September 2011 Archives
Note: A version of this article appeared recently in a magazine. The article was edited, cut down to half its original size--and thereby lost the emphasis on the issue of racing's need for a Commissioner. I've tweaked the piece, because I really want you, my readers, to think about the fact that horse racing is in dire need of direction. It's the only major sport in the United States that doesn't have a regulating body--and that, as we've seen, has led to a mess. States regulate medications, race days and everything else--but there's no formal organization that represents everyone in racing--including the horses--to sit down at table with the states' various boards and talk turkey.
A fine example of how to run a governing body is Svensk Galopp, the Swedish horse racing authority. Svensk Galopp regulates all the racing in Sweden--both Arabian and Thoroughbred. With a Board made up of horsemen and -women at the helm--people who genuinely love horses, and the sport of racing them--Svensk Galopp successfully has run the business of racing for many years. And the Swedes know racing: they've been at it since 1810--a full 53 years before the first horse ran his first race at our beloved Saratoga.
Until American racing has a Commission and a strong, savvy Commissioner--racing will always be at the mercy of the states. And some states, as we've seen, have it in for racing. For some puritanical reason, legally betting on horses is frowned-upon by many in political power. And that prejudice can become a vendetta. Unfortunately, we've seen, up-close and personal, what it looks like when a state takes it upon itself to make Life as difficult as possible for racing organizations.
Ironically, I'll wager that 90% of the politicians who'd like to deep-six horse racing--et illegally on...say...football.
So racing needs a Commission. And a Commissioner who knows the horses, the people and the sport, cold. Someone who wouldn't be afraid to meet in the office of any state regulating board, and tell it like it is.
My vote for Commissioner goes to...
The Hall of Fame trainer is admired by fans and his peers. There are ample reasons for the admiration: the blue-eyed genius knows more about horses than, well, almost anyone.
People who know me on a particular social networking 'site are aware that I had an existential crisis this week. Well, OK, I didn't wonder whether my very existence had any meaning--but I felt mighty guilty over something that, on the surface, seemed to be ridiculous.
I hadn't fed, petted or played with...my virtual horse...in a very long time. No, really. I received notices that a friend had been tending to my (virtual) horse's emotional needs, and--overwhelmed with guilt--I went to the 'site and fed, petted and played with her until she was 100%.
I kid you not.
It's the eve of 9/11/11, and, like most of the world's citizens--I have many thoughts about the day and the significance thereof.
But the thoughts swirling inside my head all direct that I still believe in world peace...one horse, one horselover, at a time.
Saratoga Race Course in the summer is searing, steamy, sweltering. Mop-your-brow hot. But the weather is merely a metaphor, the outward expression of the heat that's generated by the power of the horses in residence during these six weeks.
Of the fevered passion that those horses engender as they embrace their power to captivate the human soul.
The physical atmosphere is roasting, but the racing action is hotter, still. A haze of lazy hangs over the renowned venue on Union Avenue--the kind of heat that settles into the bones and takes your breath away. Only the horses are capable of moving at breakneck speed, as they race not only toward immortality but straight to the core of every human within eyeshot...