Horse Track Blog

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It’s All About the Horses

New York:On a sad day when the valiant Barbaro has been euthanized, the thoughts and prayers of true racing fans go out to Roy and Gretchen Jackson for their loss. Whatever fans might feel collectively, the pain must be exponential for the Jacksons.

The Jacksons declined to do what many would have done in their position. They turned down an insurance payment for the incapacitated Derby hero and instead reached into their own hearts (and pockets) to give the horse every chance to fulfill his destiny as a sire of champions. The process was wrought with peril, though, and despite Herculean efforts by Dr. Dean Richardson Barbaro lost the battle this morning.

His passing is all the more discouraging because of the chaotic state of horseracing in New York at the moment. Depressing, really. True fans are diminished by the passing of a noble thoroughbred like Barbaro. At the same time, New York and NYRA have reduced racing here to a laughingstock. Horses and their welfare are the furthest thing from people’s minds here about now.

NYRA is suing the government on shaky legal and logical grounds in a futile attempt to retain the racing franchise beyond 2007, while Excelsior (headed up by Steve Swindal, George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law) has grandiose plans to bring in casinos and slot machines to prop up the ailing industry.

Swindal and his lot speak breathlessly about infusing money into racing by co-opting other forms of gambling, and also by making wagering on horses easier through the use of wireless hand-held devices that will render the anachronistic and unseemly OTB franchise irrelevant.

Golly, that sounds like a swell way to generate cash. But it has nothing to do with horses.

Barbaro’s noble shadow dominates the thoughts of all fans of horses today. New York will sort out this mess by throwing absurd amounts of money at the problem, all the while ensuring that Albany gets their pound of flesh.

Yet fans of racing know that we lost a Derby winner today in the most heart-wrenching fashion imaginable, with the whole world watching. For anyone who has ever held a bridle, mucked out a stall or enjoyed watching a horserace without any money bet, today is a dark day.

All proud Kentuckians died a small death this morning. Gamblers never missed a beat. Therein lies the difference among the crowd at a racetrack. It’s perceptible.

Fans know that Barbaro embodied all the reasons why we love horses.

–John Day

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