will have to change to forge a new, vibrant investment model, and perhaps one day it will. But that day is not today.


Ron said...

Not that I care, because I factor cheating into my handicapping, but he did talk about Santana using a buzzer. I doubt that Blasi just made that up. The claiming game has been poker with broken down nags since I was a kid, so I look at that as business as usual.

Tinky said...

Good points, as usual, but it is extremely naïve to think that trainers of big stables – including SA – don't or haven't cheated. In fact, in some cases, their businesses were built on illicit foundations.

An analogy would be drug dealers. Most people would scratch their heads and wonder why dealers don't simply retire unscathed with millions in the bank, rather than accepting further risk. Some do, of course, but most don't.

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